Trains forum attracts big turnout

RELIABILITY, comfort, accessibility.

They were the three key concerns of the almost 100-strong crowd who aired their views about the Melbourne to Albury railway line at a forum in Benalla yesterday.

For forum organisers, the turnout was an indication that they could expect even higher numbers at two further forums today in Wodonga and Wangaratta.

It comes just as the Victorian government announced a new customer reference group would be formed to give the community ongoing links to V/Line.

Representatives from V/Line joined Australian Rail Track Corporation chief John Fullerton on the platform at Benalla station for yesterday’s forum, alongside federal MP for Indi Cathy McGowan and state MP for Benalla Bill Sykes.

Among those asking questions were Benalla’s Mick O’Brien, who raised concerns about scheduling, particularly in that XPT trains seemed to be given precedence over V/Line.

This, he said, made previously on-time V/Line services late as they were forced to wait for tardy XPT trains.

“They (V/Line) said the train that’s on time gets precedence, but quite a few agreed that didn’t happen,” he said.

However, Mr O’Brien believed such forums were valuable in moving forward to get the line running well.

“The numbers that were there speak for themselves,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity for the people to let the powers-that-be know their feelings on it and get a bit of feedback on what takes place.

“The history of what’s gone on has been a shambles but it’s not much good dwelling on the past, we need to look to the future now.”

Dr Sykes said he was pleased V/Line and the corporation came to hear people’s concerns first-hand, which primarily revolved around reliability of services, comfort on the trains and accessibility, particularly for passengers with disabilities.

Dr Sykes agreed the forums worked, with the ARTC “really sharpening their focus on works in North East Victoria” after similar meetings last year.

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