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FARMERS have called on the Victorian Government to increase its contribution to the Murray Basin Rail upgrade.
The State and Commonwealth Governments have committed to match dollar-for-dollar contributions to fund the $416 million rail standardisation project.
Earlier this week it came to light that $20 million of Victoria’s share of the project would be provided by the Federal Government’s asset recycling program, in the wake of Victoria’s sale of Rural Finance.
It comes after Victoria announced a $2.9 billion surplus in last week’s State Budget.
Victorian Farmers Federation grains group president Brett Hosking called on the state to lift its investment in the rail upgrades so lines could carry a 23-tonne axle loading, rather than 21 tonnes.
“Last year the Victorian Government said it would fund the (Murray Basin Rail upgrade) in full if it didn’t get federal support,” he said.
“But now the feds have chipped in, what will happen to the extra money that the state was prepared to prop up?”
Mr Hosking estimated it would cost $100 million to switch the project from 21-tonne to 23-tonne axle loading, which would increase capacity by 10 per cent.
Federal Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester said the asset recycling money needed to go toward a regional project.
Victorian Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the $20 million was not additional funding and had consistently been considered in the Victorian contribution. “We will deliver the project in full, to 21-tonne axle loading, as supported by the business case, Infrastructure Australia, the Federal Government, and the Victorian Farmers Federation,” Ms Allan said.
This article first appeared on www.weeklytimesnow.com.au
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