Shift in regional rail policy crucial to meet population growth: study

RMIT Centre for Urban Research together with Rail Futures launch a new landmark report calling for major investment in Victoria's regional rail system to meet the state’s future challenges.

Deputy Prime Minister of Australia the Hon. Tim Fischer AC launching the reports.

With Victoria’s population predicted to reach 10.1 million by 2051, and Melbourne alone expected to expand to over 8 million, Intercity: How Regional Rail Can Rebalance Population Growth and Create a ‘State of Cities’ in Victoria, authored by a team of experts at Rail Futures and CUR, put forward a rail development blueprint for the next 25 years, calling for immediate fundamental shifts in strategic policy for sustainable future.

Launching the report at RMIT’s City campus, former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia the Hon. Tim Fischer AC said the paper has put forward a bold yet realistic and practical strategy in rebalancing Victoria’s urban and regional population.

“A clear development policy integrated with transport strategy and investment in infrastructure to underpin faster, more frequent and reliable rail services is essential to enable and lead regional growth,” he said.

The report reveals that population imbalance between Melbourne and regional Victoria will worsen by 2051 with the continuation of authorities’ obscured resolutions in existing plans.

“It is necessary that Victoria thinks a long way ahead and laterally and this new strategic policy framework matches the growth strategy, bringing a rebalancing of population growth,” Fischer said.

“I strongly commend this effort but more particularly the outcomes, recommendation and two phase template which is embraced by this report.”

President of Rail Futures John Hearsch said Intercity is essentially about connectedness that offers convenient and comfortable means to travel across the great state of Victoria.

“What the report is trying to do is promote a highly enjoyable, desirable life in the region,” he said.

CUR’s Professor Michael Buxton and Rail Futures committee member said that the Intercity report adds an essential element of transport infrastructure for his recent report Alternative Futures for Melbourne’s Peri-Urban Region, which evaluates regional areas on the fringes of Melbourne to accommodate dwelling growth under a range of scenarios.

“Cities that survive and prosper in this century are likely to be those that engaged constructively with the hinterlands and Australia simply don’t do regional planning as well as rest of the world,” he said.

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Prof Michael Buxton, PVC Prof Paul Gough and Prof Robin Goodman at the joint report launch between CUR and Rail Futures Institute.

Professor Paul Gough, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Vice President of College of Design and Social Context at RMIT University, said that it was a pleasure to see researchers forming detailed vision for regional rail and land use planning for Victoria.

“Together, these reports provide an urgent argument for fundamental shifts in strategic policy, so that regional Victoria can play a much greater part in the growth and development of the future,” he said

“Our researchers’ passion for their subject areas will no doubt lead to improved policy outcomes by making the case for informed and responsible decision making at all levels of government.”

Alternative Futures for Melbourne’s Peri-Urban Regions and Intercity: How Regional Rail can Re-balance Population Growth and Create a ‘State of Cities’ in Victoria  are available via CUR website.

Story: Sharon Lee