Rail loop plan raises questions
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.’’