The Save Our Train Action Group (SOTAG) last week joined a delegation from East Gippsland Shire Council in meeting with National Express, the new franchisee of V-Line passenger services.
According to SOTAG president, Mr Allan Cracknell, the meeting in Traralgon was very productive and National Express demonstrated a willingness to listen to the communities they will be servicing.
The meeting was one of several held throughout the state as part of a consultation with regional shires and interest groups.
It-will be followed by feasibility studies into the transport needs of regional communities, which will be used by National Express in servicing the V-Line passenger network.
Mr Geoff Smithwick, a transport executive with National Express and former chief executive of V-Line Passenger, will be co-ordinating the feasibility study into the Bairnsdale to Sale service.
Mr Sniithwick has a personal knowledge of Bairnsdale and the East Gippsland region and has pledged to investigate the possibility of the return of a rail passenger service to Bairnsdale in a fair and thorough manner.
The feasibility study will take some time and National Express has stated that it will consult with the community throughout the process.
We will also have an opportunity to examine their finding prior to the finalisation of the feasibility study. The results of the feasibility study will be announced in July of 2000, Mr Smithwick said.
SOTAG was encouraged by the meeting.
It has been our contention that, given a well-managed, proactive rail service, a twice daily passenger train between Bairnsdale and Melbourne would be economically viable as well as being vital to the development of the region, Mr Cracknell said.
The time has now come to put up or shut up. Over the next 12 months an exhaustive, well-designed and professionally conducted feasibility study will test our contention.
The process will, according to the assurances we have received, be transparent and free ideology. This is all we have ever asked and we trust that, in 12 months, at the end of the study, we will be proven right, Mr Cracknell said
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