Rail work to take another 3 years

Click or flick across for photos from the meeting. 

SENIOR officials from the Australian Rail Track Corporation and V/Line faced a barrage of questions and criticisms from angry Border residents yesterday about the state of the troubled Albury to Melbourne train service.

More than 100 people attended the forum at The Cube to vent their frustration with corporation chief executive John Fullerton and V/Line regional manager Jonathon McKeown about the service.

They were further incensed to learn the project would not finish until the end of 2016.

The forum, arranged by member for Indi Cathy McGowan, started 10 minutes late.

It followed a similar event that was held at Benalla on Monday.

At one stage Ms McGowan urged the crowd to show Mr Fullerton and Mr McKeown respect.

They jointly fielded more than 15 questions from a crowd that included Ms McGowan’s sister, Helen, who said her family had boycotted the service because it was so unreliable.

The crowd groaned when Mr Fullerton said the corporation was half way through its ballast program — including sleeper replacement — that started in 2011.

“It is all about improvement from where we were to where we want to be in 2016,” he said.

“In the last 12 months we’ve substantially reduced those delays, but we know we’ve got more work to do.

“I can’t give an absolute commitment to when that program will deliver certain outcomes.

“It is a complex project and there will be setbacks along the way.”

EDITORIAL: No wonder we're angry

Mr Fullerton said he was heartened that the average delay had been reduced from an average 100 minutes to 20 in the year to August.

He said the reductions vindicated the work.

He also cited Woolworths’ return to rail for freight movement between Brisbane and Melbourne as proof progress was being made.

Project manager Jim Armstrong and member for Benambra Bill Tilley also attended the forum.

The long line of critics included Sue Schultz, Dorothy Smith, Richard Leyland, Fred Rochow, Greg Chapple, Jean Whitla, Jim Roelefs, Kathleen Thomas, Peter Young, Doug Seacombe, Kaye Blackburn, Eileen Andrews, Vince Black, Geoff Burton, Bill Traill, Rohan Ardern and Helen Hunter.

Mr Tilley was asked when he had last used the service.

He replied that his needs were better served by travelling by road.

“If you don’t think for one moment that I’ve been advocating for this community about a better V/Line service, you haven’t been in contact with me,” he said.

“I haven’t used the service in recent times, the reason being I have significant files and other bits and pieces to take to Melbourne to represent this community in Parliament.”

The issue of a bus from central Wodonga to the station for passengers was also raised.

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