For the Liberals – sorry seems to be the hardest word

Dear Editor

I’m glad that finally, after six weeks the Shadow Minister for Public Transport, David Hodgett has made time in his busy schedule to take a train to Ballarat.

Some 38 days since the introduction of the new Regional Rail Link timetable, Mr Hodgett wandered up on a non-peak service to join his new Liberal colleague Josh Morris for a photo opportunity where they cried crocodile tears for regional Victorians.

Josh Morris may be too young to remember the long-standing neglect of regional Victoria by the Liberals. It was the Liberals, under Jeff Kennett that closed so many of our country rail lines and allowed Ballarat rail services to fall into a poorly maintained state. Only under Labor were rail lines reopened to Ararat and Maryborough and a new station built at Wendouree.

Labor’s Regional Fast Rail project also saw the modernisation of our line which has resulted in a near tripling of patronage.

More recently, it was the same Liberals that neglected regional Victoria when they failed to order any new V/Line carriages in their first two years of government and although they promised a passing loop at Ballan ahead of the 2010 election, this was never constructed.

While Josh has been whinging and whining, I’ve spent the past six weeks frequently catching trains from Ballarat and Ballan, seeking feedback from rail travellers about their experience and concerns, which I’ve passed on directly to the Minister and senior V/Line staff.

Ballarat rail travellers are owed an apology for rail services that have not been up to scratch – an apology that the Premier, Minister and I have been more than prepared to make.

However, the people of Ballarat wouldn’t want to hold their breath waiting for the Liberals to apologise for letting us down so badly when it comes to public transport investment. Like many Liberals before him, including Bronwyn Bishop – Josh has found that sorry seems to be the hardest word.

Geoff Howard

State Member for Buninyong

(Published in The Courier 03/08/15)