Council has ramped up its push to make fast rail a reality for regional Victoria, hosting the first meeting of a newly formed coalition dubbed the ‘New Spirit of Progress Committee’.
At the invitation of the Greater Geelong Council, which initiated and is leading the project, representatives from Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton and Colac gathered to plot a path towards the badly needed rail upgrades.
They were joined in the discussion by leaders from other major Geelong
organisations including G21, Deakin University and Avalon Airport.
Mayor Bruce Harwood described the meeting as “extremely positive,” declaring the Geelong community is frustrated and tired of waiting for a fast train to Melbourne.
“Quite simply, the current commute of our rail travellers to Melbourne is not sustainable,” he said.
The group heard presentations from renowned industry experts on the potential transformative impacts of a fast rail network, and the likely cost of inaction.
“We see the impact of population growth in the west of Melbourne, and we see the poor connectivity that’s occurring,” Mayor Harwood said.
“And that will occur here in Geelong too, if we don’t put the necessary infrastructure in place to move people around.”
Mayor Harwood said the regional coalition planned to do much of the groundwork normally done by state and federal governments – cutting time and costs.
He said the radically different approach had the support of the nation’s top infrastructure experts, including former Infrastructure Australia CEO Michael Deegan and former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Dr Michael Keating AC.
“Everyone we’ve spoken to is saying, ‘You’re on the right path; if you keep doing the same old, same old, you will not get anything you need,’” Mayor Harwood said.
“By taking this new approach, we can make things happen.
“We now have to win the confidence of the government, which we think we are doing, and we are committed to working with them to achieve a great end result.”
Late in 2018, Council released the first product of its fast rail work, an
independent report showing the technology could deliver:
- An express service from Melbourne to Geelong in 32 minutes;
- A three-stop service via Sunshine, North Geelong and Corio in 36
- Geelong to Sunshine (Melbourne Metro’s future main transfer station) in 25 minutes.
The report said fast rail would provide obvious benefits for commuters, along with major socio-economic uplift for Geelong through job creation and better access to employment opportunities.
The ‘New Spirit of Progress Committee’ plans to meet again in March before making a formal approach to the state government.