Commuters want green light for more Ballarat trains

Improved Ballarat to Melbourne train services are not keeping pace with population growth, commuters tell Emily Carli.

Victoria’s Regional Rail Link (RRL) project has not done enough to combat the problems experienced by commuters in rural areas, says regular V/Line commuter and student, Hannah Lambeth.

The $250 million investment aimed at improving the regional train network has not catered for all its commuters, says Lambeth. “In fact, it has become worse for Ballarat.”

The Public Transport Victoria website states the new RRL project has ‘”provided capacity for additional regional services during each morning and evening peak period, allowing more Victorians to use public transport”.

Lambeth says, “Not enough is being done. Development needs to be effective immediately. The commuter environment is growing at a pace the infrastructure development can’t keep up with.

“If you’re lucky enough to get a seat, that’s a start. By the time we reach the first stop in Ballan there’s already about 10 people standing,” says Lambeth.

“Then, by the time we reach Southern Cross station it seems there are more standing than sitting.”

Commuter and businessman Mathew Wilson rarely uses public transport any more because of the “overcrowding, not to mention the delays. “Although I now have to drive two hours in peak traffic,” Wilson says, “at least I’m guaranteed a seat for the two hour ride.”

PTV’s website also says that the Regional Rail Project will provide regional commuters with more reliable train times.

Lambeth disagrees, “Ballarat has not seen the changes of the RRL, trains are still delayed, and carriages are overcrowded. You don’t see the results here in Ballarat.”

Committee for Ballarat chairman Judy Verlin told The Ballarat Courier, “the better the service gets, the more people we get using it so we are not seeing a massive improvement.

“Unfortunately for Ballarat, it only results in a small improvement,” she said.

Wendouree MP Sharon Night told The Ballarat Courier she spoke to State Transport Minister Jacinta Allen about the commuter problems.

There was a desperate need for “more carriages immediately”, Night said. “Ballarat needs to be a priority for further carriages.”

Lambeth said, “We really have no option but to wait. The cost of living in Melbourne is too high for some of us so we are stuck with unreliable trains.

“The solution we need is better infrastructure for those who have to live rurally to reach their day jobs and universities.”

Wilson agreed: “It shouldn’t be this hard. Trains need to be more frequent and we need more of them. It really should be that simple.

“Hopefully with the new Prime Minister (Malcolm Turnbull) in place there might be hope for improvement,” he said.