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GIPPSLAND South MLA Danny O’Brien is angry at the state government’s failure to support additional train services to Wellington Shire under the federally funded regional rail package.
Mr O’Brien has been campaigning for the package to include a new train stabling facility at Sale or Wurruk to allow extra Melbourne trains to originate or terminate in Sale.
He said providing a train stabling facility at Sale, or possibly in an industrial area at Wurruk, would mean more services could be delivered to benefit local residents and improve services and connectivity to Melbourne.
In parliament last month, Mr O’Brien asked Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan whether the package would include new stabling facilities for Sale, as well as detail on the costing of the replacement of the Avon Bridge at Stratford.
Minister Allan’s reply didn’t deal directly with Mr O’Brien’s query.
“As the member would know, the Andrews Labor government recently secured $1.57 billion for its Regional Rail Revival package to upgrade every regional rail line in Victoria, including $435 million for the Gippsland line upgrade and $95 million to replace the Avon River Bridge,” she said.
“This project will deliver the public transport that Gippsland passengers deserve.”
Mr O’Brien said the “non-answer” was “contemptuous both of the parliamentary process and the people of Sale and Wellington Shire”.
“If the minister has no interest in additional services to Sale, she should just say so,” Mr O’Brien said.
“A non-answer such as this is beneath the dignity of a minister of the Crown.
“Clearly Labor has dumped the idea of extra services and stabling for Sale, which was a commitment made by The Nationals in government, was part Gippsland Local Government Network report and even highlighted as necessary in Labor’s own Regional Network Development Plan.
“It beggars belief it is not included in this package.
“The $95 million price tag to replace the Avon River Bridge is perplexing given all other publicly available estimates suggest it will cost about $25 million.
“The minister needs to explain this, but has chosen not to do so.”
Mr O’Brien’s comments came as the state government confirmed Gippsland would get 18 extra weekly train services as part of the new V/Line timetable that will add 151 new train services across the state from August 27.
The 151 extra services will take the total number of regional services added this year to 231 — 61 more than announced in the Victorian State Budget 2016-17.
Eastern Victoria MLC Harriet Shing said the new V/Line timetable, with new services, gave passengers easier access to sporting and entertainment events in the city.
She said the new timetable included a new off-peak 6.48pm evening service from Traralgon to Southern Cross, and an extension of the 11.59pm Friday late-night service to each weeknight from Southern Cross to Traralgon.
Weekend services would also be improved, with five extra services on Saturdays and four on Sundays, meaning that football fans would now have all weekend Gippsland services stopping at Richmond station.
The new services come on top of the 10 extra weekly services added to the Gippsland corridor in January, taking the number of services added by the state government this year to 28.
The timings of coaches and buses that connect with trains will be adjusted to reflect the new timetable.
The 11.35am coach from Canberra to Bairnsdale will depart at the earlier time of 7.40am and continue to Traralgon, where it will connect with a train to Melbourne.
Ms Shing said there would also be changes to arrival and departure times of coaches to and from Lake Tyers Beach, Bairnsdale and Sale, Marlo, Leongatha and Yarram, Inverloch, Batemans Bay, Traralgon and Cowes.
“Whether it’s going to the theatre or the footy, we’re giving Gippslanders more choice on when they want to travel and making it easy for them to enjoy Melbourne with more late night and weekend services,” she added.
The state government has also spent $311.1 million on 39 new VLocity carriages on top of the existing order of 48 new carriages, in order to add capacity to the busiest services.
Ms Allan said the state and federal government’s $1.6 billion Regional Rail Revival would deliver more train services and better rail infrastructure for regional Victorians.
Timetables are now available from http://www.vline.com.au.
Passengers can pick up printed timetables from stations and use the ‘plan a journey’ tool on the V/Line website.
Mr O’Brien said he would continue to lobby for Sale to benefit from this infrastructure upgrade, and for more services to be delivered.
This article first appeared on www.gippslandtimes.com.au
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