News / Skyrail

Government hits brakes on skyrail as budget woes bite

Level crossing project will be postponed for up to three years

Mark Phillips

IT’S official: Brunswick’s level crossing removal and skyrail project will be delayed for several years as the State Government confronts record debt and seeks to bring its infrastructure spending under control. 

The project’s deferral for up to three years was confirmed in Tuesday’s State Budget following several months of speculation about its future

The project’s website has also been updated without fanfare to change the completion date to 2030. 

When former Premier Daniel Andrews announced the project during the 2022 election, it was set to be delivered by 2027. 

At an estimated cost well in excess of $1 billion to remove eight level crossings along 2km of the Upfield railway line between Park Street and Moreland Road, when it is finally built it will be the largest infrastructure project in Brunswick for decades. 

But since 2022, the state’s finances have since come under pressure with cost blowouts on a number of major infrastructure projects and net debt is forecast to hit $187.8 billion by 2027-28. 

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On Tuesday, Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas announced delays to more than 100 projects, including the Airport Rail Link. 

The Brunswick level crossing project was not mentioned by name in the Budget papers, but its delay was confirmed by an LXRP spokesperson. 

Merri-bek Mayor Adam Pulford said the postponement of the project was disappointing but would provide a window of time for the government to address the transport accessibility issues that will arise during the level crossing removals. 

The council assembled a project team early last year and invested time and resources in extensive community engagement about the project. 

“Our community engagement told us that the community are excited for the potential Brunswick level crossing removal offers, including the opportunities to create more open space, greenery and to better connect our community,” Cr Pulford said. 

“But it also told us that they wanted support for those who need it most, especially people with mobility issues, and they want safe, accessible diversion routes when roads, the train line and paths are closed for works.” 

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The council is advocating for accessible tram stops and protected bike lanes to be built in Sydney Road so they will be ready when the level crossing removal works begin. 

“We’re saying let’s use this delay to build accessible tram stops and a safe alternative for bike riders along Sydney Road before construction begins,” Pulford said. 

“Nobody is that happy with how Sydney Road is as it stands – the Victorian Government has the opportunity now to transform Sydney Road and make it a better and much safer experience for everyone.” 

Brunswick MP Dr Tim Read said the project had fallen victim to the government’s financial problems, and repeated calls for more detail about the project so the community had certainty. 

“This is particularly important for Merri-bek Council which maintains the Upfield shared path, which is seriously congested and will need further work if it’s not about to be replaced by the level crossing project,” he said. 

“They are only funding eight accessible tram stops and indications are that they are unlikely to be on Sydney Road, nevertheless we will be pressing for answers.” 

Liberal MLC for Northern Metropolitan Region, Evan Mulholland, said the postponement of the level crossing removals was “a clear broken promise by the Labor Party”.

“They’ve neglected frequency and connections on the Upfield line, simple connections, simple things they could do to improve service on the Upfield line, and they’ve had another broken promise today, pushing this promise back to past 2030, all because they’re putting all their eggs into one basket, which is the Suburban Rail Loop,” he said.

In a separate development, the State Budget will provide $17 million to improve metropolitan roads and intersections, including safety upgrades for Nicholson Street between Albion Street, Brunswick and Bell Street in Coburg. 

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