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The Regional Rail Revival study found that minor upgrades to the existing line between Geelong and Ballarat could provide for a passenger rail service operating speed of 130km/h on most of the line. These relatively low cost works would have a much more reasonable benefit-cost ratio than the entire Bendigo-
Geelong project. The cost of this and other works through the Geelong Freight yards would come to $250- 320M (2012).
While the benefit cost ratio of the whole project was found to be low, the cost of the Ballarat to Geelong upgrade is only 30% of the overall cost, and it would generate 70% of the project benefits. The benefit cost ratio of the Ballarat-Geelong section is therefore much more favourable than the whole project.
Connectivity between Ballarat and Geelong has been recognised by the State Government as an important factor that supports or undermines the future economic potential of both cities and their regions. It is therefore a critical weakness that public transport services between the two cities consists of four services per weekday in each direction (49 services per week) compared with 8 services per weekday in each direction to Ararat (111 per week). For reference Geelong has 20 times the population of Ararat but only half the service levels to Ballarat.
The rail connection between Ballarat and Geelong is also important for key Victorian strategies including the Education State. Ballarat has two universities and Geelong has a large presence of Deakin University.
There are many regional students who grow up in one of those cities and enrol in tertiary education in the other.
The connection to Geelong provides one coach in each direction that meets the needs of a traditional working day in Geelong, but does not provide any services timed to the needs of a traditional working day in Ballarat. Patronage estimates show that an increased level of services would be used by the public. Modelling of train patronage in the Ballarat-Geelong corridor shows that from day one, trains would attract a very similar level of patronage per train to the services on the Traralgon corridor (around 180 passengers per train).
Trains from Ballarat to Geelong can also continue to Melbourne. For many decades, Ballarat to Melbourne trains routinely used the Geelong track to provide counter peak services and improve reliability of peak direction trains on the Ballarat Melbourne track via Bacchus Marsh. Due to the operating speeds possible
on each track, the trip via Geelong was not much longer than other services in the timetable.
The lack of this option in the current timetable directly impacts on people wishing to travel back to Melbourne from Ballarat between 4 and 6pm on any weekday. There are no trains during that time, and the only alternative is a road coach departing at 5:15pm. This road coach arrives into Melbourne at 7:15pm, taking more time than the train would need to travel from Ballarat to Melbourne via Geelong.
In summary, utilising the existing railway track between Ballarat and Geelong could cater for high speed services that attract a significant number of people and provide greater flexibility and reliability on the main Ballarat-Melbourne corridor. Such services would have a positive impact on the economies of both
cities and their regions and reinforce State government efforts to create a State of several significant cities. It would also improve safety on the rural roads linking the cities.
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