LOWAN MP Emma Kealy has accused the state government of neglecting V/Line bus and train connections in Ararat.
Ms Kealy, whose seat is the western neighbour to Ripon, said she had been contacted by passengers who had complaints about long delays and lack of seating when changing from buses to trains at Ararat.
“There is no doubt Western Victoria has the poorest public transport in the state and the situation is getting worse, not better, under the Andrew’s Labor Government.” Ms Kealy said.
Ms Kealy said she was recently contacted by a resident waiting at the Ararat station for a bus to Horsham who was concerned about a number of elderly people forced to stand up while they waited for a connecting service.
“This lady has worked all over Australia and is a regular public transport user,” Ms Kealy said.
“She believes the Melbourne to Horsham service is the worst she has experienced due to connection delays and lack of facilities, and has even considered paying for a taxi home to avoid the whole public transport experience.
“It is disappointing that due to poor connectivity of our regional public transport services passengers are being forced to sit on the filthy ground as there were insufficient seats at the Ararat Station.
“This is yet another example of how bad our local public transport and connecting services are following Labor’s disastrous timetable changes and service cuts,” she said.
Ms Kealy has started a survey asking people to help get western Victoria’s voices heard in Parliament by sharing views about how better public transport services would improve lives in our great part of the State.
“Together we can deliver a strong message that the 110,000 people who live in Western Victoria deserve and want better train and bus links”, Ms Kealy said.
A spokesperson for Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan accused Ms Kealy of hypocrisy over regional rail.
“Emma Kealy was part of a government who did nothing for four years,” the spokesperson said.
“We are getting on with the job of delivering an upgrade to every regional rail line through the Regional Rail Revival, we’ve added additional services to Maryborough and Ararat and we’re delivering the Murray Basin Rail Project.”
Transport for Victoria regularly reviews bus patronage levels and Fairfax Media understands it will continue to assess western Victoria.
V/Line was unable to comment directly on Ms Kealy’s statement as the government corporation has a policy of abstaining from political debates.
“Passengers can choose to wait for their connecting service in one of the two waiting rooms at Ararat Station, which is staffed from 6am to 5pm daily,” A V/Line spokesperson said.
“One train service arrives after the station is closed, however there are benches and ample shelter outside of the station.
The connecting coach is usually already at the station upon the train’s arrival, so passengers can board straight away.”
Five Ararat trains from Melbourne connect with coaches to Horsham each weekday. Four trains connect with coaches to Horsham on weekends.
A guaranteed connection means that coaches will wait for a train to arrive before departing Ararat Station to its onward destination. V/Line usually allows a wait of between 10 and 30 minutes for train and coach connections.
The longest wait between trains and coaches is on the 6:48am coach from Horsham to Ballarat, which arrives at Ballarat at 9:30am and connects with the 10:18am train to Melbourne.