City plan boost

By Jackson Russell

A hospital and intermodal freight terminal in Beveridge, extension of the metropolitan train line to Wollert and a ‘21st century food cluster’ at Epping are highlights of a new plan to drive investment into the region.

The North and West Melbourne City Deal Plan 2020-2040 was launched by former Premiers Steve Bracks and Jon Brumby, and Federal Senate president Scott Ryan last week.

Both state and federal governments committed to developing a city deal last year and sought input from communities to arrive at a joint list of investment priorities for the region.

The next step in progressing the deal is to seek formal Memorandum of Understanding arrangements at a federal, state and local government level.

The plan has the support of all 13 affected councils – including Mitchell Shire Council and City of Whittlesea.

The goal of the plan is to create employment and economic development opportunities in eight key precincts – Cloverton/Beveridge, Epping, La Trobe, Broadmeadows, Cobblebank, Footscray, Sunshine and Werribee.

There are 66 proposed projects, forecast to create more than 300,000 jobs, including some that have already commenced or been announced, such as the West Gate Tunnel and Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

Big-ticket items such as Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal, a new Outer North Hospital at Beveridge and Epping Innovation and Food Export Hub headline the new projects list.

The proposed freight terminal would provide a nationally significant logistics and industrial precinct and is expected to increase freight efficiency and productivity, and ease traffic congestion.

At completion, the terminal is expected to contain an import-export rail terminal and an interstate rail terminal, which together could handle up to two million 20-foot equivalent units annually including 41,200 car trips and 9,100 truck movements.

The project is expected to generate 18,000 jobs, including 8000 directly through construction and future employment at the terminal itself.

A 51-hectare site adjoining the existing Melbourne Market in Epping is set to be transformed into a ‘21st century food cluster’.

The cluster will be a food manufacturing, distribution and research hub, in line with identification of the growing food and beverage industry as a distinctive regional competitive strength of the northern suburbs.

A new hospital for the outer north is in the very early stages of planning but is expected to be constructed in Beveridge in close proximity to the Hume Freeway and train line.

With rapid growth in the other northern suburbs, major public hospitals are at capacity with the number of available beds well below the eastern and southern suburbs.

Included in the list of ‘enabling projects’ that will capitalise on the investment in the transformative projects is the electrification of train lines to Wollert and Wallan, a Northern Highway upgrade at Wallan, and an additional three Hume Freeway diamond interchanges.

The proposed Wollert Rail would connect Lalor station to a new Epping Metropolitan Activity Centre precinct, Epping North and Wollert and provide access to jobs and education in the inner north and the Northern Hospital.

The plan considers improved interchanges between the Hume Freeway and arterial roads as a catalyst to unlock development, with diamond interchanges at Watson Street, Wallan, and Camerons Lane and Gunns Gully Road at Beveridge listed as priorities.

City of Whittlesea administrator chair Lydia Wilson said the plan was critical for the municipality where an estimated 14,500 jobs were lost by the end of June.

“We welcome this City Deal and hope that it provides some light for our community that there is an exciting plan ahead to kickstart our economic recovery, reboot business, and boost social and economic inclusion,” she said.

State Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green said there had never been a better time for Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs to work together after being the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The projects that are being put forward there, like the Epping Food Hub and also the Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal, they’re absolutely key to Victoria’s and Australia’s economic future,” she said.

State Shadow Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Federal-State Relations, and Priority Precincts David Davis said the plan was good in principle but was concerned about the delivery.

“On freight hubs, the State Government has been talking about this for years and has not done it. It’s all very well to have concepts and pictures on maps, but the State Government’s delivery has not been good,” he said.