Rail confusion

January 10, 2018

Passengers ready to board the popular Melbourne bound train at Benalla last week.

Benalla rail passengers appear to have been derailed by plans from the state government to cut transport costs.

There is confusion as to the extent of the government cuts and how they will affect Benalla.

The government has cut several country services, with the Melbourne-to-Albury line joining other victims.

The government put out tenders at the weekend for transport operators to fill the void between Seymour and Albury.

Benalla will be serviced by the XPT, Melbourne-to-Sydney service by rail, but that will only be once a day in either direction.

Benalla Station Master Bill Dewing is confused by the decision to cut the Benalla rail service.

‘‘If the trains were half empty we would understand,’’ he said.

‘‘We wouldn’t argue, but the trains have been full for weeks.’’

Mr Dewing said the Melbourne-to-Albury line had a density of population to draw from, which other country lines did not.

‘‘We have Seymour, Euroa, Benalla, Wangaratta and Albury,’’ he said.

The Station Master said numbers were down in winter, but during the summer months and during the school holidays the trains were full.

There are presently 17 staff employed at Benalla, down on the hundreds that used to be be employed there during the station’s heyday.

Mr Dewing fears numbers could drop as low as two at Benalla if the freight is taken from Benalla.

‘‘If freight is taken off the broadguage, then there would likely be only two left,’’ he said.

The staff at the Benalla Railway Station have no knowledge of how Benalla will be affected, except what they read in the media.

Patronage at the Benalla station has been growing regularly during the past few years, and this is another factor that makes the decision to close the Benalla route down more mystifying according to Mr Dewing.

The Station Master also raised the question of how many buses would replace each train.

Whether one bus would replace each train, or four or five, the number needed when the train is full.

The mayors of Wangaratta (Kevin Gleeson), Wodonga (Terry Corcoran) and Benalla’s Mayor Geoff Oliver, met last Friday to discuss the implications of the state government Transport Strategy.

In a press release issued after the meeting, the mayors stated they are committed to the continuation of a quality passenger service along the existing rail line.

The Wodonga-to-Melbourne line is part of the national grid, which will be substantially upgraded as part of the federal/state agreement and the councils believe further discussion is required before any major changes are implemented.

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