Question without notice – Ms SHEED (Shepparton): My question is for the Minister for Transport Infrastructure. The Victorian state government has funded stages 1 and 2 of the Shepparton line upgrade at a cost of some $356 million. This followed a grassroots campaign calling for faster and better trains between Shepparton and Melbourne. In its recent budget the federal government committed $320 million towards stage 3 of the Shepparton line upgrade, and in the course of his announcement the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Mr Michael McCormack, stated that a further $80 million would be contributed by the Victorian government for completion of this stage of the works. Minister, when can we expect an announcement from the Victorian government for that additional $80 million investment to enable works to continue seamlessly through from stage 2 to stage 3 and provide the VLocity trains we have so long waited for?
Ministers response – Ms ALLAN (Bendigo East—Leader of the House, Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Minister for the Suburban Rail Loop):I thank the Independent member for Shepparton for her question, but also I think it is worth putting on the record she has been tirelessly consistent, since her first days of walking into this chamber, in her efforts to make sure that there were funds secured to get better rail services for the Shepparton community.
As the member for Shepparton pointed out in her question, we can only be talking about and pushing for funding for stage 3 because it has been the Andrews Labor government that has committed to stage 1 and stage 2 in upgrading the Shepparton rail services, with a generous budget allocation from the Treasurer of $356 million for those stages of work. I also remind the house that it was only an Andrews Labor government who made the commitment at the 2018 election for the nine daily return services that the Shepparton community had been campaigning for.
Now, when we were asked by the federal government ahead of their budget deliberations—and, can I say, I was really pleased with the positive interactions I had with the Deputy Prime Minister and the encouragement we had to put forward our priority list of projects for the federal government’s consideration in setting their budget—stage 3 works for the Shepparton rail upgrade were firmly on our list because we want to see this project delivered. And I was delighted on federal budget night to see that indeed the federal government had agreed to our request for funding of this project. I again commend the member for Shepparton for her efforts, because there is no doubt Shepparton has long deserved—
I will get to that. There is no doubt that Shepparton has long deserved a better rail service, and I have been delighted to work since 2014 with the member for Shepparton to make this happen. I would like to congratulate that grassroots campaign that she talked about as well, because that community had to be loud and clear in their demands for a better rail service because they had been ignored for far too long—ignored even during a period of time when the Shepparton community had not one but two local members of Parliament sitting at the cabinet table able to make this sort of decision to allocate funding for better rail services.
The Liberal and National government MPs failed to do that despite sitting at the cabinet table. I also note—the member for Murray Plains has prompted me on this—that there has been a Johnnycome-lately to this issue. The federal member for Nicholls was pretty happy to come out and try and claim credit for this funding. I am pretty confident he did not do a lot of heavy lifting for this funding, but he was very happy to take credit for getting funds from his government. I am delighted; success has many mothers and fathers. The most important outcome here is there is a firm commitment to nine daily services to Shepparton. It has taken the Andrews Labor government and the Independent member for Shepparton to bring this about, and we will have more to say about our contribution very, very soon.
Supplementary question – Ms SHEED (Shepparton): Minister, I was recently approached by an elderly constituent who asked me whether she would live long enough to see VLocity trains on the Shepparton line. I am keen to assure her that she will. Can you tell people in my community what the time line for delivery of this project is and when they can expect stages 2 and 3 to be completed?
Ministers response -Ms ALLAN (Bendigo East—Leader of the House, Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Minister for the Suburban Rail Loop): In answering the member for Shepparton’s question and with all respect to her constituent, I am not entirely sure the age of her constituent. However, with the excellent health care she can now receive from the new Shepparton hospital—another great project delivered by the Andrews Labor government in partnership with the Shepparton community and with the strong advocacy of the Independent member for Shepparton—I really do hope that her constituent can see these trains running because we have already begun work. We have already added a daily return service to the Shepparton community because we have invested in the stabling facilities to allow this to happen.
We have already got our rail experts and engineers out in the corridor doing the geotechnical work on key level crossing sites as part of stage 2, and track works will be commencing shortly. The member for Shepparton might want to tell her constituent that VLocity trains will be running on the line for the first time when these works are completed at the end of 2022. We do want to seamlessly transition to stage 3. However, we will have more to say about that shortly