State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan has promised to upgrade the trains servicing Benalla if the Coalition is elected to government in November.
Ms Ryan said the ‘‘unreliable’’ diesel trains would be replaced with a new generation of faster, long-haul trains, which would include a buffet service.
She said the commitment followed a long and sustained campaign for the replacement of rolling stock on the north east line.
‘‘Our commitment to buy new long-haul trains will mean fewer breakdowns, more seats and cleaner, modern trains that have the capacity to run at faster speeds,’’ Ms Ryan said.
‘‘Securing this pledge has been a community effort. I am particularly grateful to Benalla residents who gave me permission to share in Parliament their horror stories of travelling on the line.’’
Ms Ryan said a survey she ran of commuters on the line in 2016 showed reliability, punctuality and cleanliness were travellers’ greatest concerns.
‘‘Our train service is the worst in Victoria. In January this year just over half of trains arrived on time while almost 20 per cent of services were cancelled,’’ she said.
‘‘The biggest factor holding back our line is the age of the trains and the carriages, some which date back to the 1950s and 1960s.’’
Ms Ryan said she hoped the Nationals’ pledge would force Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to finally come good on his promise to buy new trains for the line.
‘‘Daniel Andrews has had almost three and a half years to buy new trains for the north east line,’’ Ms Ryan said.
‘‘People are sick to death of the blame game.
‘‘I have lobbied for three years to get new trains on our line and the message from commuters is clear — we want a service that we can rely on.
‘‘We are well on the way to achieving that with the $140million invested by the Federal Nationals to improve the track and our commitment to replace the rolling stock.
‘‘I will continue with my campaign until Daniel Andrews matches our pledge, so that people in our region can have confidence that our train service will be fixed.’’
The Liberal Nationals have committed to spend $620 million for the upgrades, $120million of which is expected for the north east line.
But Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the Victorian Government had already started the design work needed to run VLocity trains on long-haul lines.
‘‘The Liberals and Nationals have no credibility when it comes to regional rail... all they’ve done is cut and shut,’’ Ms Allan said.
‘‘When last in government they didn’t order a single new carriage for two years... didn’t start a rail project anywhere and ripped $120 million out of V/Line — and it was a Liberal Government that shut regional rail lines.
‘‘If the Coalition wants to do something useful for V/Line users they should pick up the phone to Malcolm Turnbull and tell him to release the money he has promised for Regional Rail Revival, so we can get on with upgrading every regional line in the state.’’
State Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes said she believed Ms Ryan’s announcement had been rushed.
‘‘I think it might have been brought forward to coincide with the Minister’s (Jacinta Allan) visit to Benalla, because if you look at the Shadow Minister David Davis, he was quoted in the Border Mail on Friday saying they would announce their policy ‘in due course’ and the day before you had Bill Tilley saying they wouldn’t put VLocity trains on the north east line,’’ she said.
‘‘So I really think this has been brought forward as a catch-up mechanism to try and get ahead of the good work that we’re already doing.’’
The Albury line runs to Melbourne via Wangaratta, Benalla and Seymour while the Shepparton line runs to Melbourne via Murchison, Nagambie and Seymour.