Independent Member for Indi Cathy McGowan challenged the Australian Government in Parliament on Monday to act now on poor rail services for North East Victoria.
Ms McGowan said for more than eight years, regional communities in North East Victoria have been frustrated by significant engineering failings on the Wodonga-Melbourne rail line. In 2016 the trains were on time 79.7 per cent of the time, with the rate dropping to 55.2 per cent in November. There are 23 sections with speed restrictions applied by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) between Albury and Melbourne.
Ms McGowan tabled a motion calling for the government to ensure passenger services are considered core business for the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC). The motion also calls for the ARTC to release and review the current agreement between the ARTC and the Victorian Government for the Wodonga-Melbourne rail line.
“This is effective action the government can take now to deliver improved rail services in North East Victoria and across regional Australia,” Ms McGowan said.
“For the long term, it is vital the government develop a plan for passenger rail services that meets the economic, social and environmental needs of regional Australia.
“As a local, independent Member of Parliament, I’m standing up for rural and regional people who need access to public transport.
“It is absolutely the responsibility of the Australian Government to ensure the infrastructure that supports rail services is maintained at a level that allows services to run at their optimum level.
Ms McGowan welcomed the news the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Darren Chester would ride the line. She called on Mr Chester to come to the region with a budget commitment and a plan for action.
She also called on the Victorian Minister, Jacinta Allan to take the issue seriously.
“The Victorian Government committed $17 million in last year’s budget. This year they should be planning to act upon that commitment,” she said.
“It’s time to stop the buck passing. This is a problem that is beyond apportioning blame and needs a collective commitment to act together.
The motion reads:
MS MCGOWAN : To move—That this House:
(1) notes that:
(a) for more than eight years, regional communities in northeast Victoria have been frustrated by significant engineering failings on the Wodonga-Melbourne rail line;
(b) in 2016 the trains were on time 79.7 per cent of the time, with the rate dropping to 55.2 per cent in November, the train now takes half an hour longer to get from Southern Cross to Albury than 10 years ago;
(c) the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) maintains that it is meeting performance obligations under the terms of the 44 year lease agreement with the Victorian Government and under its charter;
(d) the ARTC has spent $134 million on remediation works that have not improved passenger rail services, with trains regularly slowed or replaced by buses; and
(e) the current arrangements are not meeting the need for reliable passenger rail services, instead regional communities are viewed as freight corridors; and
(2) calls on the Australian Government:
(a) as the sole shareholder of the ARTC, to update the ARTC Statement of Corporate Intent to ensure that passenger services and the transport needs of regional communities are considered core business;
(b) to direct the ARTC to release and review the current agreement between the ARTC and the Victorian Government for the Wodonga-Melbourne rail line, giving due consideration to the passenger rail services and the transport needs of regional communities; and
(c) to develop a long-term plan for passenger rail services that meets the economic, social and environmental needs of regional Australia.