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THE prospect of the Albury-Wodonga rail line sharing in a $1 billion Victorian infrastructure package will no doubt be welcomed by many frustrated passengers across the Border and North East.
On the same day it was revealed the line had endured its worst month in the past year – with one in five scheduled train services replaced by buses – we also got a ray of hope.
While it appears we will have to wait until the May federal budget for confirmation, there were reports the North East line would get a slice of the pie from the Port of Melbourne sale.
It’s one thing to be allocated a share. It’s another to get a meaning one.
Last year we scored $15 million from the Victorian government to reconfigure and upgrade carriages but that allocation represented less than 1 per cent of the total spending on public transport with Ballarat pocketing $518 million in upgrades to train lines, platforms and rolling stock in that budget.
Transport Minister Darren Chester was on the Border earlier this week with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull noting on Friday that “he’s always talking about the benefits of better rail service to cities and regions”.
We can only hope Mr Chester, who represents a rural seat in Gippsland, has effectively spread the word in Canberra just how important reliable rail is in a centre like Albury-Wodonga.
“I’m jumping out of my skin with excitement … It’s going to be the game-changer that we need, not only to fix up the train but to get a premium service to allow Albury-Wodonga, Wangaratta, Benalla and North East Victoria to grow,” Indi MP Cathy McGowan said.
We’re used to waiting in this part of the world – as evidenced by just 60.7 per cent of trains running on time in March – but as Ms McGowan quite rightly points out, this is one occasion we shouldn’t have to.
Work on this project can begin right away and shouldn’t be dependent on a rail link to Melbourne Airport being built.
There’s a lot of cynics in this part of the world when it comes to governments and promises on rail, with one of Ms McGowan’s Twitter followers saying on Friday it was “lucky they believed in fairies”.
We can only hope Ms McGowan’s response proves prophetic: “lucky I believe that the harder we work together the more lucky we get”.
This article first appeared on www.bordermail.com.au
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