Victoria builds world’s most expensive ghost train


Since the day that former Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made the “captain’s call” to announce the Suburban Rail Loop (SRL) project, it has never stacked up economically or socially.

Infrastructure Australia and Victoria never reviewed the project, and no business case was developed prior to the announcement.

The SRL was never even disclosed to Victoria’s transport department prior to its announcement because the government knew it would object.

Transport experts, Victoria’s Auditor General, and the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) have all rejected the case for the SRL.


The project’s cost was initially announced at $50 billion but has since blown out beyond $200 billion. It is a financial nightmare that will drain massive sums of money from Victorians while crowding out the development of urgently needed infrastructure and services around the state.

Over the weekend, the Herald-Sun revealed that modelling provided years ago to Premier Jacinta Allan — but kept secret — showed that there would be a lack of passenger demand for the SRL:

The leaked analysis shows that by mid-century – when Melbourne houses eight million people – there would be only 24,000 trips a day between the first two SRL stations, Cheltenham and Clayton, in Melbourne’s southeast.


It shows that by the same year, trains running between Sunshine and Footscray in Melbourne’s booming west, would be crammed with a whopping 270,000 passengers…

Labor ministers say the data was not shared with Cabinet, which was kept in the dark during key decision-making processes for the SRL…

One Labor minister said the data was not shared with other MPs at the time and that there was little information provided about modelling during decision-making.

“This is exactly why they didn’t bring the SRL to the general Cabinet … at the decision-making point,” they said.

“They knew western suburbs and northern suburbs MPs would be angry”…

Putting aside from its extraordinary cost, the SRL never made logical sense. Who in Melbourne is clamouring to take a train from Cheltenham to Box Hill? Nobody.

Meanwhile, existing transport corridors and growth areas will be starved of funding for decades as the SRL ghost train absorbs almost the entirety of the state’s infrastructure budget.

The Victorian Labor government has consigned the state’s taxpayers to decades of debt servitude and reduced living standards with its ghost train SRL boondoggle.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.