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Minister’s spin doesn’t wash

The Public Transport Users Association has described as “pure spin” Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder’s excuse for regional trains not stopping at North Melbourne station under the Regional Rail Link (RRL)

“The minister is trying to dress up a downgrade as an improvement,” PTUA regional spokesperson Paul Westcott said.

Mr Mulder has said that continuing to allow V/Line passengers to use North Melbourne would “add to congestion” at the station, yet it was recently rebuilt at a cost of $30 million to increase its capacity.

“It’s nonsense to claim that regional trains will suffer delays from congestion by stopping at North Melbourne because they will now all stop at Footscray instead,” Mr Westcott said.

“The actual reason for this inexcusable decision is that the track layout being provided at North Melbourne means many RRL trains will be physically unable to use any new platforms provided there. That can and must be changed.”

North Melbourne is currently a major interchange point for travellers on regional lines, providing connections to City Loop services, as well as the recently-introduced 401 shuttle bus from North Melbourne to the university and hospital precincts in Parkville.

After the RRL opens, V/Line passengers wanting to transfer to the City Loop will be forced to change trains at Footscray, from where they can only use Sydenham line trains to gain access to the Loop, because all other trains stopping at Footscray only run direct to Flinders Street.

“The Sydenham line is the most overcrowded in Melbourne, and forcing all regional passengers to squeeze onto those already packed trains in peak hour is a recipe for chaos,” Mr Westcott said.

He also noted that suburban trains to Craigieburn, Upfield and Melbourne Showgrounds stop at North Melbourne, but do not run via Footscray.

“Given that over $5 billion is being spent on this scheme, it is completely unacceptable to bypass such a vital and well-used interchange point,” Mr. Westcott said.

“Doing that will inconvenience a large number of regional rail passengers every day.

“This silly move only adds to the likelihood that regional passengers will be short-changed by the RRL project. We still have no real idea how the line is to be operated, and with this latest announcement, there’s the likelihood that it will offer no time savings to many rail users, and inconvenience them as well.”