Ballarat Line Upgrade works leave train loops unconnected

Public transport users have criticised construction on the Ballarat Line Upgrade, with a train line duplication falling one kilometre short of a previously created loop. 

A three kilometre-long stretch of track will be duplicated this year between Bacchus Marsh station and Kerrs Road, but the state government has confirmed there will be a gap to the Rowsley Loop, built in 2016. 

The duplication of track allows for trains going in opposite directions to pass one another without causing delays. Earthworks on the upgrade begun last month. 

Public Transport Users Association Ballarat convener Ben Lever said not connecting the loops was “illogical”. 

“The point of the project is to get rid of these bottle necks, but having one kilometre of single track between loops makes it so much more complicated to timetable,” he said.

“Timetabling will be hard in particular when one train is late, and they need to be in specific spots at specific times.

“It’s just really disappointing and seems illogical that you’d duplicate and get in sight of the Rowsley Loop and not link them up.

“If it’s a long stretch it’s understandable, but it’s only one kilometre … It’s just not as good as it could be.”

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Regional Rail Revival Project Director Mark Haryvluk said that detailed assessments were carried out to determine where track duplication would take place. 

Mr Haryvluk said the placement would allow trains to come out of nearby stabling facilities, and would enable the delivery of extra peak services and trains every 40 minutes during off-peak periods. 

Mr Lever said it was concerning that taxpayers might pay more in the future to link the Bacchus Marsh line duplication with the Rowsley loop.

“It is the government’s responsibility to decide the best and most efficient use of funds, which I think would be to complete this project in one go, link them all up and make it a lot smoother for everyone,” he said. 

It is believed that linking the two loops may require level crossing upgrades and infrastructure relocation. The full upgrade is expected to be completed in 2019.