Testing done, still no time frame for Regional Rail Connectivity Project

Technical testing has been completed on a highly anticipated plan to address chronic mobile phone black spots on regional train lines.

A spokesperson for Small Business, Inovation and Trade Minister Philip Dalidakis confirmed on Monday that the testing process for the $18 million Regional Rail Connectivity Project was now complete, with a tender yet to be decided. 

However, due to the secretive nature of the commercial procurement process, the spokesperson did not indicate how many stations would be placed on the Ballarat rail line or where they would be located and would not give dates for the start dates of works.  The spokesperson said the test results  were “positive”.

Stations are likely to be placed in areas where they can assist local communities, alongside train passengers.

The project is well and truly behind schedule, with a government spokesperson stating that construction on the towers would begin “in mid-2016," in an interview with The Age last December.

The successful service provider will be announced by the end of the year, while it’s understood that works could start in 2017.

"This month we completed technical proof of concept testing with all three carriers,” the spokesperson said.

“The outcomes have been positive and we are still working towards an agreement for the full roll out of the program to be struck by the end of 2016." 

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are all vying for what’s understood to be a very competitive contract.

The project was originally budgeted as a free Wi-Fi service for V/Line trains under the former Liberal government but eventually scrapped in favour of a plan to address black spots along the Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Seymour and Traralgon lines.

Public Transport Users Association Ballarat convener Ben Lever said in August the black spots which plague the Ballarat line make the daily commute an unappealing prospect for many.

“At the moment, the coverage is really unreliable between Melton and Warrenheip, which is about two thirds of the journey,” Mr Lever said.