Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan has revealed the total cost of disruptions which have plagued V/Line’s regional rail services during recent months will be in excess of $50 million.
Normal services are set to be restored by the end of June, with buses having replaced trains on several lines since January due to wheel faults.
“Until all the services are fully restored, which will be at the end of June, it’s difficult to give a final and total cost because there are still obviously receipts coming in from the replacement buses and the like,” she said.
“But we know that the costs are going to be in the order of between 50 to 60 million dollars, largely through the costs associated with the coach replacement, the free travel [and] the accelerated wheel maintenance program.”
Ms Allan made the comments as she announced the state government’s long-term regional transport strategy which aims to deliver “commuter-style” transport services to Bendigo, Geelong, Ballarat, Seymour and Traralgon.
The strategy focuses on improvements to infrastructure and rolling stock, including track upgrades, better signalling and new trains and stabling.
Ms Allan said the goal of the Regional Network Development Plan was to deliver trains at least every 20 minutes in the peak and every 40 minutes off-peak to major regional centres, and five services, five days a week on the outer regional lines of Warrnambool, Bairnsdale, Albury-Wodonga, Echuca, Swan Hill and Shepparton.
“The RNDP ends the ad-hoc approach to public transport planning that has held regional Victoria back, setting out a more co-ordinated network where trains, buses and coaches work together in the best interests of passengers,” she said.
“It is the product of one of the most extensive public consultation programs ever carried out in regional Victoria, and reflects the passion, ingenuity and local knowledge of passengers who use our system every day.”
Regional coaches are also set to benefit from more services, better interchanges and a comprehensive review of routes, to improve connections between towns and major regional centres.
“This is the first ever long-term strategy for better public transport in our regions, with more services, improved stations and better bus and coach connections, to get people where they need to go quickly, reliably and safely,” Ms Allan said.
The RNDP also sets out plans for future improvements to ticketing on regional services, better passenger information, and major improvements to rail freight to support jobs and our regional economy.
But Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber said the plan was a “major disappointment”.
“There are no timelines for delivery, there are no costings, there is no description of how we expect services to grow over time,” he said.
“Compared to the metropolitan plan, which lists specific projects and their timelines for delivery, all we get here are nebulous future directions.
“Apart from what we’ve read in this year’s budget, there are no costed commitments with timelines.”