Thursday 22nd December 2005 saw the reopening of the Ballarat line after extensive Regional Fast Rail (RFR) works, and as a bonus to Ballarat line passengers, the launch of V/Lines new V’Locity 160 DMU’s into revenue passenger service, after 18 months of testing and training.
Upon arrival into Ballarat it was evident that the original plan (the first V’Locity passenger revenue run to be the 10:08 up service from Ballarat to Southern Cross) was now scrapped - as there were no V’Locities to be seen, nor politicians or dignitaries, and staff were still setting up equipment on the platform and food and beverages in the station area.
After querying at the station master’s desk - I found out that the plan had changed - the 0938 Southern Cross to Ararat service was the first passenger revenue run, and this train was carrying the politicians and dignitaries.
With thanks to the conductor of the 1008 up service from Ballarat to Southern Cross who alerted me that I could get to Ballan by catching the 1008, then get the first V’Locity revenue service from Ballan at 1042, I opted to catch the 1008 from Ballarat to Ballan, arriving in on time at 1028.
Arrival of the 1042 into Ballan, was two minutes down at 1044 - however, I was just glad to be one of the only people to be on the first V’Locity revenue service!!!!!
Upon arrival into Ballarat at 1115, the Victorian Premier, Hon. Steve Bracks, and Minister for Transport, Peter Batchelor, disembarked from 1211, along with other MP’s, dignitaries and invited guests.
Once the car was clear of passengers bound for Ballarat, VL11 was uncoupled from VL23 & VL18, moved up the platform 5m or so, then departed for Ararat at approximately 1123, 5 minutes late (not bad considering the circumstances!)
Soon after arrival into Ballarat, and after the departure of VL11 on to Ararat, and VL23+VL18 moving up the platform to be opposite the premier and guests for the speeches and media interviews, the public launch of the V’Locity 160 units on the Ballarat line got underway.
Speakers included the premier - Mr. Steve Bracks, followed by Mr. Rob Barnett, Chief Executive Officer - V/Line, and Mr. Peter Batchelor - Minister for Transport.
After the media circus had wrapped up their questions, Mr. Bracks and Mr. Batchelor left Ballarat station for their helicopters (or did they choose private cars this time?), and the general public were invited to look through the brand new V’Locity units as they pleased for around half an hour before departure of the service back to Southern Cross at 1215.
Personal Opinion on the V’Locities
Overall, I have a very positive opinion of the V’Locities - the interior has been designed as new from scratch and is very nice to view and the seats are nice and big and comfortable to sit in. The windows are large, clean and clear, and there’s plenty of room for passengers luggage and personal belongings to be stowed.
Disabled passengers and wheelchairs are easily accommodated for - and disabled passengers seemingly now have a lot more space than they ever had aboard a V/Line service, with a dedicated area in each carriage with fold down seats allowing for four wheelchairs to be placed in each unit.
Two toilets are fitted - an easy to use wheelchair accessible toilet with automatic doors, and a swing door normal sized toilet, similar to that of those in saloon carriages, but modern!
Crew and cab facilities are excellent – both driver and conductor get a very comfortable adjustable height leather chair, plenty of room within the cab to move around, a mini-fridge to keep their food/drink in, and a CD player with a nice audio output (CD playing was sampled today on the trip back from Ballarat!)