Fast rail plan, si’l vous plait
State Opposition’s ‘fast track’ to help decentralisation
THE Victorian Opposition has upped the ante on regional rail, promising revolutionary upgrades to the state’s passenger rail network.
Opposition leader Matthew Guy this week outlined his ambitious plan to deliver 200km per hour “Europeanstyle High Speed Rail” across the state, including the North East line, where travel times between Wodonga and Mel- bourne are to be slashed from 207 minutes to 164 minutes.
With soaring population growth and congestion in Melbourne predicted to be a key issue in November’s state election, Mr Guy is linking the regional rail project with his plan to decentralise Victoria’s population.
“Bringing Victoria’s cities closer together with European-style High Speed Rail is the cornerstone of the Lib- eral Nationals plan to ease the population squeeze by decentralising our jobs and our population,” Mr Guy said.
The “super-infrastructure project” is estimated to cost $15 billion to $19 billion to be completed within the next 10 years.
However, in response to a question from the Wangaratta
Chronicle, there were no details around how the upgrades will be funded, other than promising not to introduce a new tax or levy.
Mr Guy has said that in addition to rebuilding every regional passenger line in the state, two fleets of faster, more comfortable trains would be ordered.
He said the greatest improvements in travel times are expected on the Geelong and Ballarat lines, where the Geelong to Melbourne trip, currently 58 minutes, will be cut to 32 minutes, and the Melbourne to Ballarat journey shortened from 73 minutes to 45 minutes.
But Victorian Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said there are more questions than answers in this proposition, and said the Liberal National parties have a poor track record when it comes to regional rail.
Speaking on current efforts to improve the North East line, Ms Allan said design work is ongoing for new rolling stock, which “will be ready to go once track work is completed”.
That is at least two years away, with the Australian Rail Track Corporation still to finalise scope works for the $235 million track project, which will upgrade it to a Victorian Class 2 performance standard, allowing trains to travel at speeds of 130kph.