This morning I attended the Regional Development Network Plan stakeholder meeting in Shepparton.
The Minister for Public Transport was present and outlined the fact that although metropolitan areas have had network plans developed for them regional Victoria has not.
She sees this as an important step in determining the future public transport needs of regional Victoria.
Ms Allan welcomed everyone to the session which was then facilitated by a professional facilitator and PTV.
The model of the facilitation was stakeholders at round tables first of all identifying the principal issues and later developing ideas of how those issues could be addressed.
The main issues emerging from my point of view were:
- the need for faster, more frequent rail services with better timetabling between Shepparton and Melbourne
- much better connectivity between all other towns in the region to the rail hubs in particular Shepparton
- the need to address the importance of east-west connectivity particularly between Shepparton and Bendigo as there are strong connections particularly for education and health reasons between the two towns
In looking at possible solutions there was emphasis on the government being able to address on a short term basis:
- increased timetabling
- infrastructure spend into the rail link between Shepparton and Seymour including a passing track and upgrades particularly at Shepparton station to enable an additional train to be stabled overnight in Shepparton
In terms of connectivity in the region there are many bus services that are underutilised and could provide more services. There was discussion about the use of school buses which are so often left empty all day and the fact that for instance a school bus cannot pick up a young apprentice who might need to go into town for work even though he might have been a student on the bus the year before.
I was pleased with the attendance of the broad range of stakeholders at the meeting and the outcomes. While the points raised were generally predicable it was informative to hear the strong emphasis on the connectivity within the region that was raised by stakeholders in addition to the need for better train services between Shepparton and Melbourne.
Your chance to contribute comes tonight, with an open community consultation session from 6pm at the Shepparton RSL.