Almost all aboard to spur on Frankston, but Andrews in the waiting room


Passengers need to change at Frankston Station to get on the Stony Point train. Picture: Michelle La

The Morrison Government’s “congestion busting” plan to extend Melbourne’s electrified rail network from Frankston to Baxter may never run its course. 

The Andrews Government, which has to commit $225 million to equal Canberra’s offering for the extension to proceed, has yet to make a final decision. 

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has committed Labor to follow suit with federal funding but the State Government would still need to come on board. 

The rail upgrade proposed extending the Frankston line by electrifying and duplicating the diesel-run Stony Point track to Baxter. Stony Point is the only non-electrified line operated by Metro Trains. 

Last year’s federal Budget allocated $225 million to the Frankston-to-Baxter rail upgrade. The money is still on the table after the recent federal Budget announcement. 

Local advocacy group Committee for Greater Frankston said the rail upgrade was the region’s most important transport project, but ultimately it is a State Government decision. 

“We’ve now got bipartisan support at the federal level, but we still haven’t got a state commitment for the project to proceed,” said the committee’s CEO, Ginevra Hosking. 

“It doesn’t matter how much the Federal Government throws in it. If the State Government won’t accept that money, the project won’t move forward.” 

Hosking said the difficulty with infrastructure funding was getting different levels of government to move in the same direction at the same time, in a bipartisan way. 

“Every one of these projects is going to take more than one stakeholder group. It’s how do you build that momentum and keep that over a long time.” 

While the $225 million federal commitment remains on standby, work is currently underway to assess the costs and options for the project. 

In April 2018, with $3 million of federal funding on offer, the Andrews Government began work on a business case for the Frankston-to-Baxter rail upgrade.

Illustration of proposed upgrades for Frankston and Cranbourne lines. Picture: Michelle La

Federal member for Dunkley Chris Crewther, who had helped secure the $3 million funding in 2016, told The Junction the State Government was delaying the study and putting “community interest below political interest”. 

To Crewther, the onus to complete the business case rested with the Victorian Government which owned the rail line. 

State member for Carrum Sonya Kilkenny said the 2018 federal Budget promise of $225 million to build the rail extension was made before a business case was complete. 

“Without that information we don’t know how viable the project is, we don’t know the scope, and then obviously [there is] the cost,” said Kilkenny. 

“That announcement was made by the Federal Government without any of that detail, and the business case is still ongoing so we don’t yet have that information.” 

In comparison the State Government last year committed $750 million to upgrade the train line from Cranbourne to Dandenong, with plans to start construction in 2021. 

The Cranbourne line capacity upgrade appeared in Infrastructure Australia’s February 2019 Priority List as an initiative without a fully developed business case. 

Kilkenny said that pushing ahead with the Cranbourne line upgrade was “a question of balancing competing priorities” for the State Government. 

“There’s a clear imperative to bring forward that particular project,” she said, considering population growth, patronage of the line and construction of the Metro Tunnel which would be dedicated to the Pakenham-Cranbourne corridor. 

“It’s not saying that other projects should not be done at all, but in government it’s always a case of identifying priorities and funding in that order.” 

Ben Lever, from the Public Transport Users Association, said both the Cranbourne duplication and Frankston extension projects should be “very high-priority”. 

Lever said the Cranbourne line served an area of huge growth and needed a “high-capacity public transport network in place as early as possible”. 

The Frankston extension to Baxter would serve Monash University’s Peninsula campus and a large residential catchment. 

“We are keen to see the Government complete both projects as soon as possible,” said Lever. 

Ginevra Hosking, CEO of the Committee for Greater Frankston, said “Frankston’s been listed as a major economic municipal activity area in every plan of Melbourne since the ’50s. 

“When you compare it to the amount of investment that we’re getting in Geelong and Dandenong, [Frankston] really just kept missing out.”