Trains North East Rail Seymour line Public Transport

Challenges of Victoria's rural and regional councils - public transport

06 June 2018

This morning I rise to speak on the report on the inquiry into the sustainability and operational challenges of Victoria's rural and regional councils, which was tabled by the Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Committee in this place in March. Specifically I would like to refer to page 17 of that report, where the committee discuss the fact that there are many, many positive aspects to living in regional Victoria but that among the issues raised with them in their hearings were a lack of employment opportunities as a key barrier preventing people from leaving the city to settle in country Victoria as well as the need for regular public transport connections to Melbourne. They noted that as a particularly valuable strategy, and recommendation 10 actually encourages the state government to do more to invest in infrastructure, particularly public transport, to encourage decentralisation.

As members of this house would know, I have frequently raised the issues that we have in my own electorate around the north-east line and the lack of investment that we have seen in rolling stock. It has now been two years — more than two years — since the Premier stood in Wangaratta and told us that he would invest in new rolling stock for that train line. The government has had four budgets and we have not seen a cent invested towards improving the quality of the trains that we have on the line, which are very old and very outdated. We have made a commitment that if we are elected in November, we will completely replace the long-haul rolling stock on both the Seymour and Shepparton lines because we understand that we need a reliable train service if we are indeed to encourage people to live in rural communities — and people who live in my electorate deserve reliable public transport services.

I have got a few stories that I would like to share with the house from people in my electorate who have experienced the ongoing frustration of both the north-east and Shepparton lines and indeed the Seymour line. The first is from Kathy Burden from Chesney Vale. Kathy and I have spoken on a number of occasions about the train line.

She wrote to me regarding Thursday, 15 March, which she described as a 'shocking day' for anyone travelling on the Albury line. She said:

I was scheduled to catch the 6.02 p.m. train home. However, due to 'two defective carriages' the service was cancelled and replaced by road coaches. Although the coaches were waiting in the bays by the time we all walked around, it was approx 9.00 p.m. when we arrived in Benalla. This means the trip (already long) was further extended by an additional half-hour.

Beth Hatch from Euroa said:

Thank you for continuing your ongoing 'battle' re the regional rail line Albury-Wodonga to Melbourne (prehistoric rail 'service'???).

Rural residents are being treated as second-class citizens in this supposed modern age.

She had two examples of the lack of service. On 19 December 2017 she made a first-class booking approximately five weeks in advance and she was to travel with a friend coming from Benalla. She said the train arrived in Melbourne almost on time. Her departure from Southern Cross was due at 6 00 p.m. She said she was about to enter platform 2A only to be told the trip would now be on a bus, and she was given details of where to access the bus. She had purchased food and drink to take on the train. On the bus she was told that no food or drink was allowed and that her friend would be on another bus as he was going to Benalla. She said there was no time to distribute her food and drink so it had to be wasted and there was no mention of a refund. The journey continued. She said:

The driver had to exit to Seymour to do a drop-off. He continued on, only to take the exit back to Melbourne.

Fortunately another passenger queried this exit and the driver responded, 'I haven't done that before'.

She said there was no apology. When they arrived at Avenel the driver had to stop for 20 minutes as he had been driving for 2 hours, and they arrived at Euroa over an hour late. She had a similar experience on 16 January.

Warwick Carter from Creightons Creek regularly catches the train, and he too has experienced a whole series of ongoing frustrations. He wrote to me and said:

This morning the train was delayed 12 minutes at Broadford because of a slow/delayed train ahead of us. That in itself is not bad but when you add it to the other problems on this line over the last 10 days it becomes extremely annoying.

Ian Riley from Tallarook has previously sent me messages about his frustrations as well.

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