THE government of the state of Victoria in Australia has put the $A 13bn project to build a rail link to Melbourne Airport on hold, after the federal government announced that it was undertaking a 90-day review of the entire $A 120bn pipeline of projects within the national Infrastructure Investment Programme (IIP).

Victoria has already spent $A 1bn on pre-construction work for the airport rail link. Both Victoria and the federal government have committed to provide $A 5bn each towards the cost of the project.

While the review is underway, construction workers may be temporarily redeployed to other state government projects.

“We apologise if that's inconvenient in any way, but that work has to be done,” says Victoria’s premier, Mr Daniel Andrews, who has guaranteed that there will be no job losses.

Other rail projects in Victoria also likely to be put on hold pending the review include Geelong Fast Rail and the upgrade of the South Geelong - Waurn Ponds section of the Melbourne commuter network.

While the federal review is underway, Victoria and other states have been informed that they cannot sign contracts for projects within the pipeline without express permission.

Federal transport minister, Ms Catherine King, says the review would ensure investment is maintained in projects that are “truly nationally significant.”

“Under the previous government, projects were left without adequate funding, resources or genuine commitment,” King says.

“The government is keeping the $A 120bn rolling 10-year pipeline, and every dollar remains in the budget. But it would be irresponsible to move ahead without fixing the backlog.”

A spokesperson for King has confirmed that all IIP projects not currently under construction and not the subject of an election commitment are under review, which includes the airport rail link in Melbourne.

However, Melbourne’s 90km Suburban Rail Loop has been assured of continued federal funding. The latest estimate of the project’s total cost by its estimated completion date of 2084-85 is $A 200bn.

After an initial promise of $A 300m, the federal government has committed a further $A 2.2bn for initial and early works on the project.

According to Andrews, the federal government has confirmed to Victoria that “everything is under review” other than the Suburban Rail Loop.

The federal government's Inland Rail project to build a freight route between Melbourne and Brisbane will also not be subject to the review, which is being headed by the former secretary of the federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Mr Mike Mrdak.

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