Making Rail Travel Faster and More Efficient
BALLARAT City Council has received a report from an independent think tank, the Rail Futures Institute, detailing a series of measures to increase capacity and speed on the BallaratMelbourne rail line, and tackle overcrowding and delays.
Ballarat Mayor, Cr Samantha McIntosh says fast, efficient rail links to Melbourne and other regional Victorian cities and centres are essential keys to Ballarat’s continued growth and viability. “Ballarat is growing at around 2 per cent each year; we know thousands of people commute from Ballarat to Melbourne for work each day and that number is escalating as our population increases. It’s vital that these workers have reliable transport. We are catering for our population growth via our Ballarat West Growth area; we need to ensure our rail infrastructure can keep up with growing demand from those who wish to enjoy the benefits of a Ballarat lifestyle whilst still working in the metropolitan area.” The report outlines a three-stage approach to future development ensuring the BallaratMelbourne rail corridor is better able to meet rapidly escalating demand for services between Ballarat, Melbourne and the western suburbs.
It has an ultimate ambition of peak frequency Ballarat to Melbourne services every 15 minutes and journey times of 70 minutes (stopping) and 60 minutes for express services. It also details the infrastructure and actions needed to connect Ballarat by rail with Ararat (six return services daily), Stawell and Horsham (three return services daily) to the west, and Geelong to the east (hourly service).
“We are developing a Ballarat Intermodal Freight Hub within the Ballarat West Employment Zone, adjacent to the Ballarat – Ararat rail line. This facility will improve the business competitiveness of the region, with the agricultural sector being a major beneficiary. Improved rail services in our region will enable us to take freight off the roads and onto rail, reducing overall transport costs significantly”. “Ballarat is positioned as the Gateway to Western Victoria, a region of around 400,000 people. It provides many of the services, connections and economic drivers to support the region. Improved rail connectivity across the Western Region is a critical part of the infrastructure needed to ensure the region can continue to grow”, Cr McIntosh said. The Rail Futures Institute is an independent non-partisan think tank which campaigns for cost-effective rail as a solution for public transport and freight problems. The group’s work is underpinned by commercial, economic and social considerations and undertaken by engineers, economists and rail professionals. “This is the next stage in an ongoing discussion with government about how the rail network – in particular the Ballarat-Melbourne rail corridor can keep pace with a demand that has already outstripped capacity”, Cr McIntosh said. “With its recent commitment to upgrades to the Ballarat Railway Station Precinct the State Government has recognised the urgent need to build infrastructure which facilitates the fast, efficient movement of commuters in regional cities. This Council will continue to work with other Council’s along these rail corridors and with the State Government to ensure these upgrades are delivered as proposed”, Cr McIntosh said. Key recommendations for 2016 -2021: Larger trains; minimum train size to be increased from six to eight carriages, adding an additional 160+ seats per service. Aim is to curtail unacceptable over-crowding on some services (2016-2021) Or Build a separate standard gauge rail line between Warrenheip and Ballarat East providing a bypass for passenger trains of slow moving freight trains on the steep gradient between Ballarat and Warrenheip. (2016-2021) Key Recommendations for 2022-2026:
Construct a new ‘Parkway’ station at Warrenheip with potential to accommodate 1000+ cars and a high-quality bus interchange Electrification of the line from Melbourne to Melton or Bacchus Marsh and removal of some level crossings; will allow Ballarat trains to achiever faster trip times by running express between Sunshine and Ballan, will increase capacity, reduce conflicts and delays on the line Expand commuter car parking capacity and improve cycling facilities and feeder bus services to stations to reduce car dependency
Key Recommendations 2027-2031:
Quadruplication of the line between Caroline Springs and Melton to overcome congestion at Bacchus Marsh-Melton which will inhibit passage of Ballarat express services. Bypass of Bacchus Marsh to reduce train times between Ballarat and Melbourne to 60 minutes.