Following news that V/Line might abandon passenger rail services from Wangaratta to Albury because of the poor condition of the track, the Public Transport Users Association has urged the Victorian Government to immediately begin negotiations with the federal Government for the conversion of the inadequate broad gauge line to standard gauge.
“The Victorian rail network beyond the Regional Fast Rail (RFR) corridors is in crisis,” PTUA regional spokesperson Paul Westcott said. He noted that the Albury line wasn’t part of the RFR upgrade and has been largely neglected.
“Not only is the condition of the broad gauge track poor, but there’s only one crossing loop (near Violet Town) in 200 kilometres of single track between Seymour and Albury, which severely limits operational flexibility.”
Mr Westcott noted that because the state government recently bought back control of the Victorian country rail network, it can now carry out the plan, recommended recently in Tim Fischer’s Victorian Rail Freight Network Review, for the broad gauge track from Seymour to Albury to be leased to the federal Australian Rail Track Corporation, upgraded, and converted to standard gauge.
“Along with the existing ARTC-controlled standard gauge line, this will create a high quality double track standard gauge line to Albury,” Mr Westcott said.
V/Line is reported to have plans in place for running standard gauge passenger trains on the converted line.
Despite the Regional Fast Rail program and the announcement of a basic upgrade of the Mildura line, the PTUA is annoyed that significant state government plans over the last eight years to foster Victoriaâ€™s country rail system have been still-born.
â€œThe government and Minister Lynne Kosky must show more commitment to fulfilling all the promises made, and also develop realistic plans for much-needed improvements in our country rail network. The Fischer report provides a good blueprint,â€ Mr Westcott concluded.