Councils meet to discuss rail needs

Posted Monday 24 July, 04:16pm

High quality rail infrastructure, and faster, more frequent and reliable train services were high on the agenda yesterday, when the Ballarat Rail Advocacy Committee (BRAC) met to discuss the short, medium and long-term future of the Melbourne-Ballarat-Ararat rail line.

Representatives from Brimbank City Council, Melton City Council, Moorabool Shire Council, Ballarat City Council, Pyrenees Shire Council and Ararat Rural City Council make up BRAC, a forum that was established to develop a unified position on the long-term priorities for the rail line.

Mayor of the City of Ballarat, Cr Samantha McIntosh, said that a good rail service was of crucial importance to the communities along the Melbourne-Ballarat-Ararat Rail Corridor, and beyond.

“Communities in the Wimmera and western Victoria need much improved access to Ballarat and Melbourne for a wide range of services,” Cr McIntosh said.

“While the State Government’s announcements in the 2016 and 2017 budgets for half billion dollar upgrades of the Ballarat line were very welcome, much more will still need doing beyond that to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population that’s increasingly reliant on reliable and adequate train services.”

The Ballarat Rail Advocacy Committee reviewed the details and projected benefits of the current Ballarat line upgrade project, which includes significant, long overdue improvements such as duplication of the line between Caroline Springs and Melton, and the addition of crossing loops between Melton and Ballarat.

The Committee also focused on unfulfilled community needs and the critical social and economic drivers for further rail investment.

Members of the BRAC also considered additional works that need to be undertaken urgently, after the completion of the current upgrade project. These include electrification of the line between Sunshine to Melton (and potentially, Bacchus Marsh), plus track quadruplication to separate stopping and express services.

Ararat Rural City Council Mayor, Cr Paul Hooper said the importance and enormity of the Western Rail Upgrade project meant it was essential for neighbouring councils to work closely, making BRAC such a vital partnership.

"Federal and State Government funding to enhance on both passenger and freight networks into our region will help make Ararat a transport hub for Western Victoria," he said.

"This project is will mean more people using the network to get to Ballarat and Melbourne for whatever activity they need to undertake, whether it is business, health, education or recreation purposes and that's great news."

Also of critical importance, will be the need to eliminate several dangerous level crossings, starting with those at Fitzgerald Road, Mount Derrimut Road and Robinsons Road in Deer Park; plus the need for longer trains with more seats to ease overcrowding on peak period services, progressive duplication of the line all the way to Ballarat, more express services, improved feeder bus services and the perennial problem of inadequate commuter car parking at stations.

Moorabool Shire Council Mayor, Cr David Edwards, said working collaboratively towards a common goal was critical for local communities to be heard at a State level.

“Moorabool Shire Council sees great benefit in the BRAC, and looks forward to working with the other Councils to improve journey times and capacity along the Ballarat Line.

“Of course, it’s important, that at least the current levels of service available to residents using the service at Bacchus Marsh and Ballan are maintained throughout the collaboration process."

Mayor of the City of Melton, Cr Sophie Ramsey, said that Melton Council was proud to be working with neighbouring municipalities as an active member of the Ballarat Rail Action Committee.

“As a collective, we are working together to ensure that the State Government gets it right when it comes to improving the infrastructure needs of the residents who commute on the Melbourne-Ballarat-Ararat rail line every day,” the Mayor said.

“This is just the first step for obtaining better integrated, efficient public transport infrastructure for residents of our City, and of course, for the residents of our neighbouring Councils.”

Brimbank Mayor Cr John Hedditch said that Brimbank Council strongly supported improvements to the public transport network but there is an urgent need to minimise the risk of train services significantly increasing congestion at nearby level crossings due to boom gates going down more often.

“Brimbank Council asks the Victorian Government to learn the lessons from the St Albans rail crossings case study. This decades long sad history cannot be repeated.

“The Victorian Government must do everything in its power to prevent unnecessary fatalities by fast tracking grade separations on this already busy line, at three intersections in Deer Park and Sunshine West as part of this project.”

“Improvements and upgrades to the Ballarat rail line will have direct benefits to the Pyrenees community as this will allow faster travel times, more reliability, and the potential for more services connecting Melbourne, Ballarat, and further west to Beaufort,” Cr Clark said.