Minister says rail work to start by end of year
North-east rail passengers can expect to start seeing improvements to services later this year according to Federal Transport Minister Darren Chester.
Mr Chester made the promise in response to questioning from Independent member for Indi Cathy McGowan in Parliament last Tuesday.
Ms McGowan sought details on the scope of works and the timetable for delivery of the promised $140 million upgrade to the line.
‘‘How will the communities of North-East Victoria, particularly Indi, be put in touch with these decisions and know what the intentions of both the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and the government are in this regard?’’ Ms McGowan asked.
Mr Chester said plans were close to being finalised on assessments focused on ride quality, reliability and frequency of services.
‘‘The ARTC and regional rail provider V/Line are currently assessing the priorities for the north-east line and will report back to the respective state and federal departments in the weeks ahead, hopefully by the end of this month,’’ he said.
‘‘Once the ARTC and V/Line have reported back to their respective departments I’ll be having further discussions with the Victorian minister — who has engaged constructively on this issue — and we’ll work together on how to implement that scope of works and firming up the detail of timeframes.’’
Mr Chester said there would be an opportunity for discussions within the community and the respective rail operators in relation to the north-east line upgrade.
He also asked Ms McGowan to continue lobbying Victorian Prem- ier Daniel Andrews for new rolling stock.
Public Transport Victoria released performance results this month, which show there is still room for improvement to its services.
V/Line only delivered 84.7 per cent of services on time in July, a figure which PTV executive director Laura Lo Bianco-Smith described as strong.
That description might anger the 15.3 per cent of passengers who stood on cold platforms waiting for trains to arrive last month.
Ms Lo Bianco-Smith said that July saw major upgrades to transport infrastructure across the state.
‘‘The 2017/18 state budget saw an investment of $316 million in maintenance funding to improve reliability of the whole regional network,’’ she said.
‘‘V/Line are continuing to deliver significant maintenance and improvement works across the network, introducing more VLocity carriages, and upgrading level crossings to improve reliability and safety for regional passengers.’’
In spite of continued spending to improve services V/Line has fared badly in a report released this month by the Victoria Auditor-General’s Office.
The report highlighted that V/Line had failed to meet key service criteria for the operational performance of its passenger service, particularly during the period of July 2015 to March 2017.
The report confirms that during the current service agreement V/Line has not been able to consistently meet punctuality targets for its train services.
Far too many services are still being replaced with busses and expectations are falling far behind community expectation.
Work needed: Too many V/Line services are being replaced with busses.