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15 AUG 2016 — Today the South and West Gippsland Transport Group met with the Rail, Tram & Bus Union (R.T.B.U.) in Melbourne to discuss the direction that we should take after the Victorian Council elections later on in the year.
The alliance together has well and truly commenced.
We look forward to the R.T.B.U. assisting the South & West Gippsland Transport with the strategies and policies necessary towards improving public transport and infrastructure in South Gippsland, which will ultimately allow and justify the return of rail services to Leongatha.
The first meeting between the South and West Gippsland Transport Group and the Rail, Tram & Bus Union was an opportunity to discuss and plan out the strategy that will be taken after the Victorian Council elections taking place later this year. The Rail, Tram & Bus Union had already received the documents that the South and West Gippsland Transport Group sent in June this year and planned a list of strategies and recommendations that can be done in the interim and after October. These will centre on establishing a more effective and wide spread community and media campaign, which will be conveyed through a variety of approaches and outlets.
It was highlighted that the statistics regarding the population in the adjoining municipalities of Casey, Cardinia, Baw Baw, Bass Coast and South Gippsland growing from 459,000 in 2016 to 794,000 people in 2031 will strengthen the case for an integrated transport plan in the South East. Traffic on the Monash Freeway is forecast to grow from 150,000 vehicles (East of Toorak Road) to 213,000 in 2031. This is an increase of 42% and the Monash Freeway widening project would be completely ineffective if there are no upgrades to existing public transport and infrastructure and provision for future projects.
The South and West Gippsland Transport Group and Rail, Tram & Bus Union are both concerned about the losses in employment that are occurring in the Latrobe Valley and West Gippsland, which are projected to keep growing. The recently floated proposal of terminating Gippsland line rail services would only continue to disadvantage commuters who use these trains from a large number of communities in the South East. Given the ongoing cycle of transitioning between existing and new industries is occurring more often, it is clear that connectivity to Melbourne has already become essential and will continue to be more critical.
‘The strategy that we are collectively going to develop is to get all four of the municipalities (Casey, Cardinia, Bass Coast and South Gippsland Councils) that are situated along the disused railway line between Cranbourne and Leongatha to commit to an integrated transport plan, which will include a rail feasibility study’.
Currently the motion that South Gippsland Shire Council passed on February 24 this year does not allow for an integrated transport plan to be established as it is only represents the municipality’s desire in wanting the railway line reopened. However, it was identified by the Rail, Tram & Bus Union that the cost for a feasibility study into the Leongatha line would be approximately $200,000. This expense can be shared between the four Councils if they are all in support of an integrated transport plan and in turn identify how to better utilise existing transport arrangements and develop a justifiable proposal to reinstate rail services. The decisions that we have made today and steps we will work towards in the short-term that advocates for a commitment from local government is critical.
The South and West Gippsland Transport Group and Rail, Tram and Bus Union alliance will now form as a vital approach in achieving our proposals and making informed policy decisions. It is in the best interests of the South Eastern municipalities to work towards making an integrated transport plan a reality as the time for action is now.
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