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Southland rail station deal draws closer

The state government is on the brink of clinching a deal to finally start the redevelopment of a new train station at Southland Shopping Centre.

Almost four years after it was first promised, it is understood the Coalition will make the announcement well ahead of the May budget, adding to its multibillion-dollar package of transport sweeteners for November's election.

Once open, the station is forecast to become the fourth-busiest on the Frankston train line, attracting 4400 passengers a day.

Despite lengthy negotiations with Westfield, which has led to delays in the project getting off the ground, the government has insisted the redevelopment will be ''in line'' with the $13 million pledge made at the 2010 election.

However, Fairfax Media has previously obtained freedom of information documents showing that the final version could be built without the waiting rooms, lifts, bike cage, drop off zone and two-bay bus interchange promised under the original policy.

According to Public Transport Victoria, the $13 million pledge would only cover the platforms and an underpass. Other necessary work - such as signalling and passenger shelters - is likely to cost more.

Kick-starting the project will nonetheless be critical ahead of this year's poll, where transport remains a key battleground - particularly in marginal sandbelt electorates such as Bentleigh.

Both parties promised a new railway station at Southland in 2010, although the Coalition's version was much less than the $45million policy promised by Labor. News that the government is finally on the verge of sealing a deal comes as Transport Minister Terry Mulder prepares to unveil a $12 million overhaul of tram depots in Brunswick, Camberwell, Essendon, Glen Huntly, Kew and Malvern.

The policy, to be jointly funded between the government and Yarra Trams, would involve upgrading each depot in a bid to improve reliability and reduce service disruptions.

Traditionally, all major tram maintenance has taken place at only a few select locations, which the government accepts is an inefficient practice that tends to frustrate passengers who see trams on the way to maintenance facilities, but cannot board them.

Upgrading tram depots would allow the system to be decentralised, with employees at each depot maintaining the trams that operate from the site. This would help make the network more efficient, Mr Mulder said.

"The Victorian Coalition government is committed to ensuring that we not only provide modern vehicles in the form of 50 next generation E-Class trams, but also deliver the modern facilities needed to maintain these trams,'' Mr Mulder said.

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