The Ballarat Line Upgrade might be thundering along, but a 59-minute service to Ballarat still hinges on the state government getting their preferred route for airport rail.
Works are continuing at Millbrook, east of Ballarat, to prepare for the 4.5 kilometre passing loop to be built on the line and create more opportunities for trains to pass each other.
Gordon-based civil engineers Carey Civil Contractors have been in charge of the earth works, excavation and piling at Millbrook.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan stated the Millbrook loop would be opened in late 2019, with the Bungaree loop decommissioned at the same time in order to be mindful of “continuing to operate passenger services along the line”.
The Ballarat Line Upgrade is a $551 million batch of works on the second busiest regional rail line. Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister Allan were in Millbrook on Thursday to survey work on the major project.
Mr Andrews said he saw the airport link as “not just a link between the city and the airport, it’s airport and regional rail if you choose the right corridor”.
“We’ve pushed the federal government very, very hard … the Sunshine corridor allows us with some further electrification into the west of [Melbourne] to Melton and Wyndham Vale, you then have an opportunity to do something really exciting in terms of proper, rapid fast rail to Geelong and Ballarat”.
In early August, opposition leader Matthew Guy made an election promise on delivering a faster service, stating he would secure a 59 minute or better service to Melbourne from Ballarat within 12-18 months after the November 24 election, through duplification on the Ballarat line and improved rolling stock.
When completed in late 2019, the refurbishment will see second platforms added at Bacchus Marsh, Ballan and Wendouree stations, while the platform at Rockbank Station will also be extended.
Ms Allan said you “couldn’t contemplate” potential electrifications on the Ballarat line until the duplification works are done between the “bottleneck” of Melton and Deer Park, which will be complete by 2020.
The state government has also promised a train every 40 minutes off-peak along the line once the works are finished.
Three new passing loops will also be installed along the line to reduce congestion at peak times, while 18 kilometres of track will be duplicated between Deer Park West and Melton, paving the way for a future electrified Metro line to Melton.