Question without notice
My question is for the Minister for Public Transport.
Minister, I am delighted, as is the Shepparton district community, that the government has announced investment of $43.5 million in passenger rail services for Shepparton.
I have advocated long and hard for this, as has my community and the All Aboard campaign.
On 28 May 2015 a large group of Shepparton district residents travelled to Melbourne — many in their pyjamas — to the steps of Parliament House to impress on the government the lack of services available to them and the need for more, better and faster services. But we have waited for so long and we do not want to wait any longer. My question for you today is whether you can take steps to bring forward the works that are so urgently needed in this current budget year.
Ms Allan, Minister for Public Transport
I thank the Independent member for Shepparton for her question, and I would like to acknowledge the hard work that she has done with her community, as she outlined in her question, in campaigning for better and more train services for her community. To continue the theme, it is such a shame that the Liberal and National Party members in the region will not also stand up for better public train services in central Victoria. This year’s budget invests $43.5 million to improve train services for Shepparton. I was pleased to join with members of the Shepparton community on the platform at Shepparton station last Wednesday morning to talk in greater detail about how this will invest in stabling a passing loop around Murchison East and of course extra services as well.
We have seen some commentary on this commitment. Sadly a member for Northern Victoria Region in the other place, Wendy Lovell, who wanted to sell her community short, was on Facebook asking for $750 000 for a business case for the Shepparton community in the budget. What happened was we provided 58 times that — 58 times! I will tell you what happened to that Facebook post: she deleted it. She deleted that Facebook post to replace it with another one that said $43 million is not enough.
I think we have better aspirations for the Shepparton community. I appreciate the member for Shepparton’s enthusiasm for getting these upgrades done as quickly as possible, because she is right. The Shepparton community have waited a long time for these improvements, and we need to get them moving as quickly as possible. I have listened very carefully to the question that was put by the member, and immediately following question time today I will be asking my department to examine options on how we can accelerate the delivery of these critical infrastructure works, because you have got to do the infrastructure works to get the extra services. That is what we are committed to do, and I will keep the member for Shepparton informed of the advice I receive from my department.
Those who understand the needs of Shepparton district people seeking better rail services know that the eventual rollout of the whole improvement project will be in the vicinity of $200 million. Can the minister tell us what on-the-ground works will form part of the first stage of the project, and what steps are likely to be taken in relation to my community’s travelling arrangements while those works are being done?
I thank the member for her supplementary question. She asked about the works that will be done as part of what she is describing as — I think I heard correctly — a first stage of works. As I have indicated, there will be works on a crossing loop along the line and also stabling at Shepparton station for the trains to be stabled. Obviously with infrastructure works comes disruption, and we will be managing that very carefully. In the meantime, in August of this year we will be adding an extra service for the Shepparton community on the weekends, adding to the weekday service we have already added in January. Plus we are also adding coach services. I cannot resist the opportunity to finish with an observation from the Shepparton News last week, which says:
Where was Ms Lovell when she had the capacity — as a state government minister — to do something?
In our view, Ms Sheed has already made a huge difference to Shepparton’s prospects and there is more to come.