The Courier has joined with the Committee for Ballarat and some of the oldest and most revered institutions in town to make a concerted declaration of what it is we want from our railway connection to Melbourne.
Putting aside the headaches of reliability and punctuality many commuters endure at the moment, this is about something much bigger and longer term. It is about a service that befits Ballarat both now and in twenty years time. It is a system that brings us closer to a flourishing Melbourne but also allows an easy and efficient exchange of people, ideas, services and wealth. A system, that as both populations grow, becomes more critical for economic, environmental and sheer practical reasons as rail as a eclipses the car as preferred forms of transport between a state capital and the capital of western Victoria .
Much larger cities across the world found solutions this way and it is time for Victoria to follow the model. Ballarat with its lifestyle, economy, nascent sophistication and proximity should be at the forefront of this thinking to reap the benefits. But it needs a united voice to ensure the priorities are clear to governments and rail authorities.
The priority is simple; free up the line.
The symbolic sub-hour journey is just the beginning. While it might have been possible a decade ago when the metropolitan system was half as congested, now it requires vastly more infrastructure to free the system and make journeys faster. While the time is the benchmark commuters want to build a great fast service around, it is this infrastructure, particularity in the long term, that will make the difference as populations grow.
So the #59minuteBallarat campaign is about a lot more than a single fast journey, it is about a city that has come of age and is prepared to think long-term about its future and speak out loud about what it needs to secure it. The priorities to free the line up extend into the decades to come; build on the commendable $518 million investment by the State Government and continue to duplicate the entire line. Most critically this means quadrupling the tracks to Melton. A regional rail service should not be left to carry the burden of exploding urban growth. Suburbs like Melton and even Bacchus Marsh deserve an electrified frequent city service on a dedicated track. While it is clear this added burden on the metro system won’t be possible until the Metro Tunnel is finished, the planning and commitment should start now so that in 2026 it is ready to roll. That is the long term thinking we need.
As talk of decentralisation gathers pace, we want all sides of politics to know the collective call of a growing city. Adding your voice could make all the difference.