Funds pledge queried

April 24, 2018

Victorian Minister for Transport Jacinta Allan and State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed believe the Coalition's rail funding announcement is not enough to improve Shepparton's rail services.

Victoria’s Transport Minister has cast her doubts over whether the Shepparton rail line could be brought up to eight return daily services with the funding the Opposition is pledging.

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed was also concerned the pledge was ‘‘not nearly enough’’ to cover the work required.

She said the cost to bring the line’s service up to an eight return services a day could cost into the hundreds of millions, well above the $77 million committed, should the Opposition win in November.

Transport Minister Jacinta Allan pointed to a City of Greater Shepparton-funded analysis where upgrading to eight daily return services had been costed at $186 million, including rolling stock.

Since the analysis, $43 million had been allocated to essential track works by the government in this year’s budget, including works that were last month fast-tracked and set to open up a new return service next year.

In the council’s recently-endorsed ‘‘ask of government’’ document, $67.5million was requested, an estimate not including costs for upgraded rolling stock.

Ms Allan said the Coalition announcement was short-changing Shepparton, with an amount that would not deliver the service the community needed and deserved.

She referred to past council estimates that quoted figures closer to $100 million for the upgrade.

Asked what the $77 million would deliver, Ms Allan said it was more a question of what it would not deliver.

‘‘It won’t deliver the very thing the Shepparton community has been calling for,’’ she said.

‘‘We know you can’t add more services on the Shepparton line until you upgrade the track.’’

Ms Sheed called for the Opposition’s proposal to be costed by the parliament’s budget office.

‘‘I am concerned this figure will not be enough to achieve what they have pledged,’’ she said.

‘‘It is my understanding that to complete all the necessary works ... we’re talking in the hundreds of millions, not the tens of millions.

‘‘It’s costing the current government $43.5 million to simply upgrade stabling facilities in Shepparton, create a passing loop and add a fifth daily service.’’

But Ms Sheed also called on the government to make its own commitment to fully overhaul the regions rail service and hoped a significant delivery would arrive in next month’s budget.

At Shepparton station yesterday, Opposition leader Matthew Guy said the Coalition had ‘‘budgeted it’’.

When asked about the funding concerns, State Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell said the Coalition would deliver what was promised, the rail service Shepparton asked for and deserved.

Council chief executive Peter Harriott welcomed the announcement and was pleased at the level of interest being taken in the Shepparton rail line, a point Ms Sheed supported.

Mr Harriott said it was primarily the government’s role to determine costs of rail line improvements.

Committee for Greater Shepparton chief Sam Birrell agreed it was a ‘‘significant announcement’’ that should be taken seriously.

‘‘It’s a great step towards remedying inequality on the rail corridor,’’ he said, adding hopefully a commitment could be made by the government as well.

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