Fast-rail connection pledged
An elected Liberal Nationals Government will build a faster rail connection between Wodonga, Benalla and Melbourne, slashing travel times.
The state opposition has pledged to build a service that will see the present travel time of three hours and 27 minutes reduced to two hours and 44 minutes — a saving of more than one and a half hours on a roundtrip.
Reaching speeds of 160 km/h on the Wodonga line, the statewide network will be the fastest in Australia.
At present trains on the line can only travel at about 115 km/h.
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said the work would be scheduled during the next decade.
‘‘That means that by 2030 there will be a saving of about 30 minutes in travel time from Benalla to Melbourne,’’ Ms Ryan said.
‘‘An improved rail service brings opportunities, not just for employment, but also for education and access to services, like for example specialist medical appointments and those kinds of things.
‘‘The number of people who speak to me and say they would use the train if they knew they would get where they need to go on time is overwhelming.
‘‘This plan is about improving not just travel time, but also the reliability of our trains — it’s really the next step we need to elevate the service.’’
This announcement is part of the Liberal Nationals push to decentralise Victoria’s population and Ms Ryan said the vision was to build a state of cities and not be a city state focused on Melbourne.
‘‘If we truly want to decentralise our state and bring our country communities closer together we need to build better regional rail and buy newgeneration trains, which is exactly what an elected Liberal Nationals Government will do,’’ Ms Ryan said.
‘‘Labor’s band-aid fixes have failed to solve the absolute mess they’ve made on the north-east rail line, which has left passengers on old, unreliable trains and slow replacement buses.
‘‘People on the north-east line don’t want more of Labor’s neglect, we want faster trains we can rely on.’’
The Liberal National plan is to achieve population decentralisation by building a faster and more reliable railway network, connecting regional centres and growing regional jobs.
The party recently announced a Population Commission to manage population growth throughout Victoria, the aim of which is to ensure that regional cities have the infrastructure and services needed for sustainable growth.
One of the functions of the Population Commission will be to ensure regional cities, such as Benalla, receive the right number of doctors, hospital beds, teachers, healthcare workers and police to match population growth.
State opposition leader Matthew Guy said the plan to cut regional rail travel times was essential to decentralisation.
‘‘To build a state of cities and grow all of Victoria, we need to build faster rail connecting to our regional centres and we need to grow regional jobs and deliver more services to the regions like teachers, doctors, healthcare workers and police,’’ Mr Guy said.
‘‘Victoria needs population growth, but it needs to be the right growth in the right places at the right time.
‘‘We can’t afford another four years of Labor’s unplanned, unmanaged population growth.
‘‘The Liberal Nationals want to grow all of Victoria, not just Melbourne.’’
An improved rail service brings opportunities, not just for employment, but also for education and access to services . . .
As part of the proposal they have also pledged to fund new-generation, faster variants of the V/Locity trains, which will provide improved comfort, leg room, safety and amenity for passengers.
Bringing Victoria’s cities closer together with European-style high-speed rail is the cornerstone of the Liberal Nationals’ plans.
High-speed rail connections will also reduce the amount of cars using the Hume Hwy.
The estimated cost of the ambitious project is between $15 billion and $19 billion.
However, the Liberal Nationals have said it would not introduce a new tax or levy to fund it.
The project has the potential to create more than 10 000 new jobs over several years. PREPAID BOOKINGS TICKETS AT THE BAR
Fast-rail pledge: State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan was at Benalla Train Station on Wednesday to announce that an elected Liberal Nationals Government would slash travel times on the northeast line.