An election-year row has erupted over the cost of Labor's pledge to deliver 24-hour public transport on weekends, with the Napthine government saying the policy would add as much as 22 per cent to fares.
Labor has estimated that the policy, announced by Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews on Sunday, would cost about $50 million for a year-long trial of trains, trams and buses running all night on Fridays and Saturdays.
24-hour public transport plan 'Labor's mistake'
Victorians would pay higher fares under Labor's proposed 24-hour public transport scheme, government claims, saying the figures don't add up.
But in a sign that the usual election-year costings debate could have started early, Treasurer Michael O'Brien released an alternative estimate he said was based on information provided by Public Transport Victoria and the Department of Justice. It shows the trial would cost $102.2 million to operate, more than double the Labor estimate.
''This blowout alone would cause a 14.7 per cent across-the-board fare increase to all PTV passengers to pay for Labor's promise,'' Mr O'Brien said. The analysis includes provisions for an extra 530 Protective Services Officers across 212 metropolitan train stations. It estimated this could cost an extra $54 million, because enterprise agreements stipulate PSOs cannot be employed on a part-time basis.
Mr Andrews has acknowledged extra PSOs will be needed for the trial, although he has declined to be specific, saying only the number would be ''not huge''. He also has denied there had been a shift in the opposition's concerns about the armed officers.
Mr O'Brien also accused Labor of failing to realise an extra eight trains would be needed, costing $192 million to cover disruptions to night-time maintenance scheduling. This, he said, would add an extra 7.3 per cent to public transport fare increases after spreading the capital cost over four years.
Although it remains unclear how Labor would fund the scheme, the analysis suggested meant public transport fares would need to be lifted by as much as 22 per cent to cover the total cost of the policy.
Financial credibility will form a key a part of the Coalition's re-election pitch, with the government campaign to highlight Victoria's AAA credit rating and strong budget position compared with other states. It will also focus on past problems with major projects.
Mr O'Brien said the analysis showed Labor had ''learnt nothing from their previous major project disasters such as myki and the desalination plant''.
But the government is also deeply worried about perceptions it is building the $6 billion to $8 billion east-west road at the expense of public transport.
It follows an Age/Nielsen poll late last year that found 74 per cent said improving public transport should be a higher priority than the east-west road.
Opposition public transport spokeswoman Jill Hennessy said the costings analysis were ''just desperate claims from a ''clearly rattled'' Premier Denis Napthine.
''Labor is confident in its costings,'' she said.