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A $4 billion project to slash train travel times between Geelong and Melbourne is unlikely to be finished until the end of the decade.
The timing of the Geelong Faster Rail project, designed to reduce travel times to 50 minutes from current peak service times of just over an hour, is being tied to the construction of a new Melbourne Airport Rail line – set to open in 2029.
Public transport advocates and the state opposition have questioned the long wait for benefits that were raised in 2018, and became a federal election promise the following year.
The Andrews Government, which is in charge of scoping the build and is starting geotechnical drilling in two weeks, is remaining tight-lipped on whether the opening date could be brought forward.
Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison at Geelong Train Station in 2019 announcing funding for fast rail. Picture: Alan Barber
Faster rail between the two cities will be achieved by upgrading the Werribee corridor, with 70 companies recently putting forward registrations of interest for the major project.
The Andrews and Morrison governments have each pledged $2bn to get it built.
Melbourne Airport Rail, which will cost $8-13bn, is on a different alignment and will run via Sunshine station and the new Melbourne Metro Tunnel.
It is also jointly funded, with each government pledging up to $5bn.
Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen said it was unclear why the two would be linked for timelines, but that it could be an issue of resourcing.
He said level crossing removals on the Werribee corridor are already advanced, although COVID-19 had thrown up questions about when some projects should be delivered.
The Andrews Government said that construction timelines for the two projects are likely to “generally align” but that there were a number of options being investigated for Geelong.
“Melbourne Airport Rail and the first stage of Geelong Fast Rail will deliver huge benefits for regional Victoria and deliver more transport options for Melbourne’s booming west,” she said.
Opposition transport infrastructure spokesman David Davis said the plan for fast rail to Geelong was like “a mirage floating out in the distance”.
He said the coalition has promised in 2018 to deliver 32 minute services within four years.
“Labor’s plan for a Werribee based fast rail in a decade still has no easy way into central Melbourne and on some of the government proposals appears to be dependant on a version of another Metro tunnel,” he said.
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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