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Federal Transport Minister Darren Chester has accepted an invitation from a fellow National Party MP to travel the trouble-plagued North East rail line aboard a V/Line train.
Euroa MLA Steph Ryan secured the visit to show Mr Chester personally the state of mudholes, speed restrictions, maintenance problems and service reliability.
“I’m particularly interested to know whether there’s anything the federal minister can do to put some pressure back on the Victorian government, as rolling stock is a critical issue,” she said.
“All they have invested in the North East line since they came to government is one new carriage.
“We’re just not seeing any kind of commitment out of the state which I find quite concerning.”
Victorian Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan last month said the government was “doing their bit” and it was time for the federal government to “hold the Australian Rail Track Corporation accountable” for track maintenance.
Ms Ryan said the blame game between Ms Allan and the ARTC was “frustrating”.
“The ARTC maintain the track specific to a long-term lease arrangement they have …. I’m still trying to understand who is responsible for negotiating it and how that can be renegotiated,” she said.
“My understanding at the moment is the track is being maintained to a quality suitable for freight trains, but that’s clearly not good enough.
“I think the biggest change that can be made is an improvement in rolling stock.
“We have the oldest in the state and if the Victorian government cares anything about what happens outside the city they should be making an investment in it.”
Ms Ryan believed the visit, which is yet to have a date nominated by Mr Chester’s office, would be the minister’s first ride on the route.
Border Rail Action Group chairman Bill Traill hoped it would mean movement on the issue.
“A high level official in V/Line, James Pinder, rode that track recently in V/Line rolling stock and was appalled at the condition of the track,” he said.
“I think it will be quite an enlightening experience for Mr Chester to travel on it.
“With the blame game, there’s at least a recognition there are serious problems with the rolling stock and the track and it’s up to the respective governments – in one case the federal and in the other the Victorian – to do something about it.”
This article first appeared on www.bordermail.com.au
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