Suburban Rail Loop starts next phase at Box Hill

The Victorian Government is carrying out geotechnical work on the Suburban Rail Loop project, signalling the start of extensive ground works. 

The geotechnical work encompasses borehole drilling to depths of between 30-60 metres at the Box Hill site, with samples to be analysed over the next fortnight for soil and rock composition and stability. The work is intended to identify suitable locations for the underground stations.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan were in attendance at Box Hill to announce the next phase of the project as it moves towards its anticipated 2022 construction start date.

“We said we’d get the Suburban Rail Loop started and that’s what we’re doing – with geotechnical work now underway in Box Hill,” Andrews said.

The $50 billion Suburban Rail Loop, part of Victoria’s Big Build program, is intended to connect Melbourne’s middle suburbs through an underground 90-kilometre rail link running from the Frankston line to the Werribee line via Melbourne Airport. 

The project, which is planned to incorporate several new stations looping from the southeast to the northwest of the city, may not be fully completed until the 2050s. Andrews stated that the project would change the way people move around Melbourne, “slashing travel times and better connecting people with jobs, education and other vital services, wherever they live”.

The expensive project received a funding blow following Labor’s defeat at the federal election in May. Former Labor leader Bill Shorten promised $10 billion for the project in the event of winning the election, including $300 million in matched funding with the Victorian Government, but this failed to transpire due to his loss to Liberal leader Scott Morrison.

Anthony Albanese. Photo: Shipping Australia

Albanese announces picks for shadow cabinet

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has announced Labor’s new Shadow Ministry, which meets for the first time in Brisbane on Tuesday.

Albanese on June 3 referred to the surprise Liberal-National election victory on May 18 as a “wake-up call” for Labor, and stated that his team would be “more than a match for the Morrison Government’s frontbench”.

“In the days and weeks that follow that meeting, Shadow Ministers will disperse into communities across the nation to listen to Australians about why only one in three voters gave Labor their first preference at the election on May 18,” Albanese said in a statement.

Notable among Albanese’s picks are Richard Marles as his deputy and shadow minister for defence; Penny Wong as shadow minister for foreign affairs, home affairs and immigration and citizenship; Jim Chalmers as shadow treasurer; and Chris Bowen as shadow minister for health.

Albanese’s choice to replace his previous position of shadow minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development went to Catherine King, who has been federal member for Ballarat since 2001.

King served as Labor’s shadow health minister for six years, a role that will now be filled by Chris Bowen, the previous shadow treasurer.

“It was a great honour to serve as Labor’s shadow health minister for six years and I’ll always be proud of the ambitious health agenda we took to last month’s election,” King said on her Twitter feed. “I wish my friend [Chris Bowen] all the very best in the role.”

Albanese stated that his ministry included an even distribution of men and women (including the Shadow Cabinet Secretary) and a mix of new and experienced ministers.

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten, who stood down after the election, retained a place in the cabinet in a dual role as shadow minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and for government services.

“The shadow cabinet announcement, I think person for person, is far superior than those who sit on the government benches,” Albanese told press at a conference in Launceston, Tasmania.

“The recognition of that is the mass exodus that has happened on the government benches. They will suffer from the loss of Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Kelly O’Dwyer they’ve lost some of their best people.”

Infrastructure sector calls on Coalition to convert rhetoric into action

Industry think tank Infrastructure Partnerships Australia has called on the Federal Coalition Government to ensure it keeps to the promises laid out in its 2019 Budget following its surprise election win last week.

The group’s chief executive Adrian Dwyer lauded both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition leader Bill Shorten for their respective efforts in the election before commenting that the government’s approach to infrastructure would “define the success” of its term.

The Coalition’s funding package includes national initiatives such as a $2.2 billion road safety package; $4 billion urban congestion fund; $2 billion fast rail plan that includes a high-speed link between Geelong and Melbourne, and several further fast rail business cases in eastern Australia; the Melbourne-to-Brisbane Inland Rail project; and the $5 billion Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

“The 2019 Budget showed that the Coalition Government takes infrastructure seriously, and now that rhetoric needs to convert into action,” Dwyer said.

“In this new term of parliament there are a number of major issues that will need to be front and centre on the Prime Minister’s infrastructure agenda.”

The Coalition Government has lifted total infrastructure funding to $29.5 billion above forward estimates, and has a long-term plan to raise transport infrastructure investment to $100 billion over the next 10 years.

While Dwyer praised these plans, he added that the Coalition would have to tackle reform challenges such as settling energy policy to end the investment strike, boosting productivity with “big ticket infrastructure reforms” and address road funding concerns.

“The Coalition has already taken the sensible step of reversing the recent decline in funding for critical projects, lifting total infrastructure funding to $29.5 billion over the forward estimates,” Dwyer added.

“Much more however will need to be done to ensure that Australia retains its hard-won reputation as a leader and global standard bearer for sound infrastructure policy.”

Labor lays out details of city infrastructure plan

Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has elaborated on Labor plans to partner with local and state governments through its City Partnerships program.

The program is intended to replace the Coalition’s City Deals program in the event Labor wins the upcoming federal election. Minister Albanese referred to the Liberal and Nationals plan as “ad hoc and politically motivated”.

The scope of the program includes extensive public transport plans, including new and expanded services through the inner and outer suburbs and investment in high speed rail to grow regional cities.

Other plans include the implementation of a national Park and Ride fund to invest in parking facilities at train stations across Australia.

The deal is planed to re-establish Infrastructure Australia’s Major Cities Unit, establish an expert panel and make changes to the National Urban Policy.

Labor has also promised $10 billion towards Melbourne’s ambitious Suburban Rail Loop, as previously reported.

“Labor will pursue a genuine partnership with local government and state governments, as well as with business and community to deliver this vision,” Albanese said in a statement

The program will also look into areas such as housing affordability, national bike paths, technology investment and the expansion of the Western Sydney Deal to incorporate Blacktown City Council.

“This election is a choice between Labor’s plan to invest in communities around Australia, or bigger tax loopholes for the top end of town under the Liberals and Nationals,” Albanese continued.

“After six years of cuts and chaos under the Liberals and Nationals, our united Labor team is ready.”

Labor commits $10bn to Melbourne Suburban Rail Loop

Bill Shorten’s pre-election promise to provide $10 billion for the development of Melbourne’s Suburban Rail Loop has been welcomed by Victorian Premier Dan Andrews.

The Opposition Leader Shorten made the pledge at a campaign rally in Maribyrnong in advance of the election on May 18.

The $50 billion endeavour is the biggest public transport project in Australia. It envisions a suburban underground rail route connecting Cheltenham in the southeast to Werribee in the northwest via Melbourne airport in the north.

Construction is set to begin in 2022 and may not be completed until the 2050s, by which time Melbourne’s population is expected to grow to 8 million. The initial phase of construction will stretch from Cheltenham to Box Hill and is set to take around 10 years to complete.

The line is also intended to connect to the developing Melbourne Airport Rail Link, which is also scheduled to begin construction in 2022 over a period of up to nine years.

The Suburban Rail Loop, intended to reduce transfers within Melbourne’s central business district, will precipitate the construction of up to 12 new underground stations.

“The Suburban Rail Loop will slash congestion across the transport network – taking thousands of passengers off existing rail lines and 200,000 cars off major roads – and create 20,000 jobs for Victorians,” said Victoria Premier Dan Andrews.

Andrews, who announced his plans to support the project last year prior to his landslide win in November’s state election, expressed his approval of Shorten’s pledge.

“The Suburban Rail Loop will get people where they want to go – and with a real partner in Canberra, we will be able to get on with this project even faster,” he said.