The costs of scrapping East West Link are rising, but so too are the Victorian government’s hopes of securing federal funding for a major infrastructure project.
Premier Daniel Andrews told a budget estimates committee on Friday that $595,293.15 had been spent on legal and financial adviser fees associated with scrapping the tollway project.
The fees were in addition to $339 million drawn down by the consortium that was to build it and $81 million to establish a line of credit since transferred to the Melbourne Metro rail project.
“There are several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of legal advice,” Mr Andrews told the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee.
“I would, of course, have preferred not to have not spent any of that money.”
The total cost was still less than the opposition-cited figure of $640 million, Mr Andrews said, goading opposition MPs that “if you’re going to make a number up, make it up higher”.
The premier and Treasurer Tim Pallas were grilled over how the state would pay for the Melbourne Metro, assigned $1.5 billion in the 2015-16 budget but to ultimately cost $11 billion.
Both ruled out increasing train, tram or parking fares and said they remained hopeful of federal funding even though the Abbott government had all but ruled this out for public transport projects.
“That’s why we’re so pleased to see the prime minister yesterday, in a true act of leadership, commit to – subject to some formalities – the Transurban proposal for a second river crossing,” Mr Andrews said.
Transurban’s unsolicited offer to build a $5.5 billion Western Distributor, a tolled tunnel and roads connecting the Westgate Bridge to Citylink, would require about $2 billion in federal funding.
Mr Pallas also told the hearing public servants could expect the Andrews government to deliver annual pay increases of at least 2.5 per cent with another 0.5 per cent on offer for demonstrated efficiency gains.