BAW Baw will take part in the state government’s Regional Network Development Plan consultations as part of a renewed push for public transport improvements.
First published in the 24 July 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Get your copy free from retailers across Baw Baw today.
Councillors supported a motion moved by Warragul ward’s Mikaela Power at their meeting on Wednesday asking for council staff to make a submission to the plan.
Last month Cr Power and a number of other councillors and staff attended a community meeting run by state body Public Transport Victoria which heard people’s key concerns about both bus and rail networks. Issues raised at that meeting were the complete absence of a Drouin town bus service, limited bus services in the rest of the shire and overcrowding of limited rail services to and from Melbourne and the Latrobe Valley.
Cr Power’s motion requested a submission be made “with particular emphasis on, but not limited to:
- Improving intra and inter town bus services in Baw Baw Shire and links with other modes of transport;
- The need for more rail services and extra carriages on existing rail services to and from Melbourne; and
- The urgent necessity of duplicating the rail track between Longwarry and Bunyip.”
Councillors have already touched on the issue of rail services this year. In both March council meetings the issue was discussed – the first asking a letter be sent to transport minister Jacinta Allan highlighting overcrowding and safety, the second calling on a letter to be sent to the minister calling for the duplication of rail tracks between Bunyip and Longwarry.
The line duplication motion was in support of a submission from the Gippsland Local Government Network calling for the duplication at an expected cost of around $28 million.
Ms Allan responded to the motions with a letter at the start of this month in which she said the Andrews Labor government had purchased a further 21 VLocity rail carriages in addition to the 43 new carriages already on order.
That, Ms Allan said, would increase capacity on the Gippsland line.
A “commitment to transform the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines,” which share tracks with the Gippsland line, would also benefit Baw Baw commuters according to Ms Allan.
But when it came to track duplication, Ms Allan avoided making any firm statement.
“I acknowledge your request for the duplication of railway track between Bunyip and Longwarry,” she wrote.
“The government is committed to improving public transport services throughout Victoria, and we are currently working to prepare a Regional network Development Plan. The RNDP will assess how regional public transport services should evolve to meet the needs of passengers in the short, medium and long term.”
Speaking to her motion on Wednesday, Cr Power said the response did not clearly state how Gippsland commuters would benefit from the actions already taken.
“Ms Allan noted the purchase of extra carriages, but it’s for the V/Line network, right across Victoria,” Cr Power said.
“We don’t know when or how many will end up on the Traralgon line.”
Cr Power stressed the importance of contributing to PTV’s review.
“Gippsland has never had a regional network development plan, and it’s really important we have input into that,” she said.
“We are happy to provide that feedback and continue providing it until there is an improvement.
“I just had a look at the online discussion forum for the review and the Gippsland region is leading the responses.
“PTV does take note of what the community says, but also what councils say.
“Drouin is the largest town in regional Victoria that does not have a [town] bus… and Warragul is serviced by buses in the middle of the day.
“We lack shelters and bus stops, the Crystal Waters estate is about to get a stop, but Waterford Rise… does not.
“We really need to keep the pressure up. If anyone goes over to the west of Melbourne you can see the commitment. I feel that Gippsland has missed out, not only on rail but on connections across the very large region.
“It’d be nice to have some services that can get people to and from the rail stations.”
The Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen asked Cr Power if she thought the shire had dropped the ball on bus service provision when it approved the development.
“I think it probably should’ve been included, but it’s easy to see things with hindsight and I think our awareness of public transport is probably greater now,” she said.
“I know a number of people who have spoken to me, particularly kids but also adults, about getting transport to the train station.
“It should’ve been something we would’ve been able to predict, I would’ve thought.”
Cr Power said adding Waterford Rise to the existing Warragul-Drouin bus service would add five minutes to trips due to there being few places a bus stop could be placed.
She also said constituents were raising public transport issues with her “all the time,” and disputed claims rail services were not overcrowded.
“Even early evening ones have been quite busy,” Cr Power said.
Ms Allan encouraged members of the community to contribute to the RNDP. She said people can make submissions online, but provided a dead link in her letter. The Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen believes the link Ms Allan intended to provide was goo.gl/3bmEX8 (shortened).
The Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen is also running a petition calling on the state government to adopt recommendations made in a 2010 review of Baw Baw’s bus services. You can sign the petition online at goo.gl/8FrCep.
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