Suburban Rail Loop going ahead

Undaunted by the Opposition’s vociferous calls to not sign any further contracts for the Suburban Rail Loop (SRL), and ignoring misgivings expressed by some experts, the Allan Labor Government is powering ahead with the appointment of the preferred bidder for the second tunnelling contract for SRL East exhibiting a dogged, obstinate approach.

This is in the midst of reports of various Labor Members of Parliament voicing concern with the scale of the project in light of the neglect of other much-needed projects across Victoria. The state’s record debt is set to hit $187.8 billion by 2027-28, with interest repayments alone to reach almost $26 million each and every day.

Showing no signs of nerve, the state government of Jacinta Allan has negotiated with a global consortium of leaders in tunnelling – including WeBuild S.p.A, GS Engineering and Construction Australia, and Bouygues Construction Australia – Terra Verde who will be responsible for constructing the 10-kilometre northern twin tunnels between Glen Waverley and Box Hill following contract negotiations.

In Box Hill, major piling works are already underway on Whitehorse Road as crews build a temporary bridge to keep traffic flowing during construction.

The Rail Futures Institute, Emeritus Professor Michael Buxton, and the Grattan Institute are among many transport and economic experts who have called for the project to be slowed down or scrapped. It is a matter of public knowledge that even the Federal Labor Government when asked to increase funding for the project has not made any commitment.

But the Allan government is committed to deliver the project in full, despite the astronomical proportions of the overblown costs associated with the uncertainty of the completion time which keeps getting shifted into the future. And the cost benefit analysis per passenger not really throwing in much hope to the Victoria tax payer.

Suburban Connect were awarded the $3.6 billion contract in late 2023 to complete the 16-kilometre southern twin tunnel between Cheltenham and Glen Waverley. Site investigations and preparatory work are currently making way for tunnel boring machines (TBMs) to begin work in 2026.

The package to build the high-tech fleet of SRL trains, fit out the tunnels, install signalling and operate and maintain the network will be awarded next year – with the two contracts to build the six new underground stations to follow.

The Allan government says by 2026, tunnel boring machines will be in the ground and more than 4,000 people will be directly working on the project.

SRL East will deliver train stations at Deakin and Monash universities, the connection of four major rail corridors – including a hub for Gippsland passengers at Clayton, 70,000 new homes and 230,000 new job opportunities throughout the surrounding precincts – with trains expected to be running by 2035.

SRL will be key to providing the housing and transport connections Victoria needs – cutting congestion and creating up to 8,000 construction jobs during its first stage.

The project is currently supporting more than 1,200 workers across all six station sites, including a workforce of more than 41 per cent women across the Suburban Rail Loop Authority.

The project is backed by an $11.8 billion investment by the Labor Government and a $2.2 billion investment from the Albanese Labor Government.

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