Key infrastructure projects such as the Caroline Springs Station and the Rowsley Passing Loop will define commuters’ experiences on the Ballarat train line this year.
Both are vital to the Ballarat corridor, with the new station at Caroline Springs threatening to lengthen travel time on the regularly overcrowded and delayed Regional Rail Link services, while the crossing loop will offer another avenue to reduce the number of train delays.
In an interview with The Courier, Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan said timetable planning and consultation for the station will take place in coming months, but did not indicate how the station stop will impact on travel time between Ballarat and Melbourne.
“At this stage it's a little bit too early (to comment) on stopping patterns,” she said.
“The project commenced on August (and) the Caroline Springs Station works aren't going to be completed until the second half of 2016.
“There's no doubt there needs to be a train station in Caroline Springs to service that community, but we will absolutely be mindful of how that will play out across the Ballarat line.”
It is expected that more than 1000 daily commuters will use the station when operational, further adding to the considerable patronage growth experienced over the past year.
A review of Public Transport Victoria’s first RRL timetables outlined stopping patterns and timetabling as key areas of concern, however, Ms Allan said the introduction of the Rowsley loop will offer more flexibility in addressing delays.
“It will be done in mid 2016. It does give you that ability to recover (from a delay),” she said.
Ms Allan promised a “more reliable” timetable for Ballarat commuters at the announcement of the review last September, however, the latest timetables (effective from January 31) indicate only minor change.
Heavily overcrowded afternoon peak services are also a key concern for the year ahead, with statistics from V/Line showing that six of the 14 daily peak PM services during July and August reached a 100 per cent capacity mark at the busiest point of the journey.
Five of 14 daily PM peak services reached 100 per cent capacity at busiest point for September, while October and November both recoreded four of 14.
V/Line did not supply capacity statistics for January-June, with a spokesperson citing the different number of services as the reason a “true comparison” could not be made to the model used before the RRL.
Ms Allan did not provide an update on carriage additions for the Ballarat line and said there would be no more “imminent” arrivals.