FORMER deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has used the 50th anniversary of the Violet Town rail disaster to push for a very fast train between Sydney and Melbourne.
“As we remember, as we commemorate, we should also think about 2040, 2050, 2060, it’s never going to be too late to bring in higher speed rail,” Mr Fischer told those at the opening of a memorial garden near Violet Town railway station on Sunday.
“It is absurd that we do not have higher speed rail, let alone high speed rail, between those two cities (of Sydney and Melbourne) and what would that do to decentralisation.
“Essentially one hour Melbourne Tullamarine through parts of here to west of Albury to Wodonga Logic, 55 minutes on through to Canberra or just north of Canberra and then another hour (to Sydney).
“The Shinkansen (in Japan) has been running for 55 years without one fatality, in the last two decades from a standing start China has built a whole system of what they call the Harmony express, high speed rail.
“The French TGV has been running since 1971 on standard gauge, the same gauge as that XPT (which roared past while Mr Fischer spoke).”
Mr Fischer was the guest speaker at the unveiling of the garden, the idea of Violet Town residents who believed the tragedy that claimed nine lives had not been adequately acknowledged.
Scores of cardboard ‘helping hands’ inscribed with tributes were planted in bark chips after the official opening by Victorian Regional Development Minister Jaclyn Symes.
It read: “In loving memory of Laurie Rosevear driver of the goods train, father of my sons Doug and Mark, daughter-in-laws Sue and Sue, grandchildren Ashley, Lacey, Tayla, Sam and Todd. Love Gwen XX.”
In addition to Mr Fischer and Ms Symes, the crowd heard from firefighter Rob Cumming who helped survivors at the crash scene in 1969 as a 20 year-old.
He said it was only last week that he had traversed the crossing where the tragedy happened for the first time in 50 years after having avoided the site for 48 years.
Mr Cumming ended his speech by reciting 10 words that have been etched in sleepers, put in the garden to reflect Violet Town’s response to the horror.
They are: kindness, humility, courage, care, compassion, generosity, resilience, love, grief and gratitude.
The words were chiselled into the sleepers by Violet Town Men’s Shed members.
They are complemented by information signs about the tragedy and history of the North East line as well as a gutted Southern Aurora carriage.
A platform is planned to be built alongside the carriage with the Strathbogie Council to maintain the garden, which received $150,000 Victorian government funding.
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