Light at end of tun­nel?

Benalla Ensign - - Front Page - By Si­mon Rup­pert

With elec­tion rhetoric ramp­ing up as we head into the home straight, Labor and the Coali­tion have again clashed over Be­nalla’s north-east line.

The Na­tion­als have ac­cused Labor of blow­ing its last chance to de­liver for re­gional rail, cit­ing its fail­ure to in­clude the north-east line in its ‘‘re­gional rail’’ plan.

Labor, how­ever, said the north-east line bo­gies were or­dered and it was now up to the Fed­eral Govern­ment to up­grade the line.

State Mem­ber for Euroa Steph Ryan said re­gional Vic­to­ri­ans could be left with ‘‘no doubt about where Labor’s pri­or­i­ties lie’’.

‘‘Daniel An­drews has made it painfully clear that the north­east train lines do not mat­ter to a Labor govern­ment,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘This week’s an­nounce­ment that Labor will spend $340 mil­lion for 18 new trains on the Ballarat and Gee­long lines is an af­front to peo­ple liv­ing along any of the other long-haul train lines across Vic­to­ria.

‘‘De­spite ap­palling punc­tu­al­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity, and hav­ing some of the old­est rolling stock in the state, the north-east line did not even rate a men­tion in Labor’s plan.

‘‘It’s time someone told the premier that re­gional Vic­to­ria is much more than just Gee­long and Ballarat.’’

State Mem­ber for North­ern Vic­to­ria Ja­clyn Symes re­jected this as­sess­ment and said while the process took time, the up­grades were be­ing delivered.

‘‘We’ve or­dered the bo­gies for the new long-haul trains on the north-east Line,’’ Ms Symes said.

‘‘The north-east line is a gauge-iso­lated line, so we have to cre­ate a brand new fleet.

‘‘We’ve put pres­sure on the Fed­eral Govern­ment to make sure they fix the track to a class two.

‘‘That is what it needs or­der to run mod­ern trains.

‘‘The Fed­eral Govern­ment in are pro­vid­ing that fund­ing and the new long-haul trains will be on the track as soon as it’s up­graded.

‘‘It takes time. We have to get the trains de­signed, there isn’t a train brochure we can look at. But we are com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure the trains are avail­able when the track is fin­ished.

‘‘It’s not in­stant un­for­tu­nately, but that’s the or­der things have to go.’’

How­ever, Ms Ryan said these prom­ises had been made be­fore.

‘‘Daniel An­drews stood in Wan­garatta in April 2016 and said he would buy new trains for the north-east line if the Fed­eral Govern­ment pro­vided money to fix the track,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘We have been suc­cess­ful in se­cur­ing mil­lions for track works from the Fed­eral Coali­tion, but Daniel An­drews has com­pletely failed re­gional com­muters along the north-east line, back­ing down on his prom­ise to buy new trains.

‘‘Just 10 days out from an elec­tion, Labor’s big an­nounce­ment for re­gional rail doesn’t in­clude most of Vic­to­rian’s re­gional rail net­work.’’

The discussion ap­pears to be a case of se­man­tics, with the Coali­tion say­ing it wants to see the trains that have been promised for sev­eral years.

While Labor said the trains were com­ing, they were sim­ply in the process of or­der­ing them.

The good news for Be­nalla’s train pas­sen­gers is that both sides of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum have said the line up­grades, and new trains will go ahead if they are elected.

The pub­lic could be for­given for be­ing a bit scep­ti­cal of both po­si­tions as politi­cians have been plan­ning to im­prove the north-east line for lit­er­ally decades.

But with Fed­eral money on the table to up­grade the track, and the left and right promis­ing new trains, it would seem that there is light at the end of the tun­nel.

Steph Ryan

Ja­clyn Symes

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