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VIC Budget breakdown: What’s in store for infrastructure

The Victorian Government has handed down its 2024/25 budget, which includes $4.9 billion additional funding to existing public infrastructure and provides a big boost for the State’s ‘Big Build’ with a specific focus on metropolitan infrastructure projects.

The Victorian Government has handed down its 2024/25 budget, which includes $4.9 billion in additional funding to existing public infrastructure and provides a big boost for the State’s ‘Big Build’, with a specific focus on metropolitan infrastructure projects.

Metropolitan

$752 million has been outlined for the Big Build to expand the network and support the delivery of new stations.

Highlights include $214 million maintain Digital Train Radio Systems and plan for future upgrades. $104 million will help works to keep rail freight moving across Victoria, including encouraging operators to take up rail, reducing trucks on local roads.

$30 million will go towards better bus travel and continuation of ferry services. This includes works to improve connections to new bus interchanges being built at Croydon, Pakenham and Greensborough Stations.

$21 million has been announced for public and active transport upgrades, including construction of shared bike and pedestrian paths in Altona, Epping and South Morang and safety and accessibility upgrades at Essendon train station.

Regional

Around $113 million has been committed to support the state’s regional rail network. This will include funds to support the delivery of new train stabling yards, as well as stations alongside the new locally built VLocity trains. $60.5 million will go to regional road upgrades over the next four years, with road and bridge projects, including works on the Western Highway.

These funds will also go to upgrading the 150-year-old historic rail tunnel between Geelong and South Geelong.

$62 million will go to upgrades to make regional roads safer and improve freight routes, including upgrading the Princes Highway East, upgrading the Sale Alternative Truck Route in Gippsland, upgrading the Dimboola Bridge, creating a pedestrian crossing on the Calder Highway at Wedderburn and more.

To further improve road safety, the Budget provides $5.2 million for a closed-circuit track trial to study the effects of medicinal cannabis on driver impairment.

It’s also important to note that there have been criticisms and hopes that such funding would be diverted away from major works such as the Suburban Rail Loop and spread to the regions, both from government and local authorities.

The State Government has also acknowledged upcoming challenges for the infrastructure sector. Increases to the cost of materials, labour and transportation have pushed up the cost of construction in Victoria by around 22 per cent since 2021 (per Victorian Government).

Industry reaction

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia has labelled the budget as a “sobering infrastructure spend”.

“While Treasurer Pallas is seeking to flatten the curve on state debt, the short-term impact is an almost complete absence of notable new capital projects,” a spokesperson said. “Treasurer Pallas has commendably made the tough, albeit necessary, decisions to deliver a smoother, and more sustainable infrastructure pipeline.

“Near term, that is inevitable and necessary – but it mustn’t become permanent. Population growth is not going away, so pulling stumps on capacity in the medium and longer term is simply not an option.”

Civil Contractors Federation Victoria highlighted the new investments in the coming year, including $4.9 billion additional funding to existing public infrastructure.

“One positive for civil contractors – who continue to battle ongoing market issues and capacity constraints – was that no new taxes or levies were announced in this Budget, compared to last year,” they said.

“While pitched as family-friendly, supposedly to address cost-of-living pressures, the reality is that this year’s Budget does not have any new major infrastructure initiatives, but rather is a continuation of existing projects from last year and the past decade.”

Friends of the Earth have also shared their thoughts:

“The government has invested heavily in both sensible public transport infrastructure and projects that further lock the state into car dependency as part of its ‘big build’. We welcome the commitment of $233 m to ensure the completion of the Metro Tunnel project,” a spokesperson said.

“We are disappointed that there are no fresh commitments to public transport in the outer western suburbs – a part of Melbourne which is experiencing rapid expansion and which has a long history of being ignored in terms of its public transport needs.”

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