POLITICAL rivals Darren Cheeseman and Sarah Henderson are all steamed up in a row about Geelong region train services.
Ms Henderson again criticised the Corangamite MP yesterday for a rail vision he released last week, saying his idea was a "thought bubble" that would cost local tourism.
Although thin on detail and costings, Mr Cheeseman did produce a map to show where he thought new train lines should be installed to connect South Geelong station to Queenscliff, and Marshall station to North Torquay.
Less than a week earlier the State Government had confirmed it would examine plans for train services to Drysdale and Torquay.
Ms Henderson, the Liberal candidate for Corangamite, said she supported that study, but said Mr Cheeseman's idea was not a proper plan.
"The people of Corangamite have every right to be utterly sceptical. Darren Cheeseman's scheme is nothing more than a thought bubble," she said.
"There is no funding and no policy. This is not a strategy but a media release aimed at his re-election. I am a strong supporter of better rail and better public transport. Proper planning for rail links to Torquay and the Bellarine is already under way."
Mr Cheeseman said the State Government's plan did not go far enough, and said he would advocate a rail line that extended from Drysdale to Queenscliff with a stop at Marcus Hill/Ocean Grove.
But Ms Henderson said this plan would hurt the Queenscliff-Drysdale Bellarine Railway. "Had he bothered to do some basic homework, he would have discovered the volunteer operators of the tourist railway hold a 25-year lease with VicTrack over this section of the track," she said.
"There are upwards of 50,000 visitors who journey on the historic Queenscliff to Drysdale railway each year, including on the Blues Train. Is Mr Cheeseman proposing to scale back or even shut down this operation? Does he understand how important tourism is for our region? Once again, we see what a poor advocate Mr Cheeseman is for our community."
But Mr Cheeseman said there was plenty of support for the ideas he put forward. "I am sure the Blues Train will be excited to hear of plans to upgrade track and stations along the route and the potential to run the Blues Train from Geelong," he said.
"I have been overwhelmed with phone calls and emails in support of commuter rail links to our region. People see the benefits this would bring to their lives and for tourism."
Before I start on my rant, I do NOT speak for Bellarine Railway or the Geelong Steam Preservation Society (GSPS) in any way, shape or form.
I am just tad concerned at Darren Cheesemans proposal to restore the broad gauge line to Queenscliff, and his obvious ignorance of the section of rail between Drysdale and Queenscliff, and the tourist railway that operates services between these 2 stations.
He has been a supporter of the railway in the past, even opening a building that we built in the last handful of years.
So he wants to restore the BG to Queenscliff. And his opinion of the railway, 'Oh, the Blues train will be happy to run from Geelong'. PFFFFT!
He seems to forget that the GSPS provides the train for the Blues Train (GSPS also operates regular public timetable, charters, and drivers experiences); it is GSPS rolling stock, and GSPS operational staff that operates the train. The Blues Train business merely provids the music, security, and bar staff.
Mr Cheeseman seems to forget that Drysdale Queenscliff is a narrow gauge railway, and as a consequence, most, if not all, of the GSPS rolling stock is narrow gauge as well.
It seems he thnks the Blues train will benefit from the upgrade....how does he think the the Blues Train will operate with out-of-gauge locomotives and rolling stock?
And who does he think will pay for gauge converting rolling stock that can be gauge-converted, and purchasing of replacement BG rolling stock for those locos and carriages that can't be gauge converted? The GSPS certainly can't afford to gauge convert all of their locos and pasenger cars, and I doubt the government would fund the job either.
Great idea, Mr Cheeseman, but ill thought out.
Arrogant, probably not, naive, definately.
Again, this is my point of view, and NOT that of the Bellarine Railway or the GSPS.