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The State Government has repeated its commitment to standardise and upgrade the South East rail network to support the Penola Pulp Mill project.
A spokesman for Transport Minister Patrick Conlon gave the assurance yesterday after the Victorian Government announced a $15m upgrade of the Portland-Maroona line.
The announcement prompted a call by the Port of Portland to reopen the Mount Gambier to Heywood railway.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation said it would welcome reopening the Mount Gambier line, but said this was a matter for the SA and Victorian Governments.
“The government welcomes the announcement by the Victorian Government and the ARTC, for the agreement for the ARTC to lease the Maroona to Portland rail line for 50 years, and the $15m investment into the rail line,” Mr Conlon’s spokesman said.
“The government will continue to work with Genesee and Wyoming Australia and the Penola Pulp Mill proponents to see the standardisation and upgrade of the South East Rail line between the pulp mill and the interstate rail line at Wolseley, and confirms its $10m contribution to the project.
“The government also looks forward to continuing to explore with the Victorian government, the private sector and the ARTC commercially sustainable options to reopen more of the rail lines in the South East, including the link from Penola across the Victorian Border to Heywood.
“Following on from the Green Triangle Freight Summit held in Portland on May 9 the South Australian and Victorian Transport Ministers agreed to develop a freight action plan for the region.
“The future role of rail will be considered as part of this plan, which will be completed in draft form at the end of the year.”
Visiting Portland on Tuesday, Victorian Premier John Brumby said “an historic agreement” had been reached with the Federal Government to secure the future of the Portland to Maroona rail freight line, deliver major upgrades and position the region as part of a national freight network.
“It means the Portland to Maroona rail freight line will now be upgraded to improve track speed by the ARTC, securing its future as part of a national rail freight network - this is great news for communities in the state’s south-west and the Port of Portland,” he said.
Mr Brumby, Roads and Ports Minister Tim Pallas, Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky and ARTC chief executive David Marchant, inspected the Portland to Maroona line.
Ms Kosky said the ARTC would undertake significant upgrades, increasing train speeds to 80kph.
“While we are still in early discussions, there is the prospect of the line being used to transport timber and mineral sands which will both significantly increase the volume being carried on the line in coming years,” she said.
The Port of Portland says there is now “a strong business case” for reopening the line between Mount Gambier and Heywood.
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