The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has welcomed reports that the state government will buy back the lease of the state’s country rail network from Pacific National.
“We’re pleased that the government has heeded our calls for the country rail network to be brought back under public control,” said PTUA President Daniel Bowen. “Privatisation failed to ensure adequate investment and maintenance across the network, and the access regime worked against competing operators. This announcement is encouraging news for people right across the state.”
Mr Bowen called on all political parties to now commit to restoring rail services to regional centres including Mildura, Leongatha, Horsham and Portland. “We’ve been disappointed by the lack of progress on rail services to places like Mildura and Leongatha. The lease buy-back will allow the government to forge ahead with the return of passenger rail services across the state and provide relief from high petrol prices.”
Mr Bowen also noted that the government’s announcement lacked detail on future plans. “We need a competitive, fuel efficient and environmentally friendly rail freight system to meet the challenges of rising oil prices, climate change and wear and tear on country roads from increasing road freight. The government needs to respond by improving the coverage, quality and integration of the rail network and accelerating standardisation.”
Mr Bowen concluded with a reminder that contracts with the private operators of Melbourne’s suburban rail networks will expire in the next term of government. “The country rail buy-back cost over $130 million. The government can get back the suburban network for free by not renewing the franchise agreements with Connex and Yarra Trams.”