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Transport review must include the regional rail link

The PTUA has called on the Minister for Public Transport, Terry Mulder, to include an evaluation of the Regional Rail Link (RRL) in the review of the former government’s transport plan.

PTUA Geelong Branch convenor Paul Westcott noted that in his recent announcement of the review, Mr Mulder said all projects proposed in the Victorian Transport Plan would be reviewed, but also that the RRL would proceed.

“It’s unclear whether some of the critical elements of the RRL project will be reviewed as well, but they certainly should be.  What’s the point of doing an overall review of the Transport Plan without examining the most extensive and expensive part of it?” Mr Westcott asked.

“If the RRL project continues exactly as is currently being planned, we face a situation where, after the spending of $3.4 billion dollars, a significant number of Geelong rail passengers are likely to be worse off.”

Mr Westcott pointed to a number of aspects of the RRL project that are cause for concern.  The new line bypasses Werribee station by running well to the west, via Tarneit.   This bypass will add up to 15 kilometres to the total trip length from Geelong to Melbourne compared to the current direct route.  The extra distance could increase travel time by up to 10 minutes.

The Tarneit bypass of Werribee also means that instead of the present convenient access to Werribee itself, and to the suburban rail network at that point, passengers will face a 15 minute bus trip to and from to Werribee (plus additional time to change between services) via the remote Wyndham Vale station.

A very serious concern is that the new RRL line will also bypass North Melbourne station.  Under current plans, no RRL platforms are to be provided at North Melbourne, apparently to keep costs down.

North Melbourne station is now a major interchange point for travellers on the Geelong line, a role that was recently enhanced by a station upgrade costing $13 million.  North Melbourne provides convenient connections to City Loop services, and all rail lines west of Melbourne, as well as the recently-introduced and popular 401 shuttle bus from North Melbourne to the university and hospital precincts in Parkville.

“Given the enormous amount being spent on this scheme, it is completely unacceptable that such a vital and well-used interchange point will be completely bypassed. We know the Minister was concerned about this situation when in opposition.  He is now in a position to do something about it, and must act,” Mr Westcott said.