A KEY part of improving rail services on the Ballarat line will be included in next week’s state budget.
A passing loop will be built near Bacchus Marsh, with the Ballan station also receiving an upgrade in a $14.3-million investment.
Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said the plan was originally to build the one-kilometre passing loop near Ballan, as per a 2010 election promise when he was in opposition.
However, Mr Mulder said an extensive review had led to the new location near Bacchus Marsh, close to the township of Rowsley.
“At present, trains cannot pass one another between Parwan and Bank Box Loops,” he said.
“With the new loop, trains will be able to pass in this section, improving reliability for the whole Ballarat corridor.
“Public Transport Victoria found that it was best to locate a new passing loop at Rowsley rather than the originally identified Ballan.”
The loop will be built near Rowsley-Station Road with construction expected to begin later this year and be completed in 2015. Passing loops and the duplication of the line between Ballarat and Melbourne are seen as keys to cutting down on the delays that have plagued the line.
Most of the Ballarat line is single track, so a delayed train can cause a ripple effect of delays, with other trains forced to wait in passing loops while another services uses that portion of the track.
“People who have stopped there know what it is all about. They know they are waiting for another train,” he said.
“It has been a real problem in the area.”
The improvements to the Ballan station include an extra 45 free commuter car parks and changes so coaches can drive in and out without reversing.
The Courier has previously reported on the problems affecting the line, including a gradual change in the timetabled journey time.
In 2006 the popular service arriving in Melbourne at 9am took only 61 minutes, but now takes 74 minutes.
The funding for this project is separate to the Regional Rail Link which is also expected to cut some of the delays Ballarat commuters experience.
However, Mr Mulder stopped short of saying the loop may result in changes to the timetable and said that was a matter for Public Transport Victoria.