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COMMUTERS and Geelong ratepayers may be asked to subsidise the multi-billion-dollar cost of fast rail to Melbourne under an idea floated in a council-commissioned strategy for the city-shaping project.
Mayor Bruce Harwood said the proposal — for the project that could deliver a 32-minute commute between Geelong and Melbourne — would be put to the community soon.
“Fast rail to Melbourne is not just about moving commuters quickly; it stretches to tourism and population growth here in Geelong,” Cr Harwood said.
“As ratepayers, taxpayers or community members, we all pay for infrastructure.”
He said Geelong’s future liveability partly relied on moving people “much faster” to Melbourne.
“There is going to be a cost to the community there’s no doubt about it,” he said.
Cr Harwood said the city’s north would be among the biggest beneficiaries of fast rail with a 30-minute commute to Melbourne.
Council’s strategy produced by transport and regional development consultant Juturna states using the Regional Rail Link alignment for fast rail would allow:
A 32-MINUTE express between Geelong and Melbourne travelling at 200km/h.
A 36-MINUTE expressbetween Geelong and Melbourne travelling at 160km/h.
A 43-MINUTE limited express stopping at North Geelong, Corio, Sunshine and Southern Cross.
He said the strategy was produced in response to the needs of Geelong commuters.
“It got to such a position where our Geelong travelling community were really seeking a better solution,” he said.
“So we basically took it on ourselves to do some work and engaged experts.”
Public Transport Users Association Geelong convener Paul Westcott said it was hard to judge the need for a levy to subside the project when its technical details were yet to be released.
“You can only really give informed input if you know what’s being proposed,” Mr Westcott said.
He said commuters were more concerned about the capacity and reliability on the Geelong line than the speed at which trains travelled.
Council’s fast rail strategy states levying commutes or ratepayers is likely to bring forward the project’s start date.
About 800,000 people are using the Geelong line each month, according to the report.
The lack of dedicated track all the way into Melbourne is the “principal reason” speed on the Geelong line cannot be increased.
“The last, or first, 10km of the journey to, or from, Southern Cross station is the slowest part of the journey,” the strategy states.
Council is yet to release details of a report that considered the technical aspect of fast rail, including if a tunnel is needed to add tracks between Sunshine and Melbourne.
This article first appeared on www.geelongadvertiser.com.au
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