Reprieve for Ballarat's long-suffering rail commuters may come with December's completion of the $518-million upgrade but not without at least three more weeks of pain.
Commissioning of works on the Ballarat train line will mean a three-week shutdown in November for commuters, but the timing of the closure could prove problematic in Ballarat.
The Ballarat line will be closed inclusive of Saturday November 9 to Sunday December 1 for "staged commissioning" of the line, with passengers ferried onto buses.
While the closure will affect daily commuters to - and from - Melbourne, it will also hamper major spring events including the Ballarat Show, Ballarat Cup, SpringFest and VCE exam periods.
V/Line punctuality figures have only reached their monthly performance quota once in the past three years, with this likely to change on the new line.
The commissioning of works will test signalling and trains prior to it opening.
A commuter, who did not want to be named, said the shutdown would be at the worst time for students finishing Year 12.
"I took the recent six-hour commute each day in my stride. I'm pleased for the long term infrastructure gains," the commuter said.
"But it does take its toll particularly as trains didn't connect to buses and there were at times a 30 minute wait at Melton, although fortunately it didn't rain.
"To find out the trains are going out again for a week in October and the three weeks in November is horrifying. Three weeks is just too much at the critical time of end of school."
The commuter said it would preferable if an option existed for partial train travel as traffic arriving into and out of Melbourne often caused the worst of the delays.
"I am a separated parent with a son in VCE and need to get home and cook dinner and be that calm support. There are only so many days you can work from home," she said.
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Federal Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Minister Michael McCormack said after works are complete, there will be a staged commissioning phase, including "critical safety testing and driver training, prior to new services being introduced in 2020".
Ballarat rail advocate Nick Beale expressed his sympathy for commuters affected by the disruptions, but added it was an "important stepping stone" to full duplication of the line.
"It's not ideal, that's the truth, but it is a long-term project which is absolutely very beneficial for us," he said.
"From all accounts, it is on time which is fantastic and quite unusual, so we can be thankful for it."
There will be another period of disruption in early to mid-2020 to complete commissioning.
Regional Rail Revival director Mark Havryluk said it was a "critical point in construction".
"Once this period of work is complete people will really start to see the benefits, with more accessible stations and improved parking," he said.
Victorian senator Sarah Henderson promised the completed upgrade would deliver travel time savings.
"This half-a-billion investment in the Ballarat line will bring more frequent and reliable services, transforming the state's second busiest regional train line," Ms Henderson said.
"It will provide much-needed extra services in the morning and afternoon peak periods, plus a train every 40 minutes off-peak for growing communities along the line."
Meanwhile, passengers will also be bused from Melton to Melbourne from Saturday October 19 to Thursday October 24 due to maintenance work of regional platforms 4, 5 and 6 at Southern Cross Station.
Replacement coaches will also run between Bacchus Marsh and Melbourne.
During this period Ballarat line upgrade works will be completed at the Hopkins Road level crossing at Rockbank.
For more information about the Ballarat Line Upgrade and other major projects across Victoria, visit bigbuild.vic.gov.au
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