It's been 324 days, as of Tuesday, since a train crashed through the heritage-style Lydiard Street gates and closed the street.
In that time, there's been an interim safety report which blamed the train's brakes, not the gates; community protests in the street; the reveal of a fresh set of gates ready to go in Maryborough; and a lot of excuses.
The street remains closed.
With the one-year anniversary approaching, and a meeting between City of Ballarat councillors and the Department of Transport on Wednesday, it's time to have a look at what some potential options are - and we're keen to hear what you have to say.
The gates, which swing across the rail line and the road, were first installed in the late 1800s.
Apart from an upgrade to motorise the mechanism, the whole system has stayed the same since - you can have a look under the big yellow signal box and see the greased-up cables and wheels that should be moving whenever a train arrives.
Back in the 1890s, there weren't quite as many trains crossing Lydiard Street - after the Ballarat Line Upgrade was completed earlier this year, there are now more than 50 passenger trains crossing Lydiard Street every day, and there's freight trains and additional stabling in the area too.
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN AFFECTED BY LYDIARD STREET'S CLOSURE? HAVE YOUR SAY BELOW
According to V/Line engineers, the swing-style gates require a completely clear intersection, which is why it takes about two minutes to fully open the gates once the lights and sirens begin.
The gates are technically activated manually, and there's a CCTV camera that an operator uses to ensure the intersection is clear before they swing open or closed.
The engineers also explained the gates can stretch and contract depending on the weather, which requires rebalancing, and need to be fully locked-in before trains can pass, which can also be an issue when it's windy.
But despite these practical issues, Ballarat is rightly proud of its beautiful streetscapes and heritage background, of which the bright white gates are an eye-catching part, and possibly the last ones still in use in Australia.
Community members, as well as council, are strongly opposed to any option other than the reinstallation of the heritage-style gates as they were.
- Open Lydiard Street, install automated boom gates, put replica heritage gates on display (similar to Humffray Street)
- Open Lydiard Street, install temporary automated boom gates until an automated system can be found for heritage swing gates
- Keep Lydiard Street closed until manually operated replica heritage gates are reinstalled (keeping two minute delays)
- Close Lydiard street, keep heritage gates in place permanently
Regardless of how it happens, residents want Lydiard Street reopened.
One option is to install modern automated boomgates across the intersection.
The heritage-style gates could be installed as decoration nearby, as similar gates have been installed at the Humffray Street intersection, but would not be operational.
This would bring the intersection in line with all other level crossings, but would come at the cost of Lydiard Street's heritage feel.
Automating the crossing could also improve safety and reliability.
Another option is to continue thinking through how to bring back the heritage-style gates, but in the meantime, use temporary boomgates or a similar solution so the trains could continue operating safely.
This would require a commitment that the temporary solution is just temporary and the heritage-style gates would return as they were.
A third solution - and one Ballarat finds itself in presently - is waiting for a full solution to the reinstallation of the gates.
This would ensure the gates would return as they were prior to the accident, but it could mean a longer wait.
The engineers say it's not as simple as just popping them back in - the mechanisms have been damaged and there are layers of signalling, stretching back decades, to sort through.
A final idea, one suggested by some community members through letters, is to keep Lydiard Street closed - this would be the safest solution, and the heritage-style gates could be put back.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has issued its interim report on the accident, but a final report is expected in the final quarter of 2021 - still some months away.
V/Line's focus is on safety, and has repeatedly stated its number one priority is ensuring the safest solution is found.
A heritage assessment may need to be completed, given the Ballarat Station's significance - a consultant will need to be engaged to work on this.
Whichever solution is decided on, there will be a period of interruption to install it - which is something Ballarat's used to, after the $500m upgrade was completed.
Council has repeatedly pushed for more transparency on how things are progressing, and that's where the meeting on Wednesday will be crucial.
IN THE NEWS
There's also a lot more work happening at the station - since the new car park and hotel was completed, work has continued on the new Goods Shed retail precinct and bus interchange to the north-east platform.
There's also planning work being done for the southern side of the station to Mair Street, and the station will also require far-improved disability access.
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