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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 962

Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (10:30): Congratulations on your appointment, Deputy Speaker Leigh. Last week, it was two years since I delivered my maiden speech in the parliament. I committed then as I commit again now to represent the concerns, both big and small, of the people of Higgins. After conducting 11 community forums, countless mobile office meetings and an electorate-wide survey, it has become abundantly clear to me that there is a very specific issue that resonates deeply with the people of Higgins. This issue will only worsen over time as our population grows and our community becomes more densely populated. It is an issue that requires urgent action. I am referring to the ever-increasing traffic congestion in the inner Melbourne region and in particular at the bottlenecks where road and rail connect. There is little doubt that traffic congestion caused by level crossings is a major source of frustration for many of my constituents, with some even phoning my office while they are sitting in their car, which they are often forced to do for anywhere between 15 and 40 minutes.

While it is always dangerous to single out the worst, there can be little doubt that the crossings that connect with the Dandenong rail line are some of the worst in the state. I have written to the federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport to draw his attention to the Victorian government's recent submission to Infrastructure Australia requesting funds to commence grade separation along this line. The submission highlights the fact that the Dandenong rail line is a critical infrastructure arterial, delivering $92 billion to the Victorian economy, which represents about half of the state's GDP and nine per cent of national GDP.

In addition to this, the Dandenong rail line can move 12,500 passengers in a single peak-hour period on a combination of 15 metro trains and two V/Line trains. The Dandenong line services some of Melbourne's largest growth corridors in Pakenham and Cranbourne and is a key component of the Victorian public transport system. The railway line is already at or above full capacity, resulting in the constant closure of level crossings. Within my electorate of Higgins there are three crossings in close proximity to each other, Koornang Road, Carnegie; Murrumbeena Road, Murrumbeena; and Poath Road, Murrumbeena. The impact of their frequent and lengthy closures is severely impacting upon pedestrian and car traffic and road freight, with negative consequences for local businesses, schools, shops and community life.

At one of my mobile office meetings, one mother told me that she will not be taking her child to her choice of childcare facility because it is over the railway line and this simple journey would take her more than 40 minutes in traffic, rendering it completely impractical. She told me that as a result she will not be returning to work in the near future. And there are countless other stories just like this.

But these are not the only infrastructure problems in my electorate. There are other desperately needed grade separations required at Toorak Road and Glenferrie Road. This is something that I will continue to campaign for, as these major intersections should be of high priority. We need to have a functional rail and road system. Fixing these infrastructure problems is critical to increasing our nation's productivity.

On 16 November, I sat down with the state Minister for Transport and Roads, Terry Mulder, with a map of Higgins to tell him where investment was required. It is now up to the federal minister for infrastructure to heed the call. I call upon the federal government to support the Victorian government's submission and work in a bipartisan way on this critical infrastructure.