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In 2017, the south-west Victorian city of Warrnambool was told fast-speed trains were now approaching. They're yet to arrive at the station.
An upgraded Warrnambool line was part of the state government's re-election campaign, with the $114 million upgrade a key part of the government's $1.57 billion regional upgrade package.
The upgrade, announced mid-2017, was big news for the south-west Victorian city.
Once completed, it would enable a fifth daily service to the city from Melbourne and pave the way for VLocity trains to travel to Warrnambool for the first time, cutting travel times by up to 20 minutes.
At the time of the announcement, Mr Andrews told local media "we've been stuck for a while" and that he expected the upgrade to take up to 18 months to complete.
Fast forward four-and-a-half years, a little under half of which has been hampered by the impacts of a global pandemic, the project has yet to complete its first stage of construction
Warrnambool remains without a fifth daily train service, and the new VLocity trains are a pipedream, with a recent parliamentary committee revealing new trains for the line are yet to be ordered.
It's been 1,598 days since the announcement was made in Warrnambool.
Mother 'devastated' by access hurdlesLike many regional people, Warrnambool man Harvey Thulborn-McCorkell relies on public transport to get around.
The lack of services has already shaped his life.
Mr Thulborn-McCorkell, who uses a wheelchair, says he can't attend his first-choice university due to a lack of available train services.
And just getting aboard a train can be a struggle, with the older stock that runs in Warrnambool not always accessible for people with mobility difficulties.
Kylie Thulborn demonstrates how she sometimes needs to lift her son Harvey to help him onto trains that aren't accessible.(Supplied: Kylie Thulborn)His mother, Kylie Thulborn, is a disability advocate.
She says she's sick of the inequality that regional Victorians suffer when it comes to transport.
"I feel extremely frustrated, and devastated," Ms Thulborn said.
"This ongoing saga relating to the rolling stock and to accessible public transport really has stagnated to a point where no-one understands what exactly the new rolling stock is going to look like, or if there'll be accessibility on the line, or even an additional service."
The state opposition has slammed the government for its inaction. Nationals shadow public transport minister Steph Ryan said Labor lied to voters.
The government did not respond to a request for an interview or respond to specific questions, instead heaping pressure on the Nationals at a federal level.
Euroa state MP Steph Ryan has accused Labor of lying to voters.(Supplied)"Regional Victorians would remember the Liberal Nationals record when it comes to regional rail – they shut and they cut," a spokesperson said.
“In contrast, we're working with the Deputy Prime Minister to deliver building important regional rail upgrades, and the Andrews Labor government is increasing passenger services and delivering newer, better trains for regional Victorians."
On Friday, the state government announced that Tricia Malowney would take on the role of Victoria's chief accessibility advocate, a new position designed to help improve accessibility across the Victorian transport network.
Works 'ongoing' but delays remainAccording to official websites, the state government remains committed to its upgrade promise, with Upgrade Stage 1 still "in progress".
Signal upgrades have commenced, level-crossings are being upgraded and work on a crossing loop at Boorcan, which helps trains pass and recover from "unexpected delays", has commenced.
That work is expected to be finished by mid-to-late next year, with construction on Stage 2 of the upgrade – which includes a stabling upgrade in Warrnambool – to be completed in late 2023.
The Public Transport Users Association criticised the government's decision to promise the upgrades ahead of the last election, saying they were never going to be completed by 2021, like was promised at the time.
Liberal Surf Coast Member Roma Britnell said the new trains needed to be ready to roll by 2023 when federal government-funded upgrades are also due to be completed.
But Kylie Thulborn says she's already sick of waiting.
"Regionally we've been consistently disadvantaged over a long period of time," she said.
Kylie Thulborn (bottom right) is a long-time disability advocate in south-west Victoria(Supplied: Rodney Harris )
"We've listened and been patient and waited to have not only an accessible infrastructure, but also a timetable that allows us to move towards more metropolitan areas.
"It's something that transparency has been lacking from, and it's something that many, many people have put a lot of energy into, so to have no recourse is just super frustrating."
The state government has yet to confirm when the upgrade will be completed, however buses are currently replacing trains on the line, with a construction blitz underway until December 12.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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