Ballarat’s resident train infrastructure expert ‘59-minute Nick’ might soon have to change his alias to ‘45-minute Nick’ following the opposition’s pledge to build a $19 billion dollar high-speed regional rail link if it wins the November election.
Committee for Ballarat’s Nick Beale is ecstatic with the announcement, made on Wednesday morning by opposition leader Matthew Guy.
“We’re delighted with the opposition’s promise,” Mr Beale said.
“It’s a great proposal and a definite move in the right direction.
“Having a rail service from Melbourne to Ballarat in under an hour will only benefit both cities.”
Mr Beale wasn’t concerned with any potential setbacks or obstacles the opposition may face if this plan was to come to reality.
“I don’t know if there are any obstacles. From all the research I’ve done in the past, there is no reason why we can’t achieve a train that gets you from Ballarat to Melbourne in under an hour,” he said.
He also pointed to an Infrastructure Australia report which identified the Ballarat Rail Line upgrade as a ‘priority project’ for Australia over the next 15 years.
“We’re at the top of the priority list.”
The Ballarat Rail Line upgrade returned a cost benefit score of 1.1.
This comes after Opposition Leader Matthew Guy promised to build a “European-style” rail network in a bid to encourage more people to live in country areas.
“As far as I am concerned, I am going to the public with a very clear view as to how I want to grow the state,” he told 3AW radio on Wednesday.
Mr Guy is yet to reveal how the mammoth project will be funded, but said he hoped the Federal Government would invest in it.
He also conceded he is yet to undertake a business plan to determine whether the project is viable but would do so before the November election.
“One of the things the business case will do is certainly identify efficiencies in how we can build and some of the construction and timing and sequencing.”
He said while train lines would need to be closed during the construction period, it was necessary to invest in heavy rail to "decentralise" Melbourne's growth, with the population in the city soaring by 2700 people a week.
“I'm seeking a mandate from Victorians to lead a government that will decentralise our growth and take the pressure off Melbourne – this is how I want to do it.”
He defended the cost of the proposed upgrades.
“It's a lot of money $15 to $19 billion ... but over a 10-year period it's realistic, it can be achieved.”
Mr Guy was at Ballarat Station today to launch his proposal.
Under the proposed upgrades, high-speed train services from Geelong to Melbourne would take as little as 32 minutes by 2022, while the journey between Ballarat and Melbourne would drop to 45 minutes later in the decade.
Mr Guy vowed to pour money into track and signal upgrades as well investment into two fleets of new-generation trains.
- with The Age
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