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THE Public Transport Users Association has poured cold water on ambitious plans by Geelong Council to deliver fast rail within “five to seven years”.
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, the council report found.
The Stronger, Together report proposes a fully electrified commuter rail network between Melbourne and Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton and the Latrobe Valley.
The 200km/h network would also service Tullamarine and Avalon airports, as well as towns in between.
The report draws on the input of leading urban planners and transport and rail experts to determine that the project is affordable and can be delivered to Geelong and Ballarat within five to seven years.
However, Public Transport Users Association Geelong convener Paul Westcott was sceptical about the bold time frame and costings.
“It’s good to see council getting serious about fast rail services but the timescale in the report does seems extraordinarily short considering what has to be done,” he said.
“To achieve what this report sets out to do would surely take longer than five to seven years.
“I tend to agree with the state government that both the time frame and the $10 billion cost seems unrealistically low.
Geelong Public Transport users convenor Paul Westcott at Geelong Railway Station.“The things the council mentions can be done but how they are going to do it so quickly and so cheaply is a bit of a mystery.”
Mr Westcott described the five to seven-year council time frame as “optimistic at best”.
“This plan requires the electrification of the line and the purchase of a brand new electric fleet which will certainly take longer than five years,” he said. “And to have a fleet large enough to cater for the intensity of services needed would surely take longer than that.”
The council report says the network would be planned and built in conjunction 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 time frames,” it says.
This article first appeared on www.geelongadvertiser.com.au
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