Suburban Rail Loop Bill 2021 – Second Reading

Ms ADDISON (Wendouree)

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate in support of the Suburban Rail Loop Bill 2021.

I would like to begin by thanking the Minister for Transport Infrastructure, her ministerial office and the Department of Transport for what they have done to bring this bill to the house. I would also like to thank them for the mountain of work that is going into building an orbital rail line through the suburbs of Melbourne. This line, crossing from the south to the east, through the north and into the west, will reshape how Victorians can travel, where we can live and work and what services we can all access.

I am very pleased to join my metro parliamentary colleagues in contributing on this bill, especially given how significant and transformative the Suburban Rail Loop will be for so many electorates and communities. This visionary public transport project is our state’s biggest infrastructure project, and I am glad that it will bring benefits close to home for so many of my colleagues.

We committed to the Suburban Rail Loop prior to the 2018 election, and I am proud that we are now getting on with delivering it. The benefits of this project are amazing—creating jobs, linking our hospitals and universities and making Melbourne a fundamentally more interconnected city. And this unprecedented undertaking is providing a huge economic stimulus to our state.

The Suburban Rail Loop is the largest infrastructure investment in Victorian history precisely because it will need to support Victorians for generations to come. Our state is projected to grow to a population of at least 11.2 million people by 2056, with around 9 million in the greater Melbourne area alone—comparable to the current size of the city of London.

The Suburban Rail Loop provides a unique opportunity for us to develop our transport infrastructure in a way which will support this future growth, as well as to shape exactly how and where our city will develop in the decades ahead. To maintain our much envied way of life we need to think ahead on exactly how we want Victoria to grow. This is the way to ensure Victorians will have the opportunity to work near to where they live, and it is also the way to safeguard the vibrancy and accessibility of our state’s capital.

The Andrews Labor government understands that we can’t just keep running more and more trains into the Melbourne CBD, further overloading an outdated hub-and-spoke train network which shuttles all traffic towards the city loop. The type of transformative investment which the Suburban Rail Loop embodies will instead focus on, and even enhance, the character and the functionality of local communities so that they may continue to be safe, vibrant and attractive neighbourhoods as Melbourne’s population grows. We are working with these local communities and will continue to do so as this project progresses towards completion.

The full business and investment case of this infrastructure project shows that the Suburban Rail Loop will support some 24 000jobs across Victoria. And this already impressive figure is dwarfed by the 550 000 people that will be connected to jobs in the areas surrounding the new loop’s stations.

The Suburban Rail Loop will help deliver reduced travel times for more than 80 per cent of Melburnians. It will deliver short, rapid and dependable journeys for Victorians—and more of them at that—while also slashing commuter times across the state.

This very important infrastructure project will change the way that people travel right across Melbourne, with many new destinations and connections for commuters to take advantage of. These enhancements to the train network will help to increase patronage, which will in turn encourage more people to shift from their normal travel routine of cars to public transport. The resultant decrease in traffic congestion will advantage all road users and will have positive flow-on effects for our public transport networks and our broader logistical operations. With the first trains expected to run in 2035 the business and investment case details just how this project will eliminate approximately 600 000car trips every day and how it will slash public transport travel times by an average of 40 minutes for a one-way trip.

The business and investment case also highlights how Suburban Rail Loop east, between Cheltenham and Box Hill, and Suburban Rail Loop north, from Box Hill on to the Airport, will deliver up to $58.7 billion in economic, social and environmental benefits to the state. The rail line between Cheltenham and Melbourne Airport is expected to carry more than 430 000 passengers per day when SRL north is complete, taking thousands of cars off our roads daily. It will connect to a convenient, fast and direct link to Melbourne Airport for the more than 30 000passengers to be carried to and from the airport each day. Planning work is also set to continue for the Suburban Rail Loop west, which will fully integrate with the government’s record transport investments in the west—including the Melbourne Airport rail project.

At this point, and having acknowledged the many benefits the Suburban Rail Loop will provide for Melbourne itself, it is worth stepping back and reflecting on its impacts for all Victorians. Better rail access to more parts of Melbourne–particularly Melbourne Airport—from all of Melbourne’s major suburban areas will also lead to flow-on benefits for regional Victorians, including those in my electorate of Wendouree.

As my constituents and I know only too well, accessing our state’s main airport by public transport currently involves a trip by train right into Melbourne’s Southern Cross station only to transfer across to buses and immediately head back out of the CBD, often battling traffic to boot. It is a long and inefficient trip, and one which hampers the ability of regional Victorians to enjoy full and equal access to air travel. It is for this reason that I eagerly await the new transfer point these projects will deliver at Sunshine in Melbourne’s west.

Residents in Ballarat are also very familiar with travelling into Melbourne by car, whether that be for work, for study, for services or for socialisation. By making rail journeys more convenient and accessible the new Suburban Rail Loop will provide a threefold benefit by reducing our state’s reliance on cars, lowering their environmental impact and forestalling the traffic increases that can accompany a growing population—to the benefit of all transport infrastructure users.

In Ballarat we are huge fans of trains, particularly train manufacturing. We are proudly building 25 X’Trapolis 2.0 trains thanks to a $986 million announcement in the 2021 Victorian state budget. I thank the Premier and Treasurer for their ongoing support of regional manufacturing and secure, well-paid, skilled jobs in Ballarat.

These network trains are designed for Melbourne and will be manufactured in Ballarat. The nearly billion-dollar investment to build trains at Alstom in my electorate of Wendouree was most welcomed by the Ballarat community. The project’s local content requirements will support jobs, training, local businesses and regional Victoria.

I would also like to thank the Deputy Premier—the Acting Premier at the time—and Minister for Transport for coming to Ballarat in May to make this announcement.

I particularly wish to acknowledge the strong advocacy and support of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union; the Electrical Trades Union; the Rail, Train and Bus Union; and Ballarat Trades Hall Council for rail manufacturing in Ballarat. I would also like to acknowledge the Alstom site delegates, Ash, Luke, Blair and Robo.

The benefits of the Suburban Rail Loop are widespread and varied, and the Andrews Labor government is getting on with the task of bringing those benefits to Victorians. The Suburban Rail Loop Bill 2021 is an essential component of this. It establishes the SRL Authority, along with its requisite governing arrangements; it facilitates the necessary planning, development, management and more via amended planning regulations; it defines the process for declaring SRL projects; and it amends the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009 to pave the way for this infrastructure.

This is important, essential legislation supporting a fundamentally important infrastructure project, and I commend the Suburban Rail Loop Bill 2021 to the house.


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