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A HALF-HOUR rail service from Geelong to Melbourne is among the key recommendations in the Liberal-Nationals’ plan to tackle Melbourne’s rapidly-swelling population.
Findings from the Opposition’s Victorian Population Policy Taskforce interim report were released yesterday, laying out major issues identified through the past six months of extensive community consultation across Victoria.
Regional taskforces have been set up in Geelong, Shepparton and Ballarat to support the effort, and to determine how the rest of the state is going to cope with Melbourne’s expected population surge of an additional 3.8 million people by 2051.
“Without a comprehensive plan, Melbourne is at risk of becoming Australia’s most unliveable city within a decade, and regional Victoria may not share the prosperity that comes with increased population,” the report notes.
To tackle the issue, the taskforce proposes extensive fixes along the Geelong rail line — including track and signalling upgrades, duplication of the track from South Geelong Station to Waurn Ponds Station, a major upgrade of Geelong Station with a multi-level car park, phasing out all older non VLocity trains, and putting an easement in place “for the possible future expansion of rail to Torquay”.
South Barwon MP Andrew Katos, who is leading the Geelong arm of the taskforce, said easing rail congestion would have a “snowball effect” across the region.
“Connections to Melbourne are important, and the rail is going to be critical,” Mr Katos said.
He said the push would also need to be supported by new schools and roads to cope with the population influx.
“If we’re going to grow Geelong, we need to provide the proper infrastructure as well,” he said.
Of the 100-plus submissions considered by the taskforce, infrastructure and transport concerns dominated (28 per cent of submissions), followed by crime and safety concerns (12 per cent).
Other issues raised included traffic congestion, job security, and immigration.
“In almost every forum, the extent of overseas migration was questioned, with a number of people considering it excessive,” the report noted.
Taskforce chair and Kew MP Tim Smith said the findings will be used to “form the basis of policy recommendations” for the Opposition in the lead-up to next year’s State Election.
The final report is expected to be delivered to Opposition Leader Matthew Guy by the end of the year.
This article first appeared on www.themercury.com.au
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