Public Transport Speeches | March 07, 2019

Adjournment - Lowan electorate public transport

Victorian parliament - 7 March 2019 - Ms KEALY (Lowan) (17:37:49): (269) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Public Transport, and the action I seek is for the minister to match the election commitment made by The Nationals and commit to bringing back passenger rail to Horsham and Hamilton. Over the past five years I have been a fierce advocate for improving public transport services across western Victoria and have stood side by side with many strong voices in the community who demand better public transport in our region. Unfortunately all Labor have delivered over the past five years have been timetable changes that have reduced connectivity with our region, with fewer services less often and much longer travel times to get from Melbourne to places like Warracknabeal and Casterton. The most recent timetable changes have blown out the time to travel from Warracknabeal to Horsham, with locals telling me just last week that it now takes around 3 hours for this trip that takes 45 minutes by car, largely because of the lengthy route the bus takes on the journey. This is simply unacceptable. Over the election campaign The Nationals committed to many public transport improvements across western Victoria, including more bus services, a service from Hamilton to Horsham via Cavendish and Balmoral, better connections to the tourist mecca of Halls Gap in the Grampians, a firm commitment to return passenger rail to Horsham and Hamilton and a business case to work out the best way to deliver that so that travellers can achieve the best possible connections at the times they want to use rail services to maximise use of the service. But the commitment was not just about public transport to Horsham and Hamilton; we also made a commitment to return passenger rail to Mildura and committed funding to take the vital first steps towards achieving this, committing $80 million to upgrade level crossings and add passing loops along the Mildura line—all necessary to occur before we can bring back passenger rail. Unfortunately we did not hear any such commitments from Labor. The people of Lowan comprehensively voted in favour of improvements to public transport in western Victoria. Given Labor made no election commitments to our part of the state, I sincerely ask the minister to take The Nationals’ election funding commitments on board, to listen to the local people and affirm this commitment to bring back passenger rail and improve bus connections in our part of the state. I met with representatives from the western rail group today, prior to their meeting with the Minister for Public Transport. I commend the group for their strong and tireless advocacy around the importance of improving connections to our part of the state, whether it is helping to bring people to the region to work, live, study or be tourists, or for locals to visit family, attend meetings, go to schools or unis, or get to medical appointments. We need and deserve better public transport to support our region, and this must include the return of passenger rail. Their proposal of an interim option to develop a rail shuttle service along the standard gauge rail line to provide a connection from Hamilton and Horsham to Ararat while a business case on the best way to return rail in the long term is developed has merit. I urge the minister to provide a commitment to do this as soon as possible and make it happen. Our people are just as deserving of good access to reliable, timely and convenient public transport as our friends in larger regional cities like Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong. Labor must deliver to ensure that all public transport services are available to all Victorians, especially those that live furthest from Melbourne, who are most isolated. I reiterate to the minister that the action I seek is a commitment to match the election commitment made by the National Party.

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