VLine declares train return timeframe as Minister commits $8m to secure its future
Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder today announced a multi‐million dollar program to upgrade level crossing safety on - and restore trains to - the Gippsland Line between Traralgon, Sale and Bairnsdale.
“Public Transport Victoria has approved V/Line’s plan for a permanent solution to the safety issue that has caused the suspension of train services since late March,” Mr Muldersaid.
“V/Line will invest up to $8 million to install axle counter technology at all 32 level crossings along the line.”
V/Line Acting Chief Executive Officer Ross Pedley said that on site works would commence as soon as the specifications were finalised.
“Installation of the axle counters will overcome the issue that has been affecting the reliability of level crossing safety equipment between Traralgon and Bairnsdale,” he said.
“From the time that installation commences, V/Line expects the axle counters to be working within 12 months,” Mr Pedley said. “Axle counter technology is already installed at nine level crossings between Bendigo and Echuca and will be implemented at four more locations on that line. Axle counters are also used to activate the signalling systems on the Bendigo and Pakenham‐Traralgon corridors.” he said.
“The investment in axle counters and the ongoing maintenance work on the Gippsland line guarantees that trains will return between Traralgon, Sale and Bairnsdale as soon as it is safe to do so,” Mr Pedley said.
V/Line is still actively pursuing interim solutions to the rail corrosion issue that has affected the reliability of the track circuit system which currently activates the level crossings. One short term approach is to grind and re‐profile the rails for approximately one kilometre on either side of the level crossings. Mr Pedey said RailCorp in New South Wales had been unable to release the rail grinderthat V/Line had hoped to secure for work on the Gippsland corridor.
“Another grinder, now being used interstate, will not be available until August. The rail grinding will take approximately four weeks. All going well, this work will enable trains to return to service in September,” he said.
“While the rail grinder is now not expected to be available until August, we will continue to examine other short term solutions that could result in the earlier return of train services,” he said.
Mr Pedley said a program of maintenance work was continuing on the line between Traralgon and Bairnsdale to ensure that it was in the best possible condition for the return of trains.
“We’ve allocated an extra $300,000 to step up our track maintenance in the region and our track workers have been taking advantage of the temporary absence of trains to replace sleepers, repair bridges and upgrade drainage,” he said.
“With safety as V/Line’s number one priority, we will continue to run our train replacement coaches until we can ensure the safety of train operations and road users,” said Mr Pedley.
Budget is great news for Gippsland East
This year’s State Budget is great news for the region according to State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull.
“The highlights for this region include:
• $16m towards the $32m first stage of the Macalister Irrigation District (MID) upgrade, the biggest investment in this area for decades,
• $1m allocation to mental health services specifically for East Gippsland and additional Mental Health beds at Latrobe Regional Hospital,
• $6.9m to complete sealing of the Omeo Highway.
“However, of equal importance to the region is the State funding 720 additional Individual Support Packages (ISPs) in the disability sector, $62m for people with high needs in supported accommodation and $26m for a wage rise for about 13,000 disability workers.
“This $224m funding increase takes the total annual disability budget to $1.6 billion. It comes on the back of Victoria signing up to the full roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). To me, these are the most important of Budget week.
“On top of this there is over $280m in additional funding for the restoration, maintenance and upgrade of the state’s roads, another important announcement for this region.
“It will also allow the continuation of works in addition to the many roads projects that have already been completed and are underway in the electorate as we continue to play catch up after years of neglect.”
Mr Bull said the MID commitment that will see $32m invested into upgrading the irrigation network, was a huge vote of confidence in the region.
“The $1m allocation to mental health services in the region will also allow for improved services in this very important area.
“Many will also benefit from the reforms to the Fire Services Levy. The property levy replaces the old levy on insurance premiums, leading to a fairer system – with all property owners making a contribution, rather than just those who insure.
“The Coalition has removed the unfair tax-on-tax, which charged GST and stamp duty on the FSL. Almost all who have been fully insured and paying the FSL will receive significant savings and for the first time there will be concessions for pensioners.
“The record $6.1billion infrastructure spend will be welcomed, including the commitment to the East West Tunnel, that will improve metro traffic conditions for all Victorians.”
Mr Bull highlighted other initiatives that would benefit East Gippslanders, including:
• a record $14.34 billion in health funding state-wide to treat more patients, including $81.5m for regional hospitals and health services,
• $11.6 billion in education funding statewide to improve student outcomes and ensure Victorians have the skills needed for the future,
• $33.7m over the next two years to expand the planned burning program, as recommended by the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission,
• $8m tourism campaign to drive regional tourism, while raising awareness interstate and internationally, of Victoria’s regional destinations and experiences,
• $61m for upgrades and replacements of rural fire stations,
• $4.7m over two years to help better protect the livestock industry from serious disease, with a particular focus on foot-and-mouth disease,
• $16m for grants to landholders and regional organisations to support native vegetation and threatened species,
• $2.3m for Rural Financial Counselling Service providing assistance to primary producers, fishers and small rural businesses suffering financial hardship,
• $91m extra for out-of-home care across Victoria to continue work in improving the lives of vulnerable children,
• $42.4m for continued support for mental health beds across Victoria,
• $46.2m extra to support Victorian children across the State in the vital years before school, including $7m to build and upgrade children’s centres and kindergartens across Victoria, growth corridors and regional areas, and
• supporting first home buyers and job creation in the housing construction industry by boosting the First Home Owner Grant to $10,000 for newly constructed properties and reducing stamp duty from 1 July 2013.
Mr Bull said the Budget announcements had come on the back of many other significant announcements for the region.
“The way government operates has changed somewhat in recent decades with many announcements now being made year round outside the budget process.
“For instance, we have had a high number of significant announcements in the electorate of recent months including:
• $650,000 – Australian Sustainable Hardwoods mill expansion in Heyfield,
• $500,000 – Bullock Island refuelling facility in Lakes Entrance,
• $479,000 – Great Alpine Road reseal works west of Omeo,
• $100,000 – Omeo Recreation Reserve Upgrade,
• $1.25m – Bairnsdale Library Redevelopment,
• $120,000 – Vegco expansion,
• Over $1m in river stabilisation works across the region,
• $155,000 on upgrades to sports/community facilities at Heyfield and Coongulla,
• Medical equipment grants to Bairnsdale, Orbost and Omeo hospitals,
• More than $1m to extend kindergartens in Paynesville, Stratford, Bairnsdale and Swan Reach,
• Over $1m worth of new fire fighting vehicles to Boisdale, Briagolong, Sarsfield and Kalmina West Fire Brigades, and
• $500,000 towards Bairnsdale central business district improvements.
“These are just some of the announcements made outside the budget process in Gippsland East,” said Mr Bull, who added the region was certainly getting its share of funds in what were globally and nationally challenging financial times.
“The good news is that I am also looking forward to some further significant announcements in the coming weeks and months.
“All this is being delivered on an estimated operating surplus of $255m. In Australia we see governments living beyond their means, spending more than their income and then having the pain of leaving massive debt to future generations.
“Not in Victoria, we are spending within our means and spending in priority areas.”
More support for people with disability
The State Coalition's decision to enter into an agreement on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and also commit to a significant increase in disability funding in this week's Budget, has been applauded by State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull.
"On top of some terrific projects we have going on locally, I am delighted the disability sector is receiving significantly increased funding and support," said Mr Bull.
“Importantly, the Budget announcement will provide more immediate support, with a significant boost in the number of Individual Support Packages (ISPs) and funding for people with complex needs in supported accommodation."
Premier Denis Napthine and Minister for Disability Services and Reform Mary Wooldridge announced Sunday that the 2013-2014 Victorian Budget includes a significant funding increase of $224 million, taking the total annual disability funding to $1.6 billion.
The announcement follows yesterday’s signing of an agreement between the Victorian Coalition Government and the Commonwealth for a full roll-out of the national disability insurance scheme (NDIS) – now known as DisabilityCare Australia in Victoria from 2019-20.
"These two announcements over the weekend have been widely applauded and I am delighted this government is significantly increasing resources into the disability sector," said Mr Bull.
"On a local basis we now also have the All Abilities playground being constructed. Yes, there were a few hurdles along the way, but to see the frames going up this week is very exciting.
"It will provide not only a great stop over for people travelling through town, but the very layout of the playground will provide a safe and secure environment where parents and carers can go to have some time out with those they are caring for.
"We also have the State contributing to accommodation units to be built at Noweyung that will provide more accommodation options for those with disability, so the State's announcements over the weekend are just terrific on top of what we have going on locally," said Mr Bull.
“Victoria has a proud history of leading the way in support for people with disability,” Dr Napthine said.
“We have led the way in getting people with disabilities out of institutions and into the community, we have led the move to more choice and more individualised funding for people with disability, and we have led the way in the development of an NDIS.”
Ms Wooldridge said that the disability package in the upcoming budget would support the continuing reform that is helping build better lives for people with disability in the lead-up to full implementation of the NDIS across Victoria from July 2019.
The Budget package for disability:
• delivers $107 million for 720 new ISPs for people with high support needs, and continues the specialised vocational supports for young people with disability pursuing employment goals;
• provides over $62 million to help meet the increasingly complex needs of people with disability living in Government-run supported accommodation;
• commits $7.9 million for capital investment in new accommodation to enable the closure of Sandhurst Residential Services, giving residents the opportunity to live within the community;
• provides $4 million for the aids and equipment program for people with disability;
• allocates over $26 million for a wage rise in 2013-14 for about 13,000 disability workers as a result of a Fair Work Australia decision known as the SACS case; and
• contributes $17 million in additional funding to support the Victorian launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in the Barwon region on 1 July 2013 taking the Victorian Coalition Government’s total 3-year investment in the launch site to over $300 million.
Ms Wooldridge said that the Budget package offers people with disability, their family and carers more control and choice over the support they receive to ensure it best meets their specific needs.
The new ISPs are being partially funded by an increase in board and lodging fees for DHS managed disability accommodation. This will result in fees for Government run disability residential services being consistent across locations, and being equivalent to the average of those already operating in community sector provided disability accommodation.
As well as ensuring fairness and equity, these changes in the fees for residents who have an accommodation place will mean that a group of people with disability, their families and carers who are currently desperately waiting on the Disability Support Register for respite, day services or accommodation will now be able to access support.
The new fees will bring the average contribution per resident for supported accommodation to approx $17,500 per annum. The average cost to Government to support a resident in DHS managed supported accommodation is $128,000 per annum.
Ms Wooldridge said that Victoria’s disability reform agenda is providing more choice and flexibility for people.
$32m for Macalister irrigation modernisation
The Victorian Coalition Government has today announced $32 million to kickstart a major modernisation of the Macalister Irrigation District (MID), the biggest investment in this region in decades.
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said he was delighted to join with Deputy Premier and State Development Minister, Peter Ryan, and Water Minister, Peter Walsh, to make the announcement at Murray Goulburn’s milk processing plant at Maffra.
Mr Bull said this $32m investment over three years will not only attract investment into the MID but also provide security for existing businesses to grow.
“The initial phase will improve the speed and reliability of water delivery to farms, boost agricultural output through greater on-farm efficiency and improve waterway and estuarine health by reducing outflows,” said Mr Bull.
Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government will provide $16 million towards upgrading the MID over the next three years, with a co-contribution of $16 million from irrigators.
“The modernisation will increase the amount of food this region produces, boosting the local and state economy with this initial phase to return 12,300 megalitres (ML) of water a year to productive use.
“Murray Goulburn estimates the additional water could increase milk production from the Macalister region by an extra 24 million litres a year,” Mr Ryan said.
Mr Walsh said the project would fund channel automation projects, outlet rationalisation, and construction of the Southern-Cowwarr balancing storage.
“The Macalister region contains some of Australia’s most valuable and productive grazing land, with about 33,500 hectares under irrigation,” Mr Walsh said.
“The district’s gravity-fed system irrigation system is now 60 to 90 years old and contains 410 miles of supply channels and 305 miles of drainage channels, much of which is manually operated.
“The modernisation will provide irrigators with reliable and secure water supplies to help increase production and meet the Coalition Government’s ambitious target to double the value of Victoria’s food and fibre production by 2030.
Mr Walsh said the funding was in addition to the irrigators had already spent $6.4 million on an early works program which was set to provide an extra 2,200 ML of water savings.
“With the first phase of the project now secured, we will be negotiating with the Commonwealth for funding to help build the Southern Tinamba balancing storage and pipeline.
“The pipeline will result in a further 13,500 ML of water savings that will then be available for irrigators, increasing the productivity of the district,” Mr Walsh said.