EASTERN Victoria MLC Matt Viney has been distributing a petition calling for the of return train services to east Gippsland.
“It will be an interesting test to see whether the concern people are expressing to me, which is significant, is reflective of what is actually happening out in the community,” he said.
He said references to train services from Sale to Bairnsdale, and on to Traralgon, had been removed from the new V/Line timetable, which came into effect on Sunday, April 28.
Since the indefinite cancellation of train services on the line in March, because of rust on the tracks affecting signalling, replacement coach services have been running from Bairnsdale to Melbourne in place of trains.
Mr Viney, who was at Sale Railway Station Thursday to launch his petition, believes the line’s rusty tracks occurred as a result of low maintenance funding.
“Less than one per cent of the country rail maintenance funding has been spent on the Bairnsdale line,” Mr Viney said.
“This government has been in office nearly three years and the solution to the problem has been to close the service rather than maintain the line,” he said, making reference to the previous 10 year closure of the line by the Kennett government in 1994.
When rust was discovered on the tracks, it was reported that specialist track grinding equipment was going to be sourced from Western Australia to fix the problem, yet this may no longer be possible.
V/line spokesperson Colin Tyrus assured the Gippsland Times that a track grinder was still coming, but that it might not be the brand new machine from Western Australia which required a gauge change to fit Victoria’s broad gauge track.
He said a track grinder was essential to repairs, so V/Line was in the process of sourcing another machine from RailCorp in New South Wales.
The second machine, Mr Tyrus said, was currently being used by RailCorp to repair one of its lines.
Mr Tyrus said V/Line had put in a bid to use the machine and hoped to find out this week about the application’s progress.
While the line was out of action, he said, crews would continue performing other required maintenance work.
Deputy Premier and Gippsland South MLA Peter Ryan has reassured Gippslanders train services would return.
“I understand the concerns that are being expressed about the trains, and I understand people are being inconvenienced because of the matters that are happening at the present time,” he said.
“As soon as this necessary work has been completed the trains will be back in place.”