Question without notice
My question is to the Minister for Public Transport.
More than 120 people in my electorate gathered at dawn this morning at the Shepparton railway station to travel to Melbourne to demand faster, direct and more frequent rail services.
Will the minister commit to improving the rail services and infrastructure and provide the Shepparton district with the rail services it needs to ensure that our regional economy grows in the way that we all know other major Victorian cities have enjoyed for a long time with better, regular rail services?
Ms Allan, Minister for Public Transport
I thank the Independent member for Shepparton for her question. It is pleasing to have a member for Shepparton who is so committed to improving public transport for her region. I would also like to acknowledge the many people from Shepparton who have made their way to Melbourne today because this issue is so important to them.
Over the years I have met many times with members of the community of Shepparton, who have consistently pushed the case for improved public transport services. I am sure the Premier will recall our visit to Shepparton back in August 2013, when we visited the Shepparton train station with the Minister for Planning to talk about improved public transport services.
I absolutely share the passion of the member for Shepparton and her local community for improving public transport services for regional Victoria. Public transport is one of those vital services — it connects country people with Melbourne and towns to each other — but it is more than just a service: it represents such an important outcome for social and economic improvements in country communities.
That is why it is important that the government invest in regional rail services, and that is exactly what the Andrews Labor government is doing. We have big improvements and investments in new regional rail carriages and upgrades to regional level crossings and in regional rail freight, with the Murray Basin rail freight project.
We want to do more, and we understand the desire of communities like Shepparton to see improvements in their public transport services, unlike those opposite, who cut funding to V/Line and threatened 100 jobs. The Andrews Labor government will be preparing a regional network development plan that will involve extensive community consultation next month. This is the first time ever in Victoria there has been a regional network development plan; it has not been done before. It will set our priorities for regional public transport services over the short, medium and longer terms, and it will importantly focus on coordinating regional public transport services across the train and bus networks.
We are setting up an advisory committee to help support this work.
This regional transport advisory group will help work with the government to develop this first ever regional network development plan that will look at improving services to Shepparton and regional Victoria.
Will the minister today provide detailed time lines for action to address the long-term underinvestment in regional rail to and from Shepparton?
I thank the Independent member for Shepparton for the supplementary question, and I indicate to her that the consultation process is kicking off pretty much straightaway on the first ever regional network development plan.
Consultation is going to be a critical part of the development of the plan, and given that there are so many people from Shepparton who are either here today or watching with great interest, I am pleased to announce that a representative from the Shepparton community will sit on the advisory committee that is going to be chaired by my colleague representing Northern Victoria Region in the other place Jaclyn Symes; Gippsland identity Richard Elkington will be co-chairing this group; and a representative of the Committee for Greater Shepparton, David McKenzie, will be participating in this advisory group.
As I said, this will be Victoria’s first ever long-term strategy for regional public transport services. Labor has always been the party that has invested in improving regional rail services, and I look forward to continuing that proud tradition.