PATRONAGE levels on Ballarat train services are the fastest growing in Victoria, with a 10 per cent increase in passengers last financial year. Passenger trips across the network increased by 7.1 per cent – representing 13.5 million trips on Victoria’s regional trains. The figures were included in the network’s annual report presented to State Parliament yesterday. Transport Minister Terry Mulder said an increasing number of regional workers commuting to Melbourne had increased patronage. “Not since the gold rush era has V/Line played such an important part to the economies and jobs of people who live in regional Victoria and work in Melbourne,” Mr Mulder said. “V/Line broke rail patronage records every month during 2010-11,” Mr Mulder said. The total number of commuters on Ballarat/Ararat services more than doubled from 1.37 million in 2009-10 to 3.10 million in 2010-11. Services to and from Ballarat also increased last year, rising from 274 to 302. Bacchus Marsh saw an 11.3 per cent increase in passenger arrivals with more than 920,000 people alighting there. Mr Mulder said the Ballarat region continued to benefit from new additions to the V/Line network.The annual report also highlighted timetable changes and the construction of a new $16.5 million maintenance facility at East Ballarat. More than 1300 trains on the Ballarat and Bendigo lines were replaced by buses in July, as work on the Regional Rail Link got underway. Public Transport Users Association regional spokesperson Paul Westcott said the Ballarat line was reaching capacity. “We know that the popular peak expresses are often over full, whereas trains stopping at more stations are less full.“I think in Ballarat there is room for increasing the length of trains as not every service is at its full seven-car length,” he said. Mr Westcott said V/Line had received the majority of a new order of new carriages, which he hoped would be to Ballarat services.— Twitter follow @TomMcIlroy
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