COMMUTERS on Victoria’s Geelong-Melbourne route should have the choice of some express train services – stopping only at North Geelong and Footscray and taking 50 minutes for the full journey to or from Southern Cross Station – if they are to benefit from the $4.2 billion Regional Rail Link (RRL) project, according to independent advocacy group Rail Futures Institute (RFI).
“Current journey times are now no faster than they were in 1958, partly because new suburban stations have been added to the Geelong line, and more are planned to service new communities in the burgeoning south-west Melbourne metropolitan corridor,” RFI honorary secretary Dr Bill Russell said. “Overcrowding on trains to these stations means that RRL has already become a victim of its own success. It is turning the Geelong line into a suburban line and risks defeating RRL’s purpose of separating V/Line and Metro trains to allow speedier journeys for regional passengers.”
Commenting in mid February, Dr Russell said a proposed timetable adjustment would be only a short-term solution, however.
“Within a few years, Geelong line train capacity will be fully utilised and the only solution to maintain service levels for Geelong commuters will be for the Wyndham Vale corridor to be separated from V/Line services by electrifying the present RRL tracks to Wyndham Vale and extending the Werribee metropolitan line to Wyndham Vale via a new link and interchange at Black Forest Road.”
Dr Russell said adding a pair of express tracks to the RRL lines would cut the Geelong-Melbourne journey time to 45 minutes and potentially take 40,000 cars off the road – the equivalent in congestion-busting of creating a 10-lane each-way freeway. Rail Futures Institute also pointed out that track duplication was urgently needed between South Geelong and Waurn Ponds to service rapidly expanding communities to the west and south of Geelong CBD.
Dr Bill Russell said the group did not believe new rolling stock was needed for the Geelong line as the present VLocity trains were ideal, being fast and comfortable. Additional VLocity trains are still being built.
Rail Futures Institute’s longer-term proposals for the Geelong rail service are contained in its ‘InterCity’ report, released in September 2016. The report proposes an increase in peak-time service frequency to every 10 minutes by 2026 and every 7.5 minutes by 2040 under the phased plan.
It also proposes the establishment of a Geelong Metro network, including a new line from South Geelong to Drysdale making use of the former Queenscliff line reservation and a line to Torquay. Geelong Metro trains would serve Lara and townships as far afield as Bannockburn on a reinstated passenger rail route to Ballarat.
The InterCity plan formed the centrepiece of a serious strategy to
RFI is an independent, non-partisan group formed to advocate sustainable rail solutions for public transport and freight problems. Its membership includes highly experienced rail professionals, engineers, urban planners and economists.