Rail fiasco report out soon

PEOPLE deserve some “much-needed answers” from a report due out later this month on the botched North East rail project, a Border MP says.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation into the Melbourne-Sydney rail line is already six months late.

Member for Indi Sophie Mirabella said she was eagerly anticipating the findings of the inquiry, which was ordered by federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese in August 2011.

It was prompted by a series of incidents on the line, including one where a controller switched a Border-bound V/Line train with 300 people onto a closed track.

It has been said by train drivers that the track is worse than when works began five years ago.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation is spending $134 million — 40 per cent of this in Victoria — on a ballast rehabilitation program.

Speed restrictions apply to several sections of the track, causing constant delays that have resulted in midday services being replaced by buses.

Mrs Mirabella said she hoped the report, which had been 18 months in the making, “will be able to provide all of us with some much-needed answers”.

“The obvious question is how do you spend more than $600 million on a rail upgrade, only to be left with a track that’s in worse condition than when the work began?” she said.

“The federal government and the ARTC have continually blamed the rain — well I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t cut it.

“Surely a $600 million upgrade should be able to withstand a bit of inclement weather.”

Mrs Mirabella said the “whole sorry saga” demonstrated the federal government’s incompetence. whereas the Victorian government had done everything in its power to return V/Line services to the North East.

“It’s about time the federal government and the ARTC started pulling their weight,” she said.

“Hopefully this report will kick them into gear.”

The corporation recently wrote down the value of the Melbourne to Sydney line by a further $290.2 million.

Mrs Mirabella said the federal government would never have commissioned the report had it not been for the relentless pressure applied.

“Having this report commissioned was a small victory in itself, but it will mean very little unless the federal government and the ARTC actually read it and act on its recommendations,” she said.

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