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A TEMPORARY ceasefire in the war of words between the federal and state governments on regional rail funding including a long awaited North-East line upgrade took place in Brisbane on Friday.
Federal transport minister Darren Chester and his Victorian counterpart Jacinta Allan met before a Transport and Infrastructure Council meeting in a bid to end the impasse which has existed since last week’s federal budget which included a $100 million commitment for the Melbourne to Albury route.
But the amount of federal cash on the table and still to be released detailed planning from the Victorian government remain the key sticking points to a deal being brokered.
Mr Chester described the meeting with Ms Allan as a “constructive discussion” and a “big step forward” from the mud-slinging from both corners since the budget announcement.
Mr Chester was in Wangaratta earlier this week pleading for the Andrews Labor Government to agree to a deal on regional rail upgrades.
But the state government has maintained the $100 million for the North-East line falls short of the amount required.
“We both agreed that investing in regional rail is a high priority for the state and federal governments,” Mr Chester said.
“But I made it clear I needed to see more detailed planning from the state in order to secure ongoing funding.
“I look forward to receiving that information in the weeks ahead.
“We intend to have further discussions as we work towards reaching an agreement that will see significant investment across Victoria.
“I’m particularly focused on delivering a better outcome for passengers on the North-East line.
“I believe we can reach a mutually agreeable outcome in the weeks ahead.
“The general travelling public just wants to see us get on with the job.
“Today has been a big step forward.”
But Ms Allan maintained Victoria was being short-changed on infrastructure spending by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition federal government.
“It was a productive discussion with Mr Chester about inland rail, the North-East line and the desperate need for more federal infrastructure funding for Victoria,” she said.
“Malcolm Turnbull is playing favourites with his own state and ripping off Victoria.
“It’s not fair, it’s not equitable and it’s not national leadership.
“We won’t stop fighting for our money and a better deal on infrastructure from the Turnbull Government.”
It wants $1.45 billion from the federal government for regional rail upgrades.
This article first appeared on www.bordermail.com.au
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