Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan):
I am pleased to rise to make a contribution on the Suburban Rail Loop Bill 2021. This project is what Melbourne needs. Melbourne has waited for a project like the Suburban Rail Loop for years, and now we are here to deliver it. It is our visionary and forward-moving government that has been able to think of this great project, and we have the capability to deliver it. We have delivered some of the biggest projects in Victoria’s history. We are removing level crossings at a fast pace. The Suburban Rail Loop is completely transforming how we move through this great city. It will connect places and bring people and families closer to one another. The advances we have made in Victoria’s infrastructure are modernising our city and making it a leader.
The Suburban Rail Loop Bill, once enacted, will enable the delivery of this iconic infrastructure project. In summary, the bill provides for: (a) the establishment of the Suburban Rail Loop Authority, including its functions, powers and governance arrangements; (b) the declaration of Suburban Rail Loop planning areas, which provides the Suburban Rail Loop Authority and the Minister for the Suburban Rail Loop with the planning powers needed to develop Suburban Rail Loop infrastructure and precincts and protect them from conflicting developments that could impact on the achievement of the Suburban Rail Loop objectives; (c) the declaration and designation of areas of land on which Suburban Rail Loop projects will be undertaken, which will then have the effect of enlivening project delivery powers; and (d) the provision of improved project delivery powers via amendments to the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009.
The more important aspect of this bill is that it will ensure that the Suburban Rail Loop Authority has the governance and legislation it needs to deliver this project. The scale and ambition of the Suburban Rail Loop demands a different approach from government. It is an unprecedented undertaking and is truly a game changer for the city and state.
The authority will have overall responsibility for the development of the Suburban Rail Loop program and will have the powers necessary to fulfil program needs and objectives. The bill provides the authority with powers to investigate and plan for the development of the Suburban Rail Loop and assemble and dispose of land in preparation for the delivery of projects. Subject to the approval of the Suburban Rail Loop minister, the bill also provides the authority with power to compulsorily acquire land in accordance with the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act 1986.
As outlined in the business and investment case, the Suburban Rail Loop will generate up to $58.7 billion in economic, social and environmental benefits. The Suburban Rail Loop, SRL, is Victoria’s largest infrastructure project, and the project alignment would be subject to 11 different local government planning schemes. The Suburban Rail Loop from Cheltenham to Werribee passes through multiple local government areas, each with their own approach to precinct planning. This legislation will ensure a consistent approach is adopted to achieving the best outcomes across all precincts.
The Suburban Rail Loop is not some standard infrastructure project. It will completely reshape the railway infrastructure of Victoria.
Melbourne is growing, so we have to plan it in such a way that the system becomes futureproof. The Suburban Rail Loop is the answer. It is a multigenerational project which will connect one end of Melbourne to another. The Suburban Rail Loop will connect every major train line, from the Frankston line to the Werribee line, via Melbourne Airport, improving access to housing, jobs, schools, universities and hospitals in Melbourne’s middle suburbs. The Suburban Rail Loop will not only transform the way we move, it will also support thousands of jobs.
The Suburban Rail Loop business and investment case released last month shows that the Suburban Rail Loop will support 24 000 jobs across Victoria and connect people to around 550 000 jobs in the precincts around the stations, with the first trains expected to run in 2035. The environmental case for the SRL is also very strong. It will take 600 000 car trips off our roads every day. People will get to their destinations faster, with an average of 40 minutes being slashed from a one-way trip. Melburnians will spend less time commuting and more time doing what they want to do. The SRL will deliver a new 90-kilometre orbital rail line and strategic land planning and development initiatives in Suburban Rail Loop precincts, giving Victorians jobs and homes closer to a train line and changing the way our state travels forever. The rail line between Cheltenham and Melbourne Airport will carry more than 430 000 passengers daily when complete. The SRL project will also play an important role in Victoria’s recovery from the pandemic. It will create a pipeline of work and an economic stimulus. I am a regular user of trains, and I am excited to see what the future holds for rail infrastructure. I know the value of public transport. Taking the train, tram or a bus should not be a chore.
Melbourne’s west is growing fast. The traffic is increasing every day. More and more people are choosing the west to be their home or their workplace. Having the Suburban Rail Loop will significantly improve the connectivity of the west to the rest of the city. The SRL will also provide enjoyable experiences for passengers, with high-tech trains delivering a smooth, comfortable service, mobile coverage and smartphone-compatible journey information. It will provide a turn-up-and-go service and quick and convenient interchanges with existing lines, transforming how we move around Melbourne.
Beyond the many jobs delivered during construction, the SRL will create major economic activity centres around the new stations, transforming Melbourne into a city of multiple employment centres. COVID has proven that less commuting means more productivity, and the Suburban Rail Loop will help in cutting travel time significantly. The Suburban Rail Loop will also connect the regions to the metropolitan region better. Regional passenger lines will be connected to the Suburban Rail Loop via three transport super-hubs—at Clayton, Broadmeadows and Sunshine. This will have significant benefits for regional Victorians who commute to Melbourne for work, study, services and leisure, and for tourism and visitors to regional communities.
This project is what Victoria needs. Simply put, it is good planning to have jobs, education and housing close to world-class public transport. This project has been through extensive consultation. The Suburban Rail Loop Authority have met with every council numerous times, and they have met with universities, business groups, shopping centres and many other stakeholders.
The Andrews government is getting on with the job of putting the foundations in place to undertake the development and delivery of the Suburban Rail Loop program. We are getting on with planning, and we will be commencing consultations on the assessment of impacts of Suburban Rail Loop east later this year. The Suburban Rail Loop will revitalise Melbourne’s middle suburbs and provide an economic uplift. Greater investment, urban planning and new initiatives near the stations will build on the strengths of Melbourne’s already vibrant middle suburbs.
Melbourne is home to more than 5 million people. It is growing at a faster rate, and in a few years we are projected to surpass 6 million, so we need to make sure that we have the right infrastructure to help people move easily. Large cities like Tokyo, Shanghai, Berlin, Paris, Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong and London have well-connected rail systems. These cities have millions of people who rely on the train to move around. Melbourne should also be on the list of the world’s best rail systems.
The Suburban Rail Loop is a first-class project. Victorians themselves endorsed this project overwhelmingly at the last state election in 2018. I commend this bill to the house.