PTV told to improve and rebuild the trust, Wangaratta Chronicle, Wangaratta VIC

LIFT your game, provide services we want, win back our trust, and our business. That was one of the succinct messages community members had for Public Transport Victoria officials in Wangaratta on Tuesday night at one of several forums being held across the state to help formulate a new 20 year plan for public transport in regional Victoria. Despite no public transport options available to get to the forum at Wangaratta Turf Club, more than 60 members from across the North East offered the PTV some home truths about publie bus and train services. And in a word, improvement was the key. While customer service at Wangaratta Railway Station got a big tick, commuters expressed ongoing dissatisfaction with the current V/Line rail services, particularly in light of services in other regional centres. Issues with accessibility, unreliable times and replacment of trains with buses, lack of frequency, the age and condition of the train carriages, ongoing issues with the track, and the need for more connectivity with bus services were all raised. Wheelchair bound Rutherglen resident Kerrin ORourke said many older residents unable to drive, such as herself, who need to regularly visit Melbourne for medical appointments, just cant rely on public transport, nor the timeable. We need more frequent and reliable trainsand peoples purposes for using them need to be considered more, she said. Public wish list items included: fixing the Sydney to Melbourne track, separating freight and passenger rail, getting new rolling stock to allow services to run at 200kmh so Wodonga to Melbourne travel time is cut to 2hours 30 minutes, instead of around four hours currently; train must be able to provide a quicker service than road transport; fares and service frequency need to be more appealing. Liberal Indi candidate Sophie Mirabella, a respre sentative from the office of Cathy McGowan (MHR, Indi), together with Nationals state member Tim McCurdy (MLA, Ovens Valley), who have all been vocal on the t need to improve trains, were all present. So too was former mayor and Wangaratta Coachlines principal Don Joyce, who indicated there were plans in place to bolster bus services in the North East if the government can come up with the money.its all a matter of funding. JACLYN Symes (MLC, Northern Victoria) told this weeks public transport forum in Wangaratta that there is a fair bit of catchup required in the North East. Ms Symes (pictured) is co-chairing the committee steering the new plan for regional public transport, and she made no secret that while the plan is for all regional Victoria for the next 20 years, she will be strongly advocating North Easts case when it goes to Transport Minister Jacinta Allan before the end of the year. Im very keen to see some tangible outcomes in next years budget, she said, acknowledging that a push to increase daily V/Line return services from three to four certainly has merit. Ms Symes confirmed the plan is to have short, medium and long term objectives. And she agreed with community sentiment at the forum that the plan should have bipartisan support to give it a life beyond this government. I really hope through this process, given the extensive community consultation, that it will have community ownership and that will give it a life beyond political parties, she said. Nationals MP Tim McCurdy (MLA, Ovens Valley) said that was possible, but said in the long run everything comes back to what the government is prepared to fund.