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Warrnambool line passengers would be forced to change trains at Geelong under the government’s new rail plan announced on Tuesday, the state opposition claims.
Premier Daniel Andrews outlined a plan to take over regional rail lines into the city to increase capacity for the Geelong to Melbourne and Ballarat to Melbourne services, slashing travel times. New metro stations would be created in the west within 10 years, if the government was re-elected.
Repeated requests for details on the impact on Warrnambool line travellers went unanswered by a spokesman for Transport Minister Jacinta Allan.
Labor South West Coast candidate Kylie Gaston said it was likely Warrnambool rail passengers would be happy to swap trains to link up with the faster service.
Opposition transport spokesman David Davis said south-west passengers would be treated like cattle.
He said the Andrews Government had been forced to match the Liberal National's comprehensive European-style fast train proposal.
"They have been fluffing around, trying to match us, but they have not done their homework," he said.
"Warrnambool line passengers will have to de-train, drag their bags across a station platform and get on another train.
"It's dump and run. Warrnambool line passengers will be treated like second-class citizens, like cattle.”
Mr Davis said the plan to take over regional designated rail lines into the city was outrageous.
"The Andrews Government couldn't give a hoot about country Victorians. They are arrogant and panicked," he said.
"Their plans have not involved Geelong, Warrnambool or Ballarat. They were caught cold by the Coalition announcement and have now left country Victoria to rot, again."
Mr Davis said the Andrews government’s only plan was to employ consultants.
"(Premier Daniel) Andrews has lost control of the state and population growth in the city," he said.
"Our plan is for decentralisation. It's considered, thought out and will work," he said.
A leaked copy of the State Government’s Victorian Rail Plan indicates a seismic shift in Labor Government policy since that document was released on August 14 this year.
It is expected that the Warrnambool to Melbourne travel time will be reduced, but the likelihood of having to board another train at Geelong is expected to cause hardship for passengers, especially the elderly, the young, the sick and disabled.
Earlier this month, Liberal leader Matthew Guy unveiled an ambitious plan with super trains reaching speeds of 200km/h which would cut the journey between Warrnambool and Melbourne in half.
The Labor proposal would involve electrifying lines to Melton and Wyndham Vale, which are currently on the two regional lines, to free up track time.
"This plan will deliver the transformation that our state needs - electrification of rail lines out to the west, and fast rail to Geelong and Ballarat, returning country rail to country communities," Mr Andrews said.
Planning work for the future airport rail link via Sunshine identified the projects and Labor is promising $100 million to complete designs if re-elected at the November election.
South West Coast MP Roma Britnell said the premier had spent the past two weeks talking down the coalition’s fast rail policy.
“Now he’s come out and announced nearly the same thing, but with one major exception, it doesn’t go past Geelong or Ballarat,” she said.
“In true Labor style, they think the west stops at Geelong. Our plan would upgrade every single regional line, return passenger services to Hamilton and slash travel times on the Warrnambool line.
“Ours is a statewide plan for fast rail, building on the already underway upgrades of regional lines that the federal Liberal government is funding.
“Our plan is not just for Geelong and Ballarat, it’s a visionary plan to get back in control of population growth, to truly decentralise our state and open up all regional areas for growth.
“Labor’s attempt at fast rail is half-baked and doesn’t go far enough to benefit all of regional Victoria.”
This article first appeared on www.standard.net.au
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