03 April 2017

Commonwealth Regional Rail Fund essential for Victoria

Regional Victoria, including Geelong and the Corangamite electorate, desperately needs better passenger rail services.

That’s why I am advocating for the Turnbull Government to establish a major Commonwealth Regional Rail Fund for Victoria.

While passenger rail is a state responsibility, the Andrews Labor government has failed to progress one major passenger rail infrastructure project for south west Victoria.

Without intervention and leadership from the Turnbull government, I fear that our train services will fall further and further behind.  A Commonwealth regional rail fund will bring the state to the negotiating table so that, together, we can plan and fund vital rail upgrades.

Over a number of years, I have fought very hard for better passenger rail.  For Geelong, we can’t continue to grow as one of Australia’s major regional cities unless we have a first class rail service.

Last June, after a long campaign, our government forced the state to put the rail duplication between South Geelong and Waurn Ponds on its priority project list.  We committed $1 million to fund a feasibility study to which the state is contributing $3 million.  Since then, we have heard nothing.  Where is the feasibility study?  Where are the costings?  Nine months on, this is simply not good enough.

I am continuing to advocate very hard for this duplication project which is essential to providing extra and faster services to and from Marshall, Waurn Ponds, Winchelsea, Birregurra and Colac stations – through to Warrnambool.  Longer term, we also need to duplicate the single track tunnel between Geelong and South Geelong stations.

The $3.65b Regional Rail Link (RRL) has proved to be a short term fix only and is almost at capacity. Services are increasingly slow and over-crowded.  The RRL was never designed to accommodate train stations in Melbourne’s west which has turned it into a suburban rail service.

Between January 2015 and February 2017, V-Line met its punctuality target of 92 per cent for only two of the 26 months (source: www.vline.com.au/About-V-Line/Additional-pages/Past-performance). Geelong and Corangamite residents deserve a fast train to Melbourne which runs on time.

Labor also broke its promise to deliver 12 additional services from Colac per week, delivering only 10.  This, too, is not good enough.

For Colac, there should be a minimum of five services to and from Geelong and Melbourne a day as the state Liberals have promised.

In Parliament this week, I spoke out about this issue highlighting how (according to the Rail Futures Institute) the service from Warrnambool to Melbourne took 195 minutes in 1985 compared to today’s average of 220 mins.

In the lead up to the Federal Budget, I have lobbied the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester for a regional rail fund which must include funding for the Geelong duplicated rail project.

I have also lobbied for regional rail investment to be included in a City Deal for our region.  During our City Deal roundtable with G21, local mayors and Assistant Minister for Cities Angus Taylor, there was much focus on the need for better transport infrastructure.

2 April 2017