Frustration rising fast, but train times slowing
FRUSTRATION is growing at the Victorian Government’s lack of action to speed up trains on the Rochester line.
After strong lobbying from the community saw more than 900 travellers sign a petition calling for the line to be upgraded — allowing trains to travel up to 50km/h faster than their current maximum speeds — no action has been taken.
In a letter written last month and addressed to Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh, Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said V/Line indicated costs to upgrade the line would be ‘‘considerable’’, but provided no further details.
As it stands, trains are restricted to a maximum speed of 80km/h on the line, making it one of the slowest for passenger services in Victoria.
Echuca-based rail advocate Terry Nanscawen, who initiated the petition, said commuters could save up to 36 minutes on return journeys between Echuca and Bendigo.
‘‘That might not sound like much, but in the midst of winter, where would you rather be: at home or on a train?’’ he said.
‘‘And what about all those people who need to travel to Melbourne for medical appointments?’’
Mr Nanscawen said he was offended by the Victorian Government’s response to the issue.
‘‘It’s dismissive. It’s almost a total disregard,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s no concern or care for the travelling public of Echuca. We just seem to be forgotten.’’
In her letter, Ms Allan referred to $10 million in maintenance works on the line since July last year, including upgrades to signalling at three level crossings which were carried out in October.
But she admitted the works did not have any impact on the ability for trains to travel faster.
In a return letter dated December 21, Mr Walsh questioned the government’s inconsistent approach to train speeds across Victoria.
‘‘If your government feels it safe and appropriate for trains to travel on the Warrnambool line at 100 to 115 km/h where unprotected level crossings exist, could you please explain why the Echuca to Bendigo line remains restricted to a maximum speed of 75 to 80 km/h where all level crossings are either protected by boom gates or padlocked off to vehicular traffic?’’ he said.
‘‘The more than 900 signatures to the petition I have tabled in this matter and the communities along the Echuca to Bendigo line are at a loss to understand why they continue to be treated differently to other parts of Victoria.’’
Mr Nanscawen has compiled a spreadsheet using V/Line data to compare Echuca train speeds with similar passenger lines in Victoria.
It shows the average speed on the line is 67.7km/h, which is significantly below the Ballarat-Ararat line’s average speed of 87.6km/h.
Mr Nanscawen said he was planning to write to Public Transport Victoria to seek further details about the ‘‘considerable cost’’ to upgrade the line, including an exact figure and what works are required.