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Government, Opposition at odds over rail ahead of WA vote

<span class="" id="parent-fieldname-description"> Rail continues to be a hot topic ahead of Western Australia’s state election this Saturday, with each side slamming the other’s proposal for the development of Perth’s rail network. </span> <p>In a statement released on February 28, WA’s Treasury costed the Opposition’s proposed ‘Metronet’ plan at $4.34bn in 2012 dollars. Metronet includes a 10.5km rail link to Perth Airport to be built by mid-2018.</p><p>But after taking into account inflation-related cost increases, Treasury estimated that the plan would cost $5.25bn over its eight-year development.</p><p>That’s over $1.4bn more than the $3.8 billion price tag estimated by the Labor government, which is challenging the incumbent Liberal government in the election on Saturday.</p><p>Treasury’s costing advice also raised several ‘costing risks’ associated with Labor’s Metronet plan.</p><p>“The $590m (in 2012 dollars) committed in the Metronet plan to purchase a depot and additional railcars may not be sufficient,” Treasury wrote.</p><p>“The [Public Transport Authority] estimates that the cost of a new depot and 48 additional three-car sets will total $646m in 2012 dollars,” it added, calling the $56m difference a “significant discrepancy.”</p><p>Treasury also advised that Labor’s costing did not contain any provision for land acquisition other than for Atwell station.</p><p>“It is assumed that land is either contained within existing transport corridors, or funded externally,” Treasury said. “The requirement for land acquisition needs to be further assessed.”</p><p>WA’s treasurer and minister for transport Troy Buswell told the Weekend Australian&nbsp that a $5.25bn investment into Perth’s rail was not justifiable.</p><p>“It’s a lot of money,” he was quoted to have said. “I don’t think you can justify that investment.”</p><p>But Treasury’s damning report and Buswell’s comments come after Buswell himself admitted that at least half of the cost of the Liberal party’s proposed transport policies, including a light rail network for Perth, would need to be funded by the Commonwealth.</p><p>WA Labor leader Mark McGowan leapt on the admission, saying it left the Liberals’ planned rail and light rail projects “in tatters.”</p><p>“[WA premier Colin] Barnett is to these projects what the iceberg was to the Titanic,” McGowan said.</p><p>McGowan also claimed that the government had “rushed forward” its plans in response to the opposition’s Metronet timetable.</p><p>“Their project was originally slated for 2031,” McGowan said. “They panicked and now we are seeing what a flawed project it is.”</p><p>But when asked about the plans to rely on Commonwealth funding on ABC’s 7.30 Report, Barnett said the plans were “not a risk.”</p><p>“The Commonwealth does contribute significantly to transport projects &hellip normally we would see an agreement on major projects,” he said.</p><p>Barnett said that if the Commonwealth did not contribute fund one or more of the projects, they would still go ahead, but “it would take some time longer to do that.”</p>