An independent citizens’ jury has strongly endorsed the electrification of the Ballarat railway line from Sunshine to Melton.
Infrastructure Victoria convened two citizens’ juries – one regional and one metropolitan – each made up of about 40 randomly selected people, who were asked to prioritise statewide projects and plans.
The electrification of the Ballarat line was tagged “high priority” by the jury, which met six times over a three-month period to consider evidence, hear from experts and deliberate on more than 200 projects and policies.
In a recent interim report, the jury stated this upgrade would “mitigate the effects of excessive urban sprawl”.
Electrification was also flagged as a priority due to the need to improve capacity to Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat railway lines, taking people off the roads to the city, making affordable housing choices available in regional towns with access to Melbourne and cutting time and overcrowding for commuters.
Infrastructure Victoria estimates the electrification of line, including new tracks and the removal of three level crossings between Sunshine and Melton, would cost between $1 billion and $5 billion.
This year’s state budget announcement saw the Labor government commit to a $518 million upgrade of the line including a 17 kilometre duplicated section of track between Deer Park West and Melton, which is seen as the first step towards future electrification to Melton.
The first section of the duplication, a one-kilometre section between Christies Road and the new Caroline Springs station, will be ready early next year. Duplication of the remaining 16 kilometres will start next year.
Public Transport Users Association Ballarat convener Ben Lever said eventual electrification would be beneficial for Ballarat commuters.
“Electrification of the line would mean less crowding on the inner sections of the line, as suburban passengers would use Metro services instead of V/Line services. It would also mean faster journey times, as Ballarat trains wouldn't need to stop at as many stations,” Mr Lever said.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the focus remains on the short term for regional rail development.
“Duplication to Melton will reduce delays, create space to run more trains and pave the way for the electrification of the line in the future,” Ms Allan said.
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