INDICATIONS that the Baillieu Government has prioritised a rail link to Avalon Airport over the Doncaster and Rowville rail lines makes a mockery of the transport planning process, the Eastern Transport Coalition said yesterday. 

ETC Chairperson Cr Samantha Dunn said it was also a slap in the face to thousands of people in Melbourne’s east who have been faithfully contributing to discussions and studies into Doncaster and Rowville rail, anticipating that they will see them realised in the foreseeable future. 

The government’s priorities were revealed last week after federal advisory agency Infrastructure Australia rejected the State Government’s request to finance a study into the Avalon link, saying that based on the number of people using it, it ‘It doesn’t seem to have a strategic value at all”.
“The Coalition Government has promised $50 million towards the Avalon project, while they are yet to commit to the second stage of the Rowville Rail study and before the results of the Doncaster rail study are known,” Cr Dunn said. 

“Avalon Airport currently service about 550,000 passengers a year. A study into Rowville rail found that by 2046, it would attract 68,000 passengers per day, or around 25 million passengers per year. 

“The Government claims that building Avalon rail is about forward planning – well it was forward planning when the centre median of the Eastern Freeway was reserved for a Doncaster rail line and plans for Rowville have been revisited and shelved for about 50 years. 

“Residents in the Melbourne’s east deserve better and have waited a long time for a government to deliver better.”

“The ETC understands that upgrading the metro rail network, completing further grade separations and providing an alternative for east/west freight movements will need to occur to alleviate traffic bottlenecks around Melbourne and to ensure that Doncaster and Rowville rail can operate at peak efficiency.

“It is impossible to see the strategic benefit of prioritising Avalon above any of these projects.

Cr Dunn said public transport around Melbourne has been underfunded and important projects like Rowville Rail and Doncaster Rail have been put in the too-hard basket for too long.

“In the past year, feasibility studies have begun for both these projects, which is a great start, but what we need is a commitment from the government to take the next step and commit funding to build them,” she said.