RFI disagrees with Bellarine MP over Geelong fast rail

The Rail Futures Institute (RFI) has disputed comments made by the Victorian Minister for Police and Minister for Water Lisa Neville, whose electorate covers the Bellarine Peninsula and outer Geelong.

In comments reported by the Geelong Advertiser, Neville said that the only way fast rail can be brought to Geelong would be via the Werribee corridor.

RFI president John Hearsch said that their alternative proposal for services via Wyndham Vale, would cut the current 50 minute journey down to 35 minutes with trains running at up to 200km/h.

Under the RFI proposal, fast trains from Geelong would share the route from Sunshine to the city via new high speed tunnels built as part of the Melbourne Airport Rail Link. The Victorian government is yet to make a decision as to whether dedicated tunnels from Sunshine to the CBD will be built or whether airport trains, as well as regional trains from Geelong would share the Melbourne Metro Tunnel.

Hearsch noted that a separate new tunnel between Clifton Hill, the CBD, Fishermans Bend and Newport, known as Melbourne Metro 2 would allow for high speed trains from Geelong to travel on the Werribee corridor.

“However, MM2 is a massive project with twin tunnels each 17 km in length, seven or eight large underground stations, and two under-river crossings including one near Newport under the main shipping channel. Think of it as Melbourne Metro (MM1) doubled in scope, cost and time to construct. We have provisionally costed it at between $26 and $30 billion and consider it would take between 15 and 20 years to plan and construct from the time that Government starts to fund it,” said Hearsch.

The Victorian government has not committed to funding Melbourne Metro 2, however it has been included on long-term planning projects.

Hearsch also called for a more immediate focus on electrifying the Regional Rail Link tracks from Southern Cross to Wyndham Value to enable higher capacity electric trains.

“Geelong Fast Trains and a connection at Sunshine for a 10-minute journey to Melbourne Airport could both be operational by 2028,” said Hearsch. “This can only occur with a new tunnel under Melbourne’s inner west to unlock much needed capacity needed to provide quality rail services to regional Victoria and Melbourne’s west.”

Other bodies have joined concerted calls for the construction of a separate airport rail link, with the Committee for Melbourne chair, Scott Tanner, writing that plans for airport trains to use Melbourne Metro tunnels risk further exacerbating congestion issues.

AirRail’s bid for the Melbourne airport tunnel

The Victorian government is under pressure from the Commonwealth to accept a proposal for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link which would see the line privately owned and operated, according to a report.

The MARL, with an estimated price tag of $15 billion, has so far had matching $5 billion commitments from both federal and state governments. A plan from private consortium AirRail would offer the remaining $5 billion needed, but as part of the offer the consortium would own and operate the tunnel.

The Age is reporting this week the federal government is pressuring Victoria to go ahead with the deal, but that Victorian officials are averse to the prospect of a privately owned and operated tunnel being added to the city’s Metro Trains and the region’s V/Line network.

The airport link would connect with the planned Geelong fast rail via a new rail tunnel to Sunshine, and federal urban infrastructure and cities minister Alan Tudge says the MARL is important for the federal government’s vision of the Geelong project.

AirRail Melbourne would see some of Victoria’s transport providers partner with IFM Investors, a global fund manager with $112 billion.

The Victorian government is reportedly considering a cheaper, above ground alternative which would consist of building new tracks as well as utilising the existing railway line from the western suburban junction to the CBD.