April 3, 2014  |  Matters of Public Importance

Public Transport

Mr HOWARD  (Ballarat East)— The word ‘delusional’ is the only word you  can think of  when  you hear the comments  that  are being made  by  members  on the opposite side of the  house,  members  of  the  government,  with regard to this matter of public importance (MPI). In fact  when you  read the  statement of the matter  of  public importance  that  was proposed  by  the  Minister for  Public Transport today, you  have to check the date again:  is it 1 April? No,  it is 2 April.  The government  has missed  the date,  because this  would have to be an April Fools Day trick if ever there was one.

You have to believe that  this  Minister  for  Public Transport gets around this state of  Victoria  like Mr Magoo — he does not  see what is happening. He does not deliver, and he has not seen what is  happening on public transport. As  the member  for Ballarat  East and  a member  for regional Victoria, I know that the minister does  not  understand  that he  has  a responsibility to  deliver  into regional Victoria, and that simply is not happening.

 

Let  me begin my contribution by noting headlines from the Ballarat Courier, not from last month or last year but from Monday of this week.

The headline is ‘Ballarat train delays continue’, and it reports:

Train commuters  received a shock this  morning after discovering  services on  the Ballarat line were running up to 40 minutes behind schedule.
Delays and cancellation of train  services started as early as 5.00 a.m., with  multiple services being switched from trains to coaches.
The latest update from V/Line states  that  delays of around 40 minutes around  the Deer Park area were due to a signal fault.
Multiple  trains  from Bacchus  Marsh  to  Southern Cross  were  cancelled and  reverted to coach services.

That was from Monday  of  this week, but two  days later this minister wants  to say,  ‘We are doing a wonderful job of making the trains punctual and reliable’. Clearly that was not  the case on Monday of  this week, and it has  not been the case for so many days already this year and over the last year.

In addition, an email dated today was passed on to me today from a  traveller on the Bendigo line. This traveller says:

I’m writing  to you  about our V/Line rail. My wife Monique  and thousands  of  other people travel to  …  Melbourne  five  days  a  week and are constantly  frustrated with late and slow train services and  never informed properly with  cancelled trains …

 

The traveller goes on to say:

You … want  regional Vic to grow, but do nothing to make the country commute  more efficient. It’s so frustrating for my wife, who gets up at 5.00 a.m. each  day to catch the 6.00 a.m.  train so as  she will be  on time at work, to find  the V/Line train has to give way to Metro trains at Watergardens and  Sunbury,  so of course she’s late most days, and  the return home is just as bad. We are  sick of all the  spin  … so what I’m asking is quite  simple make our V/Line  trains priority through  the metro maze so as the regional people can at least  get to work and home on time.

This  is an email dated from today from  another rail  traveller on  the Bendigo line,  which  runs through my  electorate. Clearly punctuality  is not something this government can be proud about.

Only Mr Magoo could go about saying, ‘Yes, we have got wonderful trains that are all going on time and we ought to be congratulated’. It is simply not the case.

On Monday evening  this week  I held  a community meeting in Ballan, and amongst the people who came along were commuters who use  the rail service daily to  get from Ballan to Melbourne.  They wanted to let me know the latest, and the latest was again that morning when the train service arrived in Ballan from Ballarat to go  on  to  Melbourne  there  was standing room only for those Ballan travellers going  to  Melbourne, and that  has  regularly been the case.  Let  us go back a little bit to reflect upon the reality of what has happened over recent years.

When Labor came to office in 1999 the rail service had been brought to its knees by the Liberal-Nationals coalition government,  especially in regional  Victoria where so  many lines  had  been  closed  —  to  Ararat, down  to Gippsland  and elsewhere across the state. Labor reopened those lines.

 

We  invested significantly  in  the regional  fast  rail  service that  saw  new V/Locity  trains being  built in  this state.  It was  a lovely  new  change  to actually have rail carriages built and assembled in Victoria, which is something that  had  not  happened  for  years  and  certainly  not  under  the  coalition government.  We upgraded the  rail  on those major  rail  lines between Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and  Gippsland into Melbourne. Rail travellers thanked us  for that and knew they had a much more comfortable and reliable rail service.

However, we have seen rail travel times reduced again  under this government. We were up  to  just over an hour  between  Ballarat and Melbourne, but  that is no longer the case. It has gone backwards and there is crowding because it has been a  popular service. Although Labor  in office purchased many V/Locity trains and had more on order, this government dallied over ordering new trains and caused a backlog which means that people  from  Ballan and other travellers have to stand on overcrowded trains.

Therefore this government has not done its job on passenger services.

In terms of affordability, we heard announcements last week about Metro rail and reductions in pricing.  That has not  been the experience in  regional Victoria, which has seen prices go up 20 per cent over the three years of this government, and there  is  no  relief in  sight.  It  is not more  affordable  and  not more reliable; it is less reliable under this government.

As we know,  this government’s major project for transport infrastructure  is an $8 billion tunnel in Melbourne.  It is not rail projects but a road tunnel  that is not going to benefit the people in my electorate at all, who see the roads in our electorate deteriorating. The  Ballarat-Colac road is one of the worst roads in this state,  as identified  on a  website the  Labor Party  established. As I travel  along  it all this government  has  done is put  up  more signs that say ‘Rough surface, drive slowly’ or ‘Drive carefully’.

 

It has not upgraded the roads and it has not delivered on roads in my area.

The government promised $4 million in funding over the term of  this  government for Ballarat-Buninyong  Road,  but it  has  been  very slow  in  delivering that project.  Even  though it  started  with $2 million  committed  under the  Labor government to upgrade the roundabout at Whitehorse Road, that work was only just started last month. It is not good enough to  see this government sitting around for nearly three and  a  half  years  before  getting  around to delivering this roundabout, which  was funded  by Labor  in the  2010 budget. That  is not  good enough.

We want to see  this  government  get  serious  about  roadworks  in  and around regional Victoria. Our country roads have  deteriorated badly  as funding  has been drawn away. Even in town we see that roads  like Ballarat-Buninyong Road have not attracted the funding that was promised, and the  delays  are unbelievable. The people in my electorate and people  of regional Victoria  have  been seriously let  down by this government. This matter of public importance — this statement put forward  by  the Minister for Public  Transport —  is deluded.  The minister  needs to get out, take  off those Mr Magoo glasses and listen to people, look at what is happening in public transport, look at what is happening with our roads  and commit  to getting work done  to address  those issues.  I do  not believe that  is possible  under this government.  We saw under Labor a commitment to public transport, as shown under the Bracks and Brumby governments.

People  in  my electorate  clearly  understand that,  and  they  have only  been disappointed  by what they have seen under this government not  only  on  public transport but on roads. Labor is committed to addressing these issues.

 

This  government has dillydallied  for more than three  years. Its members  make promises and wild and deluded statements. From day one they should  have got  on with it and started delivering on the projects  that  were clearly identified by the people of my region as  needing to be done. We want to see serious work, not hear deluded statements from this government.