MLA says we missed out again on train services

A NEW V/Line timetable unveiled this week by the state government doesn’t provide additional services for Gippsland train passengers.

Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien said he was extremely disappointed there were no new services for Sale and east Gippsland, and no additional trains between Melbourne and Traralgon.

“For Wellington Shire and east Gippsland we have just three train services in each direction each day, compared to 19 from Traralgon, 31 from Ballarat and 21 from Bendigo,” he said.

“It is a completely inadequate service, and is holding back our local economy.

Mr O’Brien said he was regularly approached about the need for more train services in the area.

He said at least one extra train service in the morning and evening would help commuters access Melbourne and make the region a more attractive place for people to move to and visit.

Mr O’Brien said with Melbourne residents increasingly looking to get out of the city in the wake of the COVID pandemic and realising they could work from home, there was an opportunity to help build regional development and local jobs by providing these additional services.

“It makes it very hard for us to compete and provide an attractive option for people looking to get out of the city when there are limited train services, particularly beyond Traralgon,” he said.

“When unveiling this new timetable, the government bragged about the hundreds of new train services, but not a single one of them is on the Gippsland line – and indeed a number of the trains to and from Bairnsdale will now actually take longer than the previous timetable.

“We also need the government to act on the continued congestion at the metropolitan end with the development of a plan for a dedicated Gippsland track just like Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo have.

“This is not something that can be continually put on the back burner – the government needs to act on it now.”

Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said there was more work to be done on the Gippsland line before the changes were implemented to the region’s timetable, but there were difficulties associated with building a dedicated line through Melbourne.

“To build dedicated tracks from Pakenham into the city would require the acquisition of potentially tens of thousands of properties,” she said.

“It would cause massive disruption. “It’s a consequence of where Gippsland is in terms of the metropolitan network,” she said.

“What we’ve focused on is that the Gippsland line upgrade will allow us to run 20-minute peak frequency services in and out of Gippsland (Traralgon) into Melbourne.

“It’ll give us the opportunity to run 40-minute off-peak frequencies.

“We’re also undertaking a major upgrade around Pakenham, removing three dangerous level crossings and a new station at Pakenham East, which will free up the V/Line trains from the metropolitan network at Pakenham.

“This will give Gippsland people more choice – they can stay on their trains and go into the city, they can get off at Pakenham and get onto one of the new high-capacity Metro trains, and when they’re on one of those high-capacity trains they can go straight through to the airport.

“The great benefit from the airport rail outcome for the Gippsland community is you’ll be able to get on a train at Gippsland and get off along – whether it’s at Pakenham or somewhere along that corridor – and travel straight through to the airport.

“There’s also the connections into the city with the Metro Tunnel, and when we build the Suburban Rail Loop, Gippsland will benefit from the regional super hub at Clayton, which will also give Gippsland line passengers the ability to connect into the SRL and to areas of Melbourne they’ve never been able to connect to before with rail services.”

The government has added 280 metropolitan and 170 regional services (including 125 on the Ballarat line) in the biggest timetable change since the opening of the City Loop.

Pakenham line Metro trains will travel in one direction – anti-clockwise from Parliament to Flinders St – through the City Loop all day.

Capacity indicator technology, RideSpace, has also been introduced, giving passengers on Melbourne’s trains access to information about how busy their train or station will be.