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PLANS to build a railway station at Southland have been ready to launch since March last year, but have stalled while the Baillieu government considers pursuing a deal with the shopping centre owner to share the construction costs.
Documents obtained by Fairfax Media reveal that the Department of Transport proposed last year that the government sell Southland's owner, Ventana, the right to build new stores above the planned station.
The Coalition promised in the 2010 election campaign to build Southland station on the Frankston line for $13 million in its first term of office, trumping the former Labor government's pledge to build it for $45 million.
Despite the comparatively low cost, the Coalition pledged that the station would feature two platforms, an enclosed waiting room, a bus interchange, lifts, ramps for disabled access and a bike cage.
The promised station would be built next to the vast Southland shopping centre, which attracts more than 15.5 million visitors a year and has almost 6000 car parking spaces.
In a March 2011 briefing to Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder, the Department of Transport stated that it was prepared to kick-start plans to build the station if the government agreed to provide funding in the 2012-13 budget.
But the government did not agree, despite its election promise.
The briefing reveals the department was prepared to jettison the promise that the station have two platforms if it could sell the ''air rights'' to Ventana.
''[The department] is anticipating that Ventana will seek alternative options for the station, such as an island platform,'' Hector McKenzie, the department's former director of public transport, wrote to Mr Mulder.
''Alternative options sought may also include expansion of the shopping centre to achieve physical integration with the built form of the station, potentially making use of air rights above the station.''
This would ''allow flexibility of state contributions to the station infrastructure, in event of involvement of Ventana in the station development'' - meaning the government could negotiate its contribution.
''It is proposed that a business case be developed for consideration in the 2012-13 budget for delivery of the project,'' Mr McKenzie wrote.
The Baillieu government on Wednesday dead-batted inquiries about the station, saying that it was ''continuing to develop the Southland Station and talking to stakeholders''.
''This includes discussing planning, design and development matters with the owners of the Southland Shopping Centre.''
But Andrew Herington, a senior adviser in the former Brumby government, who obtained the documents under freedom-of-information laws, said the project had stalled because the Coalition had realised its pledge to build the station for $13 million was not achievable.
''The project was costed [in 2010] - $13 million was never enough and the Coalition never accepted it got the costing wrong,'' Mr Herington said.
''Forty-five million dollars was a realistic cost, $13 million was not.''
Ventana did not respond to written questions about its potential interest in the ''air rights'' above the proposed station.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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