Twenty (20) years...plus a few months since the demise of the Vinelander

 
  don_dunstan Minister for Railways

Location: Adelaide proud
I'm sure Craig Ingram (Gippsland East) and Russell Savage (Mildura)wouldn't agree.

I saw the Melbourne bound Overland as I was heading home on the 19:26 Ballarat last night.(I was going through Middle Footscray) Quite a fair crowd on board, and 2 MotoRail wagons with 9 vehicles attached.

There'll be no cuts to V/Line services before the election...and any thoughts towards that end would, to quote Sir Humphrey Appleby be a very courageous decision.

Mike.
The Vinelander

Mike, as much as I admire your optimism there are two significant headwinds happening here. One is a major increase in unemployment coming through - reportedly the largest increase in the last six months since the 1990's. And that's well before any impact from the closure of the car industry is coming through on the statistics. Increased unemployment affects State revenues with things like stamp duty and payroll tax receipts - it's not easy to replace that lost money.

The second is the fact that the East-West will require a lot more money than projected because despite significant feather-bedding they still can't attract any merchant banks or private investors; Mac Bank, Transurban, the big four banks - they've all given it a resounding 'no'. So the real cost will probably be the full price tag plus contingency money so perhaps anywhere from 8 billion through to 12 or more (depending on what problems they might strike in construction) with very little prospect of full cost recovery even with tolls of $12 or more each way. This is the single most expensive project in Victoria's history and they'll be going through every single department and program to find savings that can be diverted to it so they can make the claim at election time that "we didn't have to borrow money to get it done!". Don't expect DoT and V/Line to be immune because they won't be.

The other point is that you're confusing words with deeds. Peter Crisp and Tim Bull are probably really well intentioned and sincere members of parliament but they have absolutely no power whatsoever in Spring Street and they know it. Peter Crisp only has to keep telling his electorate "I've been trying to convince the Premier that Mildura needs its rail service back but there's simply no money after the wasteful Labor years and we all have to make sacrifices so we can have an industry-building modern road network in Melbourne that will increase jobs in our state etc etc". It's a script that writes itself. Same thing with Tim Bull: "I was devastated at the loss of the Bairnsdale passenger service but the fact is it was unsustainable and we are in the midst of a Labor-induced budgetary crisis... etc etc".

Compare to Hugh Delehunty in the seat of Wimmera who has actually been honest enough to tell his electorate that there isn't a hope in hell of ever getting passenger trains back to Horsham... not now, not ever. At least he's telling the truth. And Peter Ryan is the same - he's been on record many times telling his electorate that they need to forget about ever having a South Gippsland passenger train back. Kudos to those Nationals for at least having the honesty to tell their electorate the truth instead of trying to sheet the blame home to someone else.

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  Lad_Porter Chief Commissioner

Location: Yarra Glen
So as a State we are spending all our money on a road tunnel which nobody wants, to the detriment of rail services which people do want.  Where's the sense in that?  

Roll on November....  but would anything change??
  Nightfire Minister for Railways

Location: Gippsland
The second is the fact that the East-West will require a lot more money than projected because despite significant feather-bedding they still can't attract any merchant banks or private investors; Mac Bank, Transurban, the big four banks - they've all given it a resounding 'no'. So the real cost will probably be the full price tag plus contingency money so perhaps anywhere from 8 billion through to 12 or more (depending on what problems they might strike in construction) with very little prospect of full cost recovery even with tolls of $12 or more each way. This is the single most expensive project in Victoria's history and they'll be going through every single department and program to find savings that can be diverted to it so they can make the claim at election time that "we didn't have to borrow money to get it done!". Don't expect DoT and V/Line to be immune because they won't be.
don_dunstan

Do have any more Info on the State Government not being able to attract any Investors for their pet project !

This would a very damming and embarrassing news item for the Government to explain to the public, as the road lobby and the Government are painting the picture to the public that private money will fund the project with very little public money needed ! (and the Government keeping the toll revenue) but Is this one big propaganda lie ?

Last year the Napthine Government allocated something like $298 Million to the East West Project, but most likely this has all gone on unexpected expenditure like a apartment block the Government payed $90 Million for, sporting club relocations, dogs home relocation, etc, etc.

Napthine goes on about how construction contracts will be signed before November this Year, but how can this be If there Is no finance to fund the whole project stage ? drip feed construction funding form State budget to State budget ?

How about an early election caused by the Instability In the Government and the next State budget getting voted down, Napthine Government gets the boot because of their poor performance.

The next Government may not be any better, but have clearly stated they will scrap this white elephant tunnel that has the potential to cripple the States finances.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
So as a State we are spending all our money on a road tunnel which nobody wants, to the detriment of rail services which people do want. Where's the sense in that?

Roll on November.... but would anything change??
Lad_Porter


This in today's financial review:

Well done to The Australian Financial Review for putting one of your best investigative reporters, Neil Chenoweth, onto the important issue of Australia’s campaign finance regime (“[color=#0088cc][size=2]The money trail”, AFR, February 10). [/size][/color]


From the belated disclosures released on February 3, it is also possible to deduce that the Victorian Liberal Party’s secretive Cormack Foundation owns 390,000 shares in Transurban. Cormack disclosed $120,900 in dividend payments from Transurban in 2012-13. These shares are worth about $2.65 million and Cormack has disclosed $27 million worth of donations to the Victorian Liberals since 1999.


I’ve written to the officers of the Cormack Foundation and the Victorian division of the Liberal Party who signed their 2012-13 donor returns, formally requesting that they dispose of these shares.


Only a sale would avoid a clear conflict of interest that Liberal Party ministers in the Napthine government will have as they enter into negotiations with Transurban over access and compensation arrangements related to the $6 billion - $8 billion East West Link proposal.


These negotiations will have a material bearing on the operations of Transurban’s biggest asset, the City Link project in Melbourne.


Stephen Mayne
Finance and Governance Committee
City of Melbourne
Melbourne, Vic
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
The second is the fact that the East-West will require a lot more money than projected because despite significant feather-bedding they still can't attract any merchant banks or private investors; Mac Bank...
don_dunstan

The consortiums short listed for bidding include merchant banks and private investors, including an entity of the Macquarie group.  Have all those consortiums withdrawn?
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Don_Dunstan, whilst I don't disagree with your sentiments, the Napthine government with a majority of literally a handful of votes cannot and will not be reducing V/Line services. Moreover because the proposed East-West link and its public support...if there ever was any has gone sour I believe the government realises this road will be a millstone around its neck.

Sure Tony may be giving the government a Billion or so towards it, but Dr Napthine now realises the government is on to a loser with this project and it has to somehow pull a PT rabbit out of its hat in what many could say is a too little too late sop to the electorate.

Mike.
  don_dunstan Minister for Railways

Location: Adelaide proud
In response to donttellmywife/Nightfire: There's a few different sections to the project including the tender for construction AND the corporation trying to sell a prospectus to investors to assume the construction risk for a commercial return (owner/operator). As far as I'm aware there are no issues with the three builders tendering to complete the job but the problem is attracting an investor who might be interested in stumping up cash in exchange for a 30-year tolling franchise - in the same manner that Eastlink and CityLink were financed. My understanding of the current state of play is that the potential financiers/owner-operators have been pitched some scenarios for a franchise and certainly in the case of the biggest player, Transurban, the answer was a definite 'no'. I've heard likewise there isn't much interest from domestic merchant and retail financial houses.

Now this doesn't necessarily translate into 'no project'. All it means is that the deal as it's currently being offered to financiers isn't attractive enough for them to be interested, perhaps because they consider the potential unforeseen costs too-big a risk (think Lane Cove tunnel cave-in) but more likely that they don't believe they can make money, not even at the projected 'maximum' toll of $12 each way. My feeling is that Transurban, Mac Bank, et al would probably have their own, more realistic traffic forecasts and these would be flying big red flags about the potential returns on the project as it is currently offered to them. The reality is that the East-West Authority (or whoever the VicRoads agency is) will just have to consult with Treasury before sweetening the deal - more and more until finally someone will come to the party.

Someone on this board (was it Nightfire?) has previously suggested Transurban will probably wait until someone else takes it on and goes broke before they are interested. This is also a possible scenario, Transurban do have a history of buying distressed assets and turning them around.
  don_dunstan Minister for Railways

Location: Adelaide proud
Don_Dunstan, whilst I don't disagree with your sentiments, the Napthine government with a majority of literally a handful of votes cannot and will not be reducing V/Line services. Moreover because the proposed East-West link and its public support...if there ever was any has gone sour I believe the government realises this road will be a millstone around its neck.

Sure Tony may be giving the government a Billion or so towards it, but Dr Napthine now realises the government is on to a loser with this project and it has to somehow pull a PT rabbit out of its hat in what many could say is a too little too late sop to the electorate.

Mike.
The Vinelander

Mike, you need to look around a bit more - or maybe just read the Herald-Sun !  I read it if only to see what most people are being pitched and let me assure you there is no way that paper will let Napthine out of building that tunnel.  I've seen at least three or four editorials exclusively on the topic of the tunnel telling us that it's our key to the future, that all our rust-belt problems will be over if only it's built (No joke!  See if you can find any on-line, they make great reading); I've also heard the howls of derision and outright hatred they reserve for the East-West protesters.

They've also been telling Daniel Andrews that he must also unequivocally support the project; given the role that the Murdoch press had (specifically the Daily Telegraph) in relentlessly attacking Kevin Rudd last year I'd say that Daniel Andrews is probably taking their veiled threats seriously.

There's no way this tunnel will NOT get built, mark my words.

V/Line services on the other hand are utterly dispensable because they mostly affect people who would have voted for the Coalition anyway.  And they're about to be told in the run up to the election (by their local members) that we all have to make sacrifices so that Victoria can have the tunnel of the 21st century - the tunnel that will fix all the infrastructure problems of this state for all time.  Never mind that you don't have a train to Melbourne any more!
  Nightfire Minister for Railways

Location: Gippsland
Mike, you need to look around a bit more - or maybe just read the Herald-Sun ! I read it if only to see what most people are being pitched and let me assure you there is no way that paper will let Napthine out of building that tunnel. I've seen at least three or four editorials exclusively on the topic of the tunnel telling us that it's our key to the future, that all our rust-belt problems will be over if only it's built (No joke! See if you can find any on-line, they make great reading); I've also heard the howls of derision and outright hatred they reserve for the East-West protesters.
don_dunstan

The Herald Sun publishes nothing negative about the tunnel, just the Napthine, RACV spin.

The paper / Napthine are now pushing for the Commonwealth to fund the second stage, given Toyota pending closure.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
Well if the second part is built (from Kensington to Foot-scary and the Ring Road), it will make a lot more sense than stage one in isolation. There is a desperate need for a northern city bypass, Westgate Bridge is already way over capacity and a smooth freeway / tollway run north of the city to the western ring road would take a vast amount of pressure off the southern city bypass.

In isolation stage one is of some value, but if stage two is built as well, it would actually solve a lot of our traffic congestion problems.

BTW, should this discussion be split off from the Mildura train thread? It bears little relationship to the original theme.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
In response to donttellmywife/Nightfire: There's a few different sections to the project including the tender for construction AND the corporation trying to sell a prospectus to investors to assume the construction risk for a commercial return (owner/operator). As far as I'm aware there are no issues with the three builders tendering to complete the job but the problem is attracting an investor who might be interested in stumping up cash in exchange for a 30-year tolling franchise - in the same manner that Eastlink and CityLink were financed. My understanding of the current state of play is that the potential financiers/owner-operators have been pitched some scenarios for a franchise and certainly in the case of the biggest player, Transurban, the answer was a definite 'no'. I've heard likewise there isn't much interest from domestic merchant and retail financial houses.
don_dunstan

The short-listed consortia include banks (including the relevant bit of Macquarie Bank - so if they are flying red flags they are behaving a little strangely to then join a consortium) and investment funds, entities that I would not expect to see if the tender was just for construction.  All announcements about the RFP process involving the consortia indicate that the tender is for both construction and ongoing management.

I note the same entity (or near enough to it) that was a key party in the original creation of Transurban is in one of the consortia.

Note that the proposed project structure retains vehicle traffic and total toll revenue risk with the government - the model is that of an availability payment - the company builds the road and maintains it for 30 years or whatever, in return the government agrees to pay a certain amount to the company for the next 30 years (perhaps with bigger "capital" payments in the early years).

At this stage of the project the biggest issue is around construction risks.  The make-up of the consortia (heavy on construction companies) seems consistent with that.  Once built construction risk becomes much less relevant - at that stage you'd expect ownership to change.

(This is all independent of the merits or otherwise of the project.)
  PClark Chief Commissioner

To get back on topic!


My opinion is that a majority of the Mildura residents who say that the train should be restored would not, in fact, use it themselves.
They want it back to provide cheap or free travel for the “poor old pensioners” and other concession holders.


Would it not be better for the government to consider Mildura as a “special case” and to do a deal with the existing air operators to provide cheap, even free, travel for concession card holders.


The airlines would be compensated by government for any loss of revenue in the same way that GSR is.



If this were done it would almost certainly cost less than restoring the rail service and the “demand” for it’s restoration would diminish to a negligible level.
  Duncs Chief Commissioner

Peter has made a good suggestion. But if that does not work out here is another one.


  1. Upgrade the line from Bendigo to Swan Hill with concrete sleepers, low profile ones would suffice here. Increase the line speed to 115  -120 kph for the N Sets. Fix up the level crossings that need to be fixed, so proper bells, lights, rumble strips and (where applicable) boom gates. Reducing the train journey time by 20 + minutes easily.

  2. Drastically upgrade the bus service from Swan Hill to Mildura by - Introducing larger coaches with more spacious interiors. These types of coach already exist.

  3. At each bus stop along the way, introduce raised bus stop platforms, similar to the raised super tram stops in Melbourne. So the floor of the bus and the stop are level. No more steps to climb etc..

  4. Do a major upgrade of the Murray Valley Highway to further facilitate the coach travel. So saving more time there.

  5. Overall taking the trip from 7.5 hours down to 7 hours, or less. In smooth comfort with only a brief changeover at Swan Hill.

  railblogger Chief Commissioner

Location: At the back of the train, quitely doing exactly what you'd expect.

  1. Upgrade the line from Bendigo to Swan Hill with concrete sleepers, low profile ones would suffice here. Increase the line speed to 115 -120 kph for the N Sets. Fix up the level crossings that need to be fixed, so proper bells, lights, rumble strips and (where applicable) boom gates. Reducing the train journey time by 20 + minutes easily.


Duncs

What about upgrading for DMU running instead?
  speedemon08 Mary

Location: I think by now you should have figured it out

  1. Upgrade the line from Bendigo to Swan Hill with concrete sleepers, low profile ones would suffice here. Increase the line speed to 115 -120 kph for the N Sets. Fix up the level crossings that need to be fixed, so proper bells, lights, rumble strips and (where applicable) boom gates. Reducing the train journey time by 20 + minutes easily.


Duncs

Idealistically you'd have to include a better right of way ballast depth in allowing higher speeds. Shallow ballast depth and and concrete sleepers seem to not work well (and degrade right of way quicker).
  PClark Chief Commissioner

The problem facing passenger rail service to Mildura in the 21st century lies in the history of railway construction in the State's Northwest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

During this period government policy was to increase the very low population of this region by attracting "yeomen farmers" and, after WWI, "soldier settlers" onto small farm holdings.

To achieve this a series of light, parallel railways were built about 30-40km apart.  The idea being that the farmer could deliver his produce to the local station by horse and cart, collect mail and incoming goods, visit the pub and still get back home in a day.

Unfortunately this bears no relationship to current population centres and demand.

The railway reached Swan Hill in 1890 at which time the current Mildura line was only at Donald.  Had it been decided at that time to extend the Swan Hill line to Robinvale and Mildura we might, today, be just able to justify a passenger train to Mildura.

Unfortunately 100 years ago lollies and planners were unable (or unwilling) to forecast future growth.
  trainbrain Chief Commissioner

The only way to fix the Mildura line is a total rebuild to SG thru to Broken Hill, no pussyfooting around, the Mildura line in its currnet state is completely KNACKERED..............Another train derailment again at Birchip today with ten grain wagons on there sides. You lot with your GOOFIE ideas need to stop and have a total rethink.   A new SG via the shortest possible route to the Port of Melbourne, built to 21st Century standards, fast freight and then maybe an XPT/Vlocity type train to complement the new line............ Get rid of BG entirely
  gippslander Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Gippsland, Vic
What about every regional city in Victoria Question

Mildura, is without a doubt the largest regional CITY in Victoria without a pax rail service.

Indeed Mildura is a larger regional city than several others that DO have a rail service. IE Warrnambool, Traralgon, Bairnsdale, Moe, Wangaratta, Benalla, Echuca, Swan Hill, Wodonga

Mike.
"The Vinelander"


Mike
You've got it wrong about the Moe/Traralgon comparison. The City of Latrobe (which contains Moe, Morwell, Traralgon & Churchill plus rural towns) has a population of about 76000, which is not that far behind Ballarat and Bendigo. Latrobe is classified as a networked city with several urban centres and that critical mass is why it would been selected for RFR.

On another matter, any Government that attempted to kill off the Bairnsdale pass would be making a particularly courageous decision, particularly in this era of a balanced Parliament. The good folk of Bairnsdale are passionate about their train, unlike South Gippsland which was lukewarm in the extreme when the Bracks Government was ready to put it back post 1999.

If anything, Shepparton should have a strong claim for more trains given its population and the low number of services currently on offer.

That being said, we do face some tough decisions at a State level over the next few years, particularly with a Federal Government that is apparently disinterested in urban transport and unlikely to change tack.
  don_dunstan Minister for Railways

Location: Adelaide proud
The short-listed consortia include banks (including the relevant bit of Macquarie Bank - so if they are flying red flags they are behaving a little strangely to then join a consortium) and investment funds, entities that I would not expect to see if the tender was just for construction. All announcements about the RFP process involving the consortia indicate that the tender is for both construction and ongoing management.
donttellmywife

Transurban and the banks are holding all the cards - the government wants them to be involved both from an existing management perspective but also to give the project the veneer of credibility that it needs. Even though they're publicly not prepared to accept the terms eventually they'll twist exactly what they want from VicRoads, just like Aquasure ran circles around Brumby.

We should probably not digress any further with that - other than to say East-West will certainly increase the pressure on the budget.

To return to the original topic, I'm still certain there will be service cuts in the budget for V/Line but I'm just not sure what or where... others may wish to speculate but I think personally its a matter of pure economics. It's a while away so we can discuss it when it actually happens (the budget that is).
  Lad_Porter Chief Commissioner

Location: Yarra Glen
Peter has made a good suggestion. But if that does not work out here is another one.


  1. Upgrade the line from Bendigo to Swan Hill with concrete sleepers, low profile ones would suffice here. Increase the line speed to 115 -120 kph for the N Sets. Fix up the level crossings that need to be fixed, so proper bells, lights, rumble strips and (where applicable) boom gates. Reducing the train journey time by 20 + minutes easily.

  2. Drastically upgrade the bus service from Swan Hill to Mildura by - Introducing larger coaches with more spacious interiors. These types of coach already exist.

  3. At each bus stop along the way, introduce raised bus stop platforms, similar to the raised super tram stops in Melbourne. So the floor of the bus and the stop are level. No more steps to climb etc..

  4. Do a major upgrade of the Murray Valley Highway to further facilitate the coach travel. So saving more time there.

  5. Overall taking the trip from 7.5 hours down to 7 hours, or less. In smooth comfort with only a brief changeover at Swan Hill.


Duncs

Re point 4, the bus actually runs for part of the trip in NSW.   It crosses the river at Robinvale, then uses the Sturt Highway to Mildura, a leg of about 84 km, an hour or more out of the total time. If this bit needs upgrading, who would pay?
  Lad_Porter Chief Commissioner

Location: Yarra Glen
My opinion is that a majority of the Mildura residents who say that the train should be restored would not, in fact, use it themselves.
PClark

I'm wondering what they actually do want, given the distance from Mildura to Melbourne (cannot be changed), and the present condition of the track and stations (unlikely to be changed). Do they want a return of the overnight sleeper train? Do they want a daytime train? Or both? Do they want to go to Melbourne, or maybe just to Ouyen or Birchip? How fast do they want the train to go? How long do they expect the trip would take? What actual type of train? Do they realise the amount of work and cost involved in restoration, and who do they expect will pay for that?

It's understandable that Mildura people would like their passenger train back, and it could be argued that it should never have been removed, but realistically, given the present circumstances, what do they expect to happen? What do they really want? If it's transportation to Melbourne, they already have bus, bus/train, and flying, all of which are faster and of comparable comfort and cost to the kind of train trip that could be achieved. If it's for shorter trips, the buses already provide for that, but of course bus services can always be improved.

To insist that millions should be spent to duplicate existing services does not make any sense.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Mike
You've got it wrong about the Moe/Traralgon comparison. The City of Latrobe (which contains Moe, Morwell, Traralgon & Churchill plus rural towns) has a population of about 76000, which is not that far behind Ballarat and Bendigo. Latrobe is classified as a networked city with several urban centres and that critical mass is why it would been selected for RFR.
gippslander

Err...no, I was comparing individual rural cities, not local government populations. I'm well aware that the City of Latrobe has a larger population than Mildura, however due to Mildura's isolation it is arguable that its catchment for V/Line services extends to over 100 Km north and west from Mildura.

The population figures I provided a link to were Mildura only and I compared those to other stand alone rural cities.

Mike.
  transam Junior Train Controller

Hi Mike again
        Another Memory a little over 20 years ago was watching the up "Sunraysia" Gliding down
        past Moorabool in the late afternoon with a touch of Dynamic Brake, to be followed about
        20 minutes later by the up Dimboola Pass.
        Although I never travelled by train to Mildura I always thought the "Sunraysia" would have
        been a great trip, a few visits to the caferteria car, and sitting back watching Rural Victoria
        go past ! A lot better than the cramped bus or for me the terror of turbulance in the upper
        atmosphere !
        But never got that chance again and then "Along came Jeff"
       

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehrj58nJBJI
        It was never the same again
            Cheers
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Hi Mike again
Another Memory a little over 20 years ago was watching the up "Sunraysia" Gliding down
past Moorabool in the late afternoon with a touch of Dynamic Brake, to be followed about
20 minutes later by the up Dimboola Pass.
Although I never travelled by train to Mildura I always thought the "Sunraysia" would have
been a great trip, a few visits to the cafeteria car, and sitting back watching Rural Victoria
go past ! A lot better than the cramped bus or for me the terror of turbulence in the upper
atmosphere !
But never got that chance again and then "Along came Jeff"

It was never the same again
Cheers
transam

Unfortunately the 'Sunraysia' like its forebear the 'Mildura Sunlight' suffered from one primary deficiency and that was the maximum speed of 80KPH from Mildura to Ballarat which made for a slow journey.

The slow train speed was less of an issue on the overnight run due to pax generally sleeping and not watching the scenery go by.

Back in 1986 I DID watch the scenery go by at night on more than one occasion when in the back-blocks beyond Ballarat I watched Halleys Comet from the comfort of my bed in the roomette car.

Enough dreaming...I'm going to write to Opposition leader Andrews and enquire about Labor's PT policy for the upcoming state election.

Mike.
  Casper1975 Station Master

Location: Ouyen, Victoria
The line has to be upgraded there has been 4 derailments & the fires In the past year & Ken Wakefield & the VFF are getting annoyed because of It & If I was a exporter I'd be as well, The East West Link won't ease traffic congestion In the long term & for the government to say they don't have the money to upgrade the track Is simply crap If they didn't have the money then they wouldn't be spending It on a white elephant road project.  As for the airline subsidising fares I can't see that happening they are a business & want to make money & If they are not making that income on a particular route then they will scrap services so dream about It because It won't happen.

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