The man who was once the big boss of what became V/Line was back in Shepparton, and he was not happy with the state of our trains.
Rail industry consultant John Hearsch has 50 years of history in railways, including as chief general manager of transport operations for the former State Transport Authority of Victoria.
Yesterday he spoke with the Committee for Greater Shepparton about the state of Shepparton’s rail service, and his arrival to town, in an ageing 1980s era train that he helped purchase decades prior, was an appropriate metaphor for his argument that we had been left behind.
Mr Hearsch argued that public transport, and train usage had been on the increase in recent years, but Shepparton did not get the increases in funding that some other cities got.
‘‘In recent years there has been a big increase in use, not so much here, but certainly where there has been big improvements in service in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo there has been enormous growth,’’ Mr Hearsch said.
‘‘There has been some substantial improvements to the service in those places, the trains are faster, they’ve got new trains and they are a lot more frequent — Geelong gets a a train every 20 minutes now.’’
He believed the Shepparton line had been neglected over the past decades, and because of this rail was not seen as the ideal transport option for lots of residents.
‘‘It needs to be competitive with the motorcar and it’s probably not at the moment, but it can be and that is one of the things we are arguing for,’’ he said.
He wanted investments in the rail track and the trains to make it possible to get to Melbourne from Shepparton in two hours.
‘‘Shepparton is quite a large city, and it services a big area and we know from experience that once you provide a much better service then the numbers grow very substantially,’’ he said.
Shepparton has recently received a slight improvement in services, with the addition of one extra daily service from Melbourne every day.
State member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed said although the increase was welcome, it was far from what Shepparton needed.
Mr Hearsch said a city the size of Shepparton should have a service down to Melbourne around every two hours.
‘‘And probably in the busy times perhaps hourly,’’ he said.