BALLARAT rail commuters face extra travel time and confusion under the Regional Rail Link project, the Public Transport Users Association claimed yesterday.Commenting on Monday’s announcement by the state government that the project would go ahead despite a budget black hole, the PTUA said bypassing North Melbourne Station in the project would mean add extra travel time for Ballarat commuters.Association spokesman Paul Westcott described the North Melbourne Station as a vital interchange point for regional rail travellers to catch suburban trains and buses.“Without that station, regional commuters, like those from Ballarat, will have to travel to Southern Cross Station and backtrack to their destinations. The system will be inaccessible, useless, particularly for those travelling for hospital visits and university sessions,” Mr Westcott said.He has called for the RRL project to be critically analysed by independent experts, but believed that chance had been “lost in an unnecessary rush to make a decision”.Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder announced this week the project would go ahead, despite a massive budget black hole left by the former Labor Government.Mr Mulder claimed the project had been under review after Treasury experts discovered that the former Labor Government had been between $700 million and $1.1 billion short in its costings, and then the federal government had announced it was deferring $500 million of funding for the project.Asked by The Courier if Ballarat commuters faced a price hike to pay for the new infrastructure, Mr Mulder said: “The Coalition Government wants to keep changes in ticket prices to no more than CPI (Consumer Price Index).”During the construction phase of the project, Ballarat commuters can expect some trains to be replaced with buses. However, Mr Mulder hopes that contractors will be able to come up with an innovative solution to keep the trains running as much as possible. “Many years ago, temporary tracks were often installed next to rail construction sites.”
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