17 February 2017

Labor’s regional rail fail

As I raised in Parliament this week, Geelong and Corangamite residents need a fast rail service to Melbourne.

I am extremely concerned about the capacity of Victoria’s Regional Rail Link to cater for the future needs of our region.

Improved transport infrastructure is critical for jobs growth and our region’s prosperity.

We have seen Labor destroy the East West Link at a cost of &1.24 billion and now deliver a rail service which is taking us backwards.

Last week in Canberra, I raised the need for better regional rail services directly with the Prime Minister. Next month, I am convening a round table meeting with the Assistant Minister for Cities Angus Taylor and local government representatives to progress a City Deal for our region. Better rail should be front and centre of a City Deal for Geelong.

A Rail Futures Institute (Institute) report has revealed that after less than two years, Labor’s much hyped $3.65b Regional Rail Link will soon reach capacity leading to slower and more crowded train services. The link was built to cater for 18 trains per hour and, during peak, is already handling 17 trains per hour.

The report has also shown that instead of speeding Geelong trains up it has in fact slowed them down, with the fastest journey now no better than in 1958 – almost 60 years ago. To make matters worse, trains are expected to become even slower in the future with long term plans to build three suburban stations along the Regional Rail Link to cater for Melbourne’s growing population. Travelling time for Warrnambool commuters has also increased with the Institute revealing that the average trip from Melbourne to Warrnambool was 195 mins in 1985 compared to today’s average of 220 mins.

When this project was officially opened, commuters were promised more frequent and reliable trains. Victorian Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the project offered “the addition of extra services for both metropolitan and regional passengers and also importantly, the capacity for more in the future which is about keeping pace with population growth and demand for public transport services”.

How could Labor have got this so wrong ? How can it be that in less than two years a $3.65 billion dollar project that was supposed to take regional rail transport into the next decade has almost reached capacity? Labor has clearly demonstrated that it cannot be trusted with planning for the future infrastructure needs of this state.

After campaigning for better rail over many months, the Turnbull Government has committed $1m to help plan a duplicated rail line between South Geelong and Waurn Ponds. I am very proud to have put this project on the agenda but what is the State Government doing? So far, we’ve heard nothing but silence from Labor on this important infrastructure project.

See relevant excerpt from my speech in Parliament on 15 February 2017.

The Regional Rail Link, a $3.65 billion project—$2.7 billion from the Commonwealth, $1 billion from the state. We now have—
Mr Hill: It’s a Labor project.
Ms Henderson: Yes, it is. It is a Labor project. It is a Labor project and with the project it now takes longer for the people from Geelong to travel to Melbourne, and we now have an inferior rail connection between Geelong and Melbourne. I put on the table that we need a 30-minute fast-rail connection between the booming city of Geelong rather than the cumbersome and shocking Regional Rail Link, which is now taking longer. It is servicing the people of Western Melbourne, but it has completely failed the people of Geelong. We have heard some mention of the East West Link. My colleague here talked about the $1.1 billion that Daniel Andrews wasted. It has actually gone up to $1.24 billion. He said that scrapping that project would not cost a cent. That was absolutely untrue. Labor spent $1.24 billion not to build that road, supported by Infrastructure Australia, supported by Infrastructure Victoria and previously supported by the member for Maribyrnong.

17 February 2017