Question without notice
My question is for the Minister for Public Transport. Minister, with the announcement of state funding for an airport rail link and four route options on the table, what consideration is being given to accessibility to the airport for regional Victorians, especially those in the state’s north-east who travel along the Shepparton–Seymour and Albury–Seymour lines?
Ms Allan, Minister for Public Transport
I would like to thank the Independent member for Shepparton for her question. It was very interesting to see in today’s Shepparton News where the Shepparton News, and by extension the broader Shepparton community, understands well that there is a great opportunity here, thanks to the work that has been done by the Andrews Labor government, to connect regional Victoria into a future airport rail link. There were other options that we could have pursued — other options that were being pursued by some — that would not have given us the opportunity to leverage off the investment in an airport rail link to reach into —
Honourable members interjecting.
As I was saying, we are only talking about the opportunity to connect regional communities, whether it is Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton or Seymour, into an airport rail link because of the work that has been done by the Andrews Labor government and the announcement that was made by the Premier in November of last year, where he made it very clear that the policy approach that we wanted to take in investing in an airport rail link was about making sure we maximised the connections for regional communities.
That stands in stark contrast to particularly those in the National Party, who have a strong record in closing country train lines. We take a very different approach.
In terms of the work that is going to be pursued from now as we move into this full business case work that needs to be done, we will be looking at how future connections can be linked in north of the airport, and that obviously brings in how we can connect communities like Shepparton, and the Seymour line and indeed the Bendigo line as well, as part of planning for the future. We will focus on delivering an airport rail link that gives us those connections into the regions in looking at how we can get faster rail to Geelong and Ballarat. But also as part of that planning work I want to make it very, very clear to the member for Shepparton, and through her to her wider community, that this will very much look at how we can connect those northern Victorian communities into an airport rail link.
The only reason we can also talk about connecting Shepparton into an airport rail link is the work we have done in improving Shepparton’s rail services: $356 million has been committed by this government to deliver VLocity trains, nine services a day, to the Shepparton community after a long, long — decades long — period of neglect by those opposite in Shepparton.
Minister, with $356 million being invested in the Shepparton–Seymour line to provide for nine VLocity services a day by 2021, together with forecast population growth in my electorate, increased train patronage and the current congestion along the commuter rail corridor, how could we benefit from the new airport service, and is it possible that there is consideration for perhaps a direct link to the airport from Wallan to save people going into the CBD first?
As I indicated in my response to the substantive question, we will absolutely be looking at how we can make an easy and fast connection for northern communities into an airport rail link, and I am happy to provide the member for Shepparton with a follow-up briefing with officials on the work that is being done.
As I said before, the only reason we can talk about connecting Shepparton to an airport rail link is the $356 million commitment that has been made by this government after a long period of neglect — decades of neglect — in Shepparton by the Liberal and National parties, who had in the last government two ministers representing Shepparton and they failed to represent them. Can I also say that record of failure goes on. They are now saying that they want to continue to short-change Shepparton with a paltry $77 million commitment to the Shepparton community. I can assure the Shepparton community we are going to deliver those services and do the work that is needed to improve train services to Shepparton.