Ballarat’s train timetable is set to be dealt a further blow before the end of the decade as the state government prepares to build another train station in the city’s booming west.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan announced work on a new station at Toolern between Melton and Rockbank began last month which is set to be opened to the public in late 2019.
By 2021 the stop is expected to house 2000 daily commuters, further adding to the capacity constraints on Ballarat’s V/Line service.
Committee for Ballarat chairman Janet Dore said the addition of further stations in Melbourne’s rapidly expanding western suburbs highlighted the need for a new, dedicated Metro service to Melton.
“(The Ballarat train is) picking up people who should be on a Metro network and it makes our journey home even more crowded,” Ms Dore said. “It makes the 59-minute campaign and the electrification work to Melton of the highest priority.”
The announcement comes after the Caroline Springs Station was opened earlier this year, adding a ninth stop between Ballarat and Southern Cross. While Toolern’s current population sits at about 1000 people, it is expected to grow to more than 55,000 in coming decades.
It comes as part of wider growth throughout the City of Melton, a municipality which is expected to increase its population by 140 per cent in the next two decades.
Due to capacity constraints within the City Loop any future additions to the Metro system would have to come online after the 2026 completion of the Melbourne Metro Rail Project.
However electrification construction is expected to take several years and so far neither the government or opposition have made a commitment to the project.
Premier Daniel Andrews made his most pointed comments around the development in June when announcing the consortium to deliver the $518 million Ballarat line upgrade, saying the works were “paving the way for future electrification to Melton”.
Electrification to Melton has been listed as a priority project by peak bodies Infrastructure Victoria and Australia.
Public Transport Users Association Ballarat convener Ben Lever said while building a station in Toolern ahead of growth was commendable, the addition is likely to add significantly to overcrowding.
“Most of that overcrowding is caused by the increased population in suburban Melbourne, and V/Line trains having to serve both a regional and a suburban function,” Mr Lever said. “This new station at Toolern is a step in the right direction, but ultimately we need the line to be electrified to Melton as soon as possible - we'll all be dealing with these issues until that's done."
In a statement Ms Allan said “we’re delivering more frequent and reliable services for Melbourne's growing western suburbs - helping passengers get to where they need to go”.
A spokesperson for Ms Allan said the new station would see a minor increase in travel times for the Melton and Bacchus Marsh services, but travel times for Ballarat express services will remain comparable to those today.
The station will be factored in to a new timetable delivered in late 2019, following the completion of the Ballarat line upgrade.
“Ballarat morning and afternoon peak trains will potentially run express through Toolern and Bacchus Marsh and Melton services will likely stop at Toolern,” the spokesperson said.