THE state government has confirmed there will be no change to trains on the Gippsland line.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the government was not planning on changing the direct service to Melbourne to a shuttle service to Pakenham, where passengers would be expected to change to a Metro service.
“We have no plans to stop Gippsland trains at Pakenham and make people transfer,” she said in a statement.
“Instead, we’re ordering more carriages, improving Gippsland stations and removing nine level crossings between Dandenong and the city to create space for more Metro and Gippsland services.”
Eastern Victoria MLC Harriet Shing echoed the comments, and said there were initiatives included in the state budget that would add more services to Traralgon, as well as upgrades across the line that include the removal of level crossings.
“We’re not considering it now and it’s not part of the Regional Network Development Plan we released in May,” she said.
The suggestion, from one of Infrastructure Victoria’s Citizen Jury reports, was widely condemned by local government, state and federal Nationals representatives, and many people online.
According to Infrastructure Victoria chief executive Michel Masson, the jury was one of two — one regional, and one metropolitan — that was organised by an independent contractor to “ensure the jury was demographically representative based on age and gender, according to ABS census data”.
“This was to ensure each jury drew people from all walks of life, and reflected the wider community,” he said.
The listed locations for the members of the 40-person jury are all from around Shepparton.
The proposal had support from the City of Casey and Cardinia Shire, while Peri Urban Group of Rural Councils did not.
The Committee for Gippsland asked for the option to include planning and construction of a dedicated third and fourth track into the city, which was another option considered by the jury.
The metropolitan jury did not support the shuttle plan, asking for more consultation.
The additional regional line was detailed in the draft options book and costed at between $1 and $5 billion, though it was noted that it would cost more if tunnelling was required.
“No estimate of the potential costs or savings of a shuttle service have been prepared, as the option has not been scoped in detail,” according to Mr Masson.
Gippsland based groups, including the Committee for Gippsland, Gippsland Local Government Network and the Ethnic Communities Council, were also consulted.
Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien said the fix was a “band-aid” solution, and passengers in Gippsland were already unhappy with V/Line.
“I know this has been a suggestion in the bureaucracy for some years, but one that we in government resisted and Labor should do likewise,” he said.
“Leaving aside this so-called Citizen Jury had no representatives from Gippsland on it, this is a bad idea that will see plans already for rail services even further reduced.
“This is a band-aid idea to fix the problems of congestion and poor punctuality on the line that would be a backward step for Gippsland commuters.”
Victorian Greens transport spokesperson Samantha Dunn said improving transport links to Gippsland was vital for the transition away from coal,
“If Gippsland is to have any chance of economic transition away from coal, more transport links are needed,” she said.
“Infrastructure Victoria presented a false choice. With grade separations underway along the Pakenham corridor, the capacity for regional V-Line trains to share the line with metro trains will only increase.”
The jury’s recommendation is not Infrastructure Victoria’s final report, but is part of the intensive consultative process.
“It is too early to say which recommendations we will accept, but we are considering every single recommendation and will account for how we have incorporated these into the draft strategy, which will be released in October,” Mr Masson said.
“The draft strategy will be released in October for more public consultation before a final strategy is presented to the Victorian Government by the end of 2016.”