A new report says a 200 km/h rail network from Victorian regional centres to Melbourne should be constructed alongside the Melbourne Airport Rail Link.
The Stronger, Together report, commissioned by the City of Greater Geelong, says a fully-electrified, fast rail network connecting Melbourne to Bendigo, Geelong, Ballarat, Shepparton and Latrobe, including some towns in between and Tullamarine and Avalon airports, will open up economic renewal and opportunity.
It reports these lines except that to Latrobe can be built within the $10 billion already set aside for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, because they would use shared tunnels and alignments.
The report says travellers could reach Tullamarine airport from Bendigo in less than an hour a 200 km/h service and Melbourne in 74 minutes, as opposed to the current 118 minute average.
It suggests Castlemaine and Kyneton would be stops on the Bendigo line.
The report's authors say fast rail would not only benefit commuters, but would improve the capacity of regional centres to host major events.
There would also be better and faster connectivity between regional centres, they say, and the construction of the project would create jobs.
City of Greater Bendigo mayor and chair of Regional Cities Victoria, Margaret O'Rourke, said a fast rail link would grow the number of people already travelling to Bendigo for work and education, with the city becoming a hub.
Key to the plan, she said, was the benefit it would bring to smaller towns along the lines.
Cr O'Rourke said improved connectivity between regional centres was also important as those links were currently not strong.
Victoria's Transport Infrastructure Minister and member for Bendigo East, Jacinta Allan, has met with the Geelong mayor to discuss the proposal.
The government says it will consider the report's recommendations and include them in the Western Rail Plan for Geelong and Ballarat, but does not consider that the report's proposed network is achievable for $10 billion.
The Victorian and federal governments formally signed off on the airport rail project in March, each committing up to $5 billion.
A business case will be delivered by 2020 and construction - which is estimated to take up to nine years - is scheduled to start in 2022.
The new report says if this airport link is constructed without "regional fast rail functionality in mind", fast regional rail links could become unattainable in future.
In last month's budget the state government committed funding to the Western Rail Plan, which will allow fast trains between Melbourne and Geelong and Ballarat.
But there are no firm plans for fast rail to Bendigo, although $49.6 million was allocated to improving the Bendigo line.
The Stronger, Together report was prepared with the input of urban planners, infrastructure and manufacturing policy leaders, transport economists and rail experts, the firm who prepared it said.
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