The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, says regional Victorians have just been hit with another price rise for the privilege of taking a trip on one of the state’s most underperforming services – the train.
That is, Mr Walsh added, if they even get a train. In too many cases they end up jammed into a bus.
He said passengers on lines to his electorate will now pay an extra 1.1 per cent (on average) and, for example, V/Line passengers on the Bendigo line will see seven-day passes add an extra $104 to yearly travel.
“Of course if you live in Echuca, for example, which is serviced by that line, you will mostly get a bus from Bendigo,” Mr Walsh said.
“But if you do get the train you end up on the slow train to nowhere because the line is not safe to travel at normal speeds because the Andrews Labor government doesn’t care about regional infrastructure – it is busy wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on botched road and rail projects in Melbourne,” he added.
“And that is typical of the rail network across the state – we get to pay more for a substandard service.”
Mr Walsh said the price rise took effect on January 1 – reversing a fare freeze applied during the pandemic.
But he said it comes at the wrong time, as not only are many Victorians still struggling to make ends meet and pay the bills, patronage across the network remains at record lows.
Data from the Department of Transport shows passenger trips have plummeted through lockdowns, with just 600,000 trips per day across the state – down from 1.66 million per day before the pandemic began.
For the Bendigo V/Line services, patronage has dropped from 8055 trips a day in 2018-19 to 2740 in 2020-21.
“Fares were frozen during the COVID pandemic after Labor’s poorly managed response left hundreds of thousands of people out of work and unable to pay the bills or forced to close their business,” Mr Walsh said.
“We should be encouraging locals to find more reasons to choose public transport to travel, not fewer,” he said.
“Higher fares put more pressure on people still struggling to make ends meet, on sick regional Victorians travelling to Melbourne for medical appointments and is less incentive for office workers to get back to the CBD.
“Everyone can now see Labor can’t manage major projects, let alone the economy, which has left Daniel Andrews swimming in debt and desperate to plug billions of dollars in cost blowouts, no matter the cost to Victorians.”