THE earliest stages of this year’s state election campaign are being fought out in part on the platforms of regional railway stations, as Victorian Labor party and the coalition trade barbs over proposed rail projects.
Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy announced this week that the coalition would promise to make V/Line’s ageing fleet of
N-Class trains a thing of the past if his party comes out on top when Victorians go to the polls in
Mr Guy announced that the Liberal and National parties would fund $633 million worth of rolling stock upgrades to go from the N-Class engines to long-haul VLocity units.
The N-Class trains currently run on Swan Hill, Shepparton, Albury, Bairnsdale and Warrnambool services, with the “Sprinter” trainsets used on services to Seymour to also be upgraded.
The N-Class trains run twice per day both to and from Melbourne to Swan Hill.
Journeys on the N-Class trains take on average 15 minutes longer than trips between Bendigo and Melbourne on VLocity units.
A total of 16 new trainsets would be provided under the plan, with an order to be placed in 2019 and delivered in the first term of a potential coalition government.
Mr Guy said in improved rail network is a key part of the coalition push to decentralise Victoria’s population.
“My government would focus on bringing new jobs to country Victoria, better regional roads and rail as well as improving health and education services,” he said.
But after last week kicking proceedings off by announcing changes to fares for long-term commuters, public transport minister Jacinta Allan said the rolling stock improvement would be empty without better track infrastructure to go with it.
“You can’t run these modern VLocity trains on these tracks that won’t hold these trains,” she told media in Benalla this week.
“And that’s why, when you look at the work that (the Labor government) has done, we have purchased these new trains, we are doing the design work on the long-haul VLocity and we are doing the track upgrades so they can take these new trains.
“It’s interesting to see that in an election year our political opponents are choosing to play a bit of catch up and do a bit of copy cat behaviour, that’s their call.”
– Joel Peterson