Coalition plan to slash rail journey times

By Simon Ruppert

An elected Liberal Nationals Government will build a faster rail connection between Wodonga, Benalla and Melbourne, slashing travel times.

The state opposition have pledged to build a service that will see the current travel time of 3 hours and 27 minutes reduced to 2 hour and 44 minutes – a saving of more than one and a half hours on a round-trip.

Reaching speeds of 160 km/h on the Wodonga line, the state-wide network will be the fastest in Australia. At present trains on the line can only travel at around 115 km/h.

Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said the Liberal Nationals vision is to build a state of cities and not be a city state focused on Melbourne, like the Labor Government.

‘‘If we truly want to decentralise our state and bring our country communities closer together we need to build better regional rail and buy new-generation trains, which is exactly what an elected Liberal Nationals Government will do,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘Labor’s band-aid fixes have failed to solve the absolute mess they’ve made on the North East rail line which has left passengers on old, unreliable trains and slow replacement buses.

‘‘People on the North East line don’t want more of Labor’s neglect, we want faster trains we can rely on.’’

The Liberal National plan is to achieve population decentralisation by building a faster and more reliable railway network, connecting regional centres and growing regional jobs.

They recently announced a Population Commission to manage population growth throughout Victoria, the aim of which is to ensure that regional cities have the infrastructure and services needed for sustainable growth.

One of the functions of the Population Commission will be to ensure regional cities like Benalla receive the right number of doctors, hospital beds, teachers, healthcare workers and police to match population growth.

Opposition leader Matthew Guy said that the plan to cut regional rail travel times is essential to decentralisation.

‘‘To build a state of cities and grow all of Victoria, we need to build faster rail connecting to our regional centres and we need to grow regional jobs and deliver more services to the regions like teachers, doctors, healthcare workers and police,’’ he said.

‘‘Victoria needs population growth but it needs to be the right growth in the right places at the right time.

‘‘We can’t afford another four years of Labor’s unplanned, unmanaged population growth.

‘‘The Liberal Nationals want to grow all of Victoria, not just Melbourne.’’

As part of the proposal they have also pledged to fund new-generation, faster variants of the V/Locity trains which will provide improved comfort, leg room, safety and amenity for passengers.

Bringing Victoria’s cities closer together with European-style High Speed Rail is the cornerstone of the Liberal Nationals plans.

A high Speed Rail connections will also reduce the amount of cars using the Hume Hwy.

The estimated cost of the ambitious project is between $15 billion and $19 billion.

However, the Liberal Nationals have said that they will not introduce a new tax or levy to fund it.

The project has the potential to create more than 10 000 new jobs over several years.

Pick up Wednesday's Ensign for more.