The nation’s peak infrastructure body has again highlighted the urgent need to get commuters from the outer western suburbs off regional trains in its latest priority list.
On Tuesday Infrastructure Australia listed “upgrading the Melton line to expand capacity to service additional demand associated with the growing population” as a medium-term priority to be completed within five to 10 years.
While an improved rail service to the city’s expanding western suburbs has long been discussed and has previously been listed as a priority by both the state and federal peak infrastructure bodies, a formal business case is yet to be developed.
RMIT infrastructure expert Dr Ian Woodcock said while he was pleased to see the public transport initiative named among the country’s 84 most needed projects, the assigned time frame was out of step with demand.
“Our transport planning is not keeping up with (growth) and there’s a big disconnect between the projected rates of growth and the lack of a transport plan,” Dr Woodcock said. “For the last 20 years there’s been acknowledgement growth is coming and we need to plan for it.
“A lot of the ideas about when things should be built are political decisions and not technical decisions.”
The listing comes as the state government ramps up work on the $551 million Ballarat Line Upgrade, which includes the addition of a new station at Toolern, between Melton and Rockbank. The new stop alone is expected to accommodate a population of more than 55,000 in coming decades.
Committee for Ballarat connectivity chairman Nick Beale, who has been a vocal campaigner for a 59-minute Ballarat to Melbourne service, said any upgrade needed to ensure regional and metropolitan lines were entirely separated.
“(The timeline) is in line with what Committee for Ballarat has outlined, but we would like to see it on the five-year side of five to 10 years,” Mr Beale said. “However with electrification must come the separation of V/Line and Metro lines.”
Of the projects and initiatives highlighted, none were based in regional Victoria.