Rail track a key priority

01 Mar 2017 Wangaratta Chronicle, Wangaratta VIC (General News) Federal MPs query ARTC while state MP inspects refurbished rolling stock CATHY McGowan (MHR, Indi) on Monday used the opening of a new parliamentary sitting week to challenge all levels of government federal, state and local to cooperate and deliver rapid improvements to the North Easts parlous passenger rail service. Ms McGowan stood in the House of Representatives and asked the Commonwealth to direct the Australian Rail Track Corporation which it owns to give priority to the restoration of tracks to ensure a reliable, speedy passenger service on the line. At the same time Jaclyn Symes (MLC, Northern Victoria) was inviting North East mayors and council chief executives to a viewing in Melbourne of works to upgrade the North East line rolling stock part of a $15 million pledge last year by the State Government to turn three standard gauge train sets into four so there will always be a spare in an emergency. I cant wait to see how works are progressing on our multi-million dollar upgrade of North East line trains, Ms Symes said. Our multi-million dollar carriage upgrade will make the journey more comfortable for local passengers, and mean they are on trains instead of coaches more often even if something unexpected happens. The refurbishment works include a carpet cleaning, new seat upholstery and new paint for each of the carriages. Yet service delays continue. Ms McGowan told parliament that only 52 per cent of services on the North East line ran on time in November 2016. This was the fifth consecutive month where the North East line was the least reliable in the state, she said. As of January 1, 2017, only 94.6 per cent of the services that left Melbourne actually arrived in Albury-Wodonga, the lowest in the state. Only 65.1 per cent of services on the line were on time, the second lowest in the state. Ms McGowan said frustration around poor passenger rail services was one of the most pressing issues in the electorate. She said local councils on the Hume rail corridor commissioned a study which recommended how to resolve the issues. The community has taken action and now its time for the Commonwealth and state governments to do the same, Ms McGowan said. Ms McGowan said she welcomed the promise of a rail journey on the line by federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester. Damian Drum (MHR, Murray) had also indicated he will co-sign a letter to Victorian Transport Minister Jacinta Allan around equality of access to passenger rail. I have been in regular contact with the Minister and we look forward to his upcoming visit to Indi, Ms McGowan said. However, looking at the problem will not be enough. Answers must be provided about what is going to be done. Ms McGowan also met with ARTC chief executive John Fullerton on Monday to discuss engineering failures which have led to speed restrictions in 23 places on the line. The performance of the ARTC was questioned, too, by Senators Janet Rice and Derryn Hinch in a Senate estimates hearing. Ms Symes said the Federal Government should do their bit and fix the track problems on the North East line which she blamed as the major cause of delay and disruption between Melbourne and Albury-Wodonga. But she said the Victorian governments multi-million dollar carriage upgrade would make the journey more comfortable for local passengers, and mean they are on trains instead of coaches more often even if something unexpected happens. Licensed by Copyright Agency. You may only copy or communicate this work with a licence.