New official data on the performance of Victoria’s major projects has slammed poorly managed upgrades to north-west Victoria’s freight rail network that are now five years overdue.
According to the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO), the Murray Basin Rail Project, which originally planned to deliver transformational upgrades to freight lines including Mildura, Sea Lake and Manangatang, is currently $367.9 million over budget – but estimates predict it will skyrocket to $1 billion.
Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Regional Victoria Peter Walsh said the Andrews Government’s ‘rescoping’ of the Basin Rail would rob local communities of the full benefits.
“Project mismanagement has sent the Basin Rail Project spiralling down a black hole of cost blowouts and delays, but instead of fixing the problems the Andrews Labor Government chose to rewrite history with a ‘rescoping’,” Mr Walsh said.
“Minister for Excuses Jacinta Allan botched this project badly leaving it stalled for years, only to finally admit Labor has no intention of standardising the Sea Lake and Manangatang lines.
“The Andrews Labor Government’s ‘rescoping’ robs north west Victorian producers and transport stakeholders of windfall benefits that come with better access to domestic and international markets.
“The Auditor-General’s scathing assessment is a disappointing red flag for communities hoping to reap the productivity and profitability benefits of the once-in-a-generation Murray Basin Rail upgrades.”
VAGO’s Major Projects Performance report, released this month, exposed systemic problems with project management and budgeting on 110 of Victoria’s major projects.
VAGO revealed a total of $6 billion in cost blowouts across the state and a combined total of 55 years in delays to delivering these projects.
The Auditor-General also questioned the Government’s transparency and accountability, saying: “reporting to Parliament and the public about major projects’ performance is not timely, relevant or sufficient”.
Mr Walsh said of the 110 projects, 26 per cent were found to have changed scope, 63 per cent changed TEI (budget) and 48 per cent changed estimated completion date.
“Labor just can’t manage major projects, leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab and local communities waiting longer for key infrastructure,” Mr Walsh said.
“Money is being squandered; money that could have supported families and businesses through the COVID crisis and the COVID recovery.”