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A SHEEP paddock between the home of tyre king Bob Jane and his Calder Park drag racing circuit could hold the key to the future of Melbourne's trains.
But first the government will have to deal with the endangered growling grass frogs that live there.
Seventy hectares of farmland in Plumpton, on Melbourne's north-western fringe, have been earmarked by the government as the place for a stabling yard for its ''next generation trains''.
The yard will be designed to stable 30 trains that are 215 metres long, instead of the current 160 metres, with nine carriages instead of six, and designed to carry about 1200 people instead of 800.
The government has promised to deliver 40 new trains for Melbourne, the first seven of which are expected to be constructed at Alstom's factory in Ballarat by the end of the year. The train stabling yard is also at the heart of government plans to break up Melbourne's tangled metropolitan rail network into five discrete groups.
''Public Transport Victoria and Metro have been planning towards operating the network as five distinct groups,'' a spokesman, David Stockman, said.
''This planning is aimed at untangling the network to isolate disruptions and avoid unnecessary delays on other lines.'' The Age revealed in May that the rail operator Metro had a five-year plan to split the network into five groups.
The government's participation is also revealed in an ecological impact assessment of the project.
It states that a dam that is inhabited by the growling grass frog, an increasingly endangered species in Victoria, would have to be removed to build the train stabling yard.
The frog's Victorian population has declined 29 per cent in the past decade.
It is proposed to ''offset'' the dam's removal by creating new habitat suitable for the frog elsewhere.
This plan will require the approval of federal Environment Minister Tony Burke.
Mr Stockman said Public Transport Victoria was confident that any final plans would not hurt native flora and fauna.
The ecological impact statement says the stabling yard is needed if the government is to meet its commitment to buy more trains. ''Existing stabling facilities across Melbourne do not have capacity to accommodate the trains which have been committed to for purchase by the government,'' it says.
But the government must first buy the land from its owner, Mr Jane, who also owns a tyre store franchise and the Calder Park raceway. Mr Jane's house backs onto the site. Mr Jane said he had agreed to the sale, but had no choice because the government had indicated it would compulsorily acquire the land if an agreement could not be struck.
''The Victorian government have committed to buy these trains and is faced with the prospect of where they're going to stable them,'' Mr Jane said.
''So hence the acquisition of my land, which is being done by a friendly agreement, no … by an agreement.''
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