Question without notice
My question is to the Minister for Public Transport.
Given that the consultative process throughout regional communities has now been completed for the regional network development plan, will the minister now advise as to when those communities can expect the outcome of the consultation to be released and when the government’s response to the plan will be announced?
Ms Allan, Minister for Public Transport
I thank the Independent member for Shepparton for her question and for her ongoing advocacy and commitment to improve public transport services for the Shepparton community and, by extension, for regional Victoria. That is certainly a passion that is shared by me and by others on this side of the house, who strongly support improved public transport services for regional communities.
I welcome the opportunity to provide the house with an update on the work that is being done on the first-ever public transport network plan for regional Victoria. We have had a fantastic response. Over 1400 people have attended community and stakeholder workshops that were held right across the state, and we also have received 1700 surveys in response to the work that is being done.
In Shepparton we had around 170 passionate members of the local community, along with the member for Shepparton. I also had the opportunity to join one of the consultation sessions in Shepparton. As we know, Shepparton was ignored for four long years under the previous government, the members of which were not committed to improving public transport services for that area.
There were some themes, not just from Shepparton and the north-east but from across the state, about what we were told country people were looking for out of the first-ever regional network development plan, including improvements in train frequency and timetabling, better bus connections between small towns and larger regional centres, and access to Melbourne, which is also critically important.
There were some great responses on the online discussion forum that was also opened up. We took very seriously the opportunity to consult with communities, and there was a good response. Some examples of what people were saying online, particularly in the local member’s area, were things like:
Shepparton needs faster, more frequent and direct services.
Indeed the chair of the Committee for Greater Shepparton, David McKenzie, who I believe is also a supporter of the All Aboard Shepparton campaign, said that this was a great opportunity for everyday Shepparton train users to have their voices heard.
It is interesting that some people are a bit late to the party when it comes to consulting with the community. The shadow Minister for Public Transport and a local Legislative Council member, Wendy Lovell, decided to have their own consultation in Shepparton. They could not do anything in government, but they decided that they would have their own consultation off the back of the work that the government was doing.
The vital feedback that we have had from the community has been fed strongly into the development of the plan. I am delighted to advise the member that we are putting the work together and the plan is going to be finalised and released in the coming months, because we want to get on with improving public transport services across regional Victoria.
The Shepparton consultation was overwhelmingly supported by the highest number of attendees during the consultation process. Can the minister now make an early announcement in relation to how the Shepparton–Seymour–Melbourne rail service will be improved?
The Independent member for Shepparton is correct when she says that the Shepparton consultation was well attended. Indeed it had the highest attendance of any of the consultation forums around the state. I think that reflects a long-held desire in the local community to see some real action on improving transport services for the Shepparton community after waiting for such a long time and being neglected for such a long time.
I say to the Independent member for Shepparton that this is a desire that I share, and I will continue to work with her and with the local community on this issue to see improvements in public transport for the Shepparton community.