August 4, 2015  |  Adjournment

Ballarat rail services

Mr HOWARD (Buninyong) — I raise a matter for the attention for the Minister for Public Transport. I ask the minister to take action to ensure that rail travellers on the Ballarat rail line will regain their confidence in their rail service travelling on time and will be able to expect to find a seat when travelling. I have been disappointed, as have so many travellers on the Ballarat rail line over recent weeks, that the service has not run well after new timetables were introduced to align with regional rail link services. I spent the past six weeks hopping on and off the trains at Ballarat and Ballan to seek feedback from travellers on their experiences and their concerns. In fact I travelled again just yesterday on the train to Melbourne and back to Ballarat. Concerns expressed by many peak service travellers are that there are too many delays and that many peak services have been overcrowded.

However, I am pleased to see that the Ballarat line is a priority, with new carriages off the Bombardier production line coming on line to meet local demand, which is already significantly reducing overcrowding. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of members of the V/Line staff, who have been working around the clock to improve the performance of the network. Like all frontline workers, they often have to bear the brunt of people’s frustration, so I commend them for assisting commuters on the rail network. Clearly there is much to do, and while Labor’s regional rail link has delivered extra peak services for Ballan, Ballarat and Bacchus Marsh, more needs to be done to address capacity and punctuality to ensure that Ballarat line passengers are able to appreciate the reliable rail services offered by regional rail link.

The legacy of the Liberal government is one of failure and of neglect of regional Victorians. The former government initially delayed the regional rail link, which was planned and commenced under the former Labor government with the securing of $3.2 million from the former Labor federal government. After a year or so of review, the Liberal government got underway with the project, but it failed to order new rail carriages to meet the demand for services for the opening of the rail line. Victorians elected Labor, which has provided great rail services in the past, including in the initial update of regional fast rail, following which people started to use rail services more often. Patronage has almost tripled over the last 15 years. It is good to see that we are consulting for the future, but I look forward to the minister providing more advice about action that can be taken to assure Ballarat line travellers that services will be sound again.