60-minute train service just needs political will, says Bracks

FORMER premier Steve Bracks believes Ballarat should still be aiming for a 60-minute V/Line train service to Melbourne, saying a commitment from a serving politician is the key to making it happen. 

Mr Bracks said the government would also need to commit to buying more rolling stock than is currently on order, put an express service back in place and finish the Regional Rail Link Project to ensure rail services would return the near one-hour trip. 

The Courier contacted the Opposition public transport spokeswoman Jill Hennessy and Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder to ask if they would commit to aiming for the 60-minute service, however neither answered the question directly. 

How the politicians answered our questions

The gradual increase in train times has frustrated commuters on the Ballarat line, with many calling for the return of an express service, which was removed in 2011.

“I think it requires this more than anything, a political will to commit to a 60-minute service then the whole government will get behind it and see that it happens,” Mr Bracks said

“I don’t sense there is that commitment. I think that commitment comes first and then the resources and support will come second.

“The Regional Rail Link will enable it to happen but you need to spend some more money to make it happen.”

Mr Bracks said a 60-minute service was “absolutely” something the city should aim for.

"(WiFi on trains) costs almost nothing" - Steve Bracks

A previous report in The Courier focusing on V/Line timetables, found the scheduled train times had increased from 61 minutes in 2006 to 73 minutes for the popular 9am arrival in Melbourne.

However, in the recent timetable change, another minute was added to the predicted train time, taking it to 74 minutes. 

While the government has committed to buying 40 additional VLocity railcars, which would be spread out across Victoria, Mr Bracks said it would not be enough to get scheduled train times back around the 60-minute time frame.

Mr Bracks advocated for wi-fi connections to be available on V/Line trains.

“It costs almost nothing. It is simple, you have to put these services on, in my view,” he said.

Testing has been completed on the communication issues that plague regional routes, however the state government has refused to release the results or comment on them.

Mr Bracks described the removal of Ballarat’s express service as “retrograde”.

“I am disappointed they have stopped the express train to Ballarat, which I just think is crazy,” he said.

“The concept behind the trains just wasn’t to provide a faster train service, it was to provide a much better-connected labour market so you could either work or live in the regions,” he said.

matthew.dixon@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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