Train stabling in Sale may not be the best solution

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

I REFER to the article where Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien repeated his calls for train stabling at Sale station.

Firstly, I think everyone supports more reliable train services for Gippsland, Sale and Bairnsdale.

I accept that the idea of stabling at Sale may have seemed attractive a few years ago, but Darren Chester’s announcement in May last year of $95 million of federal funding to replace the rickety bridge over the Avon River at Stratford to take the new VLocity trains now makes it redundant.

This money presents a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to fix the problems of the ageing 1888 structure.

The solution seems a pretty simple one — have additional services extend their journey onto Bairnsdale rather than cutting them short and wasting a staggering $11.2 million to build unnecessary stabling yards at Sale.

Furthermore, building expensive stabling yards at Sale may well jeopardise the much-needed bridge project.

It’s easy to imagine it becoming an excuse for Melbourne-centric politicians to renege on the deal.

The main priority of our local parliamentary representatives should be working together with Wellington and East Gippsland shires to hold the state and federal governments to their promises.

While I haven’t seen the document, it seems to me that the report commissioned by Wellington Shire Council calling for stabling yards at Sale was possibly outdated and didn’t take into account the recent announcement about the Avon River Bridge.

The report also doesn’t seem to consider the transport needs of the Stratford and Bairnsdale communities, who are equally entitled to a decent train service, and the author certainly didn’t consult local residents.

As one of the many residents in Sale who endured over 10 years of the unrelenting and distressing noise of trains left idling in the station platform all night after the Kennett government cut services in 1992, we have no desire to go back there. Things have been fine since trains to Bairnsdale were restored by Steve Bracks in May 2004.

I wrote to Mr O’Brien last year to express the resident’s concerns about his proposal and offered to meet in person to discuss this matter, which I would have preferred, but he has not yet given me the courtesy of a reply. His predecessor was well aware of the issues.

The response from the Minister for Transport was suitably bureaucratic saying that our views will be considered.

In recent years, the council has rightfully encouraged development around the station precinct so that it’s now surrounded on virtually all sides by residential housing. If the stabling yards proceed, the thudding sound of diesel engines, which travel long distances at night, will undoubtedly affect the health and amenity of many more families.

Yes, I know that many readers will simply dismiss these concerns as being selfish NIBY’s (not in my back yard). We accept we live near a train line and expect some noise but not all night long or starting up at 4 am when it doesn’t have to be.

Extending services to Bairnsdale together with replacement of the antiquated fleet of N-class trains with comfortable, reliable, new design long-haul VLocity carriages that have air-conditioning and toilets that work or fixing critical infrastructure along our Gippsland line would be a better use of the $11.2 million.