Passenger Rail

Guy pledges $15bn high speed rail plan

The Victorian Coalition says it will upgrade and rebuild much of the state’s regional rail network, and deliver a new fleet of high speed trains, if it unseats Labor at the state election later this year.

Trains running at 200km/h would connect passengers from Melbourne to Geelong in 32 minutes, to Ballarat in 45 minutes, and to Bendigo in 70 minutes, under the Coalition’s plan announced on Wednesday.

The announcement means both major Victorian parties now have a massive rail project as part of their election pitch.

Premier Daniel Andrews in August announced the Suburban Rail Loop, a $50 billion ‘ring road’ of rail connecting Melbourne’s outer suburbs, in turn providing improved connectivity to regional rail.

But Guy says high speed rail, which forms the “cornerstone” of the Coalition’s push to decentralise the state, will do better for regions.

“Daniel Andrews says it’s inevitable that Melbourne’s population will hit 8 million people in the next three decades. I don’t accept that,” Guy said on October 3.

“I say we need to decentralise our jobs and population throughout Victoria.”

Describing the plan as “European-style High Speed Rail”, the Liberal National Coalition would deliver its $15-$18 billion program in three stages, over a ten-year span.

Top priority would be a 32-minute transit between Geelong and Melbourne, which Guy said a Coalition Government would aim to deliver within its first term, if elected in November.

Later stages would include faster links to Ballarat and Bendigo, along with a 117-minute transit to Shepparton, and a 62-minute trip to Traralgon.

Work would involve rebuilding much of Victoria’s current Class 1 track to 200km/h operation, “as well as major track improvements on every other passenger rail line,” Guy said.

The project would also include major rollingstock acquisitions.

“A Liberal Nationals Government will fund two new fleets of new-generation, faster, inter-city flyer and long haul variants of the successful V/Locity trains which will provide better comfort and leg room, safety and amenity for passengers,” Guy said.

“The first fleet of high speed trains will be delivered in the first term of government with a second fleet of possible double-deck models to follow.”

The overall high speed rail program will deliver 10,000 jobs throughout construction, Guy said.

The plan has earned the support of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce, whose chief executive Mark Stone said regional workers and businesses would benefit greatly from reduced travel times, and more liveable regional cities and towns.

“Infrastructure investment is needed to tackle rising congestion as a result of Victoria’s significant population growth, which is projected to almost double to 10 million people by 2051,” Stone said.

The Chamber has called for a bipartisan approach to improved transport for regions.

Victorians head to the polls on November 24.