Wodonga Mayor Anna Speedie will be shocked if no funding for the North East line follows the release of a report outlining impacts of the service’s unreliability.
The Hume Corridor Passenger Rail Study was released on Thursday and found the poor standard of the service meant 385,000 less train trips were made than could be achieved in 2016.
If the line was improved, almost 60 per cent of existing and 72 per cent of potential passengers would convert their non-train trips to rail travel. The report’s modelling showed a 75 per cent increase in patronage would translate to $102.9 million in gross regional product – compared to the current GRP value of $58.8 million.
Passengers would realise $29.7 million in travel cost savings, and benefit from $33 million in business and leisure activities “they wouldn’t otherwise receive if using other transport”.
Cr Speedie said the next step was to secure funding in the 2018/2019 budgets.
“When we look at the significant cost to the community, we deserve to be in that budget,” she said.
“Federally, we need them to invest in the line to bring it to a much higher standard; next we need state government to improve the contract to maintain it and put an order in for more rolling stock.”
The report was prepared by the AEC Group as a result of meetings between the Albury, Wodonga, Wangaratta and Benalla councils and the Border Rail Action Group.
Cr Speedie said Federal Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester, who is expected to ride the North East Line next month, had been receptive to council’s concerns.
“I’m really optimistic as we’ve had fantastic discussions with both state and federal ministers,” she said.