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The proposal of the State Public Transport Minister, Jacinta Allan, to run dual gauge line between Maryborough and Ballarat fails on all counts. The conversion of most of the rail infrastructure North of Maryborough to Standard gauge under the Murray Basin Project with both federal and state money going into the project is seen as a major advance in the rail industry.
But the decision of the Minister for Public Transport to leave the old broad gauge line between Maryborough and Ballarat and just add a third a rail beside the existing track has brought widespread condemnation from across the rail industry.
Rail Revival Alliance President, Noel Laidlaw, said that this decision was the worst of all compromises and fails on three significant counts.
"Firstly, it has significant safety issues with the dual gauge rail. At present, speed restrictions are placed on trains operating on dual gauge line to mitigate the safety but the closeness of the two rail on one side means obstructions between the rails can derail trains."
“Secondly, it is much more expensive. It will use more than 3000 tonnes of new rail valued in excess of $10M and the actual installation cost could nearly double that figure. Points and crossings are far more complicated and incur a significant cost premium. They are higher maintenance” Mr. Laidlaw said.
“Thirdly, the dual gauge section of line will only have a maximum speed of 80 km/hr. because of the safety issues. Currently trains travel up to 105 km/hr on the route. This will mean slower trains with perhaps 10 minutes being added to every trip between Maryborough and Ballarat.”
“The Rail Revival Alliance understands that V/Line will have to make a special allocation for standard gauge trains for the Maryborough service, if it does not have the broad gauge line going to Maryborough. We all know that the ridiculous situation of many different gauges in Australia has cost the country billions over the years in lost economic benefits and there will be costs and heartache in bringing the rail system up to the twenty-first century.
A standard gauge passenger train for Maryborough will only be the start of a wider standardization program and in the future there will be many more such trains in the system.”
“The Rail Revival Alliance calls on Public Transport Minister, Jacinta Allan to make the hard decision, to wipe the dual gauge line from the Murray Basin plans. The Minister must have suitable standard gauge rolling stock in place when the line is brought back to standard. In making this hard decision, it will be right for the project's success, right for the state and show effective leadership in transport, which for so many years has languished, because of 30 years of neglect, through lack of government commitment, effective planning and investment.
This has inevitably caused a loss of confidence in successive governments and impacted on Victoria's economy and have allowed the rail network to decline and deteriorate through privatisation.
Rail Revival Alliance
M : (0448) 568 429
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