Councils on track with push to return passenger rail services west of Ararat

 

News article: Councils on track with push to return passenger rail services west of Ararat

[b]A group of western Victorian councils say they will look at a feasibility study to determine the viability of returning passenger rail services west of Ararat.

  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
A group of western Victorian councils say they will look at a feasibility study to determine the viability of returning passenger rail services west of Ararat.

The Wimmera and south-west councils met representatives of the State Government and Public Transport Victoria in Ararat last week to discuss the idea.

The Horsham council's chief executive, Peter Brown, say the region is being disadvantaged by a lack of services.

He says it is an important project for the region which would have significant economic, employment and social benefits.
Councils on track with push to return passenger rail services west of Ararat


View the full story

Not before time either...

With a significant population west of Ararat and the potential for further growth once people know there's a daily rail service without the need to catch a bus to Ararat, this can only be a win-win.

Will be interesting to see how the government and Minister Delahunty deal with the local Councils in very safe Government electorates.

Mike.

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  ZH836301 Chief Commissioner

Location: BleakCity
Not a chance in hell. Pigs Fly. Etc.

Fast he says? Well to beat the bus from Horsham to Ararat it would need to take less than 77 minutes up, 73 down.

Now the Overland takes 93 minutes up, 75 minutes down - so what he wants is slower services.

Maybe he should waste his time asking for something useful and possible, like more coaches to Ararat.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Is the speed of the train between Ballarat and Ararat that much of an issue? When installing the Railcam at Stawell the road between Ararat and Ballarat was quite slow as there are a lot of roadworks. I think rail is a more pleasant experience between large towns in Australia.

I am just not sure the time difference would put people off.

Mike, I wonder what change this proposal has of getting up over the Mildura passenger service return?  I notice there is a pro-rail independent running for the seat of Mildura.

Regards
Brian
  ZH836301 Chief Commissioner

Location: BleakCity
The time issue is relevant since the Horsham gang are claiming faster journey times (ie. lying) to push their barrow.

With orphaned stock required, this is even less likely than Mildura... and that's saying something.
  Nightfire Minister for Railways

Location: Gippsland
How many times has this been debated ?

Ararat to Horsham via the Western Highway 96 km's

Ararat to Horsham via the ARTC line 116 km's

Add slow running between Ararat and Stawell due to the Pyrenees Ranges.

Add delays at crossing loops Pyrenees, Deep Lead, Lubeck and Murtoa.

Passengers still have to change at Ararat.

Add the high fixed cost of having a passenger train Isolated In Western Victoria (these types of passenger operations were phased out In the 70's)

Regional passenger services these days are provided as political candy to woo swinging voters In marginal seats.  

The bottom line Is a Road Coach service on the National Highway provides a quicker, more flexible and cheaper service to the State and traveling public.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Not a chance in hell. Pigs Fly. Etc.

Fast he says? Well to beat the bus from Horsham to Ararat it would need to take less than 77 minutes up, 73 down.

Now the Overland takes 93 minutes up, 75 minutes down - so what he wants is slower services.

Maybe he should waste his time asking for something useful and possible, like more coaches to Ararat.
ZH836301

Everybody knows the train is a far more comfortable and safer alternative to catching the bus, even the bus-fans who post in these pages can't put up a valid argument against rail...

The Overdue is scheduled to take as long as it does because it has possible counter freight traffic to cross. Obviously the reintroduction of passenger rail services along the corridor would allow for freight operations with minimal disruptions to both sectors.

Mark Bau's website provides the below times for 1975 which are comparable with the current bus.

http://www.victorianrailways.net/timetables/tt1967/tt1975/pubtt1975.pdf

It's a given the rail service was accelerated significantly when the 'new deal' arrived and the N Class locos came into operation.

Today's V/Line bus timetable is shown below for comparison.

http://www.vline.com.au/pdf/timetables/nhill.pdf/nhill

Mike.

PS, AGAIN...I emphasise, these are NOT marginal electorates (Lowan & Western Victoria) and haven't voted Labor since the mid 1950's Exclamation
  don_dunstan Dr Beeching

Location: Adelaide proud
...

Will be interesting to see how the government and Minister Delahunty deal with the local Councils in very safe Government electorates.

Mike.
The Vinelander

Not this again.

I have to agree with ZH on this that there's not an ice-cube's chance in hell of it ever happening.  Ever.

Hugh Delehunty has been very open and honest with his electorate from the very start about this, in that he's constantly re-iterated that the service was closed because it wasn't viable... and it's still not viable.  There was an article in the Wimmera Mail-Times last year about the re-introduction of the rail service and local MP Delehunty was on record (yet again) telling the people of the Wimmera 'it ain't gunna happen'.  I take my hat off to an MP who is actually keeps telling his electorate the truth about an issue instead of padding it out with 'I'll take the issue to the Premier' or 'We'll see what happens'.

We can tick off a long list of reasons for it to not happen:

1. Horsham and surrounding districts are in population decline.  This could be a reason in itself to reintroduce the rail service but there's probably areas of the state with a more pressing tourism or patronage argument for the return of rail than the Wimmera.

2. It's a different gauge to the rest of the system as others have already mentioned so there's issues with orphan rolling-stock and an inability to go through to Ballarat without changing trains (where many of the Wimmera's residents want to go).

3. Stawell/Horsham districts very inconsistent and ambivalent about the return of a rail service; there's a vocal minority making noise about in the local paper but it was the only rail service cancelled by Kennett that didn't protest the removal of the service.

4. The replacement bus service works quite well, is reasonably fast over a good road and offers more choices for travel than the train did.

5. Very safe National Party territory - Hugh Delehunty knows that reintroduction of the train service isn't something locals care about very much and it's not a vote-winner in what is already one of the safest seats in the state.  There's no political points to be scored by bringing the train back.  That reason alone would be enough to kill the idea - let alone the other items on the list.

Horsham has the advantage over a proposed Mildura revitalisation that the tracks and infrastructure are still there and in excellent condtion because it's an ARTC line - but given the state budget limitations there's just no way that a new rail service to Horsham will get off the ground.
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
You state don a vline passenger service for the western districts is unviable. I accept that is your viewpoint but could you please outline the criteria as to why it is unviable ?

You mention the tracks and infrastructure is in good condition and I believe it would be.

How will rolling stock be orphaned anymore than is on say my service at Albury?

People change trains and buses everyday. Why would this pose a problem ?

I like mike am yet to understand why a number of sprinter services could not be accommodated.

Finally you assert there is no politican capital to be gained from a new passenger service and you also assert it is a safe seat. Why does it have to involve politics every time. Why can't a service be added without the need for political point scoring ?
  don_dunstan Dr Beeching

Location: Adelaide proud
You state don a vline passenger service for the western districts is unviable. I accept that is your viewpoint but could you please outline the criteria as to why it is unviable ?

You mention the tracks and infrastructure is in good condition and I believe it would be.

How will rolling stock be orphaned anymore than is on say my service at Albury?

People change trains and buses everyday. Why would this pose a problem ?

I like mike am yet to understand why a number of sprinter services could not be accommodated.

Finally you assert there is no politican capital to be gained from a new passenger service and you also assert it is a safe seat. Why does it have to involve politics every time. Why can't a service be added without the need for political point scoring ?
freightgate

It's ALWAYS about politics.

And local MP has consistently said 'no'.  That's pretty much the end of the discussion.

I'm as pro-rail as anyone on this forum but you have to be realistic about what services are wanted/needed and how this fits in with the government's overall agenda of staying in power.

If the local MP is saying 'no' (and his party is in power) then forget about it.
  Nightfire Minister for Railways

Location: Gippsland
Some people have no Idea about today's real world reality, but I guess they are entitled to dream up their "train play time" Ideas !

Just like a year or so ago, someone on here thought V/Line passenger was making a profit, and went out dreamed up all these high cost passenger expansion plans for V/Line's network.

Everything about public service's comes down keeping $$$"s under control.
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
I am not advocating for the service I am simply analysing the rationale for any decision.

I note don you have not addressed my questions.
  don_dunstan Dr Beeching

Location: Adelaide proud
Freightgate: Okay, well the simplest way to explain it is that political factors are more than fifty percent of the equation so that being the case the Wimmera has major problems in that:

1/ It's in a very safe seat with no history of swinging to independents suddenly (unlike East Gippsland and Mildura) so unless Hugh Delehunty was in trouble for some reason, like a strong campaign from a local independent, they won't be interested in splashing money suddenly towards the Wimmera.
2/ The local member knows his electorate fairly well and has correctly read the mood that there's no significant interest (or at least a significant campaign) around bringing the service back.

Compare that to the reintroduction of the Maryborough train; I'm not going to get into the arguments pro and con about that one other than to say that when the decision was made to bring it back you had a wafer-thin local Labor member in the electorate back then and it's interesting to note that he retained his seat. Was that a good use of resources? Who knows but it helped keep a ALP sitting member in his seat in the country so maybe Brumby considered it good value for money; it was along the Frankston line where the balance of power was lost anyway.

So all I'm saying is that there would be very little for a Liberal/National government spending money on reinstating a train service to a seat that doesn't apparently require it. V-line services never break even so it'll be a drain on their resources to put the train back. If you were Denis Napthine you would also be listening to the advice of Hugh Delehunty that the community isn't that interested anyway and if their National in Mildura looked to be in trouble over a train-based independent (maybe?) then the money would be better off spent there.

Now it's true that the infrastructure is still mostly there and up to a relatively high standard but at the same time it's a heavily-trafficked ARTC line so there might be issues with pathing the trains if they wanted to reintroduce them now; V-Line does actually run its own standard gauge trains now so at least the Horsham trains would not be a small orphan fleet. There would be all sorts of issues with bringing those station facilities back up to 'modern' standards after 20+ years of disuse - refer to the millions spent on stations along the Maryborough line; not to mention the fact that it can't be run as a contiguous service now because of the break-of-gauge. It's not as easy as simply re-starting the trains, there would have to be big money spent even before they could set a date for resumption.


But in my opinion it's the politics of that situation that's the deal-breaker. If the interest group mentioned in the headline story manages to get a lot of attention or run a strong campaign by an independent (think Cathy McGowan in Indi) then that situation may change.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
Well thought out and well argued Don. Your post (and this thread) is proof that we can discuss policy and politics rationally and intelligently on this forum.

It's a stark contrast to most Melbourne suburban threads where many posts are motivated by "scoring points" for one or the other political party, making objective and intelligent discussion almost impossible.
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
One item in the above discussion that kind of stands out to me
The service would require an "orphaned rolling stock"
Now, whilst there is a SG connection back to Melbourne, the Horsham - Ararat passenger would not normally use it.
The service would mean a railcar operating a shuttle between Horsham and Ararat to connect with the existing service. So lets look at whats needed for this to be maintaned.
First you need a suitable SG railcar, plus a SG replacement when it need to return to Melbourne for servicing and repairs.
You need a VLine crew and a back up stationed in the Wimmera (and hence accomodation).
(How much would one of the other operaters on the SG line (PN, SCT, GWA, QN) charge VLine to secound a crew to be trained and be available to operate as a back up?)
You need fast access to a maintenance crew trained in whatever railcar is used. (you can't 'wait' whilst someone drives from Melbourne or the closest VLine maintenance base)
You need refueling and minor maintenance access.
Plus as an added cost there is the issue of the cost of 'buying a path' and crew costs for the non-revenue return to Melbourne when major servicing/repairs are required.
Whilst there is a route back to "home base" the railcar will still be "Orphaned"
A comparison to the SG Albury service can't be made in this instance as the Albury service travels to "Home Base" as part of it's normal route.

And a second point ..... Of course it's Political.
The government does have to pay for it, and dispite the belief from many residents of this fine country that the gov sits on a bottomless pit of money, (they don't!) and they do have to justify the cost.

And as far as the local member stands, from the moment he is elected, he is looking forward to making sure he gets re-elected at the next poll (no matter how 'safe' his seat)
{We all understand that that means "Vote Buying Tactics"}
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
Pacific national crews already run other passenger services on behalf of passenger operators.  Is it inconceivable pacific national crews could not handle the driving of a passenger train for vline ?

I understand the policitical argument and I don't dispute your position but was hoping the political positioning seen for so long in this state which has such a negative impact on the progression of this state would have stopped.

I was wrong.

Thank you for your responses don and can I conclude by saying this is one of the great features of this site. The ability for all of us to have an intelligent discussion without it descending into finger pointing or a tirade as it once did with the likes of Thomas bent.
  DalyWaters Chief Commissioner

One item in the above discussion that kind of stands out to me
The service would require an "orphaned rolling stock"
Now, whilst there is a SG connection back to Melbourne, the Horsham - Ararat passenger would not normally use it.
The service would mean a railcar operating a shuttle between Horsham and Ararat to connect with the existing service. So lets look at whats needed for this to be maintaned.
First you need a suitable SG railcar, plus a SG replacement when it need to return to Melbourne for servicing and repairs.
You need a VLine crew and a back up stationed in the Wimmera (and hence accomodation)
Pressman

There is local agitation for a service to both Horsham and Hamilton. That would lend itself to a railcar service running between the two centres, interchanging at Ararat with broad gauge services to/from Melbourne. I doubt that Hamilton could put a good enough case though.

I would prefer to see the line between Ararat and Ballarat converted to Standard Gauge and connecting trains run from Ballarat to Horsham. The grand sheltered station at Ballarat is the best place for an interchange. It also fits in with a frequent service to Melbourne from there, allowing people to attend to business in Ballarat between services. Ballarat also has servicing facilities that could cater for Standard Gauge as well as Broad.

In justification for a service to Horsham, you need to consider the population served. Horsham has 15,000+ persons. Stawell has 5,700 and Ararat has 7,000. This gives a total of 27,000+, the bulk of whom live outside the area currently served by rail.

If that is not sufficient to justify a service and the road coach service be deemed to be suffice, I would prefer V/Line and the Government to show an even slant by immediately stopping rail services to Ararat,  Swan Hill (population under 10,000), Maryborough (less than 7,500) and Echuca (under 13,000). Surely, a road coach serving these areas would be more efficient?
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
Pacific national crews already run other passenger services on behalf of passenger operators.  Is it inconceivable pacific national crews could not handle the driving of a passenger train for vline ?
"freightgate"


I'm not disputing that PN drivers already drive GSR's long distance passenger trains, but these are loco hauled. The Horsham - Ararat service would be pushing to require anymore than a single railcar and it was training as a railcar driver that I was refering to.

I understand the policitical argument and I don't dispute your position but was hoping the political positioning seen for so long in this state which has such a negative impact on the progression of this state would have stopped.

I was wrong.

Thank you for your responses don and can I conclude by saying this is one of the great features of this site. The ability for all of us to have an intelligent discussion without it descending into finger pointing or a tirade as it once did with the likes of Thomas bent.
"freightgate"

It's not just the Victorian Pollies, it's nation wide, Federal and State. We need some monumental changes to our political system to make it work a whole lot better, but I am at a total loss as to what we need to do to make our Pollies and Governments to actually work for the general public and the good of the entire nation without keeping one eye on their retirement fund.
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
Great post daly waters. Does the vlocity get serviced at Ararat?

I like The idea of SG to
Ballarat but is it really necessary? Ararat can always handle more passenger services if required.

You also raise a point lost on me. The proposal is a shuttle between Hamilton and Horsham or beyond and that is a large catchment of people.
  Simbera Train Controller

I would prefer to see the line between Ararat and Ballarat converted to Standard Gauge and connecting trains run from Ballarat to Horsham. The grand sheltered station at Ballarat is the best place for an interchange. It also fits in with a frequent service to Melbourne from there, allowing people to attend to business in Ballarat between services. Ballarat also has servicing facilities that could cater for Standard Gauge as well as Broad.
DalyWaters

This is my line of thinking. If and when we get serious about gauge conversion in this state, west of Ballarat (ie Ararat and Maryborough) is an ideal place to start, and at that point, extending to Horsham would become viable.

But for all the reasons stated by Pressman, having an isolated service like that just isn't justified by the number of people that would use it. Yet. I would also add that a decent, fast passenger service would certainly be possible, but you'd need to upgrade the track first. It's certainly in good condition, but it's my understanding that it's not good enough to run a VLo at decent speeds (ie 130 like they do from Ballarat to Ararat) and also would likely need more crossing loops as it would be competing with a considerable amount of freight. It's not as ready-to-go as some councilors think, especially if speed is one of your stated goals.

In any case, even when it becomes technically viable it will still have a big uphill battle to fight because as others have said there simply isn't the political will.

Going to Portland has all the disadvantages of the above and none of the advantages. I'm surprised they were able to keep a straight face when pitching that one.

I can confirm that the train is much faster and more pleasant than a car (not to mention a bus) between Ballarat and Ararat, but it's worth pointing out that the roadworks alluded to by bevans are going to make it quicker and easier in a car once they're complete - it'll be duplicated and mostly 110, so journey times will improve quite a bit (not to mention what'll happen once they bypass Ararat and Beaufort, which is not included in the project but won't be too far off).
  DalyWaters Chief Commissioner

I would also add that a decent, fast passenger service would certainly be possible, but you'd need to upgrade the track first. It's certainly in good condition, but it's my understanding that it's not good enough to run a VLo at decent speeds (ie 130 like they do from Ballarat to Ararat) and also would likely need more crossing loops as it would be competing with a considerable amount of freight. It's not as ready-to-go as some councilors think, especially if speed is one of your stated goals.

Simbera

The track between Ararat and Horsham is better than Ballarat to Ararat.

As for crossing loops, there is sufficient for the number of trains.  The freight trains go in to one of five loops for the passenger to go past. We are talking about one hour and fifteen of sharing a track with the freight. Compare that with the extravagance of having 90 klms of track maintained at 130 klm speed for just a few railcars per day - that I call a scandalous waste of money.  At least having gauge conversion and a longer distance train, the Ballarat - Ararat section is easier to justify.  

Currently freight trains are held up at Pyrenees Loop, just out of Ararat to wait for the V/line Velocity to cross over the track.  It would be no big difference to cross the passenger trains.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
There is local agitation for a service to both Horsham and Hamilton. That would lend itself to a railcar service running between the two centres, interchanging at Ararat with broad gauge services to/from Melbourne. I doubt that Hamilton could put a good enough case though.

I would prefer to see the line between Ararat and Ballarat converted to Standard Gauge and connecting trains run from Ballarat to Horsham. The grand sheltered station at Ballarat is the best place for an interchange. It also fits in with a frequent service to Melbourne from there, allowing people to attend to business in Ballarat between services. Ballarat also has servicing facilities that could cater for Standard Gauge as well as Broad.

In justification for a service to Horsham, you need to consider the population served. Horsham has 15,000+ persons. Stawell has 5,700 and Ararat has 7,000. This gives a total of 27,000+, the bulk of whom live outside the area currently served by rail.

If that is not sufficient to justify a service and the road coach service be deemed to be suffice, I would prefer V/Line and the Government to show an even slant by immediately stopping rail services to Ararat, Swan Hill (population under 10,000), Maryborough (less than 7,500) and Echuca (under 13,000). Surely, a road coach serving these areas would be more efficient?
DalyWaters

I know there was some high level discussion in the former Brumby government Ministry of Transport regards SG from North Shore to Ballarat then converting to Ararat with a view to operating to Horsham and possibly beyond of SG VLocity's.

With the possible return of a Labor government later this year who knows what the thinking will be, however it will probably take the imagination and vision of my former 'contact' who has many runs on the board to progress this as a project who, unfortunately no longer works in the Ministers office.

Mike.
  don_dunstan Dr Beeching

Location: Adelaide proud
Well thought out and well argued Don. Your post (and this thread) is proof that we can discuss policy and politics rationally and intelligently on this forum.

It's a stark contrast to most Melbourne suburban threads where many posts are motivated by "scoring points" for one or the other political party, making objective and intelligent discussion almost impossible.
Bogong

Thanks - but I don't think that people intentionally set out to offend - it's just that for some reason politics always brings out the worst in people and it can get really personal. I tend to avoid overtly political threads now-days for that reason.

Daly Waters and Vinelander's discussion about a standard gauge Geelong/Ballarat/Ararat has merit - if only because it could attract Commonwealth funding becoming part of the interstate network. It could provide multiple redundancies in the western half of the state with longer term potential for Geelong-Ouyen-Tailem Bend and Geelong-Broken Hill: An alternative few hundred km 'passing lane' could really enhance the ARTC western link and the 'Overland' could have another chance to reconnect Ballarat westwards.

Converting most of the western lines to standard gauge would present the best opportunity for longer term growth of the passenger network; it's a shame Bracks didn't press ahead with it as he initially promised 15 years ago. V/Line has their own standard gauge operations now with the N/W conversion; having more standard gauge trains would give the fleet scale/cost advantages.
  Nightfire Minister for Railways

Location: Gippsland
The track between Ararat and Horsham is better than Ballarat to Ararat.
DalyWaters

Is It ?

In what way ?

I would say the both sections were built to mostly the same standards (grade easing has been done In the Stawell area over the past)

Though unlike Ararat - Horsham track, the Ballarat - Ararat has been rationalized down to a single line with no crossing facilities or active yards.  

One major point Is the Ballarat - Ararat track Is direct the same distance as the Highway and has a 130 km/h maximum speed limit, on the other hand the Ararat - Horsham track goes via Murtoa 20km's less direct than the Highway via Dadswells Bridge and has a 115 km/h maximum speed limit.

Put all that together and the Ballarat - Ararat Is a better passenger train track !
  ZH836301 Chief Commissioner

Location: BleakCity
Population size is largely irrelevant, only traffic really matters.

Otherwise Sunbury and Mildura would have the same level of intercity service.
  L1150 Assistant Commissioner

Location: Pakenham Vic.
Is It ?

In what way ?

I would say the both sections were built to mostly the same standards (grade easing has been done In the Stawell area over the past)

Though unlike Ararat - Horsham track, the Ballarat - Ararat has been rationalized down to a single line with no crossing facilities or active yards.

One major point Is the Ballarat - Ararat track Is direct the same distance as the Highway and has a 130 km/h maximum speed limit, on the other hand the Ararat - Horsham track goes via Murtoa 20km's less direct than the Highway via Dadswells Bridge and has a 115 km/h maximum speed limit.

Put all that together and the Ballarat - Ararat Is a better passenger train track !
Nightfire

True. The last time I traveled on the Ballarat - Ararat service, on the return from Ararat, the average speed from Ararat to Wendouree was 117 Kmph including a stop at Beaufort.Very Happy

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