The Frankston rail extension is an ideal project to aid recovery of the coronavirus-damaged economy, says one of the municipality’s most active advocacy groups.
The Committee for Greater Frankston is calling on the Victorian government to fast-track the estimated $500 million plus project, which has been recognised by Infrastructure Australia as a national priority project and already has an initial $225 million of federal funds allocated in the 2018 Budget.
The Victorian government has not yet committed to the project and it cannot go ahead without its support.
Committee CEO Ginevra Hosking said building the Frankston rail extension would “unlock profound benefits for our region”.
She said a committee-led advisory group – which included local politicians, local council transport department bosses, businesspeople and representatives of tertiary education institutions, Monash University Peninsula campus, and Chisholm TAFE – recommended two rail options to Infrastructure Australia: an extension to Langwarrin of 5km or further down the line to Baxter, 8km.
The advisory group’s submission listed rail extension benefits: transforming public transport in the region including connecting 38,000 residents of Karingal, Frankston Heights and Langwarrin to Melbourne’s metro train network, and enabling young people to be independent of “mum’s taxi”; job creation; getting cars off congested roads; freeing up Frankston CBD car parks; making better use of public and private assets like Frankston Hospital and Monash University; and connecting the Mornington Peninsula’s 165,000 population to the metropolitan rail network.
The advisory group prioritised a number of other recommendations to improve public transport connectivity including construction of a cycling–pedestrian path between Monash University’s Peninsula campus on Moorooduc Highway and Frankston rail station.
“Funding of $700,000 for this path was announced on Thursday 20 August by Frankston state MP Paul Edbrooke, which is great news,” Ms Hosking said.
The shared path is co-funded – half from the state government’s Building Works stimulus package and half from Frankston Council. The government has also committed an additional $1.35m for Frankston revitalisation with allocations to be announced soon.
The fast-tracking call followed the Victorian government’s announcement of a “massive spring construction blitz” to take advantage of reduced road and public transport use due to the pandemic.
Ms Hosking said the state’s Transport Infrastructure Minister, Jacinta Allan, had rightly stated that the construction blitz would help support the state’s economy.
Ms Hosking said the Frankston rail extension was overlooked in 1929 as the nation and state recovered from the First World War, the 1918–19 influenza pandemic, and recession caused by falling prices for Australia’s key exports of wool and wheat.
“The 1929 Great Depression further harmed our economy and it took Australia almost a decade to recover. The extension was never built and our region has been waiting for adequate public transport ever since.”
She said construction of the Frankston rail extension and its attendant park and ride facilities at Langwarrin and/or Baxter was crucial for the revival of Frankston’s CBD where lack of affordable parking was hampering the operation and growth of businesses.
“Life was hard enough before the pandemic and its restrictions. Now we need a massive boost and the rail extension would provide it.”
Building a new station at the university’s Peninsula campus would also benefit the growing health and education precinct.
Ms Hosking said the state government had indicated what life would be like after the pandemic in terms of public transport. “During a parliamentary hearing into the Victorian government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Ms Allan said travel between suburbs was more likely to increase. This provides another compelling reason to extend the metro line to Langwarrin and beyond – to provide tens of thousands of residents in the east of Frankston City with access to jobs, healthcare and education.”
Ms Hosking said Frankston City Council had long supported the rail extension “and October’s incoming councillors are in the driving seat to deliver this almost century-old project”.