Two weeks ago, a new timetable for V/Line services was introduced. This has been terrific news for the Ararat Line, which has seen a dramatic increase in services. On Weekdays, there are now 5 train services to Melbourne, and 4 back to Ararat, while on Weekends, there are now 3 in each direction.
This is a fantastic outcome for weekends, which previously had a six plus hour gap between services (either train or coaches) and now makes a quick trip to Ballarat or Melbourne to go shopping or see the footy more viable. I took the first new service in each direction on 27 August, and they both seem to have been fairly well patronised for brand new services, with people connecting to and from new coaches to Horsham.
A closer look at the new services
One oddity in the new timetable, is the Saturday service at 11:08, which is given 7 additional minutes compared to all other services. At first glance, this seems a bit random, but it is due to the Overland being scheduled in to come into Ararat on the Standard Gauge from Geelong at 11:13. This means the Vlocity on the Broad Gauge needs to be well clear by this time.
Due to a train from Melbourne terminating at Wendouree, the Ararat train ends up needing to wait twice, once at Wendouree, and then again in Ballarat Station. The only way around this I can see is having the train from Melbourne terminate at Ballarat. This timetable however, is the first to have a proper consistent weekend service to Wendouree, and it would be a shame to lose it. Ideally, the solution would be a second track to, and second platform at, Wendouree, which would help with this, and clearing peak services.
Alternatively, the Overland is notorious for being late, and as such just scheduling it later probably wouldn’t have much more effect than making the timetable more accurate.
Another issue is the 16:49 to Melbourne is now formed by a train that arrives at 16:39. This 10 minute turn around leaves very little room for make up time.
This morning, Saturday 9 September, I took a walk down to the station to see how well the Overland interacts with the new timetable (and also to see if the Overland was on time).
What I found when I arrived at the station, is that the train from Wendouree that was forming the 11:08 service was late, and didn’t arrive until 11:08 itself. It then took the crew 7 or 8 minutes to change ends, get prepared and depart, at the time of 11:16 anyway.
V/Line this weekend are running coach replacements on the Ballarat Line, and as such, there is only a service between Wendouree and Ararat. These services are supposedly running to an altered timetable, according to their twitter:
However, the V/Line website has no mention of this, nor of any alterations to services that coaches are running. Their official information page is bare-bones to say the least.
In 2017, I do not think it is good enough to only give travel advice to give yourself additional time to travel. Different services have different service patterns, and V/Line needs to publish replacement coach timetables that accurately reflect which coaches are serving what stations, and when.
During the Bendigo Rail Works last year, when the line was closed for a month, V/Line published a full timetable for their replacement coaches. This should be the minimum standard for any shut down, of any length.
And I understand it’s hard for coach times to be 100% accurate due to traffic and other factors, but having a guide is better than nothing.
New service to Ararat: Fantastic! and it seems as though people are making use of them, which will hopefully continue over time.
Oddities in the Timetable: It would be better if they weren’t there, especially additional waiting time outside of Wendouree, but necessary with how the Broad and Standard Gauges interact at Ararat (or at least how they should).
V/Line’s communication to passengers: As lousy as ever, and in desperate need of improvement. I would estimate that almost the majority of frustration that travelers have, whether they are long distance or commuters, is from not knowing why a service is delayed, or how far away it is.