Rail response not satisfactory

THE community is being provided with a less than satisfactory public transport system between Bairnsdale and Traralgon.

With reference to a letter from V/Line, signed by Paul Matthews, dated April 11, I find it incredible the forced suspension of train services between Traralgon and Bairnsdale was based on climatic conditions including moist salt-laden air, causing rapid oxidation of the rail surfaces, given that the line traverses farm areas distant from the sea.

We wonder why the same doesn’t apply to the Stony Point line, the railway line around Warrnambool and some of the metropolitan services.

No remedial work has begun to rectify the problem in more than a month.

No maintenance work has been done on the tracks, when this time would have provided an ideal opportunity.

The minister and V/Line need to inform the community as to what is happening, or not, on a regular basis, the lack of communication leads to rumours and misinformation.

The community needs to be reminded and reassured the line will be upgraded and maintained for rail services into the future.

The short term engineering solution is to grind the rail either side of the level crossings.

A letter from Transport Minister Terry Mulder, dated April 11, said the only track grinding machine available for use on the Bairnsdale-Traralgon line has to be sourced from Western Australia.

Reliable sources tell me there is a track grinding machine in the Melbourne metropolitan area.

Why isn’t this machine being used?

Is the reason for the above closure due to inferior materials such as rails or signalling equipment and/or the lack of maintenance?

I believe rail corrosion, if any, is not unique to this area.

The community needs to be informed of the cost of road replacement buses when compared to rail services over the same distance and the relative patronage of both modes of transport.

During the 11 years when buses replaced trains between Bairnsdale and Sale, bus patronage dropped by 38 per cent when compared to the rail option, people travelled to Sale to catch the train, bought fuel, shopped and banked while there.

Given the dislocation and disruption of rail services in the last two years with sink holes, faulty signals, landslides, speed restrictions due to heat, metropolitan works and upgrading of gas facilities east of Traralgon; one wonders about the lack of maintenance and commitment to rail services east of Melbourne.

Twenty-two carriages have been withdrawn due to structural defects, with no time line for their return and no communication with the public.

I would contend that a slight reduction in V/Line rail patronage is due to buses replacing trains on a far too regular basis, including the replacement of trains in the Christmas/New Year period and Easter for maintenance works.

According to a media release from the Transport Minister, dated April 2, spending over two years on the Pakenham to Bairnsdale rail corridor was $6.5 million, most of which has been spent between Morwell and Bairnsdale.

For that we are grateful.

Works need to be completed as soon as possible, the community needs to be reliably informed on a regular basis.

Track maintenance needs to be on-going, including any replacement sleepers being dual gauges, broad and standard gauge rails and rolling stock need to be upgraded.

A commitment to rail, complemented by co-ordinated road coach services, needs to be more evident in the Wellington and East Gippsland shires.