BETTER rail infrastructure including a duplicated line to Melbourne and continuous phone and internet coverage is critical to the development of the region, Committee for Ballarat chief executive John Kilgour said yesterday.
As patronage booms on Ballarat trains, Mr Kilgour called on the Victorian government to initiate a feasibility study into line duplication and new passing loops, as well as the construction of a second platform at Bacchus Marsh.
“Obviously passengers are getting more than a little frustrated sitting on a train travelling at 100km an hour which then stops and sits for 10 minutes for another train coming in the other direction,” he said.
Launching the Committee’s latest strategic plan, Mr Kilgour said the Victorian government should invest in new carriages and improve efficiency on the line in the short term while initiating major future works.
“There’s not enough seats on the train every day,” he said. “With usage rates five years ago around 1.3 million trips, the line is currently running at 2.3 million trips and is set to double to around 5 million in the next few years.”
He said a new communications strategy being launched next month would highlight the issues while initial discussion with stakeholder groups had been positive.
Mr Kilgour said commuting would be more attractive to professionals if the line had continuous coverage between Melbourne and Ballarat for smart phones and tablet computers.
“It needs to be scoped and it needs to be funded and put on the radar as a long term objective,” he said.
Parliamentary Secretary for regional and rural development Damian Drum said the Victorian government welcomed discussions about improving commuter services, but current economic conditions meant the projects could only be considered as long term prospects.
“Those infrastructure improvements are not just related to Ballarat and as a government we are looking carefully at that but it represents a huge financial investment,” he said.
V/Line spokesperson Daniel Moloney said yesterday the authority was aware of the productivity benefits the projects could deliver.
He said that studies were already underway to measure communication capabilities.