Waiting for share of cake

December 20, 2017

Half a cake is better than no cake, but when it comes to funding for Shepparton rail services, it seems the rest of Victoria really does take the cake.

We are indeed grateful, along with our state MP Suzanna Sheed, that the latest round of funding to improve mobile connectivity for train services includes the line between Melbourne and Seymour.

We were excited when a media release from Innovation and Digital Economy Minister Philip Dalidakis dropped into our editor’s email inbox.

It was headlined ‘‘Regional Passengers Say Goodbye to Mobile Black Spots’’.

We were about to raise a collective ‘‘hurrah!’’ when we read the fine print.

For the minister’s purposes, Shepparton is not in regional Victoria.

The rollout of the $18 million Regional Rail Connectivity Project will boost mobile coverage for passengers along the Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Traralgon and Seymour rail lines — the release trumpeted.

So once again — no mention of Shepparton.

We have heard this before, and we are aware of the reasons why we keep missing out.

The line to Shepparton would need well in excess of one hundred million dollars, according to estimates, spent on it to bring it up to modern-day infrastructure standards.

The latest round of funding for connectivity upgrades will only go to VLocity trains, and Shepparton has no VLocity trains because the line from Seymour is incapable of carrying them.

We applaud Ms Sheed for her efforts so far in bringing extra train services to Shepparton, and for keeping the issue on the agenda.

Her All Aboard Shepparton campaign took the issue of Shepparton’s poor train services right to the steps of parliament when our infamous ‘‘pyjama army’’ arrived at Spring St in 2015.

Promises were made at the time on a ‘‘wait and see’’ basis.

But it seems the mandarins of Spring St are yet to make a serious commitment to the people of Shepparton.

The minister’s press release also boasts the new in-train technology will improve liveability in regional Victoria and productivity for regional business passengers, delivering an estimated $20million per year to the Victorian economy.

How long must Shepparton continue to be beyond the fringe to be classed ‘‘regional’’ when it comes to train services? The answer would appear to be: until the line between Seymour and Shepparton is upgraded.

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