Question without notice – My question is for the Minister for Transport Infrastructure. Minister, what is the current state of the stage 2 upgrade to the Seymour–Shepparton line, and when can we expect that work to be completed? There is some concern in the community that these much-needed rail upgrades are falling behind schedule and that some elements of stage 2 have shifted into the yet-to-be-funded stage 3. With an investment of $313 million in the 2018–19 Victorian state budget for this project, people are keen to see that investment translated into reality.
Minister response – Ms ALLAN (Bendigo East—Leader of the House, Minister for Transport Infrastructure) (11:20): I thank the Independent member for Shepparton for her question and her ongoing and consistent advocacy for improved rail services for the Shepparton community. Shepparton is a fantastic regional centre, so important to our state’s economy, and it is only right that it have a modern train service. That is what the community of Shepparton have long been seeking.
Certainly since 2014 we have been pleased to work with the member for Shepparton on progressively improving and upgrading services along the Shepparton line because there is a lot of work to be done. There is quite a backlog of work along this corridor because it has been badly neglected in the past. Now, it has been great to work with a local member who is prepared to advocate and push for improvements to the corridor. As the member knows, as the community knows—
Ms Ryan interjected.
Ms ALLAN: Hang on, I am coming to you lot in a minute. You guys, honestly. They are brave, I will give them that. When it comes to standing up and talking about regional rail, gee, they are a brave lot, because they know I will remind them that they closed country train lines, they cut funding to V/Line—
Mr Walsh: On a point of order, Speaker, I might ask you to draw the member back to answering the question. And while she is doing that she might explain how she botched the Murray Basin rail project.
The SPEAKER: Order! I am going to have to run a session on points of order. I have warned members about interjecting. And I ask the minister to come back to answering the question.
Ms ALLAN: And I am, Speaker, because unlike those opposite, who neglected regional rail even when there were two ministers at the cabinet table representing Shepparton, we have been determined to work with the Shepparton community on improving the rail line. That is why a total of $356 million has been invested in the first two stages of the Shepparton line upgrade. Stage 1 has been fast-tracked, Speaker, and I will tell you what happened at the end of stage 1. We got to add a fifth daily return service to the Shepparton community in April 2019.
The member for Shepparton asked about stage 2. I can understand why her community is concerned, because they have been betrayed so often by those who used to hold the seat. They were betrayed so often by Liberal and National party representatives of the seat. I can advise the member that we are well advanced on stage 2 works. Geotechnical investigations have been occurring along the corridor. As I said, we have got a big job to do on this line—a big job to do. A contractor is expected to be appointed in coming months and construction is due to start later this year and be completed in 2022.
We are determined to deliver on what we have committed to the Shepparton community: an improvement to the track. A massive investment in the infrastructure—the track—means we can run more services. That is exactly what the Shepparton community deserve and what we intend to deliver.
Supplementary Question – I will not stop being vigilant on this because one of the main reasons that my community elected me to this place was the poor state of rail services. We now know that we have a business case that is to be completed for stage 3. Minister, I am just wondering where that business case is now up to, because that is part of the story that will ultimately deliver nine VLocity trains a day into the Shepparton railway station, something our community has been waiting for for such a very long time.
Ms Ryan interjected.
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Euroa!
Minsiter response – Ms ALLAN (Bendigo East—Leader of the House, Minister for Transport Infrastructure) (11:25): Speaker, I will tell you where stage 3 came from. The need to do more works on stage 2 was identified, and we said this at the time. The works in stage 2 involve the development of a business case for stage 3 works because this a big job. Because of the decades of neglect of previous Liberal-National party members of Parliament we have got a big job to do.
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Warrandyte has the call.
Mr R Smith: On a point of order, Speaker, as just an example of how good the government is doing, the Seymour line is now closed because of rain. So you are doing a great job.
The SPEAKER: Order! When the house comes to order. The member for Shepparton has asked a question that her community is interested in. The minister is giving an answer. I ask members to stop shouting across the chamber. I have warned members that they will be removed from the chamber without warning.
Ms ALLAN: The work on the business case for stage 3 is progressing well, and we will be taking advice from our expert engineers in Rail Projects Victoria on how to best deliver the works on stage 3. Unlike those opposite, who overpromised and underdelivered to the Shepparton community with a false and deceitful commitment to the Shepparton community about additional services before the last election, we are going to get on and deliver improvements to the Shepparton line. Work on stage 2 is underway, work on the business case for stage 3 is underway, and I look forward to continuing to work with the member for Shepparton on this.