The Melbourne Metro Rail Authority will officially oversee the $518 million Ballarat line upgrade, due to start next year.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan announced that a project team from the MMRA, which is also overseeing the massive Metro Tunnel project, will be dedicated to managing the roll-out.
The project, funded in this year’s state budget, will deliver the duplication of a 17-kilometre section of single track between Deer Park West and Melton to allow for a more reliable and less congested service than the one Ballarat commuters have been exposed to since the opening of the much maligned Regional Rail Link last June.
Three kilometres of track west of Warrenheip will also be duplicated, and three additional crossing loops will be built at Bacchus Marsh, Ballan and near Bungaree.
The upgrade also includes second platforms at Bacchus Marsh and Ballan stations, while the existing platforms at Rockbank Station will be extended.
A tender for construction works is yet to be announced but should be known by the end of the year.
The MMRA is well placed to deliver the project, given it it set to pave the way for the future electrification of the line to Melton, which will create a new metropolitan line into Melbourne.
However, the state government last month conceded electrification to Melton would be at least a decade away, given it would have to wait until the completion of the Metro Tunnel project.
Melbourne’s current network is struggling to cope with rising demand and has no capacity to take on more services, with the $10.9 billion Metro Tunnel to take the Cranbourne-Pakenham and Sunbury lines off the City Loop and divert them onto a dedicated line through the CBD.
The project is set for a 2026 completion date, effectively meaning a 10-year wait before one of Melbourne's fastest-growing and most public transport-starved areas can be properly addressed.
Electrification of the rail line between Melbourne and Melton could solve a number of problems for Ballarat commuters.
The change would see commuters boarding from stations such as Melton heading into the city would be picked up by Metro services rather than V/Line and would cut down on time and overcrowding for Ballarat train commuters.
It would theoretically help service the Caroline Springs Station, which is yet to open.
Electrification was given a 10-15 year time frame in Infrastructure Victoria’s draft 30-year plan, but listed as a priority alongside the Metro Tunnel by Infrastructure Australia last year, which recommended a five to 10 year time frame.