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The Start of the NEW DEAL which saw on October 4, 1981 the closure of 35 country railway stations across Victoria by the Hamer Government and the closures continued through the Kirner/Cain Government.
The narcissistic Kennett/Stockdale Government, which was intent on shutting the entire network down for freight and passenger services across Victoria continued to close lines and stations, reduce investment and sell off infrastructure and privatise the freight and passenger services. Remember Hoye's passenger service to Shepparton and West Coast Rail to Warrnambool.
Regrettably, the Victorian Railways had been stuck in something of a "vacuum" and motionless advancement and development of its infrastructure, signalling, rolling stock and locomotives and work practices that went back to the 19th Century and for a number of decades as a result of a lack of political courage and will to make major investments in the railways.
In the 1980s the Hurstbridge line still had semaphores for train control from Greensborough and the lack of technological change was spread across the country and metropolitan network.
The Bland Report of 1972 recommended the restructuring of railway management, the closure of uneconomic branch lines, and the replacement of most country rail passenger services with uncomfortable and cramped road coaches.
By the start of the 1980s, passenger numbers had fallen to around 3 million per year, due to ageing rolling stock, unattractive timetables operating at poor frequencies, and the move to car purchase and independence because of the lack of reliability and punctuality of trains.
Alan Reiher became Chairman of the Victorian Railways Board in July 1980, with the Victoria Railways having by then been re-branded as VicRail. By February 1981. Reiher's lobbying had resulted in a $115 million commitment from the Hamer Government to revitalize country rail passenger services in Victoria, the concept of which originated within the Planning Branch of VicRail. After years of neglect and lack of investment, the $115 million was chicken feed to the actual funds needed to revitalise the railway.
Reiher was previously sacked by the NSW Government when he was the head of NSW Government Railways and moved to Victorian Railways because of his Liberal Party connections.
VicRail pushed hard for the new timetables to be introduced by October 1981, so they would operate throughout the summer before the 1982 Victorian election. The Thompson Government, which had succeeded Hamer's ministry in June 1981, lost the 1982 election and was replaced by the Cain Government.
However, the New Deal proved to have bi-partisan political support, and was further expanded by incoming Transport Minister Steve Crabb.
By the time the Kirner /Cain Government was voted out, the rolling stock and locomotives had been sold to Malaysian and German interests and leased back by the government and the funds from the sale were used to bolster the perilous state of the government's finances.
The Kennett Government bought back the rolling stock and locomotives only to resell them to private rail operators and remember Freight Australia, who was going to use American know how and show us all how to move freight and run a railway company.
The NEW DEAL was a fool hardy backward step and has had diabolical and considerable ramifications on the Victorian Regional Rail Network to this day in terms of the condition of the network, the capacity of the network as well as the extent of the network that has been adversely truncated, resulting in the use of uncomfortable coaches and impractical coach timetables to cover the majority of the network.
The use of coaches rather than trains, has further disadvantaged country towns through the lack of connectedness and exclusion and the removal of passenger rail has impacted on country town economies and increased mental health issues and poverty.
The Rural Doctors Association has highlighted these issues and has been lobbying and advocating governments for over 30 years to have passenger rail returned to country towns for residents to access external medical treatments and their lobbying and advocating have fallen on the deaf ears of politicians both state and federal and National, Liberal and Labor parties and their politicians.
This is an indictment on the political parties and politicians of Victoria that they permit and allow fellow Victorians to go without services that they themselves would not go without, but expect country people to go without services and have access to reliable and punctual passenger rail services.
The present Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan, is no exception and continues this tradition of an arrogant stance by appearing to refuse to meet with country organisations and community groups and Local Councils wanting to have a passenger rail service returned to their town and city and only offers up additional bus services, which can only be construed as a slap in the face and an exhibition of contempt for country people.
The debacles of the Murray Basin Rail Project and the North East Rail Line fiasco are only just two prime examples of the Minister for Public Transport resisting, ignoring and incapable of consulting rail employees at the coal face, community organisations and groups and local councils.
The Raw Deal lives on in 2018 per courtesy of the intransigence of Melbourne politicians a City-centric Premier and country politicians who have again sold out their constituents and communities and the consistent lack of reliability and punctuality that still plague the Regional Fast Rail network.
Regional Communities deserve better and a vastly improved passenger rail service across the Regional Rail Network that links the major regional cities like Mildura, Hamilton and Horsham and the linking of the Regional Cities of Bendigo via Castlemaine , Maryborough, Ballarat, Bannockburn, Geelong and Melbourne. The expansion of the network and the inclusion of towns like Leongatha into the network.
Some of this article has been researched from the following publications
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