PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has blamed Premier Daniel Andrews for the lack of progress on the Frankston line extension to Baxter.
Mr Morrison reaffirmed a $225 million commitment to duplicating and electrifying the train line to Baxter shortly after he became PM in 2018. Since then the project has slowed to a crawl.
A business case released at the end of 2020 quoted the full cost of the project at between $1.3-$1.5 billion, but the federal government has not put any more money towards it.
Mr Morrison visited Sabrini Foods in Carrum Downs on Friday. While there he said that his government remains “committed to the [Frankston line] project” and pinned the blame for the standstill on the state government.
“Sadly, the Victorian government does not want to do their part of that project and that’s why that has not been able to proceed. That’s disappointing. The Premier has made it very clear in all of our meetings that it is not a project that he wishes to pursue,” Mr Morrison said.
“He doesn’t want to build the rail line so that obviously makes it an issue. The East-West Link also, I mean that is also a project which we may have contributed to and the Victorian Labor government have been clear that they don’t want to do that. But I think people know what our commitment is and you can still see it referred to in our budget each year.”
The Times asked the Premier’s office if it was true that he did not support the Frankston line extension. A response attributed to a government spokesperson read that “the Andrews Labor Government is spending over $4 billion delivering on our Frankston line election commitments that pave the way for its extension.”
“The Commonwealth Government committed to extend the line to Baxter but has not funded the project. The Commonwealth has not yet provided any funding for a second business case and has not announced any intention to break their commitment by not extending the line to Baxter.”
The state government has not made a funding commitment to the extension itself.
A $425 million private development near Leawarra Station could be an incentive for the state and federal governments to get moving on the Frankston line extension.
Frankston Council hopes that the private development, understood to be a hotel tower, will encourage other levels of governments to spring into action.
Frankston mayor Kris Bolam said that council officers had met with the urban infrastructure minister Paul Fletcher and the Department of Infrastructure to discuss “a potential circuit breaker opportunity in progressing this important transport infrastructure project.”
“We presented a proposal that would enable a staged delivery approach that would act as a catalyst for a major $400 million private sector development within the Leawarra Station Precinct,” Cr Bolam said. “The Leawarra option will deliver huge benefits including reaching an additional 60,075 residents from Frankston to Langwarrin and creating over 1,489 new jobs during construction. Further, it will act as a catalyst for a $425 million private sector development which includes 2,000 commuter car spaces, an additional 4,000 jobs during construction and over 5,000 long term jobs.
“We’re urging the state and federal governments to take responsibility for progressing the project as a priority in whatever form that may take. We’re also calling on the state and federal governments to deliver a full business case into this vital project. Our ultimate goal is to ensure the $225 million of federal government funding committed to the project remains in the Dunkley electorate, which would otherwise be an incredible loss for the community.”
One of Mr Morrison’s first acts as the newly appointed PM in 2018 was to visit Leawarra Station and reaffirm the federal government’s commitment to provide funding for the project. The business case completed assessing the project states that extending the line just to Langwarrin will cost $900 million – $1.1 billion.