LABOR’S election opponents want the state government to commit to reduplicating the rail track from Bendigo to Kyneton, not just promise to consider the prospect.
Candidates for the Greens, Nationals and Liberals say a big picture regional rail plan was needed for central Victoria, including more frequent services, trains that run on time and new railway stations.
Bendigo East incumbent Jacinta Allan, who is the public transport minister, announced last Friday three new stations would be built, a fourth would be subject to a scoping study and the rest of a $50 million investment would be spent on planning an upgrade of the Bendigo to Kyneton track.
The work was contingent on Labor being re-elected, and announcing the plan, premier Daniel Andrews was careful not to promise full duplication.
“I think it is always important to do the hard work to make sure services can cope with growth into the future, it is always about updating and upgrading,” Mr Andrews said.
“On the issue of the Bendigo to Kyneton (track), that detailed planning needs to be done because it may be that there are sections that have to be duplicated, passing loops, we will leave it to the engineers to give us the very best advice.”
The City of Greater Bendigo and the Public Transport Users Association have previously called for complete duplication and this week, Greens candidate Laurie Whelan and Liberal candidate Ian Ellis said the previous Labor govenrment had ignored advice in 2004 when they had pulled up a track in 2004 and made it a single line with passing loops.
“If the rail system to regional areas is to have increased traffic volume, the lines between Bendigo and Kyneton will require to be re-duplicated, and it should not need re-duplicating as the second line should never have been pulled up,” Mr Ellis said.
“All the best advice was ignored, with the problems that were expected happending sooner than anticipated.”
Mr Whelan asked if the state government would admit they got it wrong in 2004.
“The Bendigo and Castlemaine Better Rail Action Groups and many others told them it would result in delays and an unreliable rail service and this is what has happened – a second rate service in terms of punctuality and reliability,” Mr Whelan said.
“Commuters are frustrated and cynical at the poor levels of punctuality, which for the month of July rose only from 80 per cent to 85 per cent, and with the number of cancellations and the overall unreliability of the Bendigo line means Bendigo West residents get a second-rate service.”
But all candidates said expanding regional rail services made sense, including the construction of new stations at Goornong, Raywood and Huntly, and possibly another at Harcourt.
“Expanding regional rail makes sense, provided you can deliver a quality service,” said Nationals candidate Gaelle Broad.
“We need an overall rail and road transport plan for our region, which considers growth corridors like Big Hill, Maiden Gully and Strathfieldsaye.”