Gippsland rail plan hits the mark

Related: Latrobe metro mooted 

It’s a brilliant idea, so why didn’t the State Government come up with it?

That’s the question being asked by Gippsland V/Line Users Group convener Natalie Thorne following the release of an independent plan for the future of regional rail which recommends wholesale upgrades for the Gippsland line.

The Intercity report, developed by a panel of experts under the Rail Futures Institute banner, has been lauded by the local group as a success in a space where the State Government has come up short.

It echoes the group’s push for line quadruplication at the Dandenong choke point and track upgrades to allow high speed travel between Gippsland and Melbourne.

Ms Thorne said she hoped the government would stand up and take notice.

“It’s imperative that the government starts taking Gippsland seriously; the plan really backs what the user group has been saying, that the (Dandenong to Caulfield) quadruplication is the highest priority for Gippsland,” she said.

“This (report) really questions how much capability the government has to do this kind of planning properly and potentially that’s why we haven’t seen proper growth and transport planning done in an integrated way.

“There’s a lot of knowledge and experience that’s gone into this, and you get the impression that’s lacking in what the government and other agencies are producing.

“It really highlights that punctuality, reliability and the quality of service to Gippsland has gone backwards, it’s not just users complaining, it’s actually an independent body saying this.”

Ms Thorne said the existing infrastructure on the Gippsland line was inadequate and required immediate attention.

She said upgrading the entire line to enable 160 kilometre per hour travel both ways to allow faster travel and alleviate timetable constraints was one of the major priorities noted in the report.

“Coming out from Pakenham onwards we have two lines most of the way. We’ve all been aware there’s some areas of single track and we’ve been working on getting those duplicated, but the other aspect (which this document highlights) is that only one of the lines is actually fast and the other isn’t,” she said.

“It means we’ve got fast trains going one way and slow the other, which puts a huge constraint on the timetabling, particularly when you’re going such a long distance to Traralgon or Bairnsdale.

“We need both of those lines to be able to cater to fast rail.”

Ms Thorne called on the government to start taking steps to realise the plan’s vision and determine its logistical feasibility now rather than later.

The RFI report has been submitted to the incumbent government and opposition for consideration.

Questions put to Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan’s office were not responded to by the time of going to print.