UPDATE 5.30pm: THE City of Greater Bendigo has emphasised the importance of communicating with regional communities as parties across the political divide promise to improve train services.
It comes after the government released details about its Western Rail Plan earlier today, including a vision for high-speed regional rail services.
The plans have been met with criticism by the opposition, which has promised to reduce the train trip from Bendigo to Melbourne to 70 minutes within 10 years if elected to form government on November 24.
“Regardless of who wins the election, it will be important that the government of the day consult with regional communities to understand how best to maximise their investment and development,” Bendigo mayor Margaret O’Rourke said.
She said council welcomed the details Labor released about its Western Rail Plan today in-principle, and was pleased both major parties had named significant rail infrastructure improvements as election commitments.
Labor’s plan does not specify a definitive timeline for a ‘fast line’ to Bendigo, but has promised $49.6 million for upgrades that would be necessary to make trains travelling faster than 160km/h feasible.
The funding is dependent on the outcome of the state election.
The government prioritised Geelong for fast line planning, along with Ballarat.
It is understood the works were given priority due to the scope of the works and the pressures on the line, which previous works on the Bendigo track have ameliorated.
“All regional cities are looking for improved infrastructure and service delivery that moves regional people in the most efficient way possible,” Cr O’Rourke said.
“If an equitable service is delivered, no regional area should be worse off.”
The opposition’s proposed $19 billion high-speed regional rail link includes trains reaching speeds of up to 200kph.
EARLIER: FURTHER upgrades are required before the Bendigo line can be considered for fast regional rail services.
Geelong and Ballarat are recognised in the government’s Western Rail Plan, released today, as priorities for planning regional train services capable of travelling faster than 160km/h.
The government plans to deliver ‘fast rail to other regional cities in future’, but does not specify when that will be for Bendigo.
“To facilitate fast rail to Bendigo in the future, dedicated tracks between Sunshine and Watergardens to separate Sunbury and Bendigo services are likely to be needed,” the plan states.
“This would increase reliability and reduce travel times, as the first step towards a true fast rail service for the region.
“Track upgrades between Kyneton and Sunbury would be needed to provide consistent high speeds on both lines, run more services and improve journey times.”
DOCUMENT: Western Rail Plan, as published on bigbuild.vic.gov.au
Upgrades are underway on the Bendigo line through to Echuca.
“The Bendigo and Echuca line upgrade will enable faster and more frequent services to Echuca through track and signalling upgrades,” the plan stated.
“The project will also upgrade signalling between Epsom, Eaglehawk and Bendigo to deliver Bendigo Metro Stage Two, giving passengers a metro-style train service.”
Labor announced $49.6 million for the third stage of the Bendigo Metro rail project in August, provided the party is re-elected on November 24.
The package of works would include new train stations for Goornong, Raywood and Huntly by 2023.
Labor also promised to start planning a track upgrade on the Bendigo line between between Bendigo and Kyneton, if elected, which would allow trains to run every 40 minutes during off-peak times.
The Bendigo Advertiser understands high-speed rail would not be possible prior to the Bendigo Metro rail project’s completion.
“We’re getting on with the Bendigo line upgrade to pave the way for faster, more reliable services for Bendigo,” Public Transport Minister and Member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan said.
Improvements to the Bendigo line in a diagram of ‘Victoria’s future rail network’, included in the plan, start at the planned Sunshine Super Hub.
Passengers along the Bendigo line would be able to access the proposed Airport Rail Link via the hub.
The government has also highlighted a new route connecting services from Sunshine to the CBD.
Today’s plan is expected to inform the development of a full business case for the Western Rail Plan, along with further technical studies.
“Further planning on fast rail will take place in conjunction with the full Airport Rail Link business case, due to be completed in 2019/20,” the nine-page document stated.
Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards said upgrades to the Bendigo line would give more people access to more trains, more often.
Macedon Member Mary-Anne Thomas said: “We’ll get on with planning the track upgrade for Bendigo to Kyneton, which is another step in the right direction for locals to benefit from today’s fantastic announcement”.
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