Ballarat will get a direct rail line to Melbourne as part of the Regional Rail Link being funded through the Victorian budget, which was announced yesterday.
A total of $4.3 billion has been allocated to the Regional Rail Link, which is the single biggest project in the state budget.
The project will create stand-alone tracks to Melbourne from Bendigo, Geelong and Ballarat.
Ballarat council’s chief executive, Anthony Schink, says the investment is needed to help Ballarat cope with population growth.
“The intention of linking the regional centres with Melbourne is clearly a recognition of the growth that we are experiencing,” he said.
Mr Schink says the line will help to make the fast-train service even quicker.
“What we’ve seen is investment in the fast train, investment in improving the infrastructure to get people to and from Melbourne quicker,” he said.
“But the blockage has always been the lack of dedicated lines when the trains hit the metro system.”
The budget also includes $2 million for intersection upgrades on the Ballarat to Buninyong Road at Mt Clear.
Coleraine hospital in the state’s south-west has been secured in the budget and a new $25.2 million will be built in the town.
The Western District Health Service will contribute a further $600,000.
The health service’s chief executive, Jim Fletcher, says the hospital will include 10 new acute patient beds, 29 residential beds and a community health clinic.
“The tight-knit community will be over the moon with respect to this announcement,” he said.
“It is a great boost for Coleraine and what it does is ensure that they will have a health presence in their township for 50 years and beyond.”
Two western Victorian primary schools have also had their futures secured in the budget.
The Halls Gap and Woady Yaloak primary schools are two of six that will share in $10.5 million.
Woady Yaloak’s principal, Alan Campbell, says the money will help redevelop the ageing Smythesdale campus.
“In recent years the nature of teaching has changed – we’re much more flexible in the way we use space as part of our teaching methodology now,” he said.
“By adding these modern teaching spaces we’ll be able to provide a much more invigorating learning experience for our kids.”
A new police station at Daylesford has been allocated $2 million.
Highway loses out
But the Colac-Otway Council is shocked the budget contained no funding to upgrade the western section of the Princes Highway.
The G21 group of south-west Victorian councils had asked the Government to upgrade and duplicate the highway from Geelong to the South Australian border.
The budget included funding to upgrade the highway’s Gippsland section.
The Colac-Otway Mayor, Lyn Russell, says she expected the western part would be included.
“We were hoping it would be in this budget and we’ll be asking the question why it isn’t,” she said.
“It’s a very important transport link and we do need it.
“It’s not only for safety but the road has deteriorated over the years and so we’ll need to look at it and we’ll need to know why it wasn’t funded.”