Probably to late to do this now, but DG 100km of track from Ouyen to Mildura isn't a big ask if done at the same time as upgrade.One slight problem exists, Called Standard gaugeYes and issue with regional services, NO ONE can make a claim that even 2-3 x day service to a rural country town will improve congestion anywhere or make roads safer.unable to understand that PT never runs at a profit and nor should it...I want to pick up on this point.
In my view, PT doesnt necessarily need to recover all costs to provide it (ie it doesnt necessarily need to be financially viable). But it certainly needs to be economically viable, ie the economic benefits of congestion reduction, added to the financial benefits for example need to be break even or better. Otherwise, may as well take your money and burn it in Fitzroy Park as thats what youre doing with it.
The analysis probably says that this project doesnt stack up economically and so there is the answer.
A few claims that Mildura line has X many huge number of LX and 385km beyond Maryborough to upgrade to suitable standard. All through an area of very low population to provide a daily service that won't exceed 3 cars worth.
Plan B - Going via Swan Hill
~345km of existing line soon to operate V/locities, current timetable is daily M-F, 2 x S-S, 4.5h travel time, additional bus service from Bendigo, assume lack of bodies to justify a actual train.
~45km of track north of Swan Hill to Pinagil to upgrade
~100km of Greenfield track between Pinagil and Ouyen to build
~100km of track from Ouyen to Mildura to upgrade to V/locity standards
Total distance ~ 590km, only marginally longer than on Mildura Line whole way.
Total track upgrade ~150km, less than half the distance than Mildura Line
Extra Travel time beyond Swan Hill is 2-2.5h each way.
Provides more direct connection to two regional major populations, but also includes Ouyen.
Down side, 100km of Greenfield railway to build across near flat land with no significant obstacles. You wouldn't even need a passing loop.
Upside on train services, 1 x Daily to Mildura can be added to 2 x daily service to Swan Hill, just add another set to existing V/locity. No extra driver needed for most of service.
Why cannot it happen now, because of a missing 100km of cheap railway line to build. Same piece of track may be of use to freight, especially freight to Manangatang, may enable the Robinvale this line to be truncated further south than Manangatang.
However point is taken. So what is the future of the Swan Hill/Bendigo line remaining BG? Realistically the above plan (and I know its not new) would be around 5 years away to allow other works to be concluded, funded and rolling stock purchased and delivered. Would SH/Bendigo remain SG this long?
Alt, as a stop gap you could have an all out all change at Swan Hill for break of gauge? Not ideal, but an option, provided there was a not too longterm a plan to deal with the gauge issue.