Melbourne has the city loop, but the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel - erroneously named, the premier says - is several years away. Photo: Craig Abraham
Premier Denis Napthine has declared his government is committed to the Melbourne Metro rail project – just not now, and not with its current name.
He said the $9 billion north-south tunnel, which would run through the city centre and have capacity to carry 24,000 passengers an hour, needed a name that better reflected its importance to Victoria beyond carrying passengers through the CBD.
I think we've got to find a better name for it because that is a misnomer.
''I think we've got to find a better name for it because that is a misnomer,'' Dr Napthine said of Melbourne Metro on Tuesday.
Denis Napthine Photo: Pat Scala
''We are determined to build that rail capacity project ... [because] it is essential for rail freight, for regional rail services and for metro rail services.''
The premier denied his government had mothballed the landmark project despite having committed just $10 million to it this financial year.
''It is on our agenda. It will be done when we've done the work that needs to be done and we're looking at the back half of this decade,'' Dr Napthine said.
The Rudd government has committed $3 billion towards Melbourne Metro, but most of the money would not begin to flow to Victoria until after 2019.
According to Public Transport Victoria, without the extra capacity of the new rail tunnel several lines will have become so overcrowded by decade's end that some passengers will not be able to board peak-hour trains.
Dr Napthine was speaking at the launch of his government's new freight and logistics plan, which Fairfax Media revealed last month.
He spoke on the same day Victoria's bus industry declared its preference for Melbourne Metro over the east-west link road, which the state government has committed to building by 2019-20 at a cost of $6 billion to $8billion.
''A road tunnel will just perpetuate a car culture, whereas Melbourne needs infrastructure investment that lessens our dependency on private transport,'' said Chris Lowe, executive director of Bus Association Victoria.
''Prioritising a rail tunnel ahead of a road tunnel will improve the capacity of the public transport network to cater for more train, tram and bus services sooner,'' Mr Lowe said.
He said Melbourne Metro would bring more economic, social and environmental benefit than the east-west link, which has received a $1.5 billion commitment from federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
''We've learnt we can't build our way out of congestion so we need to reduce the demand factor for cars,'' Mr Lowe said.
''You do that by building an alternative network – a public transport network that has frequent services that cover the whole metropolitan area, not just the inner and middle suburbs, to the extent that you can throw away the timetable.''