By Mehroz Siraj
The budget papers for the financial year 2013-14 have revealed that the federal government would fund reconstruction throughout Melbourne’s Metro train network.
Both these projects are considered important by the federal government’s road and rail network body, Infrastructure Australia.
However, the federal government would provide only $3billion in funding towards infrastructure projects, only about a third of the promised $9billion in new investments in Victoria.
The state government would have to fork out another $3billion and the remaining amount would be arranged by organizing public private partnerships, The Age reported on May 15.
The money would be spent on upgrading existing railway tracks and in building greater passenger carrying capacities across the network, it is believed.
Establishing a new nine kilometre railway tunnel between South Yarra and South Kensington is also part of the federal government’s plan.
However, the federal government has not endorsed any of the major proposals on Melbourne’s public transport chaos that have been made public over the last six years.
In 2011, Infrastructure Australia had itself called on the federal government and the then state government of Premier Ted Bailieu to seriously invest in the improvement of Melbourne’s trams.
Commuters catching the trams during morning and evening peak hour travels have often complained about over congestion that has accompanied the trams due to a massive rise in patronage over the years.
The new budget provides no funding for Melbourne’s deteriorating tram network.
The last state Labor government was presented a report by a commission led by Sir Rod Eddington, that explored options to ease traffic and passenger congestions across Melbourne’s road and railway infrastructure.
The Commission’s proposed Caulfield to Footscray railway tunnel, has also not been endorsed by the federal government in its budget papers.
The infrastructure spending on Melbourne’s rail network would put the Gillard administration in direct confrontation with the Victorian state government.
The government of Premier Dennis Napthine failed to allocate any new investment to Melbourne’s train network in its last budget.
Instead, it resorted to diverting funds towards building the proposed East-West link.
In the latest Victorian state budget, funds essentially meant for public transport were redirected towards other road improvement projects across Victoria as well.
The Napthine government has not allocated any new funding to public transport till the state election year of 2015.
Officials within the state government believe that spending more money on roads, free ways and toll ways across the state would be financially and politically more rewarding.
The federal government’s decision to increase its infrastructure spending on Victorian public transport, could also lead towards a potential confrontation with the opposition led by Tony Abbott.
Earlier, Abbott had publicly refused to allocate new funding to Victoria’s railway networks if the Coalition was elected in September.
However, he did pledge $1.5billion for the East-West link, which also has been the Coalition’s long standing election promise that it has made to Victoria.
Many analysts have seen this growing difference of views between the Gillard administration, the Victorian government and the federal opposition as a divisive issue that was creating confusions amongst the voters.
The divisions become more complex when Victoria’s regional and urban divides are taken into consideration.
Public transport woes might influence voting patterns of Melbournians on election day, whereas improving road infrastructure, which the Liberals are promising to do, might dictate voting patterns in regional Victoria.