Two years ago, the Committee for Wellington wrote a letter to the editor in response to V/Line’s annual report outlining results for patronage of V/Line train services for Traralgon, Sale and Bairnsdale.
The Committee for Wellington had been supporting the case for additional services for the Sale line for almost two years at that stage and continues to lobby the State Government for additional services and, at the current time, better service.
With an increase in local business people commuting to Melbourne regularly for meetings, and our aged population requiring to commute to the city for health care, it had become increasingly evident that the current timetable servicing Sale and surrounds is inadequate and does not take into account the growing need for many of our business people to be in Melbourne before 9am.
In addition, the issues pertaining to the lower than average rate of Gippsland youth taking up tertiary education is further compounded by the lack of travel options that would get them to the Latrobe Valley to study if they chose to do so.
These issues continue for those living east of Traralgon.
The results two years ago showed a decline in patronage for those travelling to Sale and Bairnsdale of three per cent.
We still believe that this figure was related to the increase of patronage from those leaving from Traralgon, with an increase of four per cent being shown.
No doubt, with the current situation of no train services, the Traralgon figures will continue to increase, with those able driving to Traralgon to catch trains.
Previous reports from local media have shown the increase of people from Sale and surrounds travelling to Traralgon to use public transport where they have a choice of about 18 departing times.
The flexibility compared to Sale’s three options is instrumental in determining people’s choices to catch trains from Sale or Traralgon.
The Wellington Shire Council presented a sound report to the Department of Transport in relation to the need for an additional service to Sale in 2009-10.
This report was realistic and worked in with DOT concerns of peak hour timetables and additional metro trains travelling at the same time.
However, recent conversations with the department questioned whether this report had been updated in the meantime, with the DOT commenting that Sale was not growing and did not require additional services.
Now we have no trains, with a timeline which is unable to be confirmed as the equipment required has not been commissioned yet and is being built in Karratha, Western Australia.
This equipment will be transported to Victoria by road and will then need to be re-gauged for our tracks.
Following its delivery to Gippsland it will then take about 21 days to fix the communicated problems.
So effectively, travellers east of Traralgon are looking at months before the service is resumed.
Unconfirmed reports from within V/Line have stated that the problems with the tracks are not as drastic as V/Line is stating, but rather, the carriages were required for other lines deemed more important that Gippsland.
Given a similar report was heard when the Gippsland line lost carriages earlier this year, it is easy to understand why Gippslanders are becoming cynical with V/Line.
As a recent letter asked, is the latest change of services to buses simply part of a greater plan to get us used to having no train service?
It is certainly not the first time this concern has been voiced in recent times.
The Committee for Wellington asks that the Wellington and East Gippsland shire councils, Peter Ryan and Tim Bull become more assertive with this issue impacting their constituents and the potential growth of this region.
The committee also encourages all local people affected by the lack of services to write to the paper and their local member.