04 April 2016

Investing in better roads and rail infrastructure critical in Corangamite

The Grattan Institute’s biased and city-centric report “Roads to Riches: Better Transport Investment” – which asserts the Princes Highway duplication from Waurn Ponds to Colac is a waste of money – has got it badly wrong.

As the Liberal candidate, I am incredibly proud to have fought so hard to deliver the funding to duplicate this road.

I also take issue with the headline in today’s Age which claimed this was a ‘road to nowhere’.  This is an absolute insult to regional communities which also deserve better infrastructure.

Princes Highway West is an incredibly important transport link which connects Melbourne, Geelong, Warrnambool and Portland to South Australia.  The highway is used by over 350,000 people each year which provides access to major tourist attractions such as the Great Ocean Road.

The duplication of the Princes Highway between Geelong and Colac is vital infrastructure for our region.  This road is a major alternate route to the Great Ocean Road which attracts 2.5 million visitors each year, and the centrepiece of our regional $2.1 billion tourism industry which supports 10,000 local jobs.  It is amazing that the Grattan Institute did not mention the importance of the duplicated road to one of the nation’s most significant tourist attractions.

The Princes Highway is also used to transport dairy, timber, grain and livestock from south-west Victoria, one of the most important agricultural regions in Australia.  VicRoads has calculated that motorists would receive $45.03m in travel time benefits over the first thirty years that the highway is duplicated. This includes $26.74m benefits for passenger vehicles and $18.29m in benefits for freight vehicles.

In terms of road safety, there were 32 crashes between 2008 and 2012 including three fatalities on this stretch of road.

It is most regrettable that the report did not take into account the broader economic benefits of the Princes Highway duplication. In its 2014-2015 assessment brief dated 7 May 2015, Infrastructure Australia stated:

“The proponent has noted a number of unquantified benefits, including economic growth due to improved access to the Port of Portland and Geelong, tourist traffic increase through the Great Ocean Road and agriculture productivity growth including milk production.”

Building better transport links in regional Victoria is so important for jobs, productivity and families.

And yet we see the Victorian Labor government turning its back on regional Victoria, making an Infrastructure Australia (IA) submission for only one regional infrastructure project, the Murray Basin Rail.

Any infrastructure project worth more than $100m must have an IA assessment to attract Commonwealth funding.

Today I call on the Victorian Government once again to urgently submit the Southern Geelong rail duplication project to IA so that this project is eligible for Commonwealth funding. Why is State Labor turning its back on this vital rail duplication project for our region, which is backed by G21, Committee for Geelong and the Geelong Chamber of Commerce?

On 11 March 2016, I wrote to Premier Andrews urging him to submit this project to IA for Commonwealth funding and to date I have not had a reply.

With the enormous growth in Armstrong Creek and other parts of southern Geelong, the single rail line south of Geelong station is limiting train services to South Geelong, Marshall and Waurn Ponds stations, as well as to Colac and beyond.

We desperately need a duplicated rail line which would deliver more frequent and reliable train services. The Regional Rail Link is looking more and more like a service built to cater for Western Melbourne, and not commuters from Geelong and Corangamite.

Our region is also crying out for an East West Link which would deliver a proper western link and second arterial road into Melbourne.  That’s why the Turnbull Government has committed $3 billion to the first state government willing to build it.

State Labor’s Western Distributor is so Melbourne-centric: it does not deliver a second arterial road into Melbourne and even Transurban concedes it’s a short term 15 year fix. Only an East West Link will fix the terrible peak hour traffic congestion motorists have to battle driving to and from Melbourne, and across the West Gate Bridge.

4 April 2016