Bring forward $750m for Geelong rail upgrade, Canberra urged

Bruce Harwood

Geelong’s mayor and Corangamite’s new Labor MP have joined forces in urging the Morrison Government to bring forward a $750 million commitment for duplication of the South Geelong-Waurn Ponds rail line.

The pair released a joint statement this week, calling on the government to “act now” rather than deliver the money after the next federal election.

The Morrison Government must start investing in our region and deliver their election commitment for the South Geelong to Waurn Ponds rail upgrade in this term of Parliament, not wait until 2025/2026,” said MP Libby Coker.

“As it stands, the Morrison Government has only allocated 10 per cent of the federal funding needed over the next five years, definitely not enough to begin construction.”

Ms Coker asked Infrastructure Minister Michael McCormack in parliament why $675 million of the funding was unavailable for the next six years.

Mr McCormack failed to reply, she said.

“In the fast-growing region of Corangamite peak-hour trains through Geelong are running at 140 per cent capacity and commuters regularly face significant delays and overcrowding. As the region continues to grow, demand for improvements to vital infrastructure, like this rail upgrade, will only increase.

“People travelling from Waurn Ponds are facing delays and overcrowding, and services cannot increase until the upgrade is completed. Residents in Corangamite who are reliant on these services have told me they are regularly delayed and sit languishing on trains when they should be at work or at scheduled appointments.”

Mayor Bruce Harwood said the duplication was “vital and in line” with the council’s proposals for rail improvements to service rapidly growing Geelong.

“It links in closely with the greater Geelong council’s proposal for a fast-rail connection between Geelong and Melbourne, which would ultimately connect up with the planned Tullamarine Airport Link.”

“It will also be vital to the communities in towns west of Geelong such as Colac and Winchelsea, who also need a fast and reliable connection into and through Geelong.

“We can’t afford to wait years for this infrastructure, we need work to start now. We support the federal opposition putting pressure on the Morrison government to release funding now so that this project can be fast-tracked.”

A spokesperson for Mr McCormack, who is also deputy prime minister, said the government was “committed” to the rail upgrade.

The spokesperson also took a swipe at Ms Coker, suggesting the funding commitment was largely the work of her Liberal predecessor in Corangamite, Sarah Henderson.

“The 2019/2020 budget included a commitment of $700 million to (the) South Geelong to Waurn Ponds upgrade, stages two and three). This commitment was in addition to the $50 million provided for in the 2018-19 budget,” the spokesperson said.

“The former Liberal member for Corangamite, Sarah Henderson, worked hard to secure this funding. The Liberal and Nationals government had the foresight to account for the upgrade in our budget and we remain committed to delivering the upgrade. The new Labor member had nothing to do with it.”

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