Rail loop plan raises ques­tions

Benalla Ensign - - News -

Pre­mier Daniel An­drews’ pro­posal for a sub­ur­ban rail loop has raised ques­tions about the ef­fect the project would have on re­gional rail, in­clud­ing the north-east line, which ser­vices Be­nalla.

Queries have been raised by a va­ri­ety of in­ter­ested par­ties.

Re­gional Cities Vic­to­ria (RCV) has called on La­bor to en­sure re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity is at the fore­front of the Sub­ur­ban Rail Loop project.

While Na­tion­als leader Peter Walsh has de­scribed the project as ‘‘An­other snub for re­gional pas­sen­gers from Daniel An­drews.’’

State Mem­ber for Euroa Steph Ryan ques­tioned how La­bor could af­ford to spend ‘‘$50 bil­lion on a sub­ur­ban rail loop for Mel­bourne, but won’t spend a sin­gle cent on new trains for the north-east line.’’

Last month the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment reached an agree­ment over the de­sign of new trains for the north-east line and have com­mit­ted to fund the re­quired up­grades.

How­ever, the de­bate on how to im­prove the north­east line has been on­go­ing for sev­eral decades with many lo­cals tak­ing an ‘‘I’ll be­lieve it when I see it’’ stance.

Mr An­drews’ pro­posal, which is re­liant on La­bor be­ing re­turned to gov­ern­ment in Novem­ber, does in­clude a prom­ise to ‘‘(con­nect) ev­ery ma­jor re­gional train line from the Gee­long line to the Gipp­s­land line through Mel­bourne Air­port.’’

State Mem­ber for North­ern Vic­to­ria Ja­clyn Symes also high­lighted that the pro- posal would build upon the state gov­ern­ment’s $1.75 bil­lion Re­gional Rail Re­vival plan, which aims to up­grade ev­ery re­gional pas­sen­ger line in the state.

‘‘We said that we’d fight to get the north-east line fixed, so it can run the modern ser­vices lo­cals ex­pect and de­serve,’’ Ms Symes said.

‘‘With a re­gional su­per hub at Broad­mead­ows con­nect­ing to the air­port, this line will be even bet­ter.’’

The Na­tion­als have ques­tioned La­bor’s methods re­gard­ing the north-east line for some time and have said this lat­est an­nounce­ment adds weight to the ar­gu­ment that the An­drews gov­ern­ment is city-cen­tric.

‘‘Daniel An­drews is throw­ing $300 mil­lion at a fu­tur­is­tic plan for Mel­bourne while ig­nor­ing the needs of re­gional pas­sen­gers to­day,’’ Mr Walsh said.

‘‘Re­gional Vic­to­ria needs a modern re­gional rail net­work if we are go­ing to prop­erly de­cen­tralise our pop­u­la­tion, but this city­cen­tric La­bor Gov­ern­ment can’t see past Mel­bourne. Only the Lib­eral Na­tion­als have a plan to boost rail ser­vices across the whole state, not just Mel­bourne.

‘‘While Daniel An­drews spends mil­lions on ideas for Mel­bourne, the Lib­eral Na­tion­als are plan­ning for line up­grades, new trains and more so that re­gional pas­sen­gers have bet­ter, faster and re­li­able rail ser­vices as soon as pos­si­ble.’’

If La­bor can de­liver what they are promis­ing the city­cen­tric ar­gu­ment loses some weight and Pub­lic Trans­port Min­is­ter Jac­inta Al­lan said the sub­ur­ban rail loop was es­sen­tial to the growth of Mel­bourne and Vic­to­ria.

‘‘This is the un­der­ground train sys­tem a grow­ing Vic­to­ria needs — con­nect­ing all Victorians to jobs, ed­u­ca­tion, hos­pi­tals and shop­ping with­out need­ing to change trains in the CBD,’’ Ms Al­lan said.

RCV are not tak­ing sides in the dis­cus­sion, which has po­larised dis­course be­tween La­bor and the Lib­eral Na­tion­als.

RCV chair Mar­garet O’Rourke wel­comed the an­nounce­ment, but called on the gov­ern­ment to en­gage with re­gional cities through the plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment process.

‘‘This is an am­bi­tious, longterm vi­sion that has the po­ten­tial to greatly im­prove con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween re­gional Vic­to­ria and sub­ur­ban Mel­bourne,’’ Ms O’Rourke said.

‘‘Much like the Air­port Rail project, it must be de­vel­oped as a project in­te­grat­ing the rail net­work across the whole of Vic­to­ria, not just sub­ur­ban Mel­bourne.

‘‘It’s vi­tal that the gov­ern­ment works closely with lo­cal gov­ern­ment and re­gional rep­re­sen­ta­tives to en­sure the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of this project are fully re­alised.

‘‘RCV wel­comes the inclusion of ‘re­gional su­per hubs’ as a means to con­nect re­gional pas­sen­gers to key sub­urbs in Mel­bourne.

‘‘This would have huge ben­e­fits for re­gional pas­sen­gers in all cor­ners of the state. En­sur­ing all re­gional cities are sup­ported by mod- ern, de­pend­able pas­sen­ger rail re­mains a key fo­cus for RCV.’’

How­ever, the lo­ca­tion of the pro­posed ‘‘re­gional su­per hubs’’ is an­other stick­ing point for the Na­tion­als.

State Mem­ber for Euroa Steph Ryan has called on La­bor to rule out any plans to ter­mi­nate north-east line trains at Broad­mead­ows and said La­bor needed to be un­equiv­o­cal that they would con­tinue all the way to South­ern Cross.

‘‘North-east res­i­dents . . . will be in­censed if La­bor plans to ter­mi­nate north-east trains at Broad­mead­ows as part of th­ese plans,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘A num­ber of peo­ple have al­ready raised this con­cern with me.

‘‘It alarms me that Daniel An­drews, Pub­lic Trans­port Min­is­ter Jac­inta Al­lan and Ja­clyn Symes are talk­ing up th­ese ‘su­per-hubs’.

‘‘La­bor needs to rule out im­me­di­ately any plan to ter­mi­nate our trains at the junc­tion of the pro­posed new sub­ur­ban loop.’’

Daniel An­drews

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