The rail body that first proposed the contentious Warrenheip Station says while it won’t make the commute shorter, there are future opportunities for parking on the site.
The Rail Futures Institute (RFI) is encouraging the re-acquisition of Victrack-owned land around the station, which is currently leased, to ensure future connections to Geelong and to cater for medium-term population need.
Rail Futures Institute secretary Bill Russell said Warrenheip Station could solve some of the parking angst plaguing Ballarat’s CBD.
The Warrenheip proposal would mean up to eight hectares of land, currently farmland, may become commuter parking with a capacity for up to 1000 vehicles.
“It’s what we call a parkway station,” Dr Russell said.
“It’s an idea in inner Britain that if they have a crowded inner city, as in Ballarat, they realise people want to park upstream to the main station in the direction of travel, to minimise the return journey.”
According to 'Ballarat Now and Into the Future' lobbying documents, Warrenheip Station's key benefit is the potential ‘59-minute service’ for passenger rail services between Ballarat and Melbourne.’
But the RFI disagrees, saying the new station would ultimately add an extra two minutes to the journey. The Committee for Ballarat's push for a 59-minute service has gained significant public traction but is widely understood to be the journey from Ballarat Station to Southern Cross Station in Melbourne.
But the Dr Russell said while emphasis might be on a shorter train trip, the “basic proposition is that your journey to work starts at your front door”.
Dr Russell said while emphasis may be on a shorter train trip, the “basic proposition is that your journey to work starts at your front door”.
“As Ballarat is rather a spread out place, there’s plenty of people who can’t go to Wendouree, or find a spot to park. We think this might be a great boon to people in Ballarat, and to some extent, Buninyong,” he said.
The station has been mooted to solve upcoming CBD parking congestion, with 1000 more workers expected in 2020 at GovHub.
RFI had set a completion date for the station at 2026, as it would be a necessity before rail connection to Geelong runs again.
Dr Russell said with an increasing political focus on decentralisation, a connection between Victoria's second and third largest cities will be crucial.
“The most important thing is to secure the land and get the design happening,” he said. “We think its necessary to think in those terms, there’s no question that the Ballarat-Geelong train needs to come in as both cities grow.”
Warrenheip Station in political throes as promises made
A proposal to build a new station in Ballarat’s east is becoming one of the most discussed plans in the lead up to the election, as questions surround whether it is still supported by those pushing it hardest.
The $80 million new Warrenheip Station project was identified by the ‘Ballarat Now and Into The Future’ coalition as one of six priority projects requiring government support ahead of the November 24 election.
The Courier understands Warrenheip Station was primarily pitched to the lobbying group by City of Ballarat.
At a press conference held last week, Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford wouldn’t rule out funding the station, but implied council had fallen out of love with the Warrenheip concept.
"I know that [Warrenheip Station] was a reasonably high priority for the local council, it is now less so, because of some discussions and dialogue they've had with our agencies who plan for future transport use," Ms Pulford said.
But when queried about the minister’s comments, a short statement from City of Ballarat denied Warrenheip Station had waned in popularity within the walls of Town Hall.
“Warrenheip Station is part of the Ballarat Now and Into the Future suite of key projects for Ballarat and this has not changed,” the statement said.
However, the Warrenheip proposal has gained traction with the Victorian Liberals.
Opposition spokesman public transport and planning David Davis confirmed the Warrenheip Station build would be rolled into a $19 billion regional rail splash, if they are elected on November 24.
“I think the development is occurring on that side of Ballarat, and it will be more accessible for people there,” Mr Davis said.