Opinion

Show faith in our region

by
August 11, 2017

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed and other rail advocates say investment in the north-east corridor will help grow patronage.

A report handed down by Victoria’s Auditor-General into V/Line’s passenger service this week largely confirmed what many locally already have understood for quite some time.

That is, that the state’s regional rail service is far from perfect.

And while much of this region’s concern is in the inadequate level of service provided — both the number of train services provided, and also the quality of those services — there are certainly take-aways for Shepparton and Seymour travellers from the report.

Underneath the findings around cancellations, delays and hefty maintenance bills are some other nuggets relevant locally.

Ageing rolling stock aside, there’s the slow growth of the North East corridor — a 30 percent increase in patronage over 10 years — compared with as much as a 162 percent increase on other lines.

To put this into perspective, the state average was reported as a 88 percent increase.

According to State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed, this paints a picture of two different rail corridors in Victoria.

There’s one, of rail lines marginally closer to Melbourne, that have been invested in, and allowed to flourish.

And another, the ‘long haul’ regional lines like Shepparton, that have not been funded sufficiently and not even been given a proper chance to thrive.

As Ms Sheed put it, the Shepparton line simply hadn’t had the investment needed ‘‘for any capacity to grow patronage’’.

Another interesting item in the report was that, while less so than others, the Seymour line was reported as experiencing periods at capacity.

Locals have for some time known, anecdotally at least, that there is no shortage of Sheppartonians travelling to Seymour to board services to Melbourne from there. Simply because the Shepparton service isn’t regular enough or at convenient times to make it useful.

Calls have recently been renewed for data to be collected about the extent of Shepparton commuters that travel to Seymour to take the train.

Hopefully this would paint a more accurate picture of the sort of local interest there was in taking the train from Shepparton, while also offer an indication of the most needed in-demand service times.

Regarding rail funding, the ‘build it and they will come’ mantra has long been bandied around in the Goulburn Valley.

Offer up more services, and they will be used.

Some say without a groundswell of passengers at the moment, it’s difficult to justify extra investment.

Others, again, surely say, the passengers aren’t there because the service isn’t there. At the moment, there is a broad understanding the lack of service is preventing growth.

Perhaps it’s time a little bit of faith was shown in the region to take up any investment and utilise a better service.

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