Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder announced today that the Victorian Coalition Government had started work to examine the long term feasibility of returning passenger trains between Victoria's second, third and fourth largest cities, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo (via Meredith, Maryborough and Castlemaine).
Mr Mulder said the study was being carried out with part of $2 million of funding provided in the May 2011 State Budget, with contracts now awarded to a number of specialist consultants.
"This two year study is a key step in linking Geelong, Ballarat, Maryborough, Castlemaine and Bendigo by train. It is part of the Government's plan to provide improved travel options for 400,000 residents in the Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo areas," Mr Mulder said.
"The consultants will examine existing and future passenger rail infrastructure including stations, passing loops and signalling, and local residents' views will be important.
"We are examining a number of options to improve public transport in these regions – both in the short and long term."
Mr Mulder said the Department of Transport would work closely with local councils as part of the study to identify key challenges and priorities for communities in the region.
"Victoria's rural population will continue to grow. It is important that the study considers possible future development or changes to transport along the corridor," Mr Mulder said.
The extensive investigations will examine the feasibility of upgrading the rail line between Geelong and Ballarat and Castlemaine and Bendigo for regular passenger trains, and reopening the line between Maryborough and Castlemaine.
The study will also examine the feasibility of reopening disused railway stations along the lines including Bannockburn, Lethbridge, Meredith, Lal Lal, Carisbrook and Newstead. As part of separate works, the Coalition Government has already committed to reopening Clunes and Talbot stations.
"The study includes railway station inspections, cultural, heritage and environmental investigations, infrastructure assessments and public transport planning," Mr Mulder said.
For further information visit www.transport.vic.gov.au/railrevival or call 1300 130 176.