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A sub-hour train trip to Melbourne could be brought forward by federal funding, Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford said.
Speculation is mounting that the upcoming federal budget will boost funding to public transport, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declaring himself open to cooperation with the states.
Ms Pulford’s comments come after a cross-party call for federal investment in regional passenger rail and reports Victoria received just 9 per cent of the federal government’s public infrastructure funding for 2016-2017.
The Melton rail line electrification requiring adding two more tracks after the duplication, currently funded by the State Government, is a key to speeding up the Melbourne to Ballarat commute.
“The duplication of part of the rail lines is a really important step and we can continue to build on and invest in this line and in others across the state. We can do it quicker if we have assistance from the federal government,” Ms Pulford said.
“I understand that there’s been some reasonably constructive discussions going on. he proof of all of this will be on federal budget night when we find out what their thinking is, what their priorities are.”
The duplication – and eventual quadruplication – of the Melton rail line will have to wait up to a decade as the state government completes its $10.9 billion Metro Tunnel project.
Federal Public Transport Minister Darren Chester said the state government had turned its back on billions in federal funding, including $1.5 billion for the now defunct East West Link.
However he said he had had “positive and constructive” meetings with Victorian Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan and Treasurer Tim Pallas in the lead up to next month’s federal budget.
“I’m determined to deliver more infrastructure projects for Victoria and it’s up to the Victorian government to put forward quality business cases,” Mr Chester said.
“I’m not in a position to speculate on what’s contained in the federal budget but I am hopeful that we will have a positive working relationship with the state government to deliver the infrastructure Victorians wanted.”
Ms Allan said she hoped the federal government’s “Sydney-centric” approach to public transport funding would change in the upcoming budget. Liberal MP Sarah Henderson, Ballarat MP Catherine King and eight regional councils have also called for federal investment in public transport.
This article first appeared on www.thecourier.com.au
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