Regional Rail Link: Many better ways to spend $5bn

February 23rd, 2011 (Federal funding, Geelong, Letters to the editor, Melbourne west)

JASON Dowling’s defence of the Regional Rail Link (Comment, 22/2) essentially asserts that a project costing about $5 billion must be a good thing.

What began as a line on a map in the Eddington report has evolved secretly and fitfully. We still have no idea how train services will be organised, but we do know that many passengers will actually be disadvantaged by the project as it is configured.

The basic problem is that it tries to be both a regional and a suburban project. New stations at Tarneit will be served by crowded Geelong trains making extra stops. Tarneit residents won’t get the same frequency of service as other metropolitan rail users.

The journey to Geelong will take longer, but we have no idea by how much. Hundreds of people a week using V/Line trains between Geelong and Werribee will have to take a 20-minute bus ride from Wyndham Vale instead.

Regional trains will also bypass North Melbourne station, currently served by every regional train to Melbourne in the morning and every one leaving Melbourne in the afternoon.

The new government has sensibly decided to review the project and strip away the concealment and confusion that surrounds it. With better planning, $5 billion can be used to ensure every passenger benefits.

Paul Westcott, convener, Geelong branch, Public Transport Users Association, Belmont

Published in The Age, 23/2/2011