Yesterday’s funding announcement for Shepparton rail as part of the Victorian Government budget shows the issues that have been holding back our line for too long are finally being taken seriously.
The Andrews Labor Government’s funding package announcement comes after the Liberal Nationals recently pledged investment in the line, albeit less significant, and contingent on them winning November’s election.
For many years, the Shepparton line has continually been overlooked as part of regional rail funding, while cash has flowed freely to other regional Victorian centres.
Rail funding has been a key focus for State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed, who has long campaigned for appropriate investment in the line.
It has been a case of serious neglect by successive governments that was highlighted in our pages in March after the release of a Committee for Greater Shepparton report uncovered some damning findings.
That study revealed that of $4.4billion spent on line upgrades in Victoria from 2002-2015, not a cent had been directed to capital works to improve the Shepparton line.
Their initiative in commissioning this report should be applauded, in terms of putting the issue on the agenda right where it belongs.
Seven weeks later, we have news of a $313million investment for Stage 2 of the Shepparton line upgrade to enable the modern and faster VLocity trains to run on our line.
While we will not see the work completed straightaway — funding and works will be delivered over the next four budgets — there is now a clear timeline to anticipate the work to get done.
The government says the much-needed infrastructure upgrades will pave the way for nine services a day to and from Shepparton.
Work is under way on the first stage of the project with $43.5million funded in the 2017-18 budget.
The News has long campaigned for our service delivery to be at a comparative level to other regional centres, taking into account population differences.
The funding commitments are the start of what we hope will bring our rail services to a frequency and standard that our community expects and deserves.