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THE $4.9 billion rail tunnel from Footscray to the Domain has been ranked as one of Australia's priority building projects - a key step in securing federal government funding.
The ranking was made in a new report by Infrastructure Australia that also recommends governments consider ''congestion charges'' - such as London's toll to enter the CBD - to pay for transport projects.
Melbourne's ''metro-style'' rail plan was one of only six projects considered ''ready to proceed'' on the annual infrastructure priority list.
But the state government's top-listed project - the controversial $5 billion WestLink tunnel under Footscray to take pressure off the West Gate Bridge - was ranked lower on the list. Victoria's truck action plan did not make it on to the list at all.
The ranking is used to inform the federal government about which projects it would be best to fund.
While conceding congestion charges might be unpopular with road users in the short term, Infrastructure Australia said they should be given serious consideration and ''will be necessary if the required investment in road and public transport infrastructure is to be delivered''.
The rail and road tunnels are key elements of the Brumby government's $38 billion transport plan. The report found there was a compelling case for the tunnel project, which is predicted to return $1.50 for every dollar spent.
Brendan Lyon, chief executive of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, said the priority ranking of the metro tunnel put it in the ''box seat'' to secure federal funding.
The infrastructure projects identified on the four-tiered priority list total more than $82 billion, but the balance of the Gillard government's Building Australia Fund was standing at just $10.4 billion in March, and is expected to fall to less than $2 billion over the course of the next four years.
Other projects to receive top priority ranking include $6 billion upgrades to the Pacific Highway in NSW and an Adelaide rail freight project.
The state government will soon release a shortlist of route options for its WestLink project, which was ranked on the third tier of priorities.
In May's budget, the federal government allocated $40 million for a planning study into the metro tunnel, the second stage of which will extend to Caulfield.
The state government welcomed the new list, which named the second stage of the metro tunnel as a priority project for the first time.
Last year, Victoria received $3.2 billion in federal funds for the $4.3 billion regional rail project, which will build a new line from Werribee to Southern Cross Station.
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