A FAST rail to Ballarat will be the Andrews’ Government’s next priority after it confirmed $50 million would be in next week’s budget for a detailed investigation into a Geelong-Melbourne link.
Premier Daniel Andrews said a future fast rail project should be included as part of an airport rail link which he wants to see connect through Sunshine.
Mr Andrews said the airport link should open up a greater agenda to link Victoria’s major country towns to fast rail.
“You’ve got to choose the right route and we think that the Sunshine alignment or an alignment that is sympathetic to the benefit of western Melbourne, one of the fastest growing regions in the country and also unlocking the potential of true fast rail to Geelong in the first instance, and then Ballarat as the next in order of priority after that is the best way to go,” Mr Andrews said.
Mr Andrews, who spoke in Ballan today, said his government was working closely with the federal government over what route an airport link should take.
“This is a worthy project, part of a bigger rail agenda and one we’re very keen to partner with the Commonwealth government on,” he said.
“There are a couple of issues, for example we need to know what the Prime Minister means when he says he is prepared to provide `equity funding’.
“I’m not entirely sure what that means, I know what the term means but it would be unprecedented for a Commonwealth government, rather than just granting funding, to provide equity, a return on which would be necessary.
“That sounds more like a loan than anything else.
“We don’t want routes that favour other alternatives that seem to be very much focused on a property development opportunity at the Maribyrnong defense land.”
Mr Andrews said rail projects must be done in “broad terms in what is best for regional communities, for Melbourne’s western suburbs and for everybody who travels to and from the airport”.
“These are very significant projects and they come off the back of $500 million being invested right now as we speak,” he said.
“The Ballarat line is being upgraded. There will be another big step we need to take.
“Airport rail is a chance to be part of a bigger agenda of true fast rail that will fundamentally change the way big regional cities in our state - Geelong and Ballarat - work and function.”