A NEW report by Infrastructure Victoria recommends improving bus services in Frankston rather than extending the electric train service to Baxter.
Infrastructure Victoria released its updated 30-year strategy last week. The organisation is an independent body that advises the state government on its projects.
Among the recommendations included in the report was to investigate the rollout of more bus services in Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula in the next year “instead of progressing a rail extension to Baxter”.
The report said a preliminary business case had considered rail and bus options to improve public transport between Frankston and Baxter, but recommended “this network reform should consider the role of ‘next generation’ bus services”.
Modelling rail extensions in other outer suburban growth areas found they could “encourage more people to move further out”.
“An extension of the Frankston line could create extra pressure for new housing developments in environmentally sensitive and agriculturally important places on the Mornington Peninsula,” the report stated.
It said the Frankston station precinct, a designated multi-modal transit interchange, “should be the hub for better bus connections to the Frankston metropolitan activity centre, railway station, Chisolm TAFE and Frankston Hospital”.
“As the station precinct develops, it will require an inter-modal terminal upgrade and more bus services to help manage traffic flow and congestion [and building on] the Victorian government’s funded improved bus services to the Mornington Peninsula”.
The proposed duplication and electrification of the Frankston line to Baxter has been stationary for years. A business case released last year put the full cost of the project at an eye-watering $1.3 to $1.5 billion. The federal government has committed $225 million to the extension, but the state government has not climbed aboard.
The release of the latest Infrastructure Victoria report shocked some groups who have long been advocating for the extension of the line. CEO business lobby group Committee for Greater Frankston, Ginevra Hosking, said “Frankston’s residents have been thrown under a bus. Commonwealth money is on the table to build the Frankston extension today, yet the state recommends even more studies.
“The final report is saying another five years is needed for feasibility studies but in the meantime next generation buses will do. It’s again kicking the can down the road. The public benefits of the rail extension have been well documented, widely circulated in the community, and strongly supported by our region’s major organisations. Ongoing delays like this place the $225 million funding for the extension in jeopardy.
“Providing a metro-standard train service to the [Monash University] campus is one of the compelling reasons for the long-awaited rail extension. A station near Monash would enable six-times as many students to access the campus by rail.
“The report recognised that Frankston’s multi-modal transit interchange – situated right in the middle of the CBD – is unable to handle high traffic volumes, and needs upgrading, so how will sending more buses there solve our problems?”
At a launch for the report at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia last week, Infrastructure Victoria CEO Michel Masson said “our final recommendations consider the medium to longer-term impacts of the global pandemic. Despite the current challenges, Victoria will continue to grow and transform”.
“Our 30-year roadmap outlines how Victoria can make the most of the infrastructure we already have while ensuring new infrastructure, such as road and rail projects, deliver maximum value to areas where it is needed most.” The state government is expected to respond to the strategy’s recommendations and its own integrated five-year infrastructure plan sometime in the next year.