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More reliable and on-time trains to Ballarat could be on their way, with $100 million to be allocated in the Victorian state budget for more planning works.
The next stage of the Western Rail Plan, which will eventually separate regional and metropolitan services, has been funded - technical work has already begun to electrify the line all the way to Melton.
By separating the lines, V/Line trains will no longer be stuck behind Metro trains, or be subject to delays caused by system failures on that line.
It will also allow faster trains to run in the future.
Public transport advocates have been calling for the electrification of the line to Melton for years to improve services.
The Committee for Ballarat's chair, Nick Beale, said the announcement was exciting.
"This has been on my mind for a long time," he said.
"Committee for Ballarat and its members are delighted to hear the news of this planning investment - it is in line with the committee's stated aim of duplicating the line between Ballarat and Southern Cross.
"We know that the first part of this is to electrify to Melton, and to quadruplicate to Melton and separate the lines.
"We congratulate the state government on this move, and we look forward to further announcements in following budgets for the implementation of the actual work."
Once the work is complete, it will result in a noticeably faster trip, he added - last month, 82.9 per cent of Ballarat trains were on-time.
"This will mean the stations that the Ballarat line will stop at will be Ballan, Bacchus Marsh, Melton, Footscray, and Southern Cross," Mr Beale said
"It will speed up the overall journey quite considerably, as we don't have to stop and start at all the stations - this is a fabulous development."
The Public Transport User Association's Ballarat branch convenor Ben Lever said the money was crucial.
"At the moment, we've got the Ballarat trains working as a suburban service - it's not doing what it's designed for," he said.
"To my mind, this is the highest priority on the Ballarat line at the moment - it'll do a lot to reduce the overcrowding we're experiencing at the moment."
In theory, the work will link directly into the Metro Rail Tunnel project, he added, which is scheduled to be finished in 2025.
"It's understandable it won't be finished overnight, but hopefully they can get construction underway so they can finish at roughly the same time," he said.
The money will also go towards planning for electrification to Wyndham Vale on the Geelong line, with a potential connection to Werribee.
Further into the future, the Western Rail Plan will also address increasing capacity to Sunshine, to cater for the Airport Rail Link and suburban rail loop projects.
A proposal for "fast" trains to Ballarat and Geelong, in excess of the current 160kmh limit, and full electrification of the lines are also mentioned in the plan, with a reference group in Geelong already formed.
The plans follow the Regional Rail Revival upgrades, which have already seen new passing loops built at Bungaree and Millbrook, and a new station under construction at Ballan.
Wendouree station will also be redeveloped, with a second platform and pedestrian overpass planned, as well as additional commuter parking.
State Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said the result would slash congestion, boost services, and create thousands of jobs.
"The Western Rail Plan is one of the vital projects our growing city and state needs - electrifying the rail lines to the west to run more services to our booming suburbs and a step towards fast rail to Geelong and Ballarat," she said.
This article first appeared on www.thecourier.com.au
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