Wendouree train station should be moved underground

As many readers will have noted, there’s a proposal to upgrade the Wendouree Rail Station with the addition of a second platform including additional parking.

Given the fact that there are plans to construct a new train storage and maintenance facility adjacent to the BWEZ, along with a further proposal to construct a long-awaited freight centre at the BWEZ, this creates a new opportunity for common sense to prevail and get it right the first time.

While standing on the Wendouree platform the other day, the idea hit me that instead of adding a second platform, the whole Wendouree station should be rebuilt underground – complete with disability access and, of course, much additional parking.

There is a massive program of level crossing removal in greater Melbourne and Geelong. Just imagine the Gillies Street level crossing going with the undergrounding of Wendouree station.

I ask the question, “why not?”

Of course, the usual excuses will come up!

“The sewerage is in the way.”

“What about drainage?”

“What about the water pipes?”

“The government would not do that up the road in Ballarat.”

Motorists would agree that the intersection of Gillies and Howitt streets and the associated level crossing are fast becoming a nightmare.

But this problem could, and should, be solved.

Of course, many citizens will not be aware that it is planned to open Gregory Street West from Gillies Street to the new Link Road. This, of course, will add to further congestion at the Gillies Street intersection.

Say the excuse why this idea should be put on the backburner is about where the money is coming from.

The Prime Minister has just announced that the state government is to receive $2 billion – yes, 2000 million dollars – from the sale of Victoria’s share of the Snowy Mountains scheme.

The money is to be used on “congestion busting upgrades”.

There is no reason why Ballarat should not get just 5 per cent of this bucket of money to pay for the above proposal.

I am advised again that there are funds sitting somewhere for the freight centre construction. I urge Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh to call an urgent meeting involving:

  • Local members of Parliament
  • VicTrack
  • V/Line
  • VicRoads
  • Ballarat City Council
  • Business Ballarat
  • Committee for Ballarat
  • Regional Development figures
  • The media
  • Other interested parties

Sure, if this major project was to go ahead, there would be disruptions and inconvenience to some.

But think about the end result, which would be a win for pedestrians, motorists, commuters, both road and rail, train storage and maintenance, certainly freight both road and rail and, of course, the addition of a standard gauge rail line to Ballarat.

I am well aware this is a bold proposal. But in the long term, the completion of this great project at the one time would be of a huge saving of taxpayers’ money.

We all know of the stuff up at the Ballarat station, so let’s get this one right.

Paul Jenkins was state MP for Ballarat West from 1992-99.