Regional councils have taken a plan for 200kmh trains to the state and federal governments, pushing to increase employment opportunities by creating a reliable and frequent 45-minute trip to Ballarat.
The City of Ballarat is one of five councils that are part of the City of Greater Geelong's proposal to revolutionise rail to the regions, as well as Bendigo, Shepparton, and Latrobe City, within seven years.
The 'Stronger Together' plan calls to include electrified regional fast rail in plans for the $10 billion Tullamarine Airport Rail Link.
The retro-fitted electric trains would cut the trip from Ballarat to Sunshine to just 46 minutes, and the total trip to the city to 56 minutes.
However, the state government, which recently announced $100 million for its own Western Rail Plan, said this was not achievable.
The report details the economic opportunities fast rail would bring, addressing the disparity between Melbourne and the regions in employment, and uses similar projects in Toronto and London, as well as the Oresund Sea Bridge connecting Denmark and Sweden, as examples of how to unlock benefits through fast rail.
It notes the "critical tunnel design decisions could 'make or break' regional fast commuter rail.
"The centrality of the inner west fast rail tunnel for delivering an overall Victorian regional fast rail vision cannot be overstated," it reads.
"The design of this tunnel is on foot now, as part of Tullamarine Fast Rail project. Due attention to ensuring that this tunnel has sufficient future-proofed capacity and access points for regional city fast rail services is the single most important near-term requirement for regional fast rail."
The Committee for Ballarat chairman Nick Beale, who has long pushed for a sub-one hour train to Ballarat, said the plan had been in the works for about a year.
"We just believed that regions need to take the initiative and not necessarily to wait for governments to move on these issues," he said.
"The duplication for fast rail lines to all the major regional centres will have a dramatic effect on the Victorian economy, each of the regional cities's economies, but also on the sometimes struggling rural economies.
"The fact that fast trains, in and of themselves, will save up to seven weeks of a person's working life for people using trains rather than cars, is a massive health and welfare factor - this, combined with the fact that it takes cars off the road, and deaths off the road, is a great thing."
He noted the effect of slower and unreliable rail services on larger employers, and the plan would bring new business to Ballarat.
As reported in The Age, one major Ballarat employer, Mars Wrigley, does rely on public transport for some of its employees.
"We are passionate about the need to invest in both passenger and commercial rail infrastructure," a spokesperson said.
"For the 20 or so (workers) who travel back and forth to Melbourne regularly, a fast train service is a critical investment to help guarantee personal wellbeing and secure the long term prosperity for Ballarat and regional Victoria."
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City of Ballarat deputy mayor Jim Rinaldi echoed this point.
"Long term regional companies like Mars Wrigley which have made their home in Ballarat need to have their voice heard on these important issues," he said.
"As do the 110,000 people and 6000 other businesses in Ballarat and region - particularly when it come to growth, economic viability and the liveability of our city."
He said the report is "an important discussion starter" and a "fresh look", with implications for transport and freight across the entire state.
"For quite some time the City of Ballarat has been working with the City of Greater Geelong, as well as Regional Cities Victoria and and Regional Capitals Australia to ensure efforts to secure the most reliable integrated regional transport services are coordinated and complementary and serve a multiple of communities," he said.
Among other issues discussed in the report are transfers for regional services further out, capacity at Southern Cross station, and the need for a more modern train fleet, potentially double-deck.
The state Transport Infrastructure Minister, Jactina Allan, said she looked forward to working together with local governments and communities to improve the public transport system.
However, she said while the government appreciates the cooperative approach from Geelong's mayor, and the Stronger Together report's recommendations will be considered for incorporation into its Western Rail Plan, faster trains are dependent on an improved corridor between Sunshine and the city - which the Western Rail Plan is investigating.
The state government does not believe that completing the Airport Rail Link, and electrified fast rail lines to Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, and Shepparton, for $10 billion within five to seven years is achievable, nor would providing a fleet for frequent services for $1 billion.
It also noted the Stronger Together report does not outline details of a revenue model to fund the balance of the project beyond the $10 billion in government investment.
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