Committee report - trains
08 August 2018
I rise this morning to make a contribution on the Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Committee's inquiry into the sustainability and operational challenges of Victoria's rural and regional councils, which we know are certainly significant. On page 17 of their report they make a very clear reference to the benefits of:
… establishing regular public transport connections to Melbourne —
as a valuable strategy to get people to live and work in regional Victoria.
In the context of that, I want to raise my very grave concerns around the performance of this government with regard to public transport in regional communities, particularly in my communities along the Seymour line and the north-east and Shepparton lines. I was absolutely gobsmacked this week to see the Minister for Public Transport and a member for Northern Victoria Region in the Council, Jaclyn Symes, come out and tout the design of new trains as being a significant milestone for the north-east line, particularly given that we were told in May last year, in the state budget, that money had been put aside for that. We then had the public transport minister in October last year tell us that process was underway. Then the member representing northern Victoria told us in March of this year that that process was underway. Now, four months before an election — after doing absolutely zip for four years — we have the government coming out and saying, 'Well, we are entering into a contract with Bombardier to design some new bogies for you'.
We are supposed to believe that it will take over a year to figure out how to put a bogie on some new wheels to run on standard gauge. It is absolutely preposterous. Quite honestly if we go any slower with this process the public transport minister and the Premier will be in aged care before we even get new trains. It is like we have entered the fourth quarter and they are now just desperately running out the clock before we get to the state election.
This is having a real human impact in my electorate. I have told many stories in here over recent months about people who have been impacted by the failure of the government to buy new trains for our line and to upgrade our services. I have got some more, which I know the member for Frankston is very excited about this morning. Raelene Brown, from Broadford, contacted me recently. She commutes on the Seymour line. She has been travelling for over 30 years, five to six days a week, on that line and she says she has never seen the service so bad. She says it is consistently causing her to be late for work and to miss meetings. She said:
Often I am having to catch a train at 6.06 or 6.39 a.m. in order to get to work on time. The ironic thing is that these trains run late as well. The trains once ran on time every day and I was rarely late. I sometimes travel 2 hours each way. It used to take 1 hour 10 minutes(ish) each way.
Raelene went on to say:
There is an increased incidence of trains breaking down. Yes, we make the decision to live where we live. However, we make those decisions on things like infrastructure e.g. V/Line and their saying they have a great service.
She went on to say that she could choose to quit her job and go on the dole. However, she chooses to work, saving the government money and resources:
Unfortunately, there are very little job opportunities in country Victoria so I have to travel to Melbourne for work.
I don't care about the excuses, I want reliability. Yes, more services would be really wonderful, but I just want a fast, efficient, reliable service.
I get angry that V/Line increases its fares every year, yet doesn't provide a better service. The fares paid north of Wandong are very high. Why is that? Broadford fares are double that of Wandong.
Sunny Martins has had similar experiences travelling from Broadford to Melbourne and back. He emailed me when he was sitting in the cold at Broadford station recently, waiting for his train. He said:
I catch the 8.14 a.m. train from Broadford to Seymour, Monday to Saturday, and in the two years I have caught this service it has had zero consistency, always being 10 to 15 to 20 and up to 40 minutes late.
I do not drive as I do not have a licence, but I believe I shouldn't have to have a licence because there is meant to be a service I can rely on.
Brian Woodhouse-Young of Moranding sent me
some photos of broken train doors on the Seymour line after I met him at the Kilmore East train station recently. He said:
These doors have been playing up for months (not closing) and have caused a train to be terminated at least once.
After someone stuck a sticker over the door which read, 'This toilet is temporarily unavailable', Brian said:
I think the sign on the door said more than its creator anticipated.
That is the reality of the service that we are putting up with in country Victoria. It is time the government did something.