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The Federal Government's AusLink program has pushed forward standardisation of Victoria's broad-gauge rail network - but not far enough for the local councils affected by it.
AusLink allocated $45 million for standardisation: $20 million for the railway between Geelong and Mildura, and $25 million for the second track between Melbourne and Albury-Wodonga.
The Alliance for Rail Freight Development said AusLink recognised the importance of the two lines, but failed to fund the standardisation or even upgrade of other key regional tracks.
Its chairman, Geoff White, said AusLink also failed to recognise the need to connect Victoria with the Riverina in NSW and with south-east South Australia. The alliance consists of 26 councils in central, western and north-eastern Victoria and the Riverina.
Cr White said federal rail spending in Victoria was less than 20 per cent of the commitment to NSW. "How much has the stand-off between Freight Australia and the State Government cost Victoria in Federal Government funding?" he asked.
"Why would the Federal Government commit significant funds to a state that is currently unable to deliver on any rail freight project?"
Victorian Transport Minister Peter Batchelor welcomed the money, but said he had been campaigning for five years to get the Commonwealth to contribute to standardisation.
He said the second project would standardise the line between Mangalore and Albury, providing capacity to move road freight to rail in large volumes.
His Government committed $96 million in the 2001 budget to standardisation. Mr Batchelor said some money had been allocated, but standardisation was contingent on the sale of Freight Australia to Pacific National.
The sale must be approved by the State Government and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
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