19th Century rail service behind the times

Posted Friday 25 May, 08:44am

Ararat Rural City is one of a group of six councils west of Melbourne that say their residents are sick and tired of having to rely on dated rail infrastructure – straight out of the 19th Century.

Caption: Bill Russell from Rail Futures Consulting, Ararat Rural City Councillor Jo Armstrong, City of Ballarat Mayor Cr Samantha McIntosh, City of Melton Mayor Bob Turner, Brimbank City Councillor Bruce Lancashire and John Hearsch from Rail Futures Consulting.

Brimbank, Melton, Moorabool, Ballarat, Ararat and Pyrenees councils have banded together to call on the State Government for a $50 million commitment toward the electrification of the Ballarat line, ahead of the 2018 state election.

Currently, the Ballarat line is only electrified to Sunshine station.  

The electrification shortfall is limiting the number of services running from Melbourne’s CBD through to Melton considerably, according to Ballarat Rail Action Committee (BRAC) spokesperson and City of Melton Mayor Bob Turner.

Electrifying the rail line to Melton will triple its carrying capacity, and allow up to 1400 people to travel on a single train.

“We’re tired of old, out-of-date rail infrastructure literally built in the 19th Century,” Cr Turner said.

“It’s unreliable, full, slow and uncomfortable.

“The solution is clear; electrification of the rail line up to Melton is urgent and needs to happen now.”

Usage numbers on the Ballarat line have more than tripled in the past 10 years.

“As it stands, the Ballarat rail line no longer meets the needs of our booming population,” Cr Turner said.

“Suburbs west of Melbourne are experiencing unprecedented population growth and the role of this railway will be fundamental in coming years.

“Electrification allows the pending Metro Tunnel project to be fully utilised from day one.”

In order for greater frequency and reliability on the Ballarat line, western councils need a commitment for electrification to Melton by the State Government, in conjunction with a long-term corridor development plan.  

BRAC has released two reports - The Strategy for Managing Explosive Passenger Growth on the Melton Bacchus Railway and Strategy for a High Performing Ballarat Railway - addressing the urgent and long-term needs of tens of thousands of commuters between Melbourne’s CBD, all the way through to Ararat.

City of Ballarat Mayor, Cr Samantha McIntosh, said that within 10 years, the rail line from Melbourne to Ballarat will require 30 trains a day, just to meet demand.

“Peak services to and from Ballarat are reaching capacity, and it’s common for our residents to have to stand for the entire hour-plus journey,” Cr McIntosh said.

“Our target is to reduce the travel time between Southern Cross and Ballarat to 55 minutes, by 2030, and aim for 30-minute frequency in peak times.”