Election should help rail

March 27, 2018

Questions about who has or has not done enough to help Shepparton’s beleaguered rail line were thrown up last week.

And we might hear many more of these questions being asked as we work our way toward this year’s state election.

The reality is, as evidenced in a recent Committee for Greater Shepparton report, the city has been underfunded in the past 15 years.

But recent indications demonstrate rail is likely to become a central point in the lead-up to this year’s Victorian election and present a valuable opportunity for the service to improve.

A visit to Shepparton from Victorian Rail Minister Jacinta Allan last week was positive for a few reasons.

The fact Ms Allan was here to announce vital works would be quickened was the first important thing to take away.

The reality is, until these works — track stabling and an all important passing loop — are completed, the Shepparton corridor cannot run many more services than the four or so return trains to Melbourne daily running at the moment.

The fast-tracked works are a gateway to more services.

And while it appears to be mostly getting air time as an opportunity to question the commitment of political rivals, headway also should come in the concession from politicians that Sheppartonians have the right to feel disappointed about the level of service on their rail line.

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed has flagged rail as the premier concern for this region as the state hurtles toward an election.

Early indications are promising, with a rolling stock pledge from the Victorian Opposition and already the commitment for coach services between Shepparton and Seymour from mid year — alongside the fast-tracked works commitment — from the Victorian Government.

Yes, more could have been done.

Yes, expedited essential works to make sure a fifth return service is in action faster is welcome.

Yes, more is also still needed.

Yes, we know the Shepparton line will still have a way to go for its service to be close to being on par with other regional rail lines, even with this fifth service in action.

As studies have shown, eight return services is more in line with what a city the size of Shepparton, with the population of Shepparton and growing at the speed Shepparton is, surely deserves.

This year’s election seems to be shaping up to be a rare opportunity for concerns such as Shepparton rail to be given serious attention.

Watch this space.

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