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The impact of successive Victorian Government failure to build on the Victorian Regional Fast Rail Projects between 2000 and 2006 has now caught up with us.
Many communities across the four RFR lines have continued to benefit from this investment which was lambasted by the Liberal Opposition at the time. It is frightening to think what Victoria may now look like and especially the state of our regional rail network had this investment not been made.
The Labour government at the time lead by Steve Bracks showed wonderful foresight as they invested in the Regional Fast Rail (RFR) project and Victoria's future. Ever since this initiative there have been token investments which have not had the same positive impact on the performance and dependability of the regional network. In fact the network has been plagued with a continuous series of problems over the past 10 years.
V/line has enjoyed high passenger growth which has been terrific however, management has fumbled about ever since when dealing with the large changes which have been required for such a long period. According to the last V/Line annual report patronage growth has plateaued and everything is very rosy. Really?
V/Line have been scrambling to understand the investment profile required to take the network to the next level, taken a lot longer than required to deliver critical projects, and lacked longer term vision at the same time as trying a one size fits all approach to rail. This has not worked we still do not have the Echuca Level Crossing programme completed, Albury services are hit and miss, there is constant overcrowding and we have a Vlocity train setup which is not suitable for longer distance travel.
October 2014 ABS vehicle usage statistics highlight Victoria has the highest national average KMs travelled per vehicle registered. This figure is much higher than NSW and Queensland and higher than the national average. People are turning back to their cars. V/line is stuck in a long rut.
These issues are a strong sign V/line management is not working to provide services desired by the community and on par with driving. The PTV is also not delivering the much needed projects which should have already been completed. These projects would deliver network and rolling stock capacity upgrades. There are also the projects which have not been planned for. e.g.: Electrification to Ballarat together with duplication of much of the track to increase speed and capacity opening up the Ballarat corridor.
It get's worse. The Victorian Rail Freight Network is in crisis also suffering from gross negligence. In 2014, according to the ABS, freight vehicles registered in Victoria travelled the most tonne-kilometres (53,667 million), followed by Queensland (47,018 million), New South Wales (39,797) and Western Australia (37,866). This is simply unacceptable and again highlights the disgraceful way rail has been treated in this state.
Combine this worsening road position with the gross mismanagement of port rail projects and you have a crisis which is only going to cost the State of Victoria billions to fix. Recent studies highlighted the need for a rail freight line to the expanded Webb Dock project a $1b investment in the Port of Melbourne. This was not delivered. Instead we can now expect an additional 1 million truck movements per annum to the Port. Incredible.
The Liberal answer was a $30b road tunnel. In the context of a gross under investment in rail network maintenance and expansion it is now easy to see just what an unwelcome waste of precious resources this was going to be to the people of Victoria.
Rail is the answer like it is in other parts of the country and indeed other parts of the world but our situation in Vicroria is just getting worse.
Daniel Andrews has come into power promising public transport upgrades. He has delivered a few level crossing removals and announced (with the exception of the Melbourne Metro Project) a range of large road projects.
The message is simply not getting through or Daniel Andrews does not understand what is at stake.
Brian Evans, Chief Editor, Railpage
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