The Public Transport Users Association has today welcomed the government’s announcement of the details of a $130m project to untangle freight and passenger services in Ballarat.
The project will largely separate freight and passenger trains west of Ballarat station, and upgrade the signalling system in the Ballarat area, to allow for more efficient movement of trains of all kinds.
PTUA Ballarat Branch Convener Ben Lever said it was important work that would complement other investments in freight and passenger rail.
“There are two big rail projects going on around Ballarat at the moment – the Ballarat Line Upgrade project for passenger trains, and the Murray Basin Rail Project for freight trains. These two projects intersect within urban Ballarat, so today’s announcement will help make sure there aren’t too many conflicts between freight and passenger movements.”
“It’s really essential that our passenger services can have a clear run so they’re not delayed by freight trains – but it’s also really important that freight doesn’t get overlooked. We need a strong rail freight industry that is competitive with the road freight industry, if we want to reduce the number of trucks on our roads, and get the safety and air quality benefits that come with it. This kind of infrastructure investment is a great step in the right direction.”
Mr Lever said the project will help allow for extra services to Ararat and Maryborough, and potentially for extension of trains to Dunolly.
“For the train to really be useful to people, it needs to run quite frequently. The Maryborough line in particular has always suffered from a lack of services, so we are definitely keen to see trains running more frequently on this line.”
Mr Lever also noted that the project may have benefits for the eventual return of direct passenger trains between Ballarat and Geelong.
“Although this seems to be flying under the radar of both the government and the opposition at the moment, in the medium term we will also need to see the return of direct passenger trains between Ballarat and Geelong, to connect Victoria’s second- and third-biggest cities to each other without the need for a lengthy diversion to Melbourne. This service would travel along the existing freight line that is part of the Murray Basin Rail Project, so any investment that helps sort out the path through urban Ballarat gets us one step closer to making it a reality.”