Pri­or­i­ties firm­ing

Min­is­ter says rail work to start by end of year

Benalla Ensign - - Front Page - By Si­mon Rup­pert

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.

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