The first VLocity train to take passengers to the Border rolled into Albury's railway station yesterday with a decades-long advocacy campaign behind it.
After multiple test runs, the VLocity ran as the 12.05pm V/Line service from Southern Cross to Albury.
It was met at Chiltern by former and current Indi MPs Cathy McGowan and Helen Haines and Wodonga's deputy mayor Graeme Simpfendorfer, and was welcomed in Wodonga by the city's brass band.
Glenys and Stephen Tamme from Tarrawingee were among those catching the VLocity from Melbourne purely for the experience. Mr Tamme worked for the Victorian Railways 50 years ago, operating the Spirit of Progress and Intercapital Daylight, and compared yesterday's morning service on the N Class with the return journey on the VLocity.
"It's a lot quicker getting off the mark ... it's a smoother ride," he said.
"I'm a bit curious as to whether it has the same protection around the cabin as the XPT; I noticed they had to slow down at the unmanned level crossings whereas the XPT can do 120km/h."
Mr Tamme remarked the seats were more tightly packed, while the Border Rail Action Group's John Dunstan drew attention to the carriages' added luggage space.
"The carriages are comfortable ... the buffet wasn't operating but you can see where it will go," he said.
"We're travelling between 110km/h and 120km/h.
"The ride is great with the smoother suspension of the train and the track fixed."
Mr Dunstan said it had been a long road to get to this point; most recent advocacy involved the formation of the Hume Corridor Passenger Rail Collaboration with his group and Albury and North East councils.
The formation of this group in 2018 came after the Border community missed out on funding in the 2016 Victorian budget.
Premier Daniel Andrews was awaiting a "proper partnership with Canberra to upgrade the line" before delivering the rolling stock.
The Australian Government officially signed off on $235 million for the North East rail line in October, 2018.
The 2019 Victorian budget then included funding to build 18 new VLocity trains, with the Albury line to get priority.
Border Rail Action Group member Bill Traill could not see the VLocity in person but welcomed its arrival.
"Everyone had their say and serious problems were thrown up, but seemingly they've been overcome," he said.
"We were going to finish up with a train of a capacity of only about 130 people ... but that's been overcome.
"Two years ago there was no guarantee we would get rolling stock."
A study by the rail collaboration group showed an improved service could deliver more than 385,000 additional passenger rail trips a year that would see an economic boost of $113 million.
The aim to secure the three-car-set VLocity trains, with the ability to reach speeds of 160km/h, was to "bring the North East rail line up to a 'class 2' standard and on par with other regional passenger rail lines in Victoria".
While Mr Traill did not believe that would be the case with the new stock, he said it was a much-appreciated improvement.
"There are very few regional lines in Victoria that for their whole distance are capable of achieving class 2," he said.
"If we achieve it from Southern Cross through to Albury we will probably be the first to achieve it."
The VLocity set is made in Victoria and seats have USB charging ports in a step-up from the N Class.
V/Line said yesterday a further four three-carriage VLocity trains would be built for use on the Albury line.
There had been some concern an extreme heat timetable would see a coach replace the VLocity, but it ran, and on time.
IN OTHER NEWS:
There was no fanfare upon its final stop at the Albury Railway Station, however the conductor thanked passengers for being part of the inaugural journey.
Work began last month on a stabling upgrade to accommodate the new trains, as part of the $10 million North East Rail Line Supporting Infrastructure project funded by the state and federal governments.
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