Coalition parties track rail solution

Opposition transport spokesman David Davis has backed the Nationals' plan to create a regional rail link on the Gippsland line between Pakenham and the city. file photograph

Opposition transport spokesman David Davis has backed the Nationals' plan to create a regional rail link on the Gippsland line between Pakenham and the city. file photograph

A Liberal Party MP says his party is in "unison" with the Victorian Nationals' plan to unclog Gippsland's rail corridor by creating a second regional rail link if elected at November's state election.

Opposition transport spokesman David Davis said the Liberals were "very concerned" with increasing delays on the Gippsland line and its diminished capacity to remain punctual during the Sky Rail Project construction works on the metropolitan line.

Earlier this month, Nationals leader Peter Walsh announced the party would support plans to create a second rail line similar to the dedicated regional rail link between Melbourne to Geelong, opened in 2015 at a cost of $3.65 billion.

"We've had the regional rail link for Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong; we need to find the equivalent of that for the Gippsland line," Mr Walsh told the party's state conference in Shepparton.

"We'll invest in the Gippsland rail service so that Gippsland has a faster service, a more reliable service, and you won't be stuck behind Metro trains from Pakenham."

While the Liberal Party has remained tight-lipped on its stance for a dedicated Gippsland line, Mr Davis said the party shared the Nationals' view and party members in Gippsland had "been very active in drawing attention to the connectivity issues".

"We're going to make an­nounce­ments about these matters as we go forward. The election is in November and we will make announcements in the normal way as we approach the election," Mr Davis said.

"It's a matter that the Coalition as a whole is aware of the challenges for Gippsland rail commuters and the need to address them.

"I think what Peter has done is correct and in unison with the Liberal Party ... this is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed."

Statistics from Public Transport Victoria show that one in three trains ran late on the Bairnsdale line in the past year while almost one in four – or 22 per cent – failed to reach its destination on time on the Traralgon line.

"We're aware that obviously from the west the regional rail was a very important project and there is not a similar project as yet planned but from Geelong and [it] made a big difference to capacity on the western entrance to Melbourne," Mr Davis said.

"There isn't as yet a similar plan for the Gippsland corridor and Peter Walsh was making the point that the Coalition is very aware of that omission and we will be making further announcements that address the issues for Gippsland commuters."

Gippsland V/Line Users Group convenor Natalie Thorne said the region required a smart, feasible solution compatible with Melbourne's Sky Rail project and "we're calling on both sides of politics to have that discussion with us".

"We need a solution that unlocks the bottleneck through the Pakenham corridor ... so a dedicated track is a potential solution," Ms Thorne said.

"We're interested in engaging rail experts, engineers, representatives from all relevant stakeholders, including government and community representatives to consider the various options, the principle being reliable and fast services for Gippsland users."

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