Call to bring trams back

BALLARAT residents are calling for a historic tramline to be reinstated in the city’s centre.

The tramline was closed in the 1970s but calls to have it reopened were sparked on Friday following the announcement of a $120,000 feasibility study, being undertaken in Bendigo to reopen a historic 4.1-kilometre tourist tramway.

Consultants undertaking the study are examining whether it is possible the tramline could serve tourists and commuters in the same way that cable cars and other trams do in cities such as Melbourne, New Orleans and San Francisco.

Residents have proposed a circuit that would run from the train station to Civic Hall and then via Dawson Street through to Sturt Street.

Then from Sturt Street down to Bridge Mall and then back via Lydiard Street to the station.

Some are also calling for Ballarat’s tourist attractions, including Sovereign Hill and the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka,  to be included in the line. 

The idea was backed by former Sovereign Hill executive director Peter Hiscock, who led a campaign to reinstate the line 15 years ago.

A study was undertaken to examine the costs of the development, and at the time, the cost of building the necessary infrastructure was touted to be worth $1 million per kilometre.

The last estimate, completed about five years ago, saw the price set at about $70 million.

“It would enhance Ballarat and make it much easier for people to embrace the city from a tourism point of view,” Mr Hiscock said.

Mr Hiscock said development of the line could be broken into two stages, with the first being the CBD circuit, followed by another stage extending the line to Sovereign Hill. 

“With a line running from Bridge Mall to Barkly Street it would pick up a lot of tourists, especially because it would pass quite a number of accommodation houses, which is the lifeblood of a tramline,” he said.

Mr Hiscock’s words were echoed by former Eureka Centre director Ronald Edberg, who said the Eureka Stockade was Ballarat’s focal point. 

Mr Edberg said it was also pivotal the tramline connected commuters to Lake Wendouree and the iconic Botanical Gardens.

“It’s an opportunity to recreate the historic and nostalgic era of the trams,” he said.

“Trams also become a tourist attraction in their own right.” 

Mr Hiscock however, said he did not support the idea of the tramline running to M.A.D.E.

“It is too far,” he said. “I don’t think it worth the money that would be spent on building the infrastructure.”

Sovereign Hill’s current chief executive officer Jeremy Johnson dubbed it a “wonderful” proposal that would promote tourism in Ballarat. 

Ballarat MP Catherine King said while she would like to see the tramline reinstated, it would be a costly venture.

“It may be very expensive and that would have to be taken into account when considering such a proposal,” Ms King said.

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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