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The experts agree - a rail tunnel will be needed out of Melbourne to keep up with rapid growth.
This could be a boon for Ballarat, if it's done right, they caution.
Much of the debate has centred around the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, promised by various governments - basically, it's a train to the airport from Southern Cross, potentially with a tunnel underneath the inner-city.
This tunnel would provide two extra tracks in and out of the city, and between airport express trains, regional trains could also use the tracks, relieving congestion on the metropolitan network and other infrastructure.
On Monday night, the Committee for Ballarat, a lobby group representing the city, held a forum about the future of regional rail.
The Rail Futures Institute, an independent think tank, presented its argument for why the rail tunnel needs to be built.
It was supported by Luke Fraser, project lead for the Stronger Together design group - Stronger Together was a report from the City of Greater Geelong, with the City of Ballarat and other councils from across the state, calling for fast rail in the regions to assist decentralisation and ease the city's population growth.
In attendance were luminaries from the City of Ballarat, including councillors and council staff, representatives from a variety of industries, Wendouree MP Juliana Addison, and other rail advocates - the takeaway was that a united voice now will help get the tunnel under way.
According to Rail Futures Institute president John Hearsch, the tunnel was the physical part of the puzzle - connecting the airport to Southern Cross station via Sunshine involves travelling through an already congested part of the network.
This article first appeared on www.thecourier.com.au
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