Coalition promises give us a sense of deja vu

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The Premier has announced that the upcoming State Budget will include a new rail link from Southern Cross Station to Melbourne Airport.

This is good news, but we await the detail with a sense of deja vu.

Before the last state election in 2010, then-Liberal leader Ted Baillieu said of the Doncaster railway line: "The first step is to plan it, and find a route in detail, with the community, then find the funds, and then build it."

Back then, the Liberals couldn't stop talking about and promising action on public transport including a rail to Doncaster, Rowville, both Tullamarine and Avalon airports, rail between Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, rail asset renewal and maintenance, new train stations and station upgrades, 40 new trains, a high-speed rail advocacy unit, community use of vacant railway buildings...

Before the 2010 election, the Liberals said the East-West tollway wasn't on their radar.

After the election, facing accusations they were a "do nothing" government, a slump in the polls and an urgent need to look busy, the tollway suddenly became the Liberals' major infrastructure project.

This has gone down like a lead balloon with the public.

"Hundreds of people have lined up to tell the panel hearing submissions about the tollway what's wrong with it," said Danae Bosler from the Public Transport Not Traffic campaign.

"Submitter after submitter has pointed out it's a bad project, no matter how you look at it", she said. "The government has dug itself into a hole over the East-West tollway, and now has to extricate itself."

"In recent weeks, we've heard very little from the government about the tollway, and they've been once again promoting themselves as supporters of public transport.

"But until we know more details about this airport rail proposal, including exactly when they intend to plan and build it, and how much is committed to it in the budget, I'm not holding my breath," said Ms Bosler. "We've heard all this before".

It seems our community campaign is having some traction, but we need to push on.

The tollway must be formally scrapped, with every political party backing away from it, and consigning it to the dustbin of history.

We must have clear, funded commitments to the 21st-century public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure that will really get us moving, from all political parties, before the state election. Game on.

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