A PUBLIC transport lobby has dismissed claims that a Rowville Rail project must take second place to the proposed Melbourne metro tunnel.
Public Transport Users' Association president Tony Morton said recommendations that the Dandenong rail upgrade and Melbourne metro tunnel should be completed before the Rowville rail are "arrant nonsense".
"We're sceptical that the state government has any intention to build it at all," he said.
But Ferntree Gully MP Nick Wakeling has hit back saying the metro tunnel was needed regardless of whether there was a Rowville train line or not.
The metro tunnel is intended to be a dual rail track with stations through central Melbourne, between South Yarra and South Kensington, that will take pressure off the City Loop.
"The study was conducted by Sinclair Knight Merz. It wasn't a government report. We sought expert engineers and they identified the need for it in their report," Mr Wakeling said.
He said the state government was committed to the tunnel project as its public transport priority.
The final stage one Rowville Rail report was released by the state government last week and, while it concluded the line was feasible, it stated the project was at least 10 years away.
The PTUA's Dr Morton said a signalling upgrade on the Dandenong line was needed sooner. In a "fully developed" scenario, there would be 24 trains an hour on the Dandenong line, which would fit in the existing network if infrastructure and signalling were upgraded.
"The metro tunnel seems to be there for just two reasons," Dr Morton said. "First, to provide the illusion of 'balance' for [former] premier Baillieu's stinky east-west road link, and second to provide an excuse for not plugging the gaps in the suburban train network."
Knox councillor Peter Lockwood, the municipality's representative on the Eastern Transport Coalition, said the metro tunnel was essential for easing congestion on the City Loop — "it's already at capacity".
Cr Lockwood said there had been a "bit of a wait" for the final stage one report and it still had not gone far enough. It failed to provide any costings or extensive details.
He urged the state government to add "vital" bus services to the routes along Wellington and Stud roads. "That will demonstrate the need for a rail service out here," Cr Lockwood said.
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