A $19 Billion rebuilding of the regional railway network will introduce fast trains to Victoria if the Opposition wins November’s state election.
Under the radical Coalition plan for 200kmh train services, a Geelong-Melbourne journey would take as little as 32 minutes by 2022. And the duration of a journey between Ballarat and Melbourne would plummet to 45 minutes later in the decade.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy will today pledge to build a “European-style” rail network to encourage more people to live in the country rather than in a booming Melbourne.
But Premier Daniel Andrews says the government is already upgrading regional rail lines.
“That is a project we are not just talking about but are actually delivering right now, creating hundreds of jobs and getting the work that needs to be done actually completed,’’ he said.
“As for our opponents, they are not relevant to our plans.”
He added his government was focusing on the real projects they were delivering.
“It is a long list and we will add to that list, both in terms of regional rail and many other projects, between now and November 24.”
Under the opposition’s plan, regional rail lines would be upgraded over 10 years, creating 10,000 jobs, and money would be poured into track and signal upgrades as well as two fleets of new-generation trains.
Mr Guy said that about a fifth of the project’s budget of $15–19 billion would be spent during his government’s first term to “revolutionise the passenger rail network”.
“Bringing Victoria’s cities closer together with European-style High Speed Rail is the cornerstone of the Liberal-Nationals plan to ease the population squeeze by decentralising our jobs and our population,” he said.
“This super-infrastructure project will transform regional Victoria, and is affordable, sensible and realistic.”
The Opposition says an express train from Bendigo could ultimately reach Melbourne in as little as 70 minutes — significantly quicker than the time it takes to make the trip by car.
Trip times from the city to Warrnambool and to Traralgon would effectively be halved within a decade, and that to Shepparton cut to less than two hours.
The proposal’s cost is likely to raise eyebrows given the number of other expensive infrastructure projects already promised. But Mr Guy said he expected the federal government to cough up some money.
Mr Guy said that Geelong upgrades, cutting travel times from 58 to just 32 minutes, would be finished by the end of a Coalition government’s first term in office.
“This is a total rebuild of the regional and country rail network,” Mr Guy said.
A previous Opposition commitment for 96 new model VLocity carriages that can reach 200kmh, costing $633 million, is included in the overall price tag.
Mr Guy said the project would complement the current $1.75 billion Regional Rail Revival, a partnership between the Andrews Government and Canberra.
Victoria’s best tracks now allow for train speeds of up to only 160kmh. On Class 2 tracks, the speed limit is 115–130kmh. Other sections have even lower speed limits.
To reach the maximum speeds envisaged, some major sections of track would need to be replaced. Safety upgrades and timetable changes would be required.
Mr Guy said a necessary “untangling” of regional and metropolitan services would be helped by the planned $15 billion airport rail link plan and Sunshine super-hub.
He said the Coalition backed the plan by the Andrews Government and Canberra to start building an airport rail link next term, saying the fast rail plan would “complement existing plans for an Airport Rail Link and the Metro Tunnel”.
The regional rail project would be done in three stages over the decade. Stage one, including Geelong timetable changes next year, would create more express services, cutting trip times from 58 to 50 minutes. Replacements of tracks to Warrnambool, Bairnsdale and Swan Hill would be done towards the mid-2020s.
The Labor government has promised to start building a 30-year, $50 billion suburban subway line if re-elected.
About $100 billion of major infrastructure projects have now been promised by both major parties.