A new Warrenheip train station could be the solution to Ballarat’s increasing reliance on the Melbourne V/Line service according to one of the country’s leading transport think tanks.
The concept being put forward by the Rail Futures Institute proposes the development of a “park and ride” style station, which would be located in close proximity to the Western Highway.
The location is influenced by European-style stations such as Bristol, where the station is located upstream of the city proper in order to allow for cars.
Rail Futures Institute secretary Dr Bill Russell said governments needed to consider the entire journey from leaving the home to the final destination when developing transport plans.
“All along the Ballarat line the parking areas are very much full,” Dr Russell said. “The idea is that all of the people on one side of the city can get to a parking area without having to cross the city.”
In the 2017/18 budget the state government pledged to place an extra level on the soon-to-be-developed multi-storey car park at the Ballarat Station precinct in order to cope with increased demand for spaces at the Lydiard Street complex.
The idea is that all of the people on one side of the city can get to a parking area without having to cross the city.Dr Bill Russell - Rail Futures Institute secretary
The multi-storey park will be able to house 420 cars when completed, however the precinct itself will struggle to cope with additional parking demands given the remainder of the precinct’s parking will be designated to the new hotel and convention centre.
The Warrenheip proposal would see up to eight hectares of land turned into permanent commuter parking, with a capacity of about 1000 vehicles. The proposal also suggests the development of a bus interchange, which would bring the new station into line with the Wendouree facility towards the west of Ballarat.
The additional stop would add about two minutes to the trip.
RFI has identified the expansion station as one of its medium-term goals for the Ballarat line which it believes should be completed by 2026.
The proposal comes amid a boom in passengers on the Ballarat line, which is the second busiest V/Line service in the state.
In May alone 424,000 passenger trips were taken along the Ballarat line.
Giving Tullamarine a regional link
An airport rail link which would put regional cities at the heart of Melbourne’s Tullamarine public transport solution is being proposed by the Rail Futures Institute.
The RFI proposal would see Sunshine become a major transport headquarters, linking the Ballarat and Geelong lines with the metro system, while nearby Tottenham would be home to train stabling and maintenance.
The heavy rail link would turn Tullamarine into a rail and air hub, with both the Seymour and Bendigo lines passing directly though the airport junction en route to Southern Cross.
RFI secretary Dr Bill Russell said while it was pleasing to see the federal government’s interest in funding regional rail, it was important any airport link factored in areas outside of Melbourne.
“What we want to do is propose something where Melbourne Airport becomes a land transport hub as well as an air transport hub, because that’s what you get at all of the major European capitals,” Dr Russell said.
“The point about Sunshine is it’s served by Melbourne Metro, so it provides connectivity to all the lines on Melbourne Metro in one direction to Sunbury and the other to Dandenong.”
RFI is hoping the proposal will prove to be the next major infrastructure spend following Melbourne Metro, which is due to be completed in 2026.
The concept comes after federal politicians of both persuasions pledged their interest to the long overdue infrastructure spending, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull setting aside $30 million from the 2017/18 budget to develop business case for the connection.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten has also flagged his interest in the project, saying he is willing to work with the government to see the connection come to fruition.
Any airport link project is likely to cost in excess of $1 billion, and while there has been speculation around the federal government bankrolling the entire project, it is more likely to involve both state and federal funding.
The airport is currently dealing with 33 million passengers a year, but this is expected to jump to 60 million in 10 years time.
Committee for Ballarat chief executive Melanie Robertson threw her support behind the notion of linking regional Victoria to Tullamarine, saying the prospect was a “game changer in terms of economic growth for the regions”.
“If we don’t invest (in a regional link to the airport) now then we'll never invest and if we don't dream big then we won't get there,” Ms Robertson said.
“The proposal is innovative but it just makes sense to link regional Victoria with the airport.”
Carriage boost to keep up with capacity
Changing the configuration of V/Line carriages is among a host of short-term measures needed to address the service provider’s capacity issues according to the Rail Futures Institute.
V/Line services currently can only run as either three or six car VLocity services, with a maximum capacity of 444 seats. In May 11 peak hour services along the Ballarat line were at 100 per cent capacity, while a further six were at 90 per cent or more.
The institute is proposing changes be made to VLocity services to ensure more carriages can be added to the peak services, while also lengthening platforms to accommodate larger services.
Public Transport Users Association Ballarat branch convener Ben Lever said while capacity on trains was important, more needed to be done to speed up duplication and electrification, particularly in the western suburbs of Melbourne.
“The big things are full duplication and electrification to Melton, because they’re going to have a massive impact on how reliable services are and how crowded the services are,” Mr Lever said.
The state government has recently invested heavily in providing more carriages to the state’s most congested regional lines, with more than $311 million allocated in the 2017/18 budget to build 39 new VLocity carriages.
This comes on top of a previous pledge to build 48 new carriages in 2016, of which the Ballarat line has so far been the biggest winner.
While the Melton line cannot be linked in with metro services until the completion of Melbourne Metro in 2026, RFI is lobbying for funding to be allocated for electrification sooner rather than later.
While Melton electrification has been listed by Infrastructure Australia as a priority project, neither federal or state governments have committed.