By Colin MacGillivray
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan has labelled Victoria’s regional train system a ‘complete mess’ and its road network ‘dangerous’, saying Mitchell Shire residents were paying the price for a lack of State Government investment.
Victoria’s V/Line train network was shut down for most of Wednesday last week after what the government said was a communications fault.
It was the third time in five weeks the entire network was shut down, and Ms Ryan, the Shadow Minister for Public Transport and Roads, said V/Line patrons from Mitchell Shire and beyond were becoming fed up.
“It shatters people’s confidence that a train is going to turn up when they need it and take them where they need to go,” she said.
“That’s all any of us are looking for at the end of the day. I think people understand that occasionally things do go wrong, but they should not be going wrong with such frequency that the whole network goes down three times in five weeks.”
Ms Ryan said some of her constituents were worried repeated train delays and cancellations would put their jobs at risk.
“There are only so many times you can roll into work and say to your boss ‘I’m really sorry, the train didn’t show up’,” she said.
Ms Ryan also expressed concerns about what she termed the ‘politicisation of V/Line’ and said there was a lack of transparency in the government’s handling of the network.
“[V/Line chief executive Matt Carrick] went on radio and said they didn’t know what had caused [the communications fault]but I seriously question that. How can you fix something if you don’t know what’s broken?,” she said.
A government spokesperson said Ms Ryan’s claims that the V/Line network had been shut down three times in five weeks were untrue.
She said the government had earmarked $436 million for an upgrade of the Shepparton train line, which passes through Mitchell Shire.
Stage one of the Shepparton line is complete, allowing for 10 additional weekly services.
The spokeswoman said stage two was scheduled for completion later this year and would see upgrades to 59 level crossings, while stage three would enable nine daily return services on the line by late 2023.
“The facts are very clear – the Victorian Liberals have a track record of cuts and closures when it comes to transport and only Labor is upgrading every single regional rail line and investing in the network to make it easier for passengers to travel,” the spokeswoman said.
“Passengers can look forward to more reliable, faster and extra services, following the completion of the Shepparton line upgrade and the introduction of modern VLocity trains.”
Regional roads in disarray
Ms Ryan also took aim at the state of regional roads after earlier this year launching a campaign to identify ‘Victoria’s worst road’.
Interim results from a poll at www.vicsworstroad.vote found Melbourne-Lancefield Road was rated as one of the most poorly maintained in the state according to users.
Ms Ryan said she would present the final results of the poll to Roads Minister Ben Carroll after voting closed.
“Every time I raise this issue with the government they deny that the road network is in a poor state and say they’ve done a fantastic job of maintaining it. That is not the experience of any person in our region who is using the road network,” she said.
“The Hume Freeway is full of potholes and ruts, and there are rough surface signs the length and breadth of that road because it is in such a poor state of repair.
“I don’t think this should wait for a state election. I think we need dramatic action now to start reversing the poor state of roads across Victoria.”
The Liberal-Nationals Coalition has committed to investing 25 per cent of its infrastructure budget in regional communities if elected in November, which Ms Ryan said would provide a funding boost for both the train and road networks.