Problem to be addressed
The Ballarat Line is an important regional public transport link for Melbourne’s outer west. Annual boardings increased from 3.4 million in 2014–15 to 4.3 million in 2016–17. The rail line provides access between the Melbourne CBD and growing population centres, such as Bacchus Marsh, Melton and Ballarat. Demand on the Melton–Bacchus Marsh section of the Ballarat Line exceeds capacity at peak times, causing passenger crowding and affecting service punctuality and reliability.
The population of the Melton local government area, which sits along the Ballarat Line corridor, is expected to grow at 4% per annum between 2011 and 2031 – the highest average annual growth rate in Greater Melbourne.
The 2015 Australian Infrastructure Audit projected that demand on the Melton– Sunshine section of the Ballarat Line would grow to around three times the current capacity by 2031. This project does not directly address capacity constraints along the line from Melton to Sunshine, which are identified in the Melton Rail Line upgrade Priority Initiative.
The project would upgrade the Ballarat Line between Wendouree and Deer Park, including track duplication, construction of new rail track and passing loops, enhanced stabling facilities, and station upgrades.
A new station will also be constructed at Toolern under a separate funding arrangement by the Victorian Government using Growth Areas Infrastructure Contributions. This work was not part of the business case submitted to Infrastructure Australia for the Ballarat Line Upgrade.
Economic, social and environmental value
The Ballarat Line Upgrade project responds to growth in demand on the rail line and will improve reliability. The works would allow an increase in service frequency, and provide 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.
The proponent’s stated benefit-cost ratio is 1.1, with a net present value of $60 million (7% real discount rate).
Capital cost of initiative as stated by proponent (2018 business case) $517 million (P90, nominal, undiscounted) | Australian Government contribution $467 million | State government contribution $50 million | Private sector contribution N/A