BALLARAT’S rail line is getting busier and busier.
But what is being done to ease the congestion?
With the city’s population poised to explode and with trains becoming increasingly congested, questions are being asked as to what is being done to solve the issue.
The answer is some major works at Melton, but not for some time – up to 15 years for a total fix.
Regional Rail Link works are expected to be completed by 2016, promised to provide improved services for Ballarat travellers.
And it is certainly needed.
The Ballarat line was the only Victorian line to record an increase in patronage in the last financial year, according to V/Line’s 2012-2013 annual report.
The number of people catching Ballarat trains rose by about 70,000 a 2.4 per cent increase, contrasting the 5.4 per cent decrease across V/Line as a whole.
At the opposite end of the scale is the Bendigo line, which saw a massive 700,000 drop in patronage, due to the electrification of the Sunbury line.
Excluding Sunbury, which has a similar population to Melton, means the Bendigo line has far fewer people travelling on it once it nears Melbourne, a common problem on the Ballarat line.
A duplication of the lines between Melbourne and Melton is expected within 10 years, according to Public Transport Victoria.
An electrification of the Melton station, which would mean it is no longer part of the V/Line network, is planned within 15 years.
“There is a clear bottleneck once it hits Melbourne,” Committee for Ballarat chief executive officer John Kilgour said.
“It’s good to see the plans are there, it is very much welcomed news. It’s welcomed but at the same time there is still need to improve the frequency of travel.”
Committee for Ballarat research shows Ballarat’s population is expected to hit 128,000 by 2026, an increase of 30,000 in 13 years.
By 2050 the population is forecast to reach 200,000.
Combine that with a 37 per cent increase in rail usage over the past five years, and there is undoubtedly going to be added stress on the train service.
V/Line chief executive officer Theo Taifalos said the ordering of 40 additional carriages to the fleet would help combat congestion, although he did not expect the growth of the past five years to continue on the same scale.
“We will continue to monitor patronage and work with government around future requirements and funding,” he said.
“While we expect to see a spike when the Regional Rail Link Project is complete, we do not expect growth of that magnitude (37 per cent over five years).”
It might seem the issues with Ballarat’s train line are getting worse with few signs of improvement.
However, the solutions are on the way and we will just have to wait for them to arrive.