A TRAIN line between Bendigo and Geelong could be a vital freight and passenger corridor into the future, according to former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer.
Mr Fischer has thrown support behind the project, which is being pushed by the Rail Revival Alliance.
The state government costed the project 12 months ago at between $760 million and $935 million.
But the Rail Revival Alliance, headed by Noel Laidlaw, says a slower service with less “gold plating” could cost as little as $90 million.
Mr Fischer, who was deputy to former Prime Minister John Howard, said he was not sure which version should be built, but said the service was important.
“It is a useful, if not vital, cross country rail link of the future which in any other expanding state of an OECD country would be built quickly,” he said.
“We must now think rail in all dimensions for both freight and regional passenger services.
“Bendigo to Geelong is sitting there in the long grass.
“It’s not a mammoth cost and if it went in it would boost decentralisation.”
The government has baulked at the high cost of the project, but continues to consider Mr Laidlaw’s proposal.
It appears unlikely the government would fund the project in the upcoming state budget.
Labor does not have a policy on the project, according to Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards.
“Public transport will be a significant priority for the Victoria Labor Party going into this election year,” she said.
“We’ve seen a significant decline in our regional rail network over the last three years.”
Mr Laidlaw said there unnecessary features in the government’s costings.He said the service could run at a slower speed and sections listed as double width could run at single width.
“We’re continuing to approach all parties, working within the system and holding rallies until the election," he said.