Rail vital to Gippsland’s future

PITCHING the merits of the Gippsland region is seen as the next step to encourage future government investment in the passenger and freight rail network.

In the midst of the V/Line crisis, Gippsland V/Line User Group met with Regional Development Australia, State Government representatives and Gippsland Local Government Network on Friday to share stories faced by rail passengers on the Gippsland line

Group spokeswoman Natalie Thorne said it was time to put pressure on local government and profile the region as a source of water, power and a critical food bowl in a bid for better rail infrastructure.

“Rail is an integral part of the bigger picture. A region’s success is dependent on decent rail infrastructure and we need to plan for how the region is going to grow and develop,” Ms Thorne said.

Baw Baw Shire mayor Joe Gauci said the meeting provided a valuable perspective on the current situation and offered a prospect for the groups to work towards a shared goal.

“Our priority is to ensure that services are returned to the Gippsland line as soon as possible and that upgrades to this line remain a priority for the State Government,” Cr Gauci said.

He said the groups would work closely with other stakeholders to build on the rail infrastructure program identified in the Australian Government’s 15 year infrastructure plan.

Proposed ‘city-centric’ plan criticised

A PROPOSED $11 billion rail tunnel through Melbourne’s central business district has been criticised as the V/Line crisis remains unchanged.

Member for Morwell Russell Northe said the Metro Rail Project announced in Parliament on Tuesday “spoke volumes” about the city-centric Labor Government.

“The fact that (Premier) Daniel Andrews and (Public Transport Minister) Jacinta Allan were promoting a billion-dollar rail project in Melbourne today will be a slap in the face to Gippsland commuters who can’t even get accurate information about replacement buses – let alone catch a train,” Mr Northe said on Tuesday.

In a statement, Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the project would transform Melbourne’s rail network into an international-style system.

She said the project would return up to $1.50 for every dollar invested, generate 4700 jobs during peak construction and create space for nearly 40,000 extra passengers every morning and evening peak.