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Work on an investment case into the Suburban Rail Loop is well under way, but the head of the state’s transport department says it is not yet clear what the total cost of the mega project will be.
Speaking before a Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC), Department of Transport Secretary Paul Younis said a larger investment case would examine the entire project while a detailed business case would also be developed for Stage 1 stretching from Southland to Box Hill.
It comes after the government faced criticism over its decision to commit to the massive undertaking before the document was completed.
When questioned by Gippsland South MP Danny O’Brien about when the investment case would be completed, Mr Younis said he would need to seek more information.
“The plan is to start the construction and on-site works in 2022,” he said.
“So next year we will need to have that investment case completed so that will inform Stage 1.”
Mr Younis said this work would include developing a price tag for the project, valued to be at least $50 billion, and weighing up how costs could be brought back through value capture.
“The role of transport in this and the role of the Suburban Rail Loop Authority is to develop all the information for the government to make those decisions,” he said.
The head of the state’s transport department says the total cost of the Suburban Rail Loop is still not clear.
“That will include expected anticipated timeframes you could build the project in, the options in relation to funding, the expected amount of funding that will be required to build the project, as well as all of the other elements of value capture opportunities that are there.”
PAEC dissolved into acrimony early on Wednesday after Deputy Chair and Liberal MP Richard Riordan provided a list of transport projects and asked Mr Younis how many of them were on time and on budget at the end of the financial year.
This information is typically provided as a Budget paper but was postponed until the state government’s upcoming Budget in the first half of this year.
A lengthy argument then broke out with chair Lizzie Blandthorn over whether Mr Riordan was allowed to pass over documents and ask questions about them.
Mr Younis agreed to take questions about project timelines and budgets on notice.
Opposition transport spokesman David Davis accused the government of hiding the figures and potential blowouts.
“Daniel Andrews and Jacinta Allan should immediately provide the hidden transport project figures to the community,” he said.
“Labor failure to answer these questions is a cover-up pure and simple!”
This article first appeared on www.couriermail.com.au
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