Major projects plan

By Jackson Russell

A hospital and intermodal freight terminal in Beveridge and the extension of the metropolitan train line to Wallan are highlights of a new plan to drive investment into Melbourne’s north.

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

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.

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 will 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 9100 truck movements.

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

A new hospital for the outer north is in the 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 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.

Mitchell Shire Mayor David Lowe said council was proud to align with the city deal plan.

“With proposed medical facilities such as a new hospital as well as road improvements on the Northern Highway and Hume corridor, it lays a strong foundation for future confidence and investment in our region,” he 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.

Federal Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell said it was a long road to the plan’s completion and the collaborative approach was ‘second to none’.

“[The plan] will provide a blueprint for the region to respond to the impacts of the pandemic in the immediate and medium-term, and importantly, it gives us the opportunity to reform our economy for the future,” he said.