Question without notice
My question is for the Minister for Public Transport.
Constituents in my electorate are concerned about what impact the recent major problems with V/Line trains and services mean for the Regional Network Development Plan.
To date there has been no visible action on the plan, except a summary of public feedback that appeared to be still a long way from a plan. The Standing Committee on the Economy and Infrastructure heard on 9 February that millions of dollars have been lost from the V/Line budget in free travel and replacement bus services and major repairs since the V/Line problems arose in January.
Can the minister assure Shepparton train travellers that this blowout in expenditure to address the current problems will not impact on the rollout of the Regional Network Development Plan in terms of timing or new infrastructure investment?
Ms Allan, Minister for Public Transport
I thank the Independent member for Shepparton for her question and for her ongoing advocacy and support for building a better public transport system in regional Victoria. Through my conversations with the Shepparton community and the member for Shepparton, it is a really good example of bad practice by the former Liberal government that let Shepparton languish for too many years. It is just astonishing, is it not, how the same people who cut $74 million to V/Line now have a big voice about regional public transport services?
Can I assure the member for Shepparton that the Andrews Labor government is certainly committed to both rebuilding and looking to a stronger future for V/Line in particular but also for regional public transport more broadly, and a key plank to doing that work is of course the development of the Regional Network Development Plan that has had great interest from the Shepparton community. And, as I said, I can understand why, given that when they had a minister representing the area, she did not bother to raise the issue once in her four years in government. We know though that we are taking a very different approach, which is why we have consulted with the local community, and there are indeed many, many people from Shepparton who have taken an active involvement.
I think I have already directly answered the member’s question about assurances around the future of the plan. We are finalising the policy plan as we lead up to the May state budget. I assure the member for Shepparton that I understand very well the needs and the priorities of the Shepparton community, and we look forward to working with a member who actually raises these issues in Parliament, who is active on these issues in Parliament. Unlike those opposite, who prefer to take a very different approach in cutting funding, we will take a very different approach and build a stronger V/Line.
Given Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and the Latrobe Valley were heavily invested in during the last round of funding for regional rail, can regions such as Shepparton that have been completely overlooked expect priority in the solutions the government says will be provided by the Regional Network Development Plan?
In the member’s supplementary question she has clearly outlined some of the ongoing legacy issues, if you like — some of the historical issues that have challenged the Shepparton community.
I will continue to work with the member for Shepparton and the Shepparton community, and their priorities have been raised through the consultation process. Those priorities have been put into the policy considerations that are currently being considered by the government and me. Because whether it is for Shepparton or for other regional areas we certainly do want to build a stronger regional public transport system. The jokers opposite, who cut funding, clearly took a very different approach.