Victoria, Rail industry news (Australia, New Zealand), State, Level Crossing Removal, Train Stations, Industry Infrastructure

Focus on metro tunnel and regional rail for Victorian State budget

The Victorian Government has released the 2024/25 state budget in which it has made a commitment to continuing the pipeline of infrastructure projects. 

The major focus for the next year will be the opening of the Metro Tunnel. It will be the biggest and most transformational public transport project since the City Loop opened more than 40 years ago.

This year’s Budget provides $233 million for activities to get the state ready for day one – recruiting and training drivers, timetabling, completing final testing, preparing customer information and education, and training a dedicated customer service team.

The budget is also committed to getting Victorians familiar with how to use the Metro Tunnel from the get go, this budget funds a dedicated team of people deployed across the project to improve customer experience and ensure things run smoothly.

The government is committed to remove 110 dangerous and congested level crossings by 2030. Since its last Budget, it has removed eight more level crossings, bringing the total to 76 – a year ahead of schedule.

This Budget invests $752 million to switch on the Big Build, funding the operation of the expanded network and new stations. It also funds additional network improvements, including:

  • $214 million to maintain the Digital Train Radio System and plan for future upgrades
  • $133 million to support the regional rail network, including operating newly delivered train stabling yards, stations and VLocity trains, and upgrading the 150-year-old historic rail tunnel between Geelong and South Geelong
  • $104 million for works to keep rail freight moving across Victoria, including encouraging operators to take up rail, reducing trucks on local roads
  • $30 million for better bus travel and continuation of ferry services. This includes improved links to new bus interchanges being built at Croydon, Pakenham and Greensborough Stations
  • $21 million for public and active transport upgrades, including construction of shared bike and pedestrian paths in Altona, Epping and South Morang and safety and accessibility upgrades at Essendon train station.

In the budget the government acknowledged the challenges of historically low unemployment, high inflation and the continued impact of COVID-19.

The government is taking this years budget as a chance to recalibrate. The International Monetary Fund, in its recent report on Australia, says now is the time for governments to implement infrastructure projects at a more measured pace, given supply constraints.

The Airport rail link will be delayed by four years as the state and federal governments work together to better understand the needs of an airport rail link. The airport is firm in its desire for an underground station.

The Upfield Train line level crossing removal has also been delayed until at least 2030.