By Kate Taylor
Whether plans for the Ballarat line are on-track or off-the-rails, they have certainly had people talking.
Federal Labor Minister Anthony Albanese met with Committee for Ballarat members in early November to discuss plans to make the journey between Ballarat and Melbourne a 59-minute one, while last week the state government’s announcement of a rail link between Southern Cross station and Tullamarine airport saw confirmation of dedicated V/Line tracks through the Western suburbs.
Ballarat Mayor Samantha McIntosh said the link will be of massive benefit to Ballarat commuters.
“Once completed, the link will also substantially speed up regional train journey times by having dedicated V/Line tracks through Melbourne’s congested western suburbs,” Mayor McIntosh said.
But the battle of the Mayors continues as Moorabool Mayor Paul Tatchell picks up where former Mayor David Edwards left off in terms of combating Cr. McIntosh’s support for Ballarat’s 59-minute rail journey.
Cr Tatchell responded to a City of Ballarat media release, in which Cr. McIntosh referred to Ballarat as the ‘gateway to Western Victoria,’ and said that her council would lobby for state government funding to build a park-and-ride station specifically in Warrenheip.
“If McIntosh is calling Ballarat the ‘gateway to the west’ – must be a bloody long driveway, they are not even in the Peri Urban,” Cr Tatchell said.
“There has been no decision on Wallace, Warrenheip, or anywhere else on the line.
“Pollies are running around making a lot of noise, but not saying much, and the Committee for Ballarat is saying plenty without knowing much”.
The perception is if the Bacchus Marsh line from Southern Cross was electrified, it would put Bacchus Marsh on the metro network – which would not benefit from the V/Line dedicated tracks, and would additionally increase trip times as it would then pick up all of the stations dodged by the direct Ballarat service.
Cr Tatchell and CEO Rob Croxford are working with the Ballarat Rail Action Committee to push for a business case to be funded to support additional upgrade measures along the line, to ensure that Moorabool is not disadvantaged by any of the upgrades.
“We would be looking at things such as the electrification to Melton and potentially Bacchus Marsh; quadruple tracks for V/Line and metro trains, and park and ride options at Warrenheip or Wallace,” Cr Tatchell said.
“At the moment, a submission is being made to the 2018/19 State Budget for a detailed business case on electrification to Melton. This business case will not only look at the possibility of electrification to Bacchus Marsh/Rowsley but implications for the whole line, and the measures needed to cope with growth issues in these areas.
“We don’t want to get caught up in the 59-minute train talk at the moment. What we need is a commitment from the State Government for this business case so the future of the line can be developed appropriately and with the best outcomes for our growing communities.”
Cr Tatchell said the notion of a train line that would bypass or disadvantage either Ballan or Bacchus Marsh is not a reality.
“No Minister, sound mind or otherwise, is going to ignore the fact that more people get on the train at Bacchus Marsh and Ballan than they do in Ballarat.”