The State Government has spent $1.5 million on a business case for the proposed Frankston rail extension that “neglects to even address the central issue of how carparking congestion around our train station impacts on Frankston’s CBD”, says Committee for Greater Frankston CEO Ginevra Hosking.
Ms Hosking said many in the community were profoundly disappointed with the preliminary business case released on November 9. “The State Government-authored report states the benefits of any option to improve public transport in our region cannot be justified by the cost. The recommendation is Orwellian,” she said.
“Extending the line will bring enormous benefits: adding stations for nearly 200,000 Frankston, Langwarrin and Mornington Peninsula residents, transforming our region’s public transport, creating new jobs and improving overall prosperity, reducing congestion on roads and carbon emissions, freeing up crowded carparks, and connecting our public hospital and university to metropolitan rail.”
The Federal Government and Opposition “obviously understand the benefits as both have already committed to provide $225 million”, Ms Hosking said. “Just this week, federal Flinders MP Greg Hunt noted there were ‘significant community benefits to extending the metro train services south of Frankston’ and said $30 million of available funding was ready to go. Federal Dunkley Labor MP Peta Murphy said: ‘My unwavering commitment is to better public transport, including improved train services, for our community.’
“Conversely, state Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan noted ‘other improvements done to the Frankston line’ but has not yet announced support for the rail extension – or budgeted funding for its construction. Frankston state Labor MP Paul Edbrooke did not comment. State Government game-playing puts federal funding in jeopardy.”
Ms Hosking said the report’s recommendation section was classic doublespeak. “It claims that ‘none of the investment options have demonstrated a strong economic case for priority investment’ but then tosses in the furphy about an ‘indicative preferred option’ of spending $190-210 million for the Stony Point single-track diesel train to run every 20-30 minutes. This obscure notion was not even considered by decision-makers, leaders and the wider community when the project was scoped.
“It has been widely accepted by two local councils, hospitals, Monash’s campus, Chisholm TAFE, politicians and community organisations that the minimum requirement is an electrified, metropolitan-grade, 15-minute train service to Langwarrin or Baxter, with a Frankston East station and a dedicated park and ride at Langwarrin to remove commuter congestion from Frankston’s CBD.”
Ms Hosking questioned the State Government’s motives for producing “such an ineffective and misguided preliminary business case”. “We’ve been let down by this report; it’s just an excuse for the State Government to stall the project.”
She said it was a cruel irony that the report’s “indicative preferred option” didn’t include a station for Frankston South, Karingal and Langwarrin, or a park and ride for Peninsula commuters. “The preliminary study recognises our region’s failing transport network is the cause of parking and congestion problems in Frankston’s CBD but omits quantifying the benefits provided by fixing them. If there’s no alternative for commuters to connect with trains, they will keep coming back to Frankston’s CBD to park all day and so force out shoppers, workers and businesses. The long-overdue rail extension is critically essential for any revitalisation strategy for the CBD.”
Ms Hosking said taxpayer money had paid for the rail study. “We deserve a full explanation about why the State Government has crafted this report to stop a project – so vital to progress in our region – dead in its tracks. It’s time for the State Government to stop playing Orwellian games and agree to co-fund the rail extension and start properly planning for its construction.”
Mike Hast is a freelance writer for the Committee for Greater Frankston and a former editor of Peninsula newspapers.