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THE Rail Freight Alliance, a membership-based organisation of councils across Victoria advocating for a greater investment in the Victorian rail system, has grave concerns about the future of the rail freight system in Victoria.
RFA is running “Save our Tracks” Campaign, fighting for the completion of the Murray Basin Rail Project and ensuring the Victorian Rail Network remains in Victorian ownership.
Minister Jacinta Allan has announced the MBRP is out of funds and she is in discussions with the Federal Government for more money.
The MBRP, heralded as a game changer, creating jobs, providing a major boost to the transport industry, the agriculture sector, communities across Victoria and bringing prosperity to the regions, has been the first major investment in the rail freight system in Victoria in decades.
It is a project critical to all Victorians because it was to allow competitive access to Victorian Ports, reducing supply chain costs and grow Victoria’s share of the global economy. This five-stage project was to be completed last year, yet stage two is still not complete.
The project was to deliver a standardised network across a significant part of Victoria, but has been poorly managed by the Victorian Government.
The MBRP needs to be fixed and completed to a modern-day standard. Even with all the investment to date it takes longer for freight trains to get to Melbourne from Mildura than it did 70 years ago. Much of the works across the project are substandard and many sections of track allow trains to travel at only 40km/h.
It has been suggested that as part of the Victorian and Federal Government negotiations to resolve the MBRP funding, the Victorian Government is considering leasing its standard gauge lines to the Australian Rail Track Corporation, meaning the Victorian Government would relinquish control of the track.
Completion of the MBRP is vital for Victoria, and it is essential the Victorian Rail network remains in state control and ownership, and open access to remain. Victorian freight is set to more than double by 2050. If Victoria is to benefit, the freight network needs to be fixed now.
Reid Mather is Rail Freight Alliance chief executive
This article first appeared on www.weeklytimesnow.com.au
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