Published 21 September 2017, The Courier, Ballarat
A priority that is central to Committee for Ballarat’s strategic plan is public transport. It has set a challenging but achievable task of having a first-class public transport system delivered to the Ballarat community and the communities of western Victoria. Our role is to stimulate debate, envision innovative solutions and advocate for essential long-term planning and commitment from all levels of government, and that is exactly what we are doing with this campaign. It is a campaign clearly aimed at articulating our long-term strategy and hearing the voice of our communities.
Connectivity is critical to unlocking our potential. Investment into a fast, more frequent and more reliable rail service is essential to enable and lead regional growth. Rail provides a powerful and effective tool for redirecting growth to regional cities. A much-improved regional rail network can reduce pressure on Melbourne’s outward growth, provide access to affordable housing and high-quality jobs, and help distribute economic and social benefits across the state.
The delivery of a 59-minute express service both for the morning and afternoon commute is critical to ensure people can enjoy our enviable lifestyle despite having the need to travel to Melbourne for work. Such a service would enable commuters to have a fast and reliable trip that doesn’t take too much time out of their day for travelling. It would also provide practical opportunities for students from the western growth corridors of Melbourne to travel to Ballarat to attend educational institutions here as well for students from our region having access to the educational opportunities of Melbourne.
The Stage 1 $518 million investment from the state government into the Ballarat rail line represents an important development towards achieving connectivity to Melbourne and the western region of Victoria. We know that the increasing popularity of public transport, resulting from ongoing investment in infrastructure and services confirms that Ballarat and the region will use a quality public transport system. Despite perceptions of unsatisfactory service reliability amongst V/Line users, patronage has more than doubled in 10 years.
Rail demand will continue to grow; however, significant logistical matters will limit the ability to provide any additional services – for example, we simply cannot get any more additional services into the Southern Cross Station bottleneck until the construction of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel has been completed.
We need to be better connected to Melbourne and to the region. This will transform how people and businesses regard Ballarat as a desirable place to live and work. Committee for Ballarat has outlined a realistic plan to deliver the ultimate goal of full duplication of the line to Melbourne, electrification of the line to Melton, additional rolling stock and the creation of an airport Link at Sunshine.
Ballarat needs a long-term plan and a commitment from the state government; if we don’t have a plan, effective connectivity to Melbourne will continue to only be a dream.
Ballarat – Get on Board!
CEO, Committee for Ballarat