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Trains reaching Geelong within 35 minutes and Ballarat within 45 minutes would be built under a landmark proposal seeking to cut through political wrangling and finally make fast country commutes a reality.
A wide-ranging proposal backed by five regional councils, top planning experts and Deakin, La Trobe and Federation universities, seeks to put an end to the war of words between Canberra and Spring Street over who has the best rail plan for Victoria's regions.
The proposal to overhaul the country rail network has been presented to Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan and federal Cities and Urban Infrastructure and Population Minister Alan Tudge.
It is being pitched as an achievable expert-backed project that would get some of its funding from the $15 billion on offer for the airport rail link and $2 billion the Morrison government pledged for Geelong fast rail.
There would be an option of raising further capital, such as increasing fare revenue.
The Morrison government has called on the state to match its $2 billion commitment to Geelong fast rail, but the Andrews government is investing $150 million to plan a separate western rail plan to deliver fast trains to Geelong and Ballarat.
At an estimated cost of $30 billion, the new proposal commissioned by Geelong Council would see 200km/h trains run on electric tracks to Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, the Latrobe region and the Tullamarine and Avalon airports by the 2030s.
The ''Stronger, Together'' project would lead to a series of towns on the Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton and Traralgon lines coming within a 35 to 45-minute train ride from Melbourne.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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