The budget allocates $A 2bn ($US 1.4bn) from 2020-21 onward towards upgrading of the Melbourne - Geelong line in the state of Victoria to raise average train speeds to 160km/h, reducing the journey time from an hour to around 32 minutes. Funding for this “Fast Rail” project is dependent on a matching contribution from the Victorian state government, which has already allocated $A 50m towards the development of a detailed business case.

The federal government has also included a separate funding package of $A 700m in the budget towards track doubling between Geelong and Waurn Ponds.

A National Fast Rail Agency will be established from July 1 with initial funding of $A 14.5m to advise the government on high-speed rail initiatives and business cases. In addition to the $A 20m provided last year, $A 40m has been allocated to develop business cases for five additional higher speed corridors; Sydney - Wollongong, Sydney - Parkes via Bathurst and Orange, Melbourne - Albury-Wodonga, Melbourne - Traralgon, and Brisbane - Gold Coast.

The government will provide $A 3.5bn towards the first stage of Western Sydney North South rail link, which will incorporate a new line to the planned Western Sydney airport.

Through the provision of $A 44m toward a number of strategic business cases, the federal government will also look at identifying and prioritising upgrades to improve the standard of regional rail freight networks that connect economic centres to the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) interstate network.

“The government’s commitment to planning fast rail projects is welcomed in that it provides a platform for future investment in congestion-relieving fast rail,” says Australasian Railway Association CEO Mr Danny Broad.

“We acknowledge the increases in rail spending over the last three years, including for the Inland Rail project. However, investment in urban passenger rail projects in this budget could have been enhanced, particularly in light of the significant spending on roads nationally in the budget.”