Election battle line


Media focus: Transport Minister Terry Mulder holds court at Frankston Train Station after the arrival of the first X’Trapolis train on the Frankston line. Picture: Yanni

VANDALISM and fights hit the Frankston line last week and a train seat was slashed amid verbal altercations.

Protective services officers did not intervene though because politicians, not commuters, were at the centre of the dispute.

Liberal and Labor politicians became embroiled in a bitter political stoush over the arrival of the first X’Trapolis train at Frankston train station on Wednesday morning as both major parties try to gain the upper hand on public transport ahead of next month’s state election.

Voters’ gripes with public transport is regarded as a key reason the Coalition state government won the marginal bayside seats of Frankston and Carrum from Labor at the 2010 state election.

Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder was angered by a suspected act of sabotage before the first X’Trapolis train began its inaugural journey to Frankston. A driver’s seat was slashed the night before the train trip. Metro Trains has vowed to find the perpetrator.

Politicians also traded barbs over the rollout of X’Trapolis trains on the Frankston line.

Mr Mulder was on board to visit Frankston and spruik the benefits of the new Metro train ahead of next month’s state election as “a further step forward in the Victorian Coalition government’s transformation of commuter travel on the Frankston line under the $115 million Bayside Rail Project.”

He said eight new X’Trapolis trains would run on the Frankston, Werribee and Williamstown lines “in late 2015” after rail infrastructure upgrades to accommodate more of the French-made trains.

“X’Trapolis trains include enhanced safety features such as CCTV cameras in every carriage with a direct video link to the train driver,” Mr Mulder said.

Liberal candidate for Frankston Sean Armistead said the arrival of the X’Trapolis train “was a taste of more good things down the track for commuters on the Frankston line”.

“X’Trapolis trains are the newest, biggest and fastest trains on Melbourne’s network,” Mr Armistead said.

The trains have been running elsewhere on Melbourne’s rail network since 2002.

Labor candidate for Frankston Paul Edbrooke called last Wednesday’s X’Trapolis launch “a political stunt”.

“There are safety concerns about the speed of the X’Trapolis train not being co-ordinated with level crossings, incomplete signalling works and gaps between the platform and carriage at certain stations,” Mr Edbrooke said.

Just one X’Trapolis train per day will run on the Frankston line until the rail network upgrades are finished in 12 months’ time.

Metro Trains advised The Times that the X’Trapolis train will be in service four times per day on the Frankston line. It will depart Frankston for Melbourne at 6.38am and 8.44am on weekdays and leave Melbourne’s Flinders St Station at 5.30am and 7.35am.

The train can travel at speeds of up to 130km/h but will be restricted to a top speed of 90km/h on the Melbourne rail network.

Metro Trains confirmed the maximum speed of the X’Trapolis fleet will not change after the late 2015 rail network upgrades.

Mr Edbrooke said the government had “rushed out a single train service… on the eve of an election”.

The arrival of the much-vaunted X’Trapolis train on the Frankston line captured media attention with press and TV news crews dispatched from Melbourne to cover Mr Mulder’s press conference at Frankston station.

Former Liberal MP Geoff Shaw, now an independent after several disagreements with the Coalition state government, arrived on the Frankston station platform and talked to Mr Mulder after the media conference.

Transport Minister Terry Mulder shares a joke with former Liberal MP Geoff Shaw despite the recent animosity between Mr Shaw and Premier Denis Napthine. Picture: Yanni

Small cardboard replicas of the X’Trapolis train and leaflets promoting the Bayside Rail Project were distributed by Liberal Party staffers.

The first edition of a Liberal Party-produced 8-page “community newspaper” called The Southern Express was handed out to passersby. The Liberals intend to distribute the so-called newspaper, which toes the government line on improvements to the Melbourne rail network, at train stations along the Frankston line.

The party’s logo is nowhere to be seen in the “newspaper” which also contains crosswords, details about local events and soup recipes alongside state government propaganda pieces spruiking the Coalition’s public transport pledges in the lead up to the state election.

Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen took to his personal blog after the X’Trapolis launch event in Frankston to note Coalition MPs reckoned “the arrival of the first X’Trapolis train in service on the Frankston line was a miraculous huge leap forward for train travellers — a rocket-powered, laser-guided teleportation device that can get you to your destination in seconds.”

First published in the Frankston Times

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