Frus­tra­tion ris­ing fast, but train times slow­ing

Campaspe News - - NEWS -

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.

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