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Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan has vowed to press the Morrison government for more money to restart work on the cash-strapped Murray Basin Rail project after farmers were left disappointed by the lack of funding in the federal budget.
Work stopped more than a year ago on the joint federal- and state-funded project, which was meant to have standardised 1000 kilometres of track in Victoria's west by 2018.
The Murray Rail project is intended to upgrade rail transport in Victoria's west.CREDITAT SCALA
Victorian Farmers Federation grains group president Ashley Fraser said the budget omission was "pretty disappointing" for farmers preparing to transport this season's expected bumper grain crop.
"I'm horrified to think we are going into 2021 without any direction on funding for this project. It's just appalling," he said.
Mr Fraser said rail was far more efficient than road transport, saying trains could carry vastly more grain than trucks and at $20 a tonne cheaper.
Ms Allan said on Wednesday the state government would continue lobbying Deputy Prime Minister and National Party leader Michael McCormack for Commonwealth funding.
“After months of extensive discussion with the Commonwealth, we expected to see this project delivered last night,” Ms Allan said.
In 2016, the federal government pledged $240 million towards the project, which was then costed at $440 million. Work on the trouble-plagued project stopped in June last year, with the Victorian Auditor-General blaming Victorian government mismanagement.
In May, the federal Coalition was handed a revised business case that recommended further federal investment to kick-start the work.
Tuesday's federal budget did include $1.1 billion for other "shovel-ready" Victorian road and rail projects and $2 billion for national road safety projects over the next 18 months.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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