Ballarat train line construction shutdown plagues last round of AFL

The Ballarat line will shuttered for two days at the end of August, hampering footy fanatics heading to watch the last round of the 2018 AFL season. 

Coaches will replace trains on the line from Wendouree to Southern Cross over the weekend of August 25-26. 

As part of the $551.7 million Ballarat Line Upgrade, 150 crew members working shifts day and night along a 70-kilometre stretch of track from Millbrook to Caroline Springs.

Ararat and Maryborough trains will continue to run to and from Ballarat, connecting with coaches to and from Southern Cross.

Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan said the project was “on schedule for completion late next year".

”Whether you’re heading to Melbourne for the footy or time with your family – we encourage you to plan ahead to get where you need to go,” she said. “The August works blitz will be a major step forward to building the duplicated track, station upgrades and other improvements that will help deliver extra train services for passengers in Ballarat and Melbourne’s growing west.”

When completed, upgrades will result in a train every 40 minutes off-peak along the line, with overhauls of Wendouree, Rockbank, and Bacchus Marsh stations and a new station at Toolern. 

The disruption comes as rail and transport become an essential part of the Victorian election fight for Ballarat’s two electorates without incumbent members. 

In early August, opposition leader Matthew Guy stated he would commit to securing a 59 minute or better service to Melbourne from Ballarat within 12-18 months after the November 24 election. 

“With reasonable investments on existing wheel on rail rolling stock from what you have, and a longer term plan for proper duplication it can be done,” he said. 

He also said he would consider moving the full V/Line headquarters to Ballarat, in order to reclaim the city’s “transport edge”.

In July, the state government committed $5 billion to build a train route to Tullamarine airport. Labor’s preference of a link through Sunshine would mean Ballarat commuters could expect a trip of just over an hour to the airport, according to Committee For Ballarat. 

Passengers are urged to plan ahead for the weekend and allow an extra 45 minutes of travel time while works are underway. Train services will return to normal from the first service on Monday August 27.