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Electrifying and speeding up the state’s regional rail network could add $200 billion to Victoria’s economy by 2060, according to detailed new analysis to be provided to government.
The Stronger Together Alliance, a group of leaders and advocates fighting for the state’s regions, will on Sunday release its report outlining the economic benefits of massively upgrading the current V/Line service.
The independent assessment from the National Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (NIEIR) assessed a proposal of refitted electrified commuter services running up to 200km/h between Melbourne and Geelong, Colac, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton and Latrobe.
It found that if built the upgrades would smash travel times, double capacity, and massively boost the state’s economy.
But the plan also hinges on use of the Melbourne Airport Rail Link and a dedicated tunnel that would run between Sunshine and the CBD with regional services.
TheHerald Sun understands the tunnel option is unlikely to go ahead as the Andrews Government considers its own vision which would connect airport rail trips through the Metro Tunnel instead.
Vline train passing over Moorabool street Geelong. picture: Glenn Ferguson
Senior federal Nationals MP Damian Drum said the regional network upgrade was vital to improve wealth for the regions.
“A proposal like this has the capacity to bring people together so that all Victorians can share in what Melbourne has to offer,” he said.
“What the Stronger Together project talks about is changing the huge gap between personal wealth of people in the regions in comparison to people in the CBD.”
Stronger Together chair and City of Greater Geelong Councillor Bruce Harwood said the report showed it was vital the federal and state governments opt to build the tunnel despite added costs.
He said the regional fast rail plan had been an “impossible dream” until the airport rail link had been announced.
The proposal for faster regional rail could potentially cut overcrowding by adding more services. Picture: Rob Leeson“The airport tunnel gave us the design we needed,” he said.
“We’re just so glad that this report, by one of the nation’s most respected independent economic modellers, shows just how much this helps Melbourne and the rest of the state.
He said unless the new corridor was built regional services could be frozen out.
“They get slower and less reliable as suburban services grow,” he said.
“We’re hoping the Prime Minister and Premier will realise from the NIEIR report just what can happen to Victoria post-COVID if they both get behind the Melbourne Airport Tunnel and push for regional fast rail.”
Committee for Melbourne chief executive Martine Letts said the group endorsed the Stronger Together vision.
“An airport rail link with dedicated tracks between Sunshine and Southern Cross is essential to cater for more regional services and to unravel the competing needs that exist between V/Line and suburban trains across the congested rail network,” she said.
“A properly constructed Melbourne Airport Rail Link is a crucial building block for city, regional, interstate and global connectivity.”
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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