Thursday, 2 October 2014
Questions without Notice
Infrastructure: Melbourne to Albury Rail Services
My question is to the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. As you know, serious problems continue to affect the reliability of train services on the Melbourne to Albury line, impacting on individuals and business productivity. Will the government commit to working with the Australian Rail Track Corporation and the Victorian government to provide a firm time line for when the problems of the track and the reliability of train services will be fixed for the benefit of the people of all of Victoria?
I thank the member for Indi for her question. She knows that this government, led by the infrastructure Prime Minister, is dedicated to implementing our $50 billion program—much of it targeted at regional areas. Particularly in her electorate—in fact, on Monday—the Assistant Minister for Education announced a $1.8 million package of works in the Indigo Shire, which was a terrific investment in the electorate of Indi to ensure that your people get the benefit—
Actually the former member was there—invited by the council, actually—the member for South Sydney interjects.
I know that the member is interested in the rail track and she made a series of very strong commitments in the election campaign in respect of it. It is, of course, the responsibility of the Australian Rail Track Corporation. In taking up the lease of the track the ARTC has had to address a significant history of underinvestment by a series of states on the Melbourne to Sydney line. The ARTC instituted a five-year, $134 million ballast rehabilitation program in 2011 to address the problems with the line, and is now two-thirds of the way through this.
Mr Dreyfus interjecting—
These are complex programs which have achieved excellent progress so far, but there is much work to be done over the next 18 months. Significant progress has been made on the condition of the track between Melbourne and Sydney. This is supported by the excellent performance of the corridor. Freight availability on intermodal services is still considered as meeting customers' expectations and a majority of passenger trains are achieving much higher and consistent levels of on-time running.
In particular, in relation to the Victorian side of the border, which I know the member for Indi is interested in, over the coming months ballast rehabilitation program—
Opposition members interjecting—
I know the member for Indi is interested. Those opposite may not be in infrastructure investment, but we are on this side. The ballast rehabilitation program is focusing on works around fixed points like bridge ends and level crossings along sections of the east track in north-east Victoria. This work started on 22 September and involves working from Seymour to Benalla forward on the east track and runs to the end of this month in October. These works involve specific ballast condition improvement works, including track undercutting and sledding. Drainage works through the corridor in north-east Victoria are also scheduled for late October.
We on this side are absolutely focused on investing in infrastructure—investments like the East West Link that the Prime Minister has talked about, but also investments in freight rail across our country to improve our economy for more jobs and a better Australia.