A long-held aspiration - mobile coverage along the entirety of the Ballarat Line - seemed to have been settled following an $18 million state government project.
But commuters and travellers are still reporting loss of mobile coverage near Ballan, Bacchus Marsh and Caroline Springs for the Ballarat Line.
Telstra's coverage map shows sections of reduced mobile signal strength near the Ballarat Line, south of Bacchus Marsh.
One Ballarat Line commuter said online they had noticed a significant decrease in the quality of mobile coverage in the last couple of months, while another said the coverage is "still patchy" with calls dropping out regularly.
I'm on that line everyday and have given up trying calls or using data for work. 1 bar ... cutting out to no service at times.A commuter on the Ballarat Line in February
The now-defunct Ballarat ICT group and Committee For Ballarat led the charge for improved connectivity along the train line.
Bill Mundy, the past chair of Ballarat ICT, said the public now has a "greater expectation around the level of coverage".
But with additional mobile users consuming massive amounts of data, it's not quite as easy to supply coverage to a train thundering through the bush.
"With free public wifi on buses and trains, there's an expectation there will be ubiquitous coverage along the Ballarat corridor," Mr Mundy said.
"Although it's a reasonable expectation … what we have to understand is that technically, it's quite a difficult thing to achieve.
"The trains themselves are like great big reflectors (of the signal) … When a train passes a base station or gets into an area with coverage, the volume of people on there is like a small town all trying to get coverage off the one cell, at the one time, for a short space of time."
The Regional Rail Connectivity Project includes the construction of 35 new mobile towers, to improve coverage along regional lines.
Four of the five mobile towers near the historical coverage blackspot between Ballan and Bacchus Marsh have been switched on.
A state government spokesperson said the project was expected to deliver a $20 million boost each year to the state’s economy through productivity, and travellers should direct any concerns about coverage to mobile service providers.
Committee for Ballarat chair Nick Beale said reports were positive for the mobile connection on the line, but they "would always want to see upgrading of any system" on the Ballarat Line.
We haven't had any complaints or issues from our members. To the contrary, our members have been saying it's just fantastic we can work and phone on the train.Committee for Ballarat's Nick Beale
Public Transport Users Association Ballarat convenor Ben Lever echoed Mr Beale's comments on the importance of a mobile connection to encourage commuters.
"One of the advantages of taking the train instead of driving is that you can be more productive - getting some work or study done while you travel," he said.
"But without a reliable mobile connection, it's hard to make full use of that time."
Punctuality up but question still remains
WE know there is a $500 million plus upgrade going on which is promised to see a new and improved Ballarat train line, but right now, commuters are definitely feeling the train pain.
Updated performance figures for the month of February released on Friday show that once again the Ballarat line has fallen below the punctuality threshold of 92 per cent.
The figures show for the month of February, Ballarat trains ran at 86.5 per cent punctuality and 96.1 reliability. The numbers have come out one day after V/Line admitted a number of animal strikes around the state - 107 to be exact, 84 of which forced trains off the track - had caused issues throughout the past month.
But it's a well worn line of delays with issues ranging signal faults, train faults, staff sicknesses, staff training, line upgrades and the occasional tragic incident all adding the pain felt by commuters.
The animal strikes have meant that numerous peak hour services - often the 4.54pm from Southern Cross to Wendouree - have run with just three carriages, rather than the expected six.
Even though that particular train does not traditionally run at full capacity, individual capacity figures from January shows the train does run at 80 per cent full.
Across the state, V/Line recorded 85.9 per cent punctuality during February with heat also causing delays.
Public Transport Users Association Ballarat convenor Ben Lever said the wide range of excuses reflects the long list of problems with the service. After decades of under-investment, a lot of small problems have been allowed to snowball into big problems," Mr Lever said. "The upgrades to the tracks are fantastic, and will help with some problems - but they're not going to be a cure-all.
"The fleet of trains is too small, and while more have been ordered and are slowly being rolled out, we'll need a lot more to cover both the growth in patronage, and the need to have replacements on hand when carriages are taken out of service at short notice."