Independent Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan AO, has welcomed the Regional Network Development Plan (RNDP). “However there are many unanswered questions about the Plan’s timeline, funding and ongoing implementation,” she said.
Ms McGowan said it was important the State Government had acknowledged her call for a long-term strategy. “This is the first time a Victorian Government has given serious consideration to a public transport plan for regional Victoria, and key concerns have been recognised,” Ms McGowan said. “However, much more detail needs to be released about changes to services, schedules and plans for improving connectivity and customer service on the North East line.”
Ms McGowan said while the reliability of the V/Line service had improved, there were too many occasions where buses replaced trains on the service. “It’s still not good enough and I call on the State Government to adequately resource this Plan to address these issues. Improving the train service is urgent and must be given a higher priority in this strategy. The service has been sub-standard for many years and people feel like second-class citizens compared to those using other V/Line services.”
Ms McGowan plans to meet with Minister for Transport, Jacinta Allan, this Wednesday in Wangaratta and will seek answers on the Hume priorities listed in the RNDP.
“We urgently need a timeline for replacing the old trains with new carriages,” Ms McGowan said. “The Border Rail Action Group (BRAG) has been continuously calling for a VLocity train for the Wodonga-Melbourne lines. It’s very disappointing the Shepparton line may be getting a new VLocity and not our line as well.”
Ms McGowan will also seek more information on establishing express shuttle services between Albury-Wodonga and Seymour, and linking rural and regional towns with major centres. “This was called for in the community consultation in the North East,” Ms McGowan said.
Ms McGowan is also seeking a timeline on the upgrade of rollingstock announced in the Victorian 2016 Budget. “The $15 million will be spent on refurbishing and converting three train-sets of five carriages to four-train sets of four carriages to service the North East line,” she said. “This is an interim measure and customers deserve to know when this rollingstock will be in use.”
The Commonwealth Government announced significant funding in the 2016-17 Federal Budget for inland freight rail. “I will be asking Minister Allan for an assurance that passenger services will not be disrupted or altered due to increased freight being transported on the line,” Ms McGowan said.