‘V/Line back on track’

COUNCIL representatives and several parliamentary members met Victorian Transport Minister Terry Mulder in Melbourne last week to discuss the V/Line service.

The meeting was arranged by the councils who have previously expressed dissatisfaction from ratepayers with the service from Albury.

The Indigo, Wangaratta, Benalla and Mitchell councils attended and Wodonga was invited, but did not have anyone present.

Bill Tilley, Bill Sykes, Tim McCurdy, the member for Seymour Cindy McLeish and National Party candidate for Euroa, Steph Ryan, took part in the discussions which centred around improved punctuality and train timetables.

Mr Mulder said the punctuality was now at 94 per cent, which Dr Sykes said was a dramatic improvement on the 46 per cent it was 12 months ago.

“It is far, far better than the lows of 26 per cent in February 2007 and better than the highs of up to 87.7 per cent under the previous Labor government,” Dr Sykes said.

Mr Tilley said the meeting was attended by V/Line and Public Transport Victoria representatives.

He described the discussions as fruitful and said there have been just 10 cancellations in 12 months.

Mr Tilley said there has been “a lot of political noise” about the issue, but there was now a full service operating, with three return trains and two bus services from Albury.

“It is getting better every week. The staff are doing top-class jobs, but are at the front line of criticism,” he said.

“Some people come to the counter with shocking attitudes.”

Dr Sykes said the council representatives raised issues such as train timetables, car parking and connections between trains and buses.

“There was also discussion about allowing passengers to book their bikes on to trains, rather than it being at the discretion of the conductor at the time,” Dr Sykes said.

“This issue was seen as very important as we grow bicycle-based tourism in the North East.”

Dr Sykes said other suggestions included the setting up of cafes at some stations, improving train cleanliness and the need for more modern rolling stock, which Mr Mulder undertook to follow up.

“It is clear that train punctuality has improved significantly due largely to the Australian Rail Track Corporation getting on with fixing the track,” Dr Sykes said.