The Federal and Victorian Governments are jointly investing more than half a billion dollars to expedite shovel-ready projects and road safety upgrades.
The joint funding will provide an extra boost for two key infrastructure projects – the Regional Rail Revival, which aims to improve conditions for train passengers on their journeys to and from Melbourne, and the duplication of the Princes Highway East between Traralgon and Sale, designed to increase safety and reliability on the key road.
The Federal Government is contributing $320.3 million to the package, and the Victorian Government $205.5 million.
Of the federal contribution, $178.2 million will go towards the Regional Rail Revival, bringing the total Commonwealth support of the project to $1.8 billion.
The Federal Government will also provide an additional $70.6 million in funding to complete Princes Highway duplication, making a total federal contribution of $202.6 million for this project.
The Victorian Government’s contribution comprises $179.8 million towards the two key projects, as well as $25.7 million for targeted road safety works.
The funding package builds on the fast tracking of $514 million for infrastructure in Victoria announced in November 2019.
Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said further investment in infrastructure would play a critical role in the Federal Government’s JobMaker plan and help the Victorian economy as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Partnering with state and territory governments to invest in more infrastructure projects across Australia is a key part of our JobMaker plan to rebuild our economy and create more jobs,” the Prime Minister said.
Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said federal funding for this package had been drawn from the $1.5 billion JobMaker allocation to priority shovel-ready projects and targeted road safety works, and stands in addition to the Federal Government’s existing commitments.
“We will continue to work closely with both levels of Government in Victoria to get Victorians home sooner and safer whilst creating jobs and supporting our economic recovery,” Mr Frydenberg said.
Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, said the road and rail projects would better connect Victorians and provide a boost for major regional centres.
“This partnership with the Commonwealth will build projects regional communities need and help keep our construction industry strong – which is more important than ever right now as we rebuild from the pandemic,” Mr Andrews said.
“This package is on top of our $2.7 billion we’re investing in new projects across the state to get shovels in the ground – and boots in the mud – to kickstart our economy.”
Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan, said the investment builds on the Victorian Government’s investment in roads and rail in regional Victoria.
“We’re building the transport infrastructure to support better connections to our regional cities and country towns and deliver safer roads and more reliable regional rail journeys,” Ms Allan said.
ARA welcomes funding injection
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has welcomed the additional funding for the Regional Rail Revival program, saying it would boost work already underway to upgrade regional passenger lines in Victoria.
ARA Chief Executive Officer, Caroline Wilkie, said stronger rail connections to and from Melbourne would greatly benefit regional economies and their communities.
“This funding will help support infrastructure jobs in regional Victoria at a time when every job counts. It is good to see funding going to a project that is creating jobs and will improve connectivity between Melbourne and the rest of the state for the long term,” Ms Wilkie said.
Regional Rail Revival has already completed some upgrades to rail lines and stations in Victoria’s regions.
Ms Wilkie said it was pleasing to see the value of rail recognised as a crucial part of rebuilding the nation’s economic health.
“It is good to see funding for projects that will provide an immediate boost to our economy while also supporting long term value for the community,” she said.
An ARA member survey of rail suppliers, contractors and freight operators found that maintaining current projects and funding stimulus projects were the two most important actions governments could take to support the industry as it responds to COVID-19.
Ms Wilkie said it was important that governments maintained a strong pipeline of rail projects to ensure infrastructure jobs could be maintained beyond the life of initial stimulus projects.