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The Morrison government has abandoned plans to build new car parks at five Melbourne railway stations in the latest blow to its problem-plagued 2019 election pledge.
Five projects — at Brighton Beach, Balaclava, Mitcham, Kananook and Seaford stations — worth almost $50m have been dumped, along with the $70m extension of Thompsons Road in Officer South.
The Herald Sun understands planning complications and a lack of funding means the government will also struggle to deliver its full commitments to commuters at several other stations including Boronia, Surrey Hills, Narre Warren and Sandringham.
The decision to abandon five projects in Melbourne’s southeast comes just weeks before the Australian National Audit Office releases its investigation into the commuter car park fund.
Kananook railway station in Seaford. Picture: David Smith
Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher told the Herald Sun he was aware of the audit, and that the ANAO had been in discussions with his departmental officials.
He said the decision to abandon the car park upgrades — more than two years after they were promised — reflected “advice from either the Victorian government or the local council that either there’s no suitable sites or there’s no feasible design options”.
Opposition infrastructure spokeswoman Catherine King said the program had been “one rolling disaster from a government that cares only about announcements and not delivery”.
“In the heat of an election campaign the Morrison government went ahead and made these promises in a desperate attempt to win headlines and votes,” she said.
Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher. Picture: Asanka Ratnayake (Getty Images)
“Once the election was over, so was their interest in delivering for these Melbourne communities.”
The Herald Sun revealed earlier this year that thousands of car parks promised for 30 railway stations would not even be under construction before the next election, that high-risk parks loomed as the only option in several areas, and that the South Morang upgrade had already been quietly dumped.
Last week’s federal budget added $87.8m to the government’s $405m car park package and locked in multi-deck parking at Frankston, Heathmont and Ringwood stations.
Only two new car parks promised in 2019 have been completed — at Beaconsfield and Hurstbridge stations — and just two more are under construction at Craigieburn and Croydon.
Mr Fletcher said it was “unsurprising” that some of the 145 projects in the government’s urban congestion fund had required specific attention as he reviewed them since taking over the portfolio late last year.
He said Frankston City Council recently had a “change of heart” on the need for new parking at Seaford and Kananook, and he would be willing to consider any alternative proposals.
Labor MP Josh Burns, who represents the seat of Macnamara, said the government had proposed the Balaclava car park on land that was already committed for social housing.
“Had the federal government bothered to talk to the City of Port Phillip or the Victorian government before they announced the $15m Balaclava commitment, they wouldn’t be having this embarrassing backdown,” Mr Burns said.
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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