| June 22, 2017

Better Trains for Shepparton

In my electorate of Murray, Shepparton is our largest regional centre. In fact, it is Victoria's fourth-largest regional centre and is home for nearly 70,000 people. Shepparton is situated only 188 kilometres north of Melbourne, which is roughly a two-hour drive. However, if you want to take the train you are looking at a minimum travel time of 145 minutes, but more often you are looking at nearly four hours. That is just for one of the four weekday services each and every day.

Bendigo is another regional city, and is 150 kilometres away from Melbourne. Bendigo has 20 weekday services. You can get from Melbourne to Bendigo in 92 minutes. The trains that are on the Shepparton line are slower now than they were 20 years ago. The top speed of the fastest service to Shepparton is about 75 kilometres per hour. The state Labor government are still using the same locomotives and carriages they did in 1987. The Labor Party, in their wisdom, have said the Shepparton rail line will receive an additional weekday and two daily coach services from Bendigo to Seymour, halfway towards Bendigo. Whilst they are going to upgrade a crossing route and some new stabling for the trains, this is only going to happen in 2020.

It gets better. The Labor Party in Victoria continue to gloat about fairness and how their rail services are evenly distributed. Ararat is going to get 10 new weekday services from August; Bendigo and Ballarat, already having 20 services and 30 services, are going to get an additional 18 services; and Geelong is going to receive an extra 69 services. And they say that Shepparton is going to get a great boost of four extra buses. How is that fair? It begs the question: what does the Labor Party have against the city of Shepparton?

This is why the federal coalition government is spending $10 million to finally get a proper vision and to undertake a fully comprehensive planning strategy and give this city a vision for what will have to happen for train services and freight train services into the future. We do not need tokenistic efforts from the state Labor Party. We have to work out what the vision is going to be. Is it going to be more VLocity trains? What is it going to be? Maybe we need to think beyond the standard VLocity carriages that we currently yearn for. We know that we deserve at least 10 services of VLocity trains a day. They can travel at up to 140 to 160 kilometres an hour across the landscape out of Melbourne.

We need a clear vision. What is achievable? What is deliverable? What is possible? If the state Labor Party will not invest in the Goulburn Valley then somehow the federal coalition government will have to step into this space. This is the time for action. This is the time when maybe we have to have a vision, both for VLocity trains in the next 10 years and maybe the idea of bullet speed trains that can bring Melbourne to Shepparton in 40 minutes in the future.

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