Fasttrack Ballarat - A modern commuter rail service

Fasttrack Ballarat - A modern commuter rail service

Published 18 July 2015, The Courier, Ballarat

Whilst the Regional Rail Link was envisaged to be the silver bullet for regional rail there is quite obviously a number of teething problems being experienced particularly by our local Ballarat commuters. As the Premier has acknowledged the frustrations being experienced by fewer carriages, extreme over-crowding, timetable changes and delays is simply not good enough. We all agree!!

However, we must not let these immediate and extremely frustrating issues overshadow the opportunity we have to influence government policy and set our priorities for our regional public transport services, infrastructure and investment over the next 20 years.

We have a unique opportunity to have input into and influence the Regional Network Development Plan currently being developed by the State Government. As Chair of Committee for Ballarat, I have been appointed to the Regional Transport Advisory Group and will be hosting public forums within the Grampians region over the next few days. I encourage you all to get involved and contribute your ideas.

Committee for Ballarat officially launched its FastTrack task team objectives at the Ballarat Railway station in September 2012. In representations made to successive state governments, we have repeatedly advocated for major investment to the Ballarat line. This includes additional rolling stock, more passing loops, a second platform at Bacchus Marsh to improve scheduling, electrification of a separate Melton- Melbourne section, a feasibility study into the duplication of the Ballarat – Melbourne line and reliable mobile connectivity for commuters.

Action is needed now to deliver a more frequent, reliable and faster commuter rail service to cater for the demands of our growing population and Committee's priorities will be fed into the Development Planning process. A masterplan to guide future infrastructure investment is critically important as we strive for ultimate duplication.

And whilst rail is high on the agenda, the second part of the conversation relates to our regional bus service and its connection with the wider region. As Ballarat continues to develop as the major service hub for regional services, an effective and efficient public transport systems is critically important.

The state government, PTV and V-line management are listening to our concerns. Whilst we might be tempted to use this community forum as an opportunity to throw stones, a much more effective use of time will be to have our voices heard and have our priorities embedded into the Regional Development Network Plan. Short-, medium- and long-term planning is required to deliver a regional public transport network where train, coach and bus services work together to get people where they need to go.

Forums in the Grampians region are planned for Ballarat, 20 July, Maryborough 21 July, Ararat 22 July, Horsham 27 July and Hamilton 28 July and refer the ptv website for more details.