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Media Release

20/9/2000

Bendigo Fast Rail, Great Expectations or Second Rate System

The Public Transport Users Association and Environment Victoria have both raised concerns about recommendations for the Bendigo Fast Rail Services. A superficial glance and you see 180km/hr train journeys to Melbourne in a time of 80 minutes. Sounds fabulous. A closer look however and some of the proposals contained in the report could lead to a worse train service for some people along this train corridor.

The report suggests that to achieve a journey time of 80 minutes to Melbourne, trains would run express to Melbourne. The report indicates new fast rail services would not stop at major centres such as Castlemaine and Kyneton. The consequences for towns along the route could mean worse services than they currently get. The report has made recommendations that the current dual track that runs almost the entire way to Bendigo, should finish at Sunbury. Indications are that the second line will be dismantled and replaced with a series of passing loops. This would reduce the reliability of the services and the capacity of the line considerably and has the potential of reducing service levels to the people in the fast growing commuter belts of Gisborne, Kyneton etc. Ballarat, which has a single-track rail line looks enviously at Bendigo, with its double track, a legacy of wise planning last century. It would be a tragedy if the fast train project was used as an excuse to remove this asset. It is essential that the Bendigo line be upgraded as a double-track line, to allow frequent and reliable services to Bendigo as well as other towns along the route.

The report is silent on how frequently services will run. Will there only be fast trains to cater for peak travel? To attract more passengers to the network means having greater flexibility. People need to be able to catch trains at more regular intervals, all day and late into the evening.

The study does acknowledge that we are now in the review phase of the project. Consequently it is important that the entire transport network be reviewed along the Bendigo corridor, for example, the buses that run within Bendigo, and those that connect to centres along the route. These services need to feed the rail network. Similarly the rail network that extends beyond Bendigo needs examination. More services need to run to Echuca and Swan Hill as extensions of the faster trains. A seamless journey will attract more people to the service.

To focus on journey time and reducing the current infrastructure will not give the best outcomes for the region. Thought needs to be given to frequency of the service, connections to other transport modes, speed and the importance of the dual track. The government will be consulting with the regions over the next year. It is vital that thought be given to all these issues for the best outcomes for travellers in this region.

Contacts:
PTUA Office 9650 7898

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Last Modified: 2 October 2000