I rise in this evening’s adjournment debate to request that the Minister for Public Transport detail what investment will be made in the Shepparton rail passenger service as part of the Labor government’s rolling stock strategy released this week.
The document makes no mention of my electorate, despite there being a huge need for investment.
The fleet currently servicing Shepparton is ageing and fails to meet customer expectations for comfort and reliability. The services are infrequent and slow, and the timetable does not cater for the area’s increasing population. The Hume Region Passenger & Freight Rail Review — Final Report notes that the Hume region, and in particular greater Shepparton, is severely deficient in passenger rail services, stating:
There is a disparity between passenger rail services in the Hume region and other major regional centres of similar population and proximity to Melbourne’s CBD.
It also notes that currently the tracks are in poor condition, in particular the track to Shepparton.
It is noted that Shepparton is the regional hub for the Hume region and has a catchment population of 230 000 people. This is comparable to Bendigo, Ballarat and Traralgon. However, passenger services for those regional centres are far superior to that which exists for Shepparton. Bendigo and Ballarat enjoy four times as many trains to Melbourne and five times as many returns as Shepparton.
A subsequent report states:
The Seymour–Shepparton corridor is the only regional rail corridor that was not part of the former regional fast rail project … (2002–2006) and little has changed since. The region is therefore significantly disadvantaged relative to the other major regional centres within a comparable distance from Melbourne — e.g. Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley.
More regular and reliable public transport is vital to the Shepparton community; it would open up education and employment opportunities and drive tourism to our town. Currently many Shepparton residents are forced to drive to Seymour, over an hour away, to catch a train that suits their needs. Last year a survey of more than 2000 people revealed that 81 per cent of passengers found the current weekday services inadequate, with 85 per cent unhappy with the current timetable. It also found that more people would be willing to take the train if services were faster, more frequent and more direct. There are short-term improvement opportunities that could easily be implemented.
First of all, we want the timetable adjusted and extra services added to better reflect what people want. Trains on the Shepparton–Seymour corridor cannot pass safely; we need a passing track. We need stabling for two trains overnight at Shepparton and protective services officers at Seymour station. We want a commitment from the government to undertake a feasibility study for future budget estimates. It should examine the work required to improve connectivity between Shepparton and Seymour, and include a V/Locity train and three carriages. Rail track upgrades should be carried out to allow trains to travel at up to 160 kilometres an hour; currently they can only reach 90 kilometres an hour. We want improvements to level crossings on the line. Finally, we want future train services to grow in line with demand and population growth in the Goulburn Valley.