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Rail Revival Alliance Victoria

Submission for the 2020 – 2021 State Budget

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The Rail Revival Alliance is a community based organisation dedicated to maintaining and improving country rail services in Victoria.

The following is the view of the association as to a number of priorities for State government funding in the 20-20 – 2021 State budget.

The focus of this submission is in the North and West of the State, an area where this group is primarily focussed. The priorities suggested are primarily located in this region.

Murray Basin Project

Urgent work is required on the completing stages 1 and 2 of the Murray Basin Project. There are significant short comings in the operation of the Mildura – Maryborough – Ararat corridor for the effective operation of freight trains and these need urgent attention for this section of the overall project to be operating efficiently.

We there for recommend:

1. The second hand rail that has been laid between Maryborough and Ararat needs to be removed and new rail installed. Without this major undertaking, the 21 TAL axle loading will not be able to be implemented and the speed restriction which is currently in force on the line will not be lifted. This is seriously affecting the overall efficiency of freight operations on that line.

2. Major work needs to be conducted on the Maryborough rail yards following the wholesale removal of the broad gauge facilities two years ago. This will involve the reinstatement of at least two or more additional long road sufficient to accommodate current freight train operations. The existing roads need to be extended to enable efficient use by the freight operators. The locomotive fuel point at Maryborough needs to be reinstated.

3. Work needs to take place on the Murrayville line to improve the current speed restrictions.

4. The current standard gauge No. 2 road at Maryborough should be dual gauged to allow run around operations on broad gauge locomotive hauled trains such as the current broad gauged freight trains or passenger/heritage specials.

5. An assessment is required, in consultation with the private freight operators, to determine the suitability of the configuration of each of the new standard gauge facilities which have been constructed as part of the Murray Basin project. Where necessary, changes and improvement may need to take place at individual facilities to ensure their compatibility with current and future rail freight operations.

6. The Dunolly rail yards need to be competed so as to allow the efficient handing of particularly grain traffic for both standard and broad gauge

7. Signalling between Ararat, Maryborough and Dunolly be upgraded from its current train orders protocol.

The Overland

Rail Revival Alliance Victoria applauds the decision of the Victorian State government in late 2018 to ensure the operation of the overland Passenger train by paying the share that had previously be contributed by the South Australian government. However, the commitment was only on a year by year basis.

The Association proposes to have the Victorian government guarantee the funding for the Overland for the life of the government.

The Association accepts that the current service has a number of unsatisfactory aspects. Poor patronage on occasions and lack of integration with significant events requiring transport of large numbers of people between Melbourne and Adelaide are seen by critics of this service as two important factors.

The future of the Overland must be related to an extension of the number of services per week to at least operating on a daily basis. In addition, the Overland needs to be marketed much more than what it has been in the past. The extension of the service to a daily train would more the focus of the operation from a purely tourist operation. This daily service option would be of enormous significance to the communities of Western Victoria.

The longer view should be that this service is taken back from the private operator and operated by VLine. At this stage, the current rolling stock should be scrapped (it is 70 years old) and replaced by the long distance Velocity trains similar to which are currently be prepared for the Melbourne to Albury line.

Additional weekend services on the Maryborough Line

The Rail Revival Alliance notes the lack of a weekend return rail service from Melbourne to Maryborough and return on the same day.

Every week day, passengers can catch a train from Melbourne in the morning to Maryborough and return to Melbourne on the same day. Unfortunately this does not extend to weekends. In fact there is no service into Maryborough on Sunday morning at all, neither train nor bus.

We are of the view that the day return from Melbourne service on Saturdays and Sundays would be important for both tourism and for families. Students could come back for the day or weekend and families could get together for Mothers/Fathers day or other social outings on the weekend if a service  such operated.

The tourist potential for such a service which would not only cover Maryborough but Creswick, Clunes and Talbot as well would be significant. Such event as Clunes Booktown (which VLine runs special trains for), the famous farmers markets at Talbot and Clunes, the New Years Highland gathering at Maryborough, the historical events and the wine industry are just a few of the potential events that would be greatly assisted by such a day return train from Melbourne.

There is a further advantage to this proposal. When a public holiday occurs such as Easter Monday, Vline reverts the timetable to the Saturday schedule. So for public holiday, Maryborough actually get a an inferior service because the Saturday timetable is used. So for Christmas, New Year, Australia day or Anzac day a weekend day return service from Melbourne would mean people could come to these regions by rail and return home at the end of the day.

The Rail Revival Alliance would like to see provision in the forthcoming budget for the extension of the current rail service for the communities along the Maryborough line.

Dunolly Passenger Services

Following the commitment of the Minister prior to the last election, the Rail Revival Alliance urges the current Minister to honour this promise made to the Dunolly co immunity.

In the forthcoming budget, we urge you to seek funding for, at this stage a weekend service, that is two trains each way per day Saturday and Sunday. This service should also be run on public holidays. It would , of course, be run in conjunction with the existing services to Maryborough. The station platform at Dunolly will require some restoration and the station building made safe.

Apart from those comparatively simple pieces of capital work, there is little else that is required to enact this service as an extension of the current Maryborough services on these two days. The service could be extended to other days per week in future years.

Ballarat – Geelong Passenger Service

There remains a long standing need from both Geelong and Ballarat communities for the reintroduction of passenger rail services. There are a number of fast developing communities along that line which are desperately in need of passenger rail services.

This project would involve the construction of new platform access at Warrenheip, Meredith, Bannockburn and Bell Post Hill. This service should be aimed primarily serving commuters, student travelling in either direction or as part of a journey to Melbourne. Warrenheip would serve as an additional station on the Ballarat to Melbourne line and would assist in the overcrowding currently taking place at Ballarat Station.

The overall cost of this project excluding rolling stock would be less than $25M and involve the addition of station and car parks at the stations mentioned above. There may be some level crossings requiring of upgrading but they would be less than five crossings.

The capital funding for this project should be contained in the forthcoming budget.

If further information in required as to any of these proposals, it should be directed to:

Noel Laidlaw