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Former Geelong mayor Bruce Harwood says the Committee for Geelong has “wavered severely on its no fear or favour mantra” and is not putting its “head over the ball on fast rail.”
Mr Harwood said the committee had been contacted on multiple occasions to support a regional alliance on fast rail developed by Geelong council in conjunction with rail experts and other councils but had chosen not to pledge its support.
“If we can’t unite as a city on the things that are most vital for our community, progress is very hard to achieve,” Mr Hardwood writes in a letter to the editor today.
Josh Frydenberg addresses the media. Prime Minister Scott Morrison was at Geelong Train Station to announce funding $2bl towards a fast rail between the city and Melbouirne. Picture: Alan Barber“The CEO of the Committee for Geelong (CfG) has rejected multiple advances from the City (of Geelong) to support their regional fast rail vision launched in 2019 which had been developed and supported by the City of Geelong with the G21 and leading representatives from Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton and Latrobe, as well as top economists, planners and rail experts. This expert team has produced a business case to prove that this vision is fully commercial. But they are not looking to build it themselves.
“They are only trying to show the State and Commonwealth how it can and should be done affordably. This was made clear to the Committee for Geelong leadership.
“The Committee was initially supportive then became fearful of upsetting the State Government as an alternative (plan) was being worked up.”
A packed 12:19am Monday train from Southern Cross to Waurn PondsMr Harwood’s comments come after inaugural CfG chairman Jim Cousins said the current committee was not fighting hard enough for the Geelong people.
Mr Cousins said bodies like the CfG worked best when they “discern the big issues that really matter and go hard on them straight to the top.”
“You cannot back off for a second. It is not too late for the committee to have a real influence on fast rail by speaking out strongly,” Mr Cousins said.
In response to Mr Cousins, CfG CEO Jennifer Cromarty said the organisation was working with the Government on fast rail “inside the tent”.
“The (CfG) has taken the position of working with government ‘inside the tent’ rather than siding with one particular consortium or idea in a public forum,” she said.
“We have been contacted on several occasions to support the consortium, which is involved with the private, market-led bid which is supported by some councils and the committees for Shepparton, Melbourne and Ballarat. The (CfG) is focused on the best outcomes for Geelong and not to speak publicly for or against a consortia’s specific interests.”
The Geelong Fast Rail Reference Group which begun meeting last year is assessing fast rail options as part of the Western Rail Plan.
The State Government has committed $150 million for the plan that includes money to plan for the full separation of regional and metro services on the Geelong and Ballarat lines, considered the first step towards fast rail to the cities.
This article first appeared on www.geelongadvertiser.com.au
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