Persistent train of thought

Terminating Gippsland trains at Pakenham has not been ruled out by Infrastructure Victoria’s draft 30-year infrastructure strategy.

The controversial proposal was mooted by an IV-run citizen jury, containing no Gippsland representatives, in Shepparton earlier this year to “allow greater use of the high population Pakenham-Melbourne route by suburban commuter trains”, with increased Gippsland to Pakenham shuttles.

IV follow-up documents said it would not recommend the idea in the draft, citing instead a need to uplift capacity on the Dandenong rail corridor in the short term, but said it may be considered down the track.

Transport Minister Jacinta Allan also squashed the proposal, saying the government had “no plans to stop Gippsland trains at Pakenham and make people transfer” to a metropolitan train.

However, the 30-year draft for the state’s infrastructure left the door open for such a move, although it was not listed as a priority.

“While this may be required over the long term, particularly if building new tracks on the southeast corridor proves to be unviable, it is too early to make a call either way,” the document reads.

“There is no easy solution on this corridor.”

Latrobe City councillor Graeme Middlemiss condemned the document’s lack of certainty on the matter.

“This proposal pops up every few years and is supposedly killed, yet here it is again,” Cr Middlemiss said.

“The situation is becoming farcical and the State Government must make it clear that it is totally committed to direct Gippsland – Melbourne rail services; transferring to suburban trains at Pakenham is not acceptable to our community.

“Billions of dollars have just been spent on the ‘Regional Rail Link’ project to ensure that trains from Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong have direct access to Melbourne. It is time the Valley got the same commitment.”

Gippsland V/Line Users Group convener Natalie Thorne said the only solution for the line was quadruplication between Caulfield and Dandenong, as recommended by the recent Intercity Report from independent body Rail Futures Institute.

“The problem is the issue is a bit complex, so what they might be thinking is if we need to get more trains in the Gippsland area per se they could have a shuttle service that goes between Pakenham and Traralgon and that would cater for more within Gippsland trips,” Ms Thorne said.

“I think the concern people have is that once you start that, the feeling is ‘we’ll just do more of those’, but that doesn’t fix the journey time from out here into city and it doesn’t fix the reliability issues that we have.

“It’s not just Gippsland, the whole line needs fixing. If they think they’re going to fix the whole of the eastern corridor by putting in a shuttle from Pakenham to Traralgon, it’s just not true.”

The document also outlined a potential $5 fee for motorists entering Melbourne and new tolls on existing freeways to reduce road congestion.

A ‘transport pricing scheme’ was floated, which included a $2 charge for driving into the inner suburbs and $3 for going into the central business district.

Ms Thorne said any such impost to motorists required an appropriate public transport alternative for city-bound commuters.

“If we’re going to cut back on traffic on the roads, we need to put more infrastructure into trains,” she said.

“If we need to encourage people to use public transport rather than roads, we need to do something about public transport and everyone knows the eastern corridor is the biggest bottleneck in the system.”

At least two petitions were launched in opposition to the Pakenham proposal, one by Member for Morwell Russell Northe and the other by activist group Voices of the Valley; while a Facebook page ‘Hands off The Gippsland Line’ started by Latrobe City councillor Kellie O’Callaghan has attracted more than 900 ‘likes’.

The draft included a raft of other Gippsland centric proposals including: prioritising a Traralgon bypass, transition plans to a lower carbon economy, and increased intra and inter town bus services.

IV is still taking feedback for its final draft which can be lodged at

The full document is available at