Build the electric train line to Langwarrin, then full steam ahead to Hastings. That’s the call from Mornington Peninsula Shire and Frankston City Council in a joint letter to the State Government. They have asked the Government to get on with building stage 1 of the rail extension from Frankston to Langwarrin and then stage 2 to Hastings.
Both the Federal Government and Opposition have supported the Frankston-to-Baxter project for several years. However, the rail extension — with its many benefits — is not guaranteed. Extending the line requires both federal and state government funding. The Federal Government allocated $225 million for the project in last year’s Budget, approximately half the estimated cost of an extension to Langwarrin. Federal Labor has pledged to back that commitment if elected this month. However, while a preliminary cost-benefit study is currently under way, the State Government has yet to commit to the project. If the Government doesn’t back the project, it cannot go ahead.
With heavy rail reckoned to cost between $60 million and $100 million a kilometre, which includes an amount for removing level crossings, extending the line to Langwarrin at a cost of $450 million would be $86 million a kilometre for the 5.2km stretch. Building stage 2 from Langwarrin to Hastings, a distance of 17km, would cost a further $1.46 billion applying the same estimated rate.
Frankston Mayor Michael O’Reilly said stage 1 “of this vital public transport project would ease carparking congestion at Frankston station and will directly benefit (the) health and education precinct, which includes Frankston Hospital, Frankston Private Hospital, and Monash University Peninsula campus”.
The two councils disagree with the Department of Transport’s long-standing proposal to build train stabling at Baxter. “(We) are opposed to any stabling and maintenance facilities being located in valuable green wedge land or altering the Urban Growth Boundary and will work together with the Victorian Government on possible solutions.”
Mornington Mayor David Gill used the joint statement to continue the shire’s advocacy for more buses, saying 82 per cent of the Peninsula had no access to bus services. “In addition to investment in rail, the region is in desperate need of greater investment in bus services,” Cr Gill said. This included buses to meet existing and future trains.
The Committee for Greater Frankston, which has been actively advocating for the rail extension project, welcomed the two councils agreeing on the project staging. Chief executive Ginevra Hosking said strategically extending the line to Langwarrin and then continuing down the Peninsula had wide community support.
“The line should be electrified and duplicated to Langwarrin with trains running to metro timetable frequency,” Ms Hosking said. “There should be new stations, including one to service Frankston East, the hospital and Monash’s Peninsula campus, and one at Langwarrin with a 1000-plus space commuter carpark, and three grade separations — at Playne St, Moorooduc Highway, and Peninsula Link.
“Building to Langwarrin in the next four years is an important step in this vital infrastructure project. All plans for the future must strategically consider Mornington Peninsula’s total public transport requirements, including creating a system that allows young people especially to independently access schools, jobs and social activities.”
Mike Hast is a freelance writer for the Committee for Greater Frankston, and a former editor of Peninsula newspapers.