Today we met representatives of the Committee for Ballarat to discuss their campaign to cut the travelling time between Ballarat and Melbourne by rail to less than an hour.
It was a productive meeting that highlighted the need for increased rail investment from both the State and Federal Governments to maintain connectivity between the two cities.
A one-hour journey between Ballarat and Melbourne was possible as recently as 2006.
But the strong population growth to the west of Melbourne has increased demand and the trip has now stretched out beyond 80 minutes.
Ballarat is a dynamic regional city. Its ongoing economic development depends upon easy access to the capital city, not just for commuters, but also for people doing business.
The Committee for Ballarat is doing a great job in advancing the city’s rail needs and has proposed a range of projects it believes will deliver a 59-minute journey to Melbourne.
Now is the time for governments to work together carefully consider the next stage of rail investment required to ensure that rail congestion is not allowed to act as a hand brake on Ballarat’s economic growth.
Federal Labor has a strong record of investment in infrastructure in Victoria, having invested $3.225 billion on the successful Regional Rail Link project.
Over six years the former Federal Labor Government more than doubled per capita infrastructure investment from $89 per Victorian per year to $201.
In contrast, the current Federal Coalition Government’s 2016-17 Budget saw Victoria’s share of the national infrastructure spend fall to a record low of 8.2 percent, despite the state being home to a quarter of the national population.
And it gets worse. Commonwealth infrastructure funding for Victoria will fall off a cliff in coming years from $791 million in 2017-18 to $280.7 million by 2020-21.