Report builds the case for regional fast rail network

Sunday, 9 June 2019

A fast rail service connecting Melbourne to key regional cities could be funded and built in conjunction with the $10 billion Melbourne Airport Rail Link, a new report has found.

The Stronger,Together report, commissioned by the City of Greater Geelong, proposes a fully-electrified commuter rail network between Melbourne and Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton and Latrobe.

The 200 km/h network would also service Tullamarine and Avalon airports, as well as interim towns.

The report draws on the input of leading urban planners, transport and rail experts to determine that the project is affordable and can be delivered to Geelong and Ballarat within 5-7 years.

It says all regional fast rail lines, except Latrobe, can be constructed within the $10 billion already allocated by the Victorian and Commonwealth governments to the Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

Conversely, if Tullamarine Fast Rail is designed without regional fast rail functionality in mind, this could shut out forever the ability to change the Melbourne-regional spatial relationship for the better.

The network would be planned and built in parallel with the Airport Rail Link tunnel, Sunshine station and metropolitan suburban track duplications.

This allows fast regional services such as Geelong and Ballarat to begin operating within around six years, in line with likely Airport Rail Link delivery timeframes.

A longer design and construction timeframe would be required for Latrobe.

The detailed document was commissioned by City of Greater Geelong, to build on the Victorian Government’s commitment to plan for 200km/h fast rail to Geelong and Ballarat.

Through the New Spirit of Progress Committee, Geelong is leading a coalition of regional cities determined to accelerate action on fast rail through a united vision.

The fast rail project would transform the state, stimulating growth in regional Victoria and reducing population pressure on Melbourne.

The report argues the network has the potential to grow regional Victoria’s population by 1 million above current trend by 2050.

It would provide around 2.7 million regional Victorians with access to fast rail to Melbourne, with 1.27 million of those within 35-45 minutes of Southern Cross Station.

About 8000 jobs would be created during construction, with the high-capacity electric train fleet also providing manufacturing and maintenance jobs.

The key element is the shared western Melbourne fast rail tunnel, which would allow Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Shepparton trains to shave minutes off their journey and run more frequently.

Stronger, Together argues that it is essential that service frequency and seating capacity is increased to match reliably-increased demand.

Technical advice suggests eight trains per hour could run in peak periods on the Geelong line, with express services reaching Melbourne in 35 minutes.

All Geelong stations would continue to receive services and the line would be extended to Winchelsea and Colac, bringing the area within daily commuting range of Melbourne.

The City of Greater Geelong is encouraging Victorian residents to read the Stronger, Together report and provide their feedback online.

Geelong Mayor Bruce Harwood

Despite serious and much-appreciated investments from successive governments, regions like Geelong are getting further away from Melbourne and tougher in commuting terms, rather than closer and easier.

Some time ago, we sensed that fast, high-frequency, French-style regional rail might solve both problems in one commercially, economically and environmentally-productive program.

This report suggest much of the vision could be built in parallel with the Melbourne Airport Rail Link. This means fast rail should not have to wait for another decade.

Geelong Deputy Mayor Peter Murrihy

This report details how quickly and affordably regional fast rail could move from a vision into a reality.

The societal, economic and environmental benefits of moving to an electrified fast rail network are enormous.

Increased speed, capacity, frequency and connectivity between cities, airports and towns will transform the way people move and live in Victoria.

Travel into the regions will be cut to times now seen in many middle ring metropolitan suburbs, making Geelong and other regional cities far more attractive to Melbourne workers.

Page last updated: Tuesday, 11 June 2019