Does Ballarat really need a station at Warrenheip? Should future public transport investment be focused around growing areas like Lucas? Or are there other options worth pursuing?
One thing is certain, as Ballarat’s population heads towards 150,000 in coming years, more public transport options will be needed so the city is not left behind other regional centres.
As the state government yesterday announced three new stations on the Bendigo line including two - Huntly and Goornong – in outer Bendigo, attention has turned to how Ballarat’s future public transport network could look.
The City of Ballarat supports a Rail Futures Victoria plan to build a station at Warrenheip essentially to provide a parking option away from the city.
Rail Futures Victoria president John Hearsch said the re-opening of a station at Warrenheip, while stopping commuters travelling as far Ballan, could also provide a junction for a possible regional service incorporating Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.
“The idea of Warrenheip is to build a very large parkway, 1000 or more parks. You need to buy the land for the future so you can put in the facility there,” Mr Hearsch said.
“Warrenheip will service commuters on the eastern, southern and even northern parts of Ballarat who would not drive to Wendouree.
“There’s nothing inherent to say it can’t be built by 2025.”
But other options exist, with the Committee For Ballarat chairman Nicholas Beale saying detailed investigations were needed into the look of Ballarat’s future public transport.
“The committee is not against another station, but we believe there needs to be a proper detailed study as to what is the best place for a station,” Me Beale said.
In the meantime, the committee is keen to investigate a shuttle system accessing new technologies, potentially a future driverless option.
“The Committee For Ballarat would be looking to support a shuttle system of the key area where people can park and get onto the city, such as smaller buses on a regular basis,” Mr Beale said.
Another option could be a return to light rail, potentially starting at a re-opened Bridge Mall, travelling up Sturt Street and branching to Lucas and Wendouree Station.
Mr Hearsch said light rail could work as it could be gradually included into a wider network.
Although, at a cost of about $70 million a kilometre, it could be prohibitive with a current population of just over 100,000.
“My view is Ballarat will need to be double its population before it can support light rail. But planning really needs to start now,” he said.