Federal Labor has met with the Committee for Ballarat, an NGO advisory group, to discuss the latter’s campaign promoting the delivery of 59-minute express services for between Ballarat and Melbourne.
Federal shadow minister for transport and infrastructure, Anthony Albanese, said the meeting was “productive” and pointed towards the necessity of increased state and federal rail investment for the Ballarat line.
“The Committee for Ballarat is doing a great job in advancing the city’s rail needs and has proposed a range of projects it believes will deliver a 59-minute journey to Melbourne,” Albanese said.
“Now is the time for governments to work together carefully consider the next stage of rail investment required to ensure that rail congestion is not allowed to act as a hand brake on Ballarat’s economic growth.”
Initial works have just started to get underway on Stage 1 of the state government’s Ballarat line upgrades, a project worth $518 million. It includes the duplication of 18 kilometres of track between Deer Park West and Melton and of three kilometres of track east of Warrenheip Junction, construction of passing loops at Ballan and Millbrook, and platform upgrades at several stations.
These upgrades themselves are expected to enable extra services in the morning and afternoon peak, and a train every 40 minutes in the off-peak, when the project is completed in late 2019.
Committee for Ballarat has welcomed this development, but thinks more work is required if Ballarat is to better connect the region to Melbourne, especially with the pressures of increased passenger demand in recent years.
The Committee is campaigning for a 59-minute express service both for the morning and afternoon commute by 2019, which it argues would reduce population growth pressures in Melbourne by making it easier for people to move to the regional city, redirecting growth towards the region and providing access to affordable housing.
It also expects shorter travel times to provide greater access to Melbourne’s educational opportunities for potential students living in Ballarat.
Federal Labor’s words of support for the project haven’t materialised in the form of funding commitments. But Albanese said his party’s record last time it was in government showed it was serious about of regional rail investment in Victoria, citing the $3.225 billion spent on the Regional Rail Link.
“Over six years the former Federal Labor Government more than doubled per capita infrastructure investment from $89 per Victorian per year to $201,” he said.
“In contrast, the current Federal Coalition Government’s 2016-17 Budget saw Victoria’s share of the national infrastructure spend fall to a record low of 8.2 percent, despite the state being home to a quarter of the national population.”