Back on the rails
THE return of the train line to Leongatha will not be forgotten.
West Gippsland Transport Group member Max Semken has stepped up the campaign to see better public transport for South Gippsland.
While there were never any promises by the Coalition Government to return the train to Leongatha, in 2001 the former Labor government committed $38 to investigate putting trains back in country towns, one of those being Leongatha.
That promise, like so many broken by governments over the years, was scrapped but Mr Semken is renewing calls for the Labor Government to put the train back on the track to Leongatha.
He said that move would deliver economic benefits to South Gippsland.
He is now looking to the Transport Union and the newly elected State Government Minister for Transport Jacinta Allen.
Mr Semken is calling on the newly elected Daniel Andrews Labor Government to take a look at better transport options for South Gippsland, Gippsland as a whole, and all of rural and regional Victoria.
Mr Semken said he will be contacting Ms Allen to arrange a meeting to discuss better public transport for South Gippsland.
“Governments have to remember the money isn’t theirs, the money belongs to the people and that means all the people and not just in Melbourne or the major Victorian cities,” he said.
“Our Prime Minister Tony Abbott has to think about that also. He has to listen more to what we the people have to say, otherwise he is headed for a massive loss in the next federal election and that is what I am predicting.
“With the Labor government saying it will scrap the East West Link, Mr Semken said some of this money could now be used to improve roads in Gippsland and build better public transport.”
Mr Semken estimates the East West Link project would have cost around $25 billion with the blowouts that usually occur.
“I don’t believe the East West Link project was handled properly. The process was flawed, rushed through and I don’t think there was even a business case study prepared,” he said.
“But if the government decides to put this funding into other transport projects in Melbourne, then the same spend should be directed to country Victoria and in particular in Gippsland.
“For too many years South Gippsland has missed out on funding for better roads and public transport, and it is time the State Government committed serious funds to this local region.”
Mr Semken said if the government committed to spending $6 billion in Gippsland, that would fund the Melbourne to Yarram training via Leongatha, a new rail network through to Sale and the Melbourne to Bairnsdale train network fixed.
“This would make economic development in Gippsland boom and would help create tens of thousands of jobs,” he said.
“Where there is rail there is population growth and where there is growth in population there is growth in jobs and tourism.
“I also believe if Labor opened up the line back in 2004, the population of South Gippsland would have been around 60,000 to 70,000 by now and we would have seen a highly efficient, booming economy with many new industries and businesses established and it would have been a massive boost for Yarram and districts.”
Looking at the demise of The Nationals in the recent state election and no serious Labor contender running for the seat of Gippsland South, Mr Semken said South Gippsland needed its own seat.
“We need a candidate who actually lives in the electorate and not over in the Latrobe Valley, West Gippsland or Melbourne, he said.
“That way we would have a better chance of being heard and get a better deal for South Gippsland.”
Mr Semken sees big changes on the horizon for the political parties and even suggested there could be a couple of The Nationals jumping ship to join the Liberals.
“I believe we have a better chance with the Liberals than The Nationals, but at the end of the day I don’t care what political party it is, we want to see some action in South Gippsland and we want to see the train returned to South Gippsland and better public transport,” he said.
The Leongatha line closed in 1993 and was replaced by bus services that now run between Leongatha and Southern Cross Station every day.
Study after study concluded it was ‘feasible’ to reopen the railway line for both passenger and freight services, however, the continuation of the growing cost of rebuilding the line over the years due to a lack of maintenance has deterred previous state governments from reopening the lines.
Mr Semken maintains the growth and development of South Gippsland has gone backwards since the railway line adjacent to the South Gippsland Highway was closed.
Short URL: /?p=13168