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This time, V/Line shouldn’t specifically be to blame. They have removed trains due to major safety concerns that have arisen with higher than normal wheel wear. V/Line can only operate with what they are given. Safety should always be the primary concern.
However, what this showcases again is the problems that our train line is suffering and the complete lack of interest the government has taken in providing a proper solution.
This week the first of 50 level crossings in Melbourne set for removal was completed. Billions are being spent on the Metro Rail Project amid a series of other public transport projects planned by the government for Melbourne. Yet Ballarat commuters have faced nothing but poor performance that has left commuters reeling.
The announcement by V/Line was merely another frustrating example of the problems which are continuing to impact on the journey for commuters. The problem is that it is almost expected by commuters. The ongoing problems have been caused by consecutive governments.
Ballarat is pitched as a booming commuter city, repeatedly mentioned by politicians from both sides of the spectrum as a key city for the future development of the state.
But it is now time for the government to actually stand up and do something. Tell commuters and this community why they should bother to commute from the regions.
Show some light at the end of this dark tunnel which seems to have no final stop.
Each week commuters hear more and more about the changes being done to improve public transport in Melbourne. Yet almost silence on what is being done here.
The start to the year has been nothing short of horrible and even reminiscent of the terrible and failed Regional Rail Link launch in the middle of last year. Just when commuters were starting to see some more positive results (still far below goals which are set) before Christmas, it has all been brought crashing down once again. This has been repeated for the past few years.
To reiterate, V/Line can only operate with what they are given and right now it appears regional public transport is not the government’s priority. Right now it seems like they have no interest at all. It is time for Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan to provide us with a long term solution. We have heard the apologies due to the number of delays, and the stories of reviews and plans.
But the fact of the matter is that the last few years have been a matter of taking the odd step forward and then taking a few more back. Months ago The Courier ran a story listing a number of key projects that could be completed, if the government chose to, that would give commuters that light at the end of the tunnel they deserve.
The future of the line may very well be in the Regional Network Development Plan. A report the Ms Allan has referred to on too many occasions to recall.
Yet the feedback was provided, compiled and handed to government months ago. If the point of this report (which sounded exceptional at the time) is lost in government spin, like I believe it will be, it will be another loss for the Ballarat commuter.
If it is lost in government with no real tangible improvement on the horizon, this government should not have the right to label Ballarat a commuter city. Because it is has chosen not to support it as one.
The time is now for the government to stand up for the region and give us some answers. Tell us why we should be supporting such an expensive, poorly performing service.
- Matthew Dixon is a journalist with The Courier
This article first appeared on www.thecourier.com.au
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