TO highlight the importance of a fast and reliable rail connection with Melbourne, Committee for Ballarat has launched its #59minuteballarat campaign. Through the campaign, which will run until December 2017, the support of the public will be sought. Train users will be asked to tell their stories – why a 59 minute service is important to them, their businesses, their families – and to tweet their support. Committee for Ballarat CEO, Melanie Robertson, said it’s about getting active citizenship behind the campaign and getting them to say what they want. “This was just a mechanism to go out to the community, say is this what we want, what do we want delivered?” Ms Robertson explained.
“A lot of our wants and needs for duplication of the line are very, very expensive infrastructure projects, they are very long term, but how do we deal with the issues that are affecting our commuters at the moment? “So the idea of a 59 minute, or sub one hour, is almost that point of going that is really desirable to our commuters.” Ms Robertson added that while more services have been added, patronage has also increased, as has the actual time travel. Ballarat did have a sub hour train service to Melbourne about 10 years ago and commuters would like to see this return. “We are running an active social media campaign and are asking people to use the #59minuteballarat campaign, we do have also a facebook page and email, but we are also happy for people to get directly in contact with us. We want to hear peoples’ stories,” Ms Robertson said.
“Those stories are the real key pieces that we can use for advocacy, yes we can provide facts and figures to politicians but we need to tell those stories to politicians.” While the campaign is still in the early stages, there has already been significant response from commuters. “There was a tweet out there saying ’I commute for 2 ½ hours a day, if I had that back in my day it would mean greater social interaction, more time I could spend in my community’ – for them it equated to 22 days extra travel a year then if they had a 59 minute service,” Ms Robertson said. “Some looked at what it meant in terms of productivity, some were just getting home to families, some wanted a seat to the footy, others wanted a reliable service to get them to work in Melbourne.”
In its Strategic Plan, Committee recognises that Better connectivity will improve productivity, create sustainable jobs, drive prosperity and build better communities across our region and, with the support of its Connectivity Project Team, is advocating for: at least one sub59 minute train service to/ from Melbourne by 2019; at least one express service in peak times (in each direction) in that same time frame.