Taxpayers charged nearly $345,000 for replacement taxis

Constant breakdowns on Victoria’s neglected VLine network are seeing hundreds of thousands of dollars in replacement taxis charged to Victorian taxpayers each year.

New documents, obtained by the Liberal Nationals through Freedom of Information (FOI), show that between 1 July 2018 and 28 November 2019 a total of $343,589 in taxi trips was charged to the public purse.

The taxi trips are replacement services for VLine passengers when scheduled services fail to arrive, breakdown or are not accessible. One trip from Bendigo Station in July 2018 cost taxpayers $1048.95.

Shadow Minister for Regional Public Transport Steph Ryan said Victorian taxpayers were wearing the cost of years of neglect by the Andrews Labor Government.

“VLine is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to compensate for unreliable, inaccessible train services,” Ms Ryan said.

“At a time where we are looking to get cars off the roads and more Victorians onto public transport, this data shows our shoddy, neglected network is actually making the problem worse.

“Country communities are a wonderful place to live and work, but a regional public transport network in chaos and unreliable, slow, uncomfortable train services aren’t hallmarks of liveable communities.

“Public transport exists to get people where they need to go, but under Daniel Andrews passengers have no confidence they’ll get where they need to go on time – or at all.

“Passengers deserve a modern, reliable, fast network but the Andrews Labor Government isn’t willing to invest the money to make that happen.”

The FOI was submitted in November 2019, but the Andrews Labor Government fought tooth and nail to keep the data secret until it was finally released on March 17 – nearly a year and a half later.

The Victorian Government has refused to invest in the State’s public transport network, instead relying on the Commonwealth to fund desperately-needed upgrades.

The Gippsland line hasn’t met its punctuality target of 92 per cent of services running on time once in the past six years, while the Albury line has failed to run on time since June 2017.

“They are so cheap they’re trying to claim the Federal Liberal Nationals Government’s investment as their own,” Ms Ryan said.

“Labor has been in Government 18 of the last 22 years yet they’ve refused to make the investment needed to build a better public transport network while leaves passengers with no confidence they can get where they need to be.”

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