The state government has finally released its Regional Network Development Plan, documenting future needs to improve public transport in growth areas such as Ballarat.
Although originally promised in time for the 2016-17 budget by Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan, regional commuters have been forced to wait for several months for the release of the prized document.
The plan focuses on public transport strategies across the Barwon south west, Gippsland, Grampians, Hume and Loddon Mallee areas.
Central to the strategy is the aim to introduce a minimum 20-minute peak frequency and 40-minute inter-peak frequency across the commuter rail network in the long-term – similar to what is currently in place on the Geelong to Melbourne line.
The plan for the Grampians region, which encompasses transport networks for Ballarat and surrounding areas, involves the provision for another train station on the Ballarat to Melbourne line at the rapidly expanding suburb of Toolern as well as investigation into the viability on extra stations near Ballarat.
The need to update outdated rolling stock was also outlined.
It also recommended the investigation into additional local transport options for those in the Grampians and the need to implement bus service improvements.
The report was compiled through more than 40 statewide workshop sessions with commuters, residents and stakeholders, with almost 300 stakeholders attending the Ballarat, Bacchus Marsh, Maryborough, Ararat and Horsham workshops.
A bulk of the commuter feedback pointed towards more bus services between rural and regional towns, including Maryborough, Bendigo and Ballarat, longer operating hours for public transport and an improved reliability on the Ballarat rail line.
Speaking at the announcement of the RNDP on Monday, Ms Allan said the plan was an “exciting development” that will serve as a long-term guideline.
“The culmination of this plan means that we’ll be moving away from a series of ad-hoc investments in regional transport to a sustained longer term plan that will see improvements to train services, improvements to bus services, delivering better connections between small towns and regional centres and most critically. have a passenger centered focus,” she said.