Construction of the Frankston rail extension needs to start within the next five years, Infrastructure Victoria says in its 30-year draft infrastructure strategy. The strategy, released for public comment last Wednesday, is a scheduled review of the blueprint for Victoria’s future. It covers a range of infrastructure categories including transport and technology, waste and water recycling, improving the suburbs, and regional tourism.
Infrastructure Victoria acknowledged the State Government was already investigating several outer-suburban rail line extensions to expand network capacity but investment had not yet been confirmed.
Infrastructure Victoria recommends the Frankston line to Langwarrin-Baxter be included on the priority list of rail extensions “to improve connections into (the) Frankston activity centre and railway station, including the hospital and education precinct, from the Mornington Peninsula”, but it said no single intervention would solve Melbourne’s transport challenges. “The transport network is interconnected, and a suite of solutions will be required to connect outer-suburban growth areas with jobs, education and services.”
Committee for Greater Frankston CEO Ginevra Hosking welcomed the report’s finding that building new rail in existing outer suburbs such as Frankston was as important as rail in new growth areas in Melbourne’s north and southeast. “The report disproves the myth that all future population growth is in new growth areas and confirms that outer suburbs with poor public transport like Frankston should also be prioritised for rail investment,” Ms Hosking said.
“We have the population to support a rail extension right now. We need more local stations so nearly 400,000 residents from Frankston, Mornington Peninsula and surrounds have the option of boarding trains at stations close to where they live, instead of driving into Frankston and clogging up our CBD with commuter parking and traffic congestion and further restricting its growth and development.”
The report calls for the immediate introduction of “premium bus services” for the Peninsula as an interim stopgap. “Without good transport choices, commuters are forced to rely on cars, causing congestion and compromising access to jobs, education, services and social connections.”
Ms Hosking said Infrastructure Victoria’s findings “vindicate the recognition given to the Frankston rail extension by Infrastructure Australia earlier this year”. In February, the national body listed “Frankston public transport connectivity” as one of only six Victorian initiatives in the near-term category (0-5 years) and a nationally important project, one of 150 across Australia. It called for “upgrades to rail services and infrastructure”.
Ms Hosking said the extension would help achieve Infrastructure Victoria’s strategy objectives of aligning land planning to better utilise existing roads, schools and hospitals; preparing for population change; increasing workforce participation; and fostering healthy, safe and inclusive communities. “Many people in our community believe the extension of the Frankston line is already happening, but it is not yet guaranteed. The project requires both federal and state funding. The federal Coalition Government allocated an initial $225 million for the project in its 2018 Budget. Federal Labor matched this. However, the State Labor Government has yet to commit to its construction.
“The recently released preliminary business case into the Frankston extension produced by the State Government revealed that our region’s woefully inadequate public transport is still not being taken seriously by the Victorian Labor Government. It wasted $1.5 million of federal money by not even considering the benefits of improving public transport in Frankston’s CBD and health and education precinct, a key outcome identified by both Infrastructure Australia and Infrastructure Victoria.
“The State Government needs to stop feeding us the same old line about Frankston ‘not being one of its nominated growth suburbs’ and recognise there is a growing population relying on an inadequate, failing public transport system at this end of the Frankston line. Listen to Infrastructure Australia and Infrastructure Victoria. It is time to act and extend the track.”
Public comment can be made until February 26, and the final strategy will be presented to the State Government mid-year.