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RAIL looms as the key election battleground this State Election and according to both major parties, Ballarat’s train services are set for a fast rail revolution, no matter who wins on November 24.
Between the Coalition’s $19 billion high speed rail promise, with the first trains to be delivered on the Geelong line by 2022, to the State Government’s $150 million plan to also start planning fast rail, on top of the ongoing $500 million to upgrade the Ballarat line as well as the $5 billion already committed to create an airport rail link through Sunshine – which seems to have bipartisan backing – there is plenty to think about.
But at the end of the day, Ballarat commuters need to answer a simple question; To get to and from work tomorrow, do you want speed or do you want reliability?
Matthew Guy has announced a $19 billion plan to create a “European-style” fast train system. It is part of the Coalition’s decentralisation push aimed at taking the pressure off an exploding Melbourne.
Mr Guy says the 10-year plan will feature European-style fast trains travelling at 200km/h, making a trip from Geelong to Melbourne in 32 minutes and from Ballarat to Melbourne in 45 minutes.
"If elected, a Liberal-Nationals government will focus on the biggest rebuild of our country rail network in our country's history," Mr Guy has said.
The Coalition has promised an initial injection of $3 billion over four years to kickstart the project, with the speedy service from Geelong expected to be achieved in that time.
Matthew Guy has been a regular visitor to Ballarat these past few years, here spruiking V/Line in 2015.
Labor is more circumspect in its timeframes, but is also planning for fast rail to be a feature in the future.
The plan would see construction on the fast rail start in 2022 and take a decade to complete.
It will also see the electrification of both the Ballarat line to Melton and the Geelong line to Wyndham.
The plan would mean that instead of V/Line trains sharing tracks with city trains and being slowed down as a result, the services would run express from the city to Wyndham Vale and Melton, along the separate stretch of track, significantly increasing the capacity of both routes and reducing overcrowding.
It is part of a major public transport push by the State Government which has already promised a $50 billion suburban rail loop and the $8-$13 billion airport rail link ($5 billion committed by the State Government).
“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.
This article first appeared on www.thecourier.com.au
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