Decentralisation inquiry: ‘Deplorable’ trains are holding back development of cities like Wodonga and Wangaratta

RAIL TROUBLES: Wangaratta Council economic development officer Eric Siegers and Mayor Ken Clarke gave evidence in Wodonga on Thursday. Pictures: JAMES WILTSHIRE
RAIL TROUBLES: Wangaratta Council economic development officer Eric Siegers and Mayor Ken Clarke gave evidence in Wodonga on Thursday. Pictures: JAMES WILTSHIRE

A poor train service is holding the North East back from development “very much”, according to Wangaratta’s mayor.

Murray MP Damian Drum raised the concern at the decentralisation inquiry, saying Bendigo had the extra benefit of 20 services a day to and from Melbourne.

“How much do you think this deplorable train service from Melbourne holds this community back?” he said.

Mayor Ken Clarke said Wangaratta Council had not included that in its inquiry submission because it did not want to jeapordise a good relationship with the Infrastructure Department, which had committed $100 million to fixing the track.

The council’s economic development officer Eric Siegers said people wanting to travel to Melbourne for a 9am meeting then have the choice to return in the afternoon or evening could not use the train.

“Having a viable rail service is one of the assets that is holding back the development and attraction of businesses to Wangaratta,” he said.

Murray MP Damian Drum

Murray MP Damian Drum

Mr Drum said the North East and Shepparton rail lines were the worst two areas for passenger rail in Victoria, pointing to a “debilitating policy” and lack of investment at state government level.

“We need to call that for what it is,” he said.

“It would be insincere and it would be disingenuous to come into these areas and not talk about an area that is holding back both the cities of Wangaratta and Wodonga.”