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City breaks, V/Line and Victoria's regional cities

It was with great surprise that I recently discovered V/Line had commissioned short clips advertising the benefits of utilising their services to travel to a regional Victorian short break destination. In the videos the most useful information is conveyed about both the services V/Line operate to the area being showcased as well as a good run down on the local attractions. One of the videos is embedded below.

I really like this initiative for a number of reasons but one in particular - highlighting Victoria's regional cities as a worthy day or weekend trip destination - needs a little more work, especially in light of the upcoming new services.

Melbourne is a huge outbound tourism market. Melbourne airport knows this, international airlines know this and so do other state-based tourism authorities. And so do Victoria's regional tourism authorities.

If you're like me and getting little sleep of late thanks to getting a live Tour de France fix each night, you might have noticed Visit Ballarat's ads on SBS spruiking the city's upcoming events scheduled to be held in spring and summer. The World Rowing Masters Regatta on Lake Wendouree, the Ironman 70.3 World Championship and of course the National Road Cycling championship are all events that Ballarat will be holding on various weekends in November through January. And all those events are perfect as a day trip or long-weekend from Melbourne.

As I wrote last month, the Regional Rail Link is set to open in the first half of next year and at beginning this year new VLocity rolling stock will begin to arrive on the network. While the explicit purpose of the new rolling stock is not well known, it's safe to assume they'll, at least in part, be used to boost services after the Regional Rail Link project opens.

And boosting services and more to the point introducing different tiers of service is exactly what I hope is done. At present the quickest journeys from Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo are confined to the weekday timetables and the main benefit of speed is lost on most of us in Melbourne who are in a position to travel to the regional centres on weekends.

For instance the fastest journeys to Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong are 1 hour 33 minutes, 1 hour 25 minutes and 51 minutes respectively. Speed (160kph is faster than anyone can legally drive in Victoria) or journey time is one of the most marketable aspects of the services and I'm hoping to see new weekend services specifically catering for outbound tourism markets.

For the Ballarat and Bendigo lines, I'd be looking for new flagship express services departing Southern Cross around 9:30-10am and only stopping at Castlemaine on the Bendigo line and running non-stop to Ballarat once trains leave the metropolitan area. Throw in return flagship express services departing both Bendigo and Ballarat at 5:00pm and you'd have a marketable premium product offering aimed squarely at Melburnian day-trippers and weekenders.

With Geelong it might be conceivable to start with 2 flagship services in each direction on both Saturdays and Sundays: 9:30-10am and 2pm outbound and 4pm and 7pm inbound running straight to and back from Geelong once trains leave the metropolitan area.

Combining brand new weekend flagship express services with a well funded V/Line and regional destination marketing campaign could go a long way to ensuring the benefits of the Regional Rail Link are not just a one way flow from the regions to Melbourne.

Lead image credit: Flickr

1 comment

Riccardo's picture

Just came in from Torquay today. Oddly enough the model works better from Torquay than some of Melbourne's outlying rail termini like Pak or Franga. I suspect it is considerably higher cost and the cost recovery ain't great, I doubt I paid more than $12 for the privilege. But well executed.

I think this has been lost from our transport system. Back when the Taits were put on the outer suburban (what we now call interurban) runs in the 1920s, the difference in service quality between electric wooden cars and steam hauled wooden cars was minimal, if anything, the Taits were faster.

What has happened in the intervening period is that it has gone the other way. Now what the suburban passengers get is markedly inferior and transit times have not improved since the 20s, while for the current interurban zone the service has improved massively. This is not equitable given the subsidies involved. The outer suburban and interurban fares should be higher, but the service better for outer suburban passengers.

Surf Coast would benefit from different rollingstock. While I love the Velos, stringing 7 of them together can't be efficient. A loco with 6 or 8 double deck cars, North Am style bilevels, still holding 160km/h, would accommodate much higher demand levels and not be penalised by stop ping time, as the stops are few and far between eg all to Geelong, N Geelong, Wyndham V, Tarneit, Sunshine, Footscray and SXS.

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