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The Australian Rail Track Corporation has been accused of keeping the extent of the problem with the North East rail line a secret from passengers.
In a grilling during a Senate hearing on Monday, Greens Senator Janet Rice told ARTC chief executive John Fullerton that community members had counted 23 speed restrictions between Melbourne and Albury.
He had claimed there were only eight to 10 restrictions.
“The community are concerned you are hiding data. They are concerned your assessment of the track, yes it meets standards you have determined with the Victorian government, but it doesn’t meet the community standards,” Ms Rice said.
The contract between the ARTC and Victorian government, detailing what standards the track has to meet, remains a secret, as does data collected on how well trains are running.
Mr Fullerton told the committee it was because of a “commercial confidence”.
“I think it’s important we communicate with the community what we’re going to get the track up to performance, but that data is complex data,” he said.
Asked five times by Senator Rice why details were kept secret, Mr Fullerton only said it was “complex”, but agreed to take the issue of releasing data on notice.
“I can’t see why that raw data - even if it is complex data, there are lots of people in the community who are interrogating complex data - why that data is considered ‘commercial’,” Senator Rice said.
Mr Fullerton also denied information from Senator Derryn Hinch that passengers claimed the trains were an hour slower than 10 years ago.
“Your name is mud, like the mudholes, because they claim the trains are going slower,” Senator Hinch said.
Mr Fullerton said he was disappointed passengers felt that way because they were treated with equal importance as freight trains.
“Over five years there has been a substantial improvement in performance and the statistics show that,” he said. “The work that we will do in March will overcome some of those speed restrictions and reduce that time on V/Line services.”
Indi MP Cathy McGowan also spoke in Parliament on Monday to call on the federal government to take action on a problem that has “been going on for far too long”.
“I’m sure the government wants to solve the problem, it can’t have that level of dysfunction happening,” she said.
“We would like some transparency with what’s going on.”
Transport Minister Darren Chester has committed to visiting Indi to dicuss the issue, but Ms McGowan said he needed to come with answer on how the track could be improved to help reverse the pattern of poor V/Line performances.
She also met with Mr Fullerton on Monday to discuss the ARTC issues.
This article first appeared on www.bordermail.com.au
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