Commuters may face a four-year wait to reap the full rewards of the half a billion dollar spend on Ballarat’s embattled railway network.
Transport Minister Jacinta Allan was in Ballarat on Thursday to discuss the huge investment into Ballarat’s beleaguered railway network which will be duplicated and receive additional carriages.
Ms Allen said the complex 17 kilometre duplication of a single track between Deer Park West and Melton, the duplication of three kilometres west of Warrenheip and additional crossing loops in Bacchus Marsh, Ballan and near Bungaree would start in 2017.
The project, which will deliver hundreds of jobs, is expected to be completed by 2019. Train infrastructure was the big ticket item in Wednesday’s budget, with the government finally addressing the problem of over-crowding in carriages, wheel wear and severe performance issues.
In the current process, one carriage is constructed per month – Ms Allan confirmed the additional carriages would continued to be rolled out at the same rate.
“It will take a number of months and years. The important thing is as every train comes off the production line, it comes into service,” Ms Allan said. “(Duplication) work will start in 2017 and will be completed in 2019. This is big infrastructure program. create hundreds of jobs. It will take couple of years to do the construction work.”
“It is a project that will be started and finished before the metro tunnel project is started – after that is completed there will be more opportunity for us to run more services.”
The Ballarat line will be one of the major priorities in the rail overhaul – with the government confirming the line had seen a 13 per cent increase in commuters in 2015 alone. The railway and number of commuters will continue to be monitored to prevent the line from being thrown into crisis again.
“That demonstrates very clearly that we need to both keep up with that level of growth but also make sure we have the capacity to bring more (trains) in the future,” Ms Allen said.
Regular commuter Joseph van Dyk commended the timeline proposed by Ms Allen. He said ensuring the timetable issue was resolved would create major benefits, with trains regularly brought to a standstill at Bacchus Marsh.
“You’re zooming in from Ballarat and then you sit behind a train at Bacchus Marsh,” he said. “All the benefits are immediately gone.”
Member for Wendouree Sharon Knight said she would push strongly to ensure the line received its fair share of the new carriages. She could not confirm if travel time would be reduced by the duplication, but said trains would run on time.
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