Commuter Outrage

While local city commuters celebrate over the announcement of a new V/Line timetable, Ballarat bound travellers are suffering.

The new schedule, which comes into effect on June 21, will see more services added for those heading to and from Melbourne, including an increase of express trains between Melbourne and Bacchus Marsh.

However Bacchus Marsh resident and parent, Bill Mansell said the new V/Line timetable is a disaster for Bacchus Marsh, Melton and Ballan kids who attend school in Ballarat.

“The morning train gets earlier and earlier,” he said.

“The new service gets to Ballarat at 7:41am – that’s an hour before schools open. Some older, but more importantly, some younger kids are in Ballarat an hour before school”.

Mr Mansell said the afternoon train would also come forward, with kids being forced to rush to the 3.52pm train in order to avoid waiting more than an hour for the next service.

“All of this has been done with, apparently no consultation with Bacchus Marsh or Melton school commuter families, or at least none that the people that I have spoken with are aware of,” he said.

“The timetable was released only three weeks in advance of its implantation so the opportunity to discuss more appropriate times is all but impossible”.

Laura Hawken, a Bacchus Marsh resident and year twelve student at Ballarat Federation College, said she was already the first to arrive at school under the current timetable and is often made to wait around for the doors to be unlocked.

“With the new timetable I’ll be in Ballarat an hour and twenty minutes before I need to be there. Not to mention the 20 – 45 other school kids that board the same train either at Bacchus Marsh, Melton or Ballan,” she said.

“Other than the fact that it’s absolutely freezing in Ballarat, it’s also just exhausting. Getting up at 6am just so that you can get to school on time and then waiting around for everyone to actually show up kind of takes it’s toll”.

Public Transport Victoria spokeswoman, Helen Witton said with the regional rail link now complete it was necessary to rewrite the timetable for the Ballarat line focusing on getting people to and from Melbourne for work.

“Given the complex nature of timetabling the Ballarat line, it was necessary to shift the morning and afternoon service earlier,” she said.

“The new timetable provides an additional train to Melbourne in the morning peak from Ballarat and from Melbourne to Ballarat in the afternoon peak. There are also four additional peak trains for Bacchus Marsh Station and on average a 30-minute frequency will run every hour during weekdays”.

“PTV and V/Line receive regular feedback about train timetables and have incorporated this feedback into the final timetable”.

However Glenda Nielson, a concerned Ballan resident and parent said she couldn’t believe the changes that had been made, stating that they would severely compromise start times for workers, students and young people who must be in Ballarat prior to 9am.

“I am baffled by the lack of foresight and the resultant discrimination for all of the residents of Ballan,” she said.

Ms Nielson said her daughter, who is one of four special needs young people who catch the current 7.36am train from Ballan in order to arrive in Ballarat before 9am, was already made to wait 45-minutes at the Ballarat station before she was picked up by a support worker or connecting bus.

“This is the only train that will get her there by 9am. Yes, the new train [which will leave Ballan 18 minutes earlier under the new timetable] will get her there before 9am, but it is an untenable situation to have her sit at the station for over an hour until she can be collected,” she said.

“I acknowledge that there are other options to get to Ballarat; a taxi at a cost of $40, parents or carers to take them, but both are expensive and time consuming”.

Member for Buninyong, Geoff Howard said the timetable changes were focused on getting people to and from Melbourne for work, with regional commuters reaping the benefits.

“New timetables take into account available rolling stock and coordination with Geelong and Bendigo services,” he said.

“The Andrews Labor Government is also undertaking the first Regional Network Development Plan that will set out priorities for regional public transport services, infrastructure and investment over the short, medium and long-term”.

Mr Howard said the community would have the opportunity to have their say in a community consultation to be held over the coming months.

“This consultation will form a critical part of the development of the Regional Network Development Plan – that will inform future timetabling and priorities for the regional rail network,” he said.

“Labor’s investment in new rolling stock, infrastructure and forward planning will further bridge the gap between our cities and the regions by delivering new trains, more capacity and better rail services for local commuters.”

The new V/Line timetable, which comes into effect on June 21, can be viewed at http://www.vline.com.au/pdf/timetables/ballarat1.pdf

First appeared in The Moorabool News, June 9 2015

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