Rolling stock squabble

By Benalla Ensign

Labor and the Coalition have locked horns over the future of the north-east line, which runs through Benalla.

Investment in rolling stock on the line is the sticking point and a contentious subject with both sides of state politics vocal about the solution.

State Member for Euroa and deputy leader of the Nationals Steph Ryan is focussed on new rolling stock and has highlighted that there has been no new trains ordered for the north-east line.

However, State Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes pointed to $15 million in funding outlined in the state budget for the design of new trains, and has said new rolling stock would be ordered once line upgrades were completed.

‘‘As the tracks are upgraded we will start to see reliability improvement... Fixing the most damaged parts of the line will stop train delays, so we’ll see incremental improvement as the line improves,’’ Ms Symes said.

‘‘It would be irresponsible to order new trains and have them sitting on the sideline while the track is upgraded.

‘‘North-east passengers will get their trains, we just didn’t need to buy them now.’’

However, Ms Ryan feels rolling stock is the priority and has pledged to replace all trains on the north-east line if the Coalition is elected in November.

‘‘That is $240 million to deliver faster and more reliable train services, of the total $633 million investment promised by the Nationals to replace all of country Victoria’s long-haul trains,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘If Labor had agreed to buy new trains we could have been confident that, no matter who wins the next election, our train service would be fixed.

‘‘Instead, after (the recent) budget, it is clear that only the Nationals and the Liberals are committed to making this investment in our region.’’

Ms Symes rejected that assertion and said it was important to order the right trains for the line and said certain details still needed to be confirmed.

‘‘We’ve said they will be v/locity carriages, but for a long-haul train that might be different,’’ Ms Symes said.

‘‘Making sure you have the right trains for the passenger using them is important, so it’s about buffet cars and adequate room for luggage (for example). You need different seats than commuter trains as people are on them longer, and there is no standing.’’

However, Ms Ryan, feels that since Labor have promised new trains, that is what they should have delivered.

‘‘Just two months ago, Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan came to Benalla and said she was committed to buying new trains,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘Despite all of these promises, after four years and four budgets, there has not been a single dollar from Labor to replace the faulty, outdated trains on our line.’’

Regardless of the fact that the Coalition and Labor disagree on how services on the north-east line should be improved, Benalla’s train passengers can find comfort in the fact that both are committed to dealing with the issue.