Mike's comments regarding the Ballarat Service from V/Line is comforting but I believe John was talking more about making the speeds across the network universal rather than attached to specific lines?
I have no idea what you mean by this. Even on Railpage there seems to be a serious misunderstanding of what's going on here.
The four largest population centres outside of Melbourne - Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Melton - between them account for 400,000 residents, around a quarter of the state's regional population (even if Melton is arguably now an outer suburb). All four are comfortably within two hours of Melbourne by train, on current alignments at current speeds.
The challenges facing Victorian regional rail, as BG observed above, have nothing to do with speed. You can understand this simply by heading down to Southern Cross at 5 o'clock on a Friday. The trains are full.
The problem is capacity.
The absolutely minuscule time savings offered by the policy the Liberal Opposition took to the election - upgrading existing Class 1 track (and I'll be kind and assume they meant entire corridors) - would have made no substantial difference to train travel as an attractive option for travel from Melbourne to the regions. In any case, it seems the train is already more than attractive enough: that's why peak services are crowded! That's why thousands of people are complaining! Because they want to catch the train!
It should be painfully obvious with even a cursory examination that resources are much better directed at increasing line capacity and reliability now, rather than headline-grabbing travel time targets. The fruit is low-hanging, but damn expensive. Suburban lines to Wyndham Vale and Melton; more capacity from Sunshine in; class 1 upgrades for the remainder of the Ballarat and Bendigo lines with additional (re)duplication in parts; South Geelong-Waurn Ponds duplication; ATC to the ends of the commuter corridor (not just the "main" station). These projects are not sexy but they are very good value, providing a 50-100% increase in capacity to the four main centres outside of Melbourne. As a bonus, by segregating different types of service and providing more resilient infrastructure, they increase punctuality and reliability.
Well, what about the fifth biggest centre, you say? Or the sixth? It has to be acknowledged that the remaining population centres are smaller and smaller, and spending bazillions can't be immediately justified. But at the same time, exisiting rail corridors can and should be leveraged by providing modest improvements to service - 130km/h DMU operation and buffet/first class facilities on the longest corridors will be more than sufficient to make journeys car-competitive, again without breaking the budget on expensive realignments or track upgrade overkill.
All of this can be achieved without "fast rail" or anything that looks like it. But it will increase rail passenger mode share in the regions to a creditable level. And the trains might finally run on time.