The state government claims major construction is finished on the Ballarat line following the $500 million upgrade - but there's still a lot of work to do before trains can use it.
The Courier went on a road trip with independent rail advocate Nick Beale, who said he had seen several locations that were partially unfinished or had yet to be started.
These include level crossings near Ballan, sections of track missing at new passing loops, and connections with platforms at stations.
FROM JANUARY 1: Major works done, new timetable awaited
In December, Regional Rail Revival announced "major construction" was complete, but there was still commissioning work to be done before a new timetable could be released with promised extra services to and from Ballarat - every 20 minutes in peak, and every 40 minutes in off-peak.
However, Mr Beale said it was clear major construction was not finished.
The passing loop at Millbrook, for example, was visibly unfinished - he said there were signal gantries without signals and gaps in the track at both ends.
"At the new Bungaree passing loop, what we're seeing here is the interchange is almost complete, not quite - there's a few metres of rail to go in," he said.
"We also see that while the gantry is up for the (signalling) there's no lights there, so one assumes there's a fair amount of cabling and signalling to be done on this portion."
The state government is working on a fix, but no timeframe was given - there will be further interruptions as commissioning, and driver training and final safety tests, are completed.
Further up the line, outside Ballan, two level crossings have unfinished tracks on either side.
"There's still quite a bit of construction to do, they've got to cut across the road for the second train line, they've got to move the signalling," he said.
"I don't see how that's a massive amount of work compared to the whole project, but that, for me, needs to get done really quickly and I don't see why it should take that long."
The state government acknowledged the level crossings still need to be completed during the commissioning disruption.
At Bacchus Marsh station, which, like Ballan and Wendouree, was upgraded with a second platform and extra car parking, one can see the end of the second track stopping about 200 metres from the station.
"The station is in pristine condition, it's nicely done - the parking's finished, and all of the parking's taken, it's clearly very busy," Mr Beale said.
"As you come into the actual platform, on the Ballarat side of Bacchus Marsh station, there's a line that stops dead in its tracks - it needs to be extended, then we can have the two platforms going."
It's understood the track duplication there can only be completed at the same time as the commissioning.
Trains will continue to use platform 1 at Wendouree, Ballan and Bacchus Marsh until after the commissioning period. There will be no access to the second platforms until then.
The fact construction was so close to being finished was the frustrating part for Mr Beale, as the extra work would delay the new timetable.
"What makes me particularly annoyed is that we were promised it would be going, it is going on the bit from Melton into the city, and it's always the city getting the preference, but I'm annoyed the V/Line regional towns and cities are being left out of the speed of getting it done," he said.
"That's what angers me - I, as a rail advocate, would appeal very strongly to the minister and premier to please just give an order out to get it finished.
"We have heard that the new timetable for Ballarat V/Line is going to come out somewhere at the end of July or August, we suspect it may be in the school holidays, which is understandable, but this is seven months after the project has "been completed".
"Ballarat people are crying out for this and it's a great disappointment that we now have to wait."
A Department of Transport spokesperson, in a statement, reiterated major construction "was completed at the end of 2019".
"There's still some work to do before we introduce more services to the line later this year, and we'll keep passengers informed as we commission new station platforms, track, passing loops and signalling - which may cause some disruption along the line," they said.
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