Located just 230 metres from the Ballarat Station, the Art Gallery of Ballarat stands to benefit more than most from improvements to the city’s rail system.
Led by the Archibald Prize exhibition, almost 240,000 made their way to the gallery in 2016/17, double that of 2014/15. Two thirds of the Melbourne art fans who visited the exhibition opted for the train.
Gallery director Gordon Morrison said given the gallery’s proximity to the station, any improvements to the service would have a noticeable impact on patronage. “This gallery is unique among regional galleries in that it is so close to the railway station,” Mr Morrison said.
“We’re all looking for an edge and something we can present to our patrons that is that bit better than what everybody else does, and that connection between the city and the gallery is a really good one for us.
“Too few people are aware how good our permanent collection is, so the train and a really good link is a really important part of selling that.”
Making the day trip 59 minutes away
By any measure, tourism growth in Ballarat over the past decade has been a success story, with more than 2.8 million visitors coming to the city in the 2016/17 financial year.
As accessibility to Ballarat has improved so too has the domestic day trip, with 600,000 more people coming here for the day in 2016/17 year compared to seven years earlier.
While major attractions such as White Night and the Archibald Prize have provided a healthy boost to the city’s coffers, Visit Ballarat chairman Sarah Beaumont said the prospect of a sub-hour train journey from Melbourne to Ballarat would prove a game changer. While the number of services each day increased by eight between 2009 and 2017, train speeds have stagnated.
“If we were to have a 59-minute train what we would find is that the number of day visitors would increase even further, because it would be dead easy to come and spend the day here,” Ms Beaumont said.
“It really changes the perception of Ballarat as being too far away.”
In addition to the city’s booming day trip travel, international visitors are continuing to climb.
Over the past seven years international visitors who chose to stay the night in Ballarat doubled, with 31,600 staying overnight in 2016/17.
For the city’s most popular tourism attraction, Sovereign Hill, the V/Line service is one which is going to play an increasingly important role in moving visitors in the future.
About 25 per cent of visitors to Sovereign Hill are from overseas, majority of which are coming from Asia. Sovereign Hill chief executive Jeremy Johnson said while in the past these visitors had opted to travel in groups by bus, the increasing trend was towards plotting an independent itinerary.
The gold rush attraction runs a coach to and from Ballarat Station once a day to assist train travelers.
“The market is changing towards people wanting to make their own itinerary and it would be a huge advantage if there was 59-minute train.”