Ballarat commuter anger: V/Line drops express

BALLARAT train commuters are angry after new V/Line timetables show increased travel times to and from Melbourne, and the loss of a 64-minute service to Southern Cross Station. The new timetable on the Wendouree-Ballarat-Melbourne line will add a further five minutes to travel time, as a morning and evening express service is lost due to a new stop at Ballan. The timetable, released on Friday and due to come into effect on May 8, has left passengers like Ballarat resident Craig Bridgman disappointed. “It’s fine if you live in Ballan, but what about the Ballarat passengers who moved to the area because of the so-called ‘flagship’ express train? They haven’t made the right decision on this one,” Mr Bridgman said. Analysis by The Courier has found that travel times on all Melbourne-bound morning trains will increase between three and five minutes from a year ago. Travel times on evening services from Melbourne to Ballarat will also increase by as much as five minutes. V/Line said the changes were necessary to provide better services for Ballan commuters. Spokeswoman Clare Steele said the morning 7:38am service will be moved forward by five minutes but will still arrive into Melbourne at 8:50am. “Therefore, it’s changed from a 72-minute service to a 77-minute service to account for the Ballan stop,” she said.“This closes a 95-minute gap for Ballan people.“And so, it’s only a few extra minutes each way, and we know people would prefer the timetable to reflect travel times as accurately as possible.” An extra carriage will also be added to the 4:36pm Southern Cross to Wendouree service, boosting it from three carriages to four and add another 72 seats. Mr Bridgman welcomed the extra carriage but laughed at claims that the service was “an express.” “Stopping at Ballan just adds extra time for those of us who just want to get home and there are already enough people on those carriages,” he said. Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen said a better balance had to be found for train services. “Obviously the new stops are a plus for passengers who live in Ballan, but the disappointment is understandable from Ballarat’s perspective. “Hopefully V/Line will resolve the issues on the Ballarat line and fix punctuality issues that have existed for a long time there,” he said.He said the passengers had the right to be skeptical about times listed in V/Line timetables. “On paper the times are one thing, but passengers onboard every day will know of significant delays.” He called for a solution to the problem of delays between North Melbourne and Southern Cross and for more trains across the network. “It’s a crawling pace in that area, and it slows down the whole trip. V/Line needs to get that sorted out,” Mr Bowen said. “Each of these towns needs more services if we are to rely on trains for reliable travel,” he said. Mr Bridgman said he knew of Ballarat-based real estate agencies who used the 64-minute train service as a selling point for local house sales and rentals. “This kind of change to the timetable makes the term ‘fast rail’ a bit of a joke for all of us here in Ballarat,” he said.

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