Parliament North East Rail Regional Public Transport Adjournment

North-east rail services

05 May 2021

My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Public Transport. The action I am seeking from the minister is for him to inform me as to the date the government plans to have the six new trains that he has promised for the north-east line operational and in service. People across our region are of course greatly looking forward to the delivery of these six new trains. It has been a very long time coming, and as more and more people head back to the office, commuters are again experiencing overcrowded services coupled with frustrations about delayed and cancelled services.

I note that while Melbourne’s population suffered a net loss last year, regional Victoria gained about 13 000 new residents, which further highlights why we need investment in our districts, towns and cities in regional Victoria and in our train services. Breakdowns and delays continue to frustrate people from my region, and it is not just on the north-east line. In fact it is anywhere where the old N-class rolling stock is still in service. The Nationals, in partnership with our Liberal colleagues, gave a commitment at the last two state elections that we would fully replace this fleet, yet the Andrews government continues to neglect the need to retire these trains.

Barry and Jeanette Woods from Devenish tried to book tickets to travel yesterday from Benalla to Melbourne. Barry is receiving treatment for cancer in Melbourne. No trains were running on the line yesterday, so they instead had to catch a train from Shepparton, necessitating a 4.00 am departure from their home in order to catch the 5.15 am train. After stopping at Wandong the train’s doors stopped working and would not close, so all the passengers—some 100 of them—had to disembark in the rain and wait for 20 minutes for the next Sprinter service. They then had to squeeze onto a two-carriage Sprinter where lots of people were forced to stand. The Woods are understandably furious. I note the member for Yan Yean says talk is cheap, and indeed it is, so I would urge her government to actually do more than talk.

Bernard Morris, from Tallarook, has also told me that he has missed medical appointments in Melbourne on many occasions because of cancellations. In recent times up to five services a day have been cancelled. Bernard has had to book his appointments weeks in advance. When the train system fails him it is not as easy as just making an appointment for the next day. Bernard, like many others in our region, wants the government to be accountable for these failings. He rightly asks who is taking responsibility for the woeful service plaguing our region.

Government ministers have repeatedly said that new trains would be operational on the north-east line once the federal government’s track works were complete. I note those works have been finished and the government is now saying that the trains will not be on the line until June 2021. But there is some concern these new trains may not be delivered in June as promised, so I would be very grateful if the minister could clear up that confusion by telling me exactly when the six train sets will be operational on the line and taking passengers, a day we all greatly look forward to.

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