IT COULD take months to fix Ballarat’s barely functioning train service unless the government makes significant changes to its rail plan.
Ballarat’s peak services have been plagued by delays and overcrowding since the launch of the Regional Rail Link, which was meant to improve train times, two weeks ago.
While the Victorian Government has a long-term plan to build more V/Line carriages, the rate at which they will arrive may not be enough to deal with the huge rise in patronage on the Ballarat line.
Due to the demand of other regional lines and the expansion of services elsewhere, Ballarat could see a new carriage only every few months.
Committee For Ballarat chief executive John Kilgour said the turnover rate for those carriages would not be good enough to handle the burgeoning passenger numbers.
‘‘We are of the view that the turnover for those carriages is not going to be quick enough for the increase in patronage,’’ Mr Kilgour said.
‘‘The increase in services from Geelong and services to Bacchus Marsh has also been at the expense of Ballarat commuters. ‘‘In this day and age, in the 21st century, it just isn’t good enough.’’
RAIL RAGE FROM THE FRIDAY MORNING COMMUTE:
It comes after years of campaigning, planning and delays before the implementation of the $3.6 billion RRL project, which has been dubbed a complete failure by Ballarat commuters.
While the school holiday period is masking some of the problems this week, commuters are still reporting long delays and overcrowding.
‘‘We applaud the regional rail link initiative, which is a significant investment,’’ he said ‘‘But it has come at the expense of commuters to Ballarat at present because there has not been the investment in rolling stock to coincide with the launch of Regional Rail Link or additional passing loops to Ballarat.’’
Two new carriages are expected to be added to the Ballarat fleet on Monday, however, little is known about what will be done to deal with the long series of delays that are occurring.
Mr Kilgour said the government needed to take immediate action to provide extra passing loops on the struggling line.
‘‘We should be planning now. We have been advocating for the last five years to do a feasibility study into the duplication of the line,’’ he said.
‘‘If you do not plan for the duplication, it will not happen, so you need to plan how you will duplicate this line in the next five to 10 years.’’
In an interview with The Courier, Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said she was disappointed by how badly the services had been running from Ballarat.
"It is something I am focusing on every single day," she said.
"I expect better and that is why there is a lot of work going on and I am prioritising the Ballarat line to see an improvement.
"We are doing everything we can and we are prioritising the Ballarat line, as quickly as they (the carriages) come off the production line they are coming into service."
She admitted there had been a much greater than expected level of growth on the Ballarat line which was contributing to the problem.
"I apologise that people are incredibly frustrated and disappointed in the timetable," she said.
"There are more seats, more services and more carriages there as part of the new timetable.
"Its implementation hasn't been as good as we or V/Line expected."
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