Train schedule criticised
The State Government is confident people living in Ararat, Beaufort and surrounding communities have an improved train timetable despite criticism about the new schedule.
Labor Member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford said there were 19 additional services to the Ararat line timetable, giving passengers easier access to work, school and events in Melbourne.
She caught a V/locity train to Beaufort to encourage people to take advantage of the new timetable.
But Member for Lowan Emma Kealy believes the new timetable connecting Melbourne and the Wimmera had exposed a State Government campaign to improve passenger-rail services as a sham.
Ms Kealy said a new timetable revealed what equated to a loss of a service for Wimmera commuters from Southern Cross Station.
The timetable includes a new weekday morning service departing Ararat Station at 6.18am, connecting with a Melbourne-bound train at Ballarat and arriving at Southern Cross before 9am.
It also includes a new weekday afternoon service departing Ararat Station at 2.49pm, connecting with a Melbourne-bound train at Ballarat, while the 2.16pm weekday service from Southern Cross to Wendouree has been extended to Ararat.
Four new weekend services have also been added to the timetable, with the 11.08am train from Ararat Station on Saturdays and 11.15am on Sundays, to connect with a Melbourne-bound train at Wendouree.
A 12.16pm weekend train from Southern Cross to Wendouree will also be extended to Ararat.
Ms Pulford said the Andrews government was giving Ararat line passengers extra services, giving them more travel options to get to Ballarat and Melbourne.
“Whether people want to get to Melbourne for work, a medical appointment, to attend the footy or visit loved ones, the extra services on the Ararat line will make it easier for passengers,” she said.
Ms Kealy was less impressed and said Wimmera people keen to catch a train out of Melbourne in the afternoon from Monday to Friday now faced more than a sixhour wait if they missed a 12.16pm train.
“Instead of having a 1.17pm train and bus service that exists now, the new time-table has one train leaving at 12.16pm, with one service involving the train continuing on to Ararat, but another changing to a bus in Ballarat. How is that supposed to work and be a good service?” she said.
“It really doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. It’s creating a doubled-up service while at the same time creating a six-and-a-half hour gap between services in the afternoon from Melbourne – it is far from ideal.
“What it tells me is that regardless of all the government announcements of upgrades and developments, what we’re seeing in the cold hard light of day is that if you live in the Wimmera, you are now going to have one less comfortable opportunity to get home.
“Surely we can come up with a more practical schedule. When there are two services available, people are unlikely to use the one that includes a bus – especially when you consider many of the travelling public from the Wimmera are elderly.
“It would make greater sense to have another full train service leave Melbourne for Ararat in the afternoon.
“Is the State Government providing a smoke and mirrors campaign in promoting its efforts to improve passenger services in our part of the world? Sounds like it.”