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Only one thing is standing between Ballarat commuters and a faster, more reliable train trip to the city - money.
The federal government is bringing forward $3.8 billion on infrastructure spending, the state government is moving closer to choosing an alignment for airport rail, and as the current Ballarat Line Upgrade project ends, the focus is turning to the next stage of works.
Fast rail to Ballarat was promised by both major parties at the state election, and the federal government has committed $2 billion for fast rail to Geelong.
The issue remains infrastructure closer to the city - V/Line trains get stuck behind metropolitan services once they get past Melton.
Rail advocates in Ballarat have long called for quadruplication of the lines to separate the regional trains, and the new and rebuilt stations have space to accommodate future expansion - Cobblebank station, near Melton, has been future-proofed for more tracks to be built through it, for example.
The separated tracks would also allow for electrification, which will also improve services for the booming population west of the city.
The question remains, who will pay for it?
A map of Victoria's future rail network, according to the state government.
"59 Minute" Nick Beale has pushed for a sub-hour train trip between Ballarat and Melbourne for years, and believes there are solutions within reach.
In a recent opinion piece, he said there is broad, bipartisan support from both major parties, at a federal, state, and council level, as well as from the private sector, for fast rail.
He pointed to Saturday's Victorian Liberal Party state conference, where a motion was moved to encourage the state government to construct fast rail "within the current term of government".
"The Liberal Party in Victoria must be commended for this resolution. It is huge because the Federal Government will be hearing from their own people on the ground that the Ballarat Rail line needs attention," he wrote.
He said the federal government should also be prioritising Ballarat rail in its $3.8 billion infrastructure spend, from a $100 billion fund.
"It is my firm belief that Ballarat cannot just sit back and 'wait some 20 years' to get the funding," he wrote.
"No, we need the funding in the next round of allocations."
Federal Senator Sarah Henderson said the federal government recognises fast rail is "critical" for Ballarat, and said the state government needed to complete its business case for fast rail, and "deliver vital funding".
"It also needs to construct a high speed dual rail track tunnel between Sunshine and Southern Cross station which is integral to our fast rail plan," she said in a statement.
This article first appeared on www.thecourier.com.au
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