A PROPOSAL to reintroduce heritage trams to Ballarat gained momentum at a public meeting last night.
About 80 people attended the meeting at the Town Hall to hear key parties explain the details of the $20 million project which would reinstate a heritage tramway in the CBD.
Under the proposal, the tram route would link the train station with Sovereign Hill and circuit the CBD, taking in Lydiard, Sturt, Doveton and Market Sts.
The tramway is projected to create up to 81 long-term jobs, and has the potential to bring in an additional $4 million in tourist dollars. But at a cost. Car parks in Sturt and Lydiard Sts would have to be sacrificed, together with a small section of cycling path along Canadian Creek. Small sections of three York and Peake St properties would also have to be acquired.
Last night consultants Booz Allen Hamilton presented the findings of their $68,000 feasibility report to the meeting.
Together with the Ballarat Tourism Board they laid the plans on the table, highlighting the projects financial feasibility and its capacity to generate big dollars in the city.
The report was well received by the audience, but prompted half an hour's questioning.
The main issues raised included:
Car parking for tram patrons.
The exclusion of Lake Wendouree from the tram route.
The impact on the local amenity of the city, caused by infrastructures in town and along Canadian Creek.
Potential traffic hazards in Sturt St.
Diversion from public transport spending for residents.
Several questioned the accuracy of the report's facts and figures, particularly its projections for patronage and economic impacts.
Booz Allen Hamilton consultant Peter de Bruyn said: "I think they were asking very intelligent questions (the public), and that's what you'd expect. To have a high impact on the town in years to come it's only proper that they should be asking difficult questions."
Peter Canny of the Ballarat Tourism Board said the project was a fantastic opportunity for Ballarat to draw on the esteem of Sovereign Hill and package the city as tourist destination in its own right.
"This is a chance to stem that recognition into the heart of Ballarat."
He said the tramway would provide an "authentic experience" for tourists, linking the towns heritage and cultural assets.
Board chairperson Judy Verlin said the tram would help turn more of Ballarat's 2.3 million day visitors into overnight patrons.
"What tonight is about is to see if there is enough interest for the tourism board and council to continue the consultation and from what we've seen here tonight ... there were queries and questions but I didn't hear anybody get up and say we don't want it."
The Ballarat Tourism Board will make recommendations to the council in September. Ultimately, the project will hinge on securing $20 million in non-repayable government funding.