Victorian Opposition leader Matthew Guy caught a V/Line train to and from Shepparton yesterday, after plans to do so during his last visit hit a snag.
‘‘The train broke down, the first carriage wasn’t working and there was chaos,’’ he said in Shepparton yesterday.
‘‘Walking up and down the carriages people said to me ‘we just want a service that is reliable’.’’
And while the train completed the journey to Shepparton yesterday, the Opposition leader said it did illustrate the need for replacements.
‘‘What it says of course is that the rolling stock is crying out to be replaced...
‘‘It’s dated and while it’s functional, it’s dated.’’
The Victorian Opposition has pledged to bring a new generation of faster, long-haul variants of the V/Locity trains to Shepparton.
If elected in November, the Opposition will give country Victorians ‘‘the rail service they deserve’’ with a $633million investment — to replace the ageing fleet of diesel hauled trains.
‘‘And within the first budget,’’ Mr Guy said.
‘‘To begin that process to replace them with long-haul V/Locitys that can do 160km/h on appropriate track.’’
‘‘But on the Shepparton line, they’ll be a priority replacement project.’’
The Liberal leader said he frequently took the train around regional Victoria, allowing him ‘‘to see those issues with rail firsthand’’.
‘‘It’s easy for politicians to read a brief but it’s 50 times better to actually experience it yourself.’’
Under the Opposition’s plan, an order will be placed in June next year with a fleet delivered during the first term of government.
‘‘In our first budget we will buy the trains, it will be one of our absolute priorities, it will be placed immediately,’’ Mr Guy said.
While announcing essential works would be brought forward, opening up an extra return service by next year and future services onwards, Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan last month said the Liberals and Nationals lacked credibility on regional rail.
‘‘They closed regional rail line and when last in government they didn’t order a single new carriage for two years, ripped $120million out of V/Line and didn’t start any major rail projects anywhere in Victoria,’’ she said.
‘‘We’ve restored and increased funding to V/Line, ordered 87 new regional carriages and already begun the design work needed to run V/Locity carriages on long-haul lines.’’
During the visit yesterday, the sentiment that rail remained the city’s No.1 priority was renewed, a point urged by State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed recently.
Greater Shepparton City Council chief executive Peter Harriott recently said eight return services by 2020 remained the goal for the city, while a Committee for Greater Shepparton report recently sketched out underinvestment in the Shepparton line in the past 15 years.