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Labor tips $2.2b for Melbourne rail loop

Anthony Albanese has hailed Victoria’s suburban rail loop as a “nation building project” while promising $2.2 billion for the $50 billion construction.

The opposition leader promised the cash for the state government’s ambitious and expensive rail project at an announcement alongside Premier Daniel Andrews in Melbourne on Tuesday.

He said he “can’t think of a more exciting infrastructure project in the entire nation”.

“That’s why federal Labor will contribute an initial … $2.2 billion to this project. This project will transform the way that Melburnians can get around this city, but also transform for the whole of Victoria,” Mr Albanese told reporters at Box Hill.

Mr Andrews criticised the Morrison government for its reluctance to contribute to the project, saying his government would always like more, but the $2.2 billion was better than “zero” currently on offer.

The rail loop was announced at the 2018 state election at an estimated cost of $50 billion. However, initial costings for the first 26 kilometres of the project between Cheltenham and Box Hill are estimated to be between $30 billion and $35 billion.

Mr Albanese on Tuesday refused to answer whether a Labor government would commit more to the project if elected, given its high price.

“This is a project that will go for a long period of time,” he said.

“Our initial commitment … is $2.2 billion. What that will do is [it] should give the Victorian government confidence that they’ll have a partner with the national government.”

The rail loop is not on Infrastructure Australia’s priority list of projects, but Mr Albanese defended the investment.

“This project does stack up because it’s got a (benefit-cost ratio) of 1.7,” he said.

The suburban rail loop will be a 90km line that will join eastern suburbs to the future airport rail and outer western suburbs without needing to go into the city.

During the 2019 federal election, then-opposition leader Bill Shorten appeared alongside Mr Albanese as infrastructure spokesman and Mr Andrews to announce $10 billion towards the project.

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