By Aleksandra Bliszczyk
New facilities at Wallan and Donnybrook train stations are now complete.
Wallan’s indoor waiting area on platform one, city-bound, has been extended and renovated, with new toilets and baby change areas and a second customer service window for peak times, as well as 150 extra car parking spaces and new bus bays.
The upgrades also included platform extensions at both stations, allowing access to all train doors and eliminating a key source of delays.
The upgrades were part of the $4 billion Regional Rail Revival program by the federal and state governments to upgrade every regional passenger rail line in Victoria, and were delivered by 90 businesses and contractors located within 50 kilometres of Donnybrook and Wallan.
The State Government has also invested $4.8 million into three regional level crossing renewals, including at Wallan, which involved removing the road surface, repairing the tracks and relaying a new surface.
As part of the government’s $2.7 billion Building Works program, rail milling along the Seymour line has also been completed. Rail milling removes rust and debris, contributing to a smoother ride and reducing wear on trains.
Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll took the V/Line train to Wallan on Wednesday to meet with Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green and see the new amenities.
“While our economy continues to recover from the global pandemic, we’ll continue to support local jobs – and it’s great to see businesses around Donnybrook and Wallan benefit from our upgrades,” Mr Carroll said.
Works on the Seymour and north-east lines have caused delays and disruptions this year, with as many as 178 trains cancelled or replaced by buses in March.
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said commuters were eagerly awaiting the arrival of six new V/Line VLocity trains the government promised by the end of 2021.
“During March, six of the 25 N-class trains that service regional Victoria, including the north-east and Seymour line, were non-operational.,” Ms Ryan said.
“It is abundantly clear that the N-class locos are way past their design life – they should have been replaced years ago. Some of the trains are now between 34 to 36 years old.”
Mr Carroll said the new V/Line trains would be delivered when the north-east line works were complete.
“We’ve got to finish the north-east line upgrade with the ARTC, we’ve also got the VLocity trains to come online at the end of this year, and we’ll look at what other additional investments we may need to make in the future,” he said.
When asked about any future plans for the metropolitan electric line to be extended to Wallan, Ms Green said the community was ‘quite divided’ on the idea because some residents preferred V/Line trains’ infrequent stops.
“[It’s] 55 minutes from [Wallan] to the city and only 40 from Donnybrook, whereas if it became a metro train it would take a lot longer,” she said.
“I know when we electrified to Craigieburn the community was quite divided there.”
Higher fares from Kilmore station compared to Wandong, which is within zone two, also cause issues for commuters.
A one-way fare from Kilmore to Southern Cross in peak hour currently costs $12.20, whereas from Wandong the same ticket is $4.50.
Many Kilmore residents drive the nine kilometres to Wandong station to access the cheaper fare, clogging the carparks in peak times.
In response Mr Carroll said the government encouraged commuters back onto public transport in off-peak times with more services and a discounted fare.
“We’ve been trying to encourage more off-peak. We know coming out of COVID there’s been the biggest disrupter to … the hours people work,” he said.
“To bring it into uniformity [we’ve] reduced off-peak services by 30 per cent in ticket price. This was already available in regional Victoria and now we’ve brought that into metropolitan Melbourne, so it is an ongoing issue that we continue to look at.”
While Ms Green said ‘transport into the city is always going to be important’, attracting Melbourne business to set up shop in Wallan and Beveridge would provide more jobs, easing the pressure on the freeway and trains.
“I think post-COVID people are just finding that they want to live and work closer to home,” she said.