Regional Rail Link hits one-year anniversary

Long haul: It's been a difficult 12 months for Ballarat commuters. V/Line hasn't reached its punctuality goal once in the past year under the Regional Rail Link system.
Long haul: It's been a difficult 12 months for Ballarat commuters. V/Line hasn't reached its punctuality goal once in the past year under the Regional Rail Link system.

Tuesday, June 21 of 2016 marked the one-year anniversary of the much-maligned Regional Rail Link.

It’s been more than 12 months since V/Line reached its punctuality goal on the Ballarat rail line, with thousands of local commuters suffering on a daily basis.

The $3.65 billion RRL project was billed as a massive improvement for regional rail in its capacity to offer more services at a greater frequency, but has failed to deliver.

Instead, its implementation has led to severe overcrowding and punctuality problems for months on end.

Daily commuter Joseph Van Dyk said the RRL has been a total “disappointment” for local commuters.

“Overall, I’ve got to say Ballarat hasn't seen any advantage of the RRL,” he said.

“We have a long way to go. There is a new timetable out next week (from June 26) and I hope we see marked improvement.”

Public Transport Users Association Ballarat interim convener Ben Lever lamented the timetabling issues that have plagued the line.

“The main outcome for Ballarat was supposed to be more reliability, as V/Line trains wouldn't get stuck behind slower Metro trains, but this hasn't really materialised,” he said.

The crisis on the Ballarat network reached critical mass in mid January when a wheel wear fault was identified in V/Line’s VLocity fleet.

The problem resulted with a quarter of the fleet commissioned for urgent maintenance works, with commuters faced with multiple interim timetables and bus replacements.

Ballarat MP Joshua Morris has dubbed the last year an “unmitigated disaster”.

“In May 2015 Ballarat customers enjoyed 95 per cent punctuality on V/Line services, in June 2015 punctuality plummeted to 85.3 per cent,” Mr Morris said.

“Despite (Premier) Daniel Andrews promising in July, 2015 that ‘everyone from the Premier down is on notice’, the most recent statistics (83.4 per cent in May) show that there has been almost no improvement to punctuality on the Ballarat line.”

The state government’s recent budget committed $518 million to duplicate 17 kilometres of track between Melton and Deer Park west as well as three additional passing loops and 27 more carriages.

Nine extra carriages have also been added to the Ballarat corridor since June last year.

Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the new timetable, which aims to prevent trains clashing at the Deer Park west junction, will improve punctuality.

"The new timetable will help improve the reliability and punctuality of services, and the ongoing delivery of new carriages will reduce congestion and dwell times,” she said.