For the residents of Ballarat and the region more broadly, there is apparently an end in sight for the 'long-suffering rail commuters'.
We are advised that the works associated with the $518 million upgrade to the Ballarat line, should be complete by December 2019.
These works will make a difference to the reliability of the line and provide some relief to those who choose the train over the car to Melbourne and the investment will realise some gains.
More must be done though. If we are to truly realise the benefits of intercity connectivity between Melbourne and Ballarat.
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Truly fast, reliable and frequent services from and to Ballarat and all other regional Victorian cities, is dependant on one key piece of infrastructure.
It's all about a Tunnel from Southern Cross station to Sunshine.
Both the State and Federal governments committed to the Melbourne Airport Rail Link (MARL) at the recent elections.
The commitments included Sunshine as a Hub and a Tunnel between Southern Cross and Sunshine as the best possible way to deliver a world-class MARL.
Building the MARL included provision for regional rail from Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Shepparton, with Sunshine being the regional interchange.
The Tunnel is the only way to achieve fast rail through the most heavily congested corridor in Inner Melbourne.
Without a tunnel, fast, reliable and frequent services to and from the CBD to the airport cannot be achieved and without a tunnel, fast, reliable and frequent services for regional cities to and from Melbourne, cannot be achieved.
The urgency of this story is now, is that when the state government builds MARL, they must do so with a Tunnel, and the capacity to cater for Fast Regional Rail.
This can only be achieved with provision for designated regional rail lines and this is only possible underground because there is no more space above.
State government have recently indicated they are reviewing the MARL and specifically the tunnel.
Tunnels are expensive and we expect our governments to invest taxpayers money wisely.
That said, Melbourne and Victoria's spend on per-capita Rail Infrastructure is lagging 8-10 years behind population growth - anyone who travels on the metro or regional rail network will tell you this.
Despite the massive investment in recent years, it has not kept up with the even more massive increase in demand.
So what's the answer? There are many pieces to the complex issue of population growth and intercity travel. A Tunnel between Southern Cross and Sunshine, that has capacity for designated regional rail, is the key that enables so much more to happen.
If the state government looks to the cheaper alternative above ground, we will have lost a once in lifetime opportunity to open up regional Victoria.
If we enable the opportunity, we take significant population pressure off Melbourne and we lead the way for Sydney and Brisbane to follow, given they face the same pressures.
The opportunity a Tunnel presents could realise 40min train travel to and from Ballarat and Melbourne; 30min train travel to and from Geelong and Melbourne and the choice of train over car has just become a whole lot more appealing.
The Tunnel will allow the de-coupling (to use a railway term), of the Metro system from the V/Line system.
We are all aware of the massive population growth between Caroline Springs and Melton, so part of the answer is the full integration of Melton along with the new stations that are currently being built, into the Metro system via electrification and duplication of track.
De-coupling the Metro and V/Line services means regional trains will run express through Metro stations, on designated lines at speed.
Imagine this: We leave Ballarat to Melbourne, stop at Ballan, then Sunshine, then at speed to Southern Cross, all at speed. This is how we can realistically achieve fast, reliable and frequent services to and from Ballarat.
Imagine the possibilities for Ballarat as a vibrant and thriving community, with approx. 40 min travel to and from Melbourne.
It's a prospect so much more appealing that living on the outer fringe of Melbourne, battling urban sprawl, with congested roads and hours spent driving.
Ballarat has its own heart and soul. We are proud of our heritage and forward looking. We must achieve excellence in planning for our town and the region. Excellence will have Fast Regional Rail as a central part of our growth and livability strategy.
Excellence must start with a Tunnel between Southern Cross and Sunshine stations.
Michael Poulton - CEO, Committee for Ballarat