Helen Haines MP will meet with Deputy Prime Minister, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Michael McCormack MP later this week to seek his assurance about North East rail line safety following NSW TrainLink’s tragic XPT derailment near Wallan on February 20.
Dr Haines said the North East rail line – a Commonwealth asset managed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation – had long been plagued by problems.
“There would be few people in Border and North East communities who have not at one time or another experienced extreme frustration trying to get to where they want to go,” she said.
“But now two precious lives have been lost.
“This is an enormous tragedy for the XPT driver and his pilot, their families, friends and workmates and for every person who was on that train.
“It follows a derailment on the North East Line at Barnawartha only a month ago.
“But this is a new and tragic circumstance.
‘Parliament is sitting this week and next and I asked to meet with Mr McCormack to discuss with him the many, many concerns our communities have about this railway line.
“One of these is that the $235 million the government committed in direct response to a long-running campaign by Cathy McGowan to fix its problems may not be enough.
“Yes, I’m aware that an independent study by Monash University confirms that this is enough money, but my concern about that and of many people is what will happen beyond that?
“Will adequate funds be allocated for the ongoing maintenance of this line?”
Dr Haines said North East communities want assurance that, once the major works now underway are completed, the line will be improved to a standard that can carry new Class 2 trains.
“And our communities want to know that these trains will then run on-time, every time, and safely,” she said.
“I meet regularly with the Australian Rail Track Corporation and I’m assured that $235m will see this job done.
“But I’ll be testing that next week, when I have questions going through to Senate estimates, holding the government and ARTC to account, checking and scrutinising that the work that’s being undertaken is going to solve these problems.”
[Febrary 24, 2020]