Rail plan rolled out for regional Victoria

A train service every 20 minutes in peak times at regional stations including Traralgon is among the long-term goals set out by the State Government in a development plan for Victoria’s regional rail network.

Released on Monday, the plan also sets the long-term goal of trains every 40 minutes in off-peak times to Traralgon and five services, five days a week to outlying areas like Bairnsdale.

Extra passing loops and extra tracks to allow for more trains was identified as a “future direction” for the Gippsland line, along with upgrading the track to allow for higher speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour.

“We’ll be moving away from a series of ad hoc investments in regional public transport to sustained, longer-term planning that will see improvements to train services, improvements to bus services, delivering better connections between small towns and regional centres and most critically having a passenger-centred focus,” Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said.

In listing actions for the short-term, the plan highlighted initiatives already announced in the recent state budget including two extra off-peak services from Melbourne to Traralgon every day; revamping the classic fleet including air-conditioners; bus service improvements; investigating and increasing car park capacity at Morwell, Moe and Traralgon stations; removing nine level crossings and upgrading signalling on the Caulfield to Dandenong corridor; and planning work for upgrades to the Gippsland line, including passing loops and track duplication between Bunyip and Longwarry.

The government said it would also provide $100,000 for a new bike parking cage at Traralgon station.

The Opposition labelled the plan as “no more than another discussion paper”, saying it contained no immediate action for the future of the Gippsland line.

“Two thousand-eight-hundred individual comments regarding the Gippsland Line were made to the submission process and to not announce anything meaningful today that will improve services, frequency or reliability is staggering,” Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood said.

Member for Morwell Russell Northe said in the 2014 state election, the Coalition promised $2.5 billion in investment between Melbourne and Bairnsdale.

“That would have seen more rolling stock, duplication of track at major bottlenecks, additional peak services for Gippsland commuters and improved frequency and reliability for the line,” Mr Northe said.

On Monday, Ms Allan said while there was a desire across Victoria for more train services and improvements, those improvements could not be delivered until the government had completed proper planning and investigation.

Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber said the Regional Network Development plan contradicted the business case for the Melbourne Metro public transport project.

“The business case for Melbourne Metro shows that after spending $10 billion on a rail tunnel, Gippsland doesn’t get any extra services,” Mr Barber said.

Ms Allan said The Greens had “nothing positive to say about better regional transport”.

“Instead, their only contribution is a confused attempt to criticise the first-ever long-term plan for better trains, buses and coaches for Gippsland,” Ms Allan said.

“We’re investing in more trains, improved stations and better coach connections in the Latrobe Valley and across regional Victoria, so passengers spend less time on platforms and more time with family and friends.”