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EPRA may play rail role

THE State Government could delegate development authority of rail land to the East Perth Redevelopment Authority following increased cost estimates for the underground rail line between Perth and Northbridge.

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said that, given the difficult nature of the project, EPRA might be a better vehicle to develop the land.

She said EPRA had been included in the ongoing negotiations with the City of Perth.

“By increasing the development potential with EPRA we might be in striking distance of being able to sink it,” she said.

“It is a difficult project and we are trying to make it work.”

The project would still be reliant on a capped contribution from the City of Perth even if it proceeds under a State Government statutory planning body.

Ms MacTiernan denied that the increased cost estimates for sinking the rail line to Milligan Street were due to the State Government shifting costs, as reported in WA Business News last week.

“The City of Perth had overestimated the value of the land and underestimated the cost of sinking it,” she said

Ms MacTiernan denied that the City of Perth had been requested to pay $500,000 a year to the Government for lost parking revenue, but said if the city wanted to develop the bus station land and government-owned car park land, it would be required to pay for it.

“A year ago the City of Perth was saying the project would be cost neutral,” she said.

“They said if you won’t do it, we will we do it, so we said ok.”

Ms MacTiernan said the City of Perth planned to sink the rail line all the way to the freeway. To develop the area with large levels of civic space and facilities was not economically realistic, she said.

“The cost of sinking the railway to the freeway was astronomical,” Ms MacTiernan told WA Business News.

“We made it clear from day one we were not going further than Milligan Street.”

Ms MacTiernan said both the City of Perth and the State Government were aiming to make the proposal more effective.

“It will be a very tight project and it will be dependent on a contribution from the City of Perth.”

City of Perth deputy mayor Bert Tudori said the Northbridge Link Committee (NLC) was looking at using EPRA to develop the land, however he believed that expressions of interest should be called for from commercial developers.

“We should put out expressions of interest for commercial developers and not just take EPRA as the end and end all,” he said.

Mr Tudori said it was the development costs rather than the sinking costs that had blown out the project’s overall budget.

He said that if another party were to develop the land, the City of Perth’s contribution would be around $65 million to sink the rail line.

“We wouldn’t see too much of that come back,” Mr Tudori said.

“It is difficult to get anyone to fund lowering it, but the main thing is to lower it.”

The NLC is expected to make firm recommendations by the end of 2003 with a final decision expected at the end of February 2004.

EPRA declined to comment on any future involvement in the project.

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