$186m needed for Shepp rail upgrade

April 19, 2017

It won’t just be councils on the north-east rail line lobbying for precious funds to upgrade rail services.

A separate study has found $186million would be needed to bring the Shepparton train line up to eight return services per day over the next decade.

Greater Shepparton City Council is lobbying the State Government for a Shepparton rail corridor infrastructure upgrade to be included in the 2018/19 Victorian budget.

The council has endorsed the findings of two studies aimed at strengthening advocacy for improved passenger rail services between Shepparton and Melbourne.

Background reports state the council has already written to Victorian Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan to request that the government fund the necessary business case for infrastructure upgrades in the 2017/18 budget — set to be released next month.

‘‘This will ensure that the rail upgrade project is ready for capital funding in the 18/19 state budget,’’ a report to the council reads.

Greater Shepparton has also asked for an additional fifth weekday return service and that three additional weekend return services be introduced as part of the 2017/18 budget, arguing these services ‘‘can be introduced without any infrastructure works’’.

Officers report Shepparton’s current service level — four daily return services, averaging 2.5hours per journey — remains ‘‘considerably below what Shepparton needs’’ and below the service level of other regional centres.

‘‘As such, council officers (are) seeking a sustainable service upgrade that delivers at least eight daily services and reduced travel times to around two hours, with modern V/Locity carriages,’’ the report to the meeting continued.

The council had commissioned the two reports to measure infrastructure costs and economic benefits of bringing the Shepparton line service to eight services per day, with a two-hour travel time.

The Shepparton Passenger Services Project Report found that ‘‘delivering eight daily services has a lead-in time of up to five years and requires additional rolling stock and infrastructure improvements at the cost of around $186million’’.

The Shepparton Passenger Rail Improvements Economic Impacts Study found a 150per cent increase in passenger demand — ‘‘a reasonable expectation based on other strategic rail projects’’ — would result in a 0.85 benefit cost ratio.

The council’s officers report concludes that the project report demonstrates ‘‘realistic passenger rail improvement scenarios are possible within the context of wider regional and strategic rail developments,’’ that they have dependencies on a range of developments and that the council will need to jointly lobby with others for network-wide improvements with benefits for Shepparton.

The cost of achieving realistic eight daily return services to Melbourne is $185million by 2025, it concluded.

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