Member for Narracan, Gary Blackwood, has today thanked Shadow Minister for Public Transport, David Hodgett, for his support for Gippsland commuters and is very pleased that pressure from the community and Mr Hodgetts recent visit to Warragul has resulted in the Andrews Government returning rail services to the Gippsland line sooner than anticipated by the Minister.
‘Pressure from commuters, in particular the Gippsland Rail Users Group, and the Victorian Opposition have kept this issue at the front of the political agenda and without the push by regional Coalition Members of Parliament to get this issue dealt with, this crisis may have dragged on for many more months without resolution,’ Mr Blackwood said.
'Last week David Hodgett visited the Gippsland region and together we called on the Minister to fix this issue as a priority and today we see an announcement made that services will be returning to near capacity on 21st March.
‘It has been very disappointing during this crisis that Gippsland based Andrews Labor Government members have remained silent on the issue failing to advocate publically for regional commuters to get their service back as quickly as possible.
Gippsland commuters had been left in the dark for over a month about the ongoing VLine crisis until today when the Minister spoke for the first time since February 4thannouncing the return of Gippsland trains.
‘While todays announcement is great for rail users in the Gippsland region, the Andrews Government’s communication with local commuters on this issue has been nothing short of disgraceful,’ said Mr Blackwood.
‘For weeks commuters have been writing to the Minister with many not even receiving an acknowledgement to their letters and emails.
‘The Minister for Public Transports announcement today about the resumption of the majority of services from 21 March will come as a huge relief to those regular users forced to endure up to 10 hours extra per week on their travel times.
Mr Blackwood said now was the time for the Andrews Government to outline to commuters how services would be improved in the future to deliver greater frequency and reliability which has deteriorated under the current Government.
‘The Andrews Government needs to provide funding in this years Budget for additional dedicated lines for VLine services to and from the Gippsland region, the same service that Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong currently enjoy.
‘There has been no major commitment from the Andrews Government to improve frequency and reliability for VLine Gippsland users with even the recent SkyRail proposal providing no additional capacity.
‘Now is the time for the Andrews Government to invest in the Gippsland line and deliver the certainty that Gippsland rail users deserve,’ Mr Blackwood said.