A proposal to deliver additional train services connecting Melbourne's growing outer west to the CBD has been approved by Infrastructure Australia, the nation's independent infrastructure advisor.
The Ballarat Rail Line Upgrade is now listed as a Priority Project on the Infrastructure Priority List, the authoritative list of nationally significant investments Australia needs over the next 15 years.
An important regional public transport link for Melbourne's outer west, the Ballarat Line provides access between the Melbourne CBD and growing population centres such as Melton, Bacchus Marsh and Ballarat.
Infrastructure Australia Acting Chief Executive Anna Chau, said the proposed upgrade project aims to increase capacity on the line by duplicating tracks, adding passing loops and upgrading stations.
“Strong population growth in Melbourne's outer west is driving increased demand for public transport, with the Ballarat Line already at capacity during peak times, causing passenger crowding and affecting the reliability of services,” said Ms Chau.
“Melton, Moorabool and Ballarat have experienced strong population growth over the past 5 years, and this has driven demand for peak hour services from these areas to the CBD.
“V/Line reported that the number of rail trips on the Ballarat Line grew from approximately 1.5 million in 2005/06 to 3.4 million in 2014/15—an annual growth rate of 9.5%.
“Rail services between Ballarat and Melbourne are reaching capacity in the morning and afternoon peak periods, with no spare seats on most trains.
“The constrained track configuration on this line makes it difficult to run services to schedule or provide more services, while punctuality on the Ballarat Line has fallen from pre-2015 levels of near 95% to around 85% in 2018.
“As Melbourne's population continues to grow, links to outer urban areas and satellite cities like Ballarat will be increasingly critical.
“Infrastructure Australia is confident that the proposed upgrade would allow additional services to run on the Ballarat Line, providing passengers with more reliable and less crowded trips. It would also reduce congestion on the road network by encouraging some travellers to use public transport instead of driving,” Ms Chau said.
Infrastructure Australia also has concluded its independent evaluation of the Waurn Ponds Duplication: Stage 2 following a rigorous assessment process.
Waurn Ponds Duplication: Stage 2 has not been added to the Infrastructure Priority List at this time as the proponent's business case, as currently presented with a benefit-cost ratio of just 0.6, shows the costs of the proposed project will substantially outweigh its benefits.
“Infrastructure Australia recognises the importance of regional rail transport for the Greater Geelong region and would welcome a revised business case for a more cost-effective solution to the problems and opportunities identified,” Ms Chau said.