Is this selling rail to pay for roads as Premier offers up V/Line to Metro?

THE Baillieu government has approached Metro to gauge whether it is interested in running V/Line, raising the prospect of country rail services returning to private hands.

Separate sources close to the government and to Metro said the proposition was put to Metro in a discussion earlier this year, but that no agreement was reached on the potential move.

The government and Metro poured cold water on the prospect on Thursday, denying that the discussion took place.

”There are no plans to privatise V/Line,” Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said.

Metro chief executive Andrew Lezala agreed, but said the company would consider an offer if one were made.

”If we were approached we would consider it, but we’d have to look at the numbers,” Mr Lezala said.

The government is said to be eager to reduce union influence within V/Line in a bid to reduce operational expenses.

Rail, Tram and Bus Union divisional organiser Grant Wainwright accused the government of being ”ideologically driven” in its approach to V/Line and said the union would resist any move to dilute its influence among the regional rail operator’s staff.

”Any move by the government to privatise V/Line will be seen by the public for what it is – ideologically driven,” Mr Wainwright said…

V/Line is run by a publicly owned corporation under a franchise agreement with Public Transport Victoria. The agreement was due to expire on New Year’s Day but has recently been extended until June 30.

Public Transport Victoria spokesman Matt Phelan said the six-month extension would be used ”to undertake a thorough efficiency review of the V/Line business with a view to extending V/Line’s franchise by a further three years under the existing governance arrangement”…

Adam Carey, The Age, November 2, 2012

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