Gippsland is ‘neglected’

WELLINGTON Shire mayor Carolyn Crossley has slammed the V/Line service to Sale, saying it was time to improve it.

A Gippsland Local Government Network report stated the Gippsland line was the “slowest and most unreliable in the state,” noting that there was an “urgent” study needed for additional capacity.

“The solution’s big and complex, but we believe we need to start that,” Cr Crossley said.

“We need to look at putting big infrastructure in, and this aligns with a big infrastructure project that could support the Hazelwood closure.

“Big infrastructure employs a lot of people.

“It’s not ongoing jobs, but it’s jobs, and getting skills, and keeping the money local.”

The short term goal, for Wellington Shire, would be to lobby for more links between Sale and Traralgon, as well as more transport options between the shire’s towns.

“With the infrastructure changes from VicRoads, there’s a lot of people that travel from Sale to work in Traralgon, or vice versa,” Cr Crossley said.

“There’s actually commuter travel, and many people would choose the option of a train, and not many would choose a bus on the train you can use that half hour constructively.”

A rail infrastructure summary in the Gippsland Rail Needs Study details short, medium, and long term investments and improvements that could be made.

In Wellington Shire, new signalling would be needed, and eventually the Avon River Rail Bridge would need replacement at Stratford.

Long term plans include extra overtaking lines and more rail platforms.

The priority, however, was producing an independent study on quadruplicating the Dandenong Rail Corridor so V/Line trains did not become delayed behind suburban trains.

“We are totally behind all other regions; we’re the worst,” Cr Crossley said.

“There’s no plan, and every time there’s these announcements, we just get one more from Traralgon, at six in the morning.

“It’s a terrible service.

“For example, we had a Japanese documentary crew visiting, and we had to get the interpreter to the train at 7pm, because that was the last train … it really impacts on day-to-day living.”

Cr Crossley applauded Gippsland MHR Darren Chester’s bipartisan approach to the issue, and said the council would continue to lobby the state government.

Mr Chester has repeatedly said regional connectivity was a priority for this year, and the lack of rail infrastructure was preventing Gippsland from reaching its full potential.

“We need major investment in rail and coach links, along with infrastructure improvements in national parks and key tourism destinations,” he wrote in a recent opinion piece.

“This month, I will be meeting with my state counterpart and I’ll be asking how the federal government can work with the state government to improve service levels for Gippslanders.

“There’s no time for different levels of government to blame each other we need to work in partnership to deliver the services our community needs.

“With the impending closure of Hazelwood Power Station there is a desperate need for governments to invest in job-creating infrastructure that improves connectivity and also builds community confidence.”

Cr Crossley agreed, saying Gippsland was feeling neglected by government in the wake of the threat of closure of the Australian Sustainable Hardwoods facility in Heyfield and Hazelwood Power Station closure in the Latrobe Valley.

“(We) need a big confidence boost,” she said.

“Now is the time.

“It’s not going to get any cheaper.

“We may be talking $21 million to start, but in five years’ time it’s going to be more.”