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EXPORTS are standing still and rural communities are missing out financially because of the poor management of Victoria’s railway network.
That is the blunt warning sent to Premier Daniel Andrews in a scathing letter from the Rail Freight Alliance, signed by representatives of 22 Victorian shires.
The letter, seen by The Weekly Times, slams V/Line for “changes introduced without consideration, consultation or warning” that require trains to stop on days when temperatures reach 33C.
The councillors call for an urgent, independent review of V/Line’s operating standards. “For the first time in our state we have freight loaded, ready for export, but unable to move,” the letter said.
“V/Line’s actions have directly reduced the profitability of rural communities and have had a significant impact on the state’s agriculture productivity.”
V/Line introduced the restrictions as a safety precaution last December and experienced its first summer without a derailment caused by heat since 2009. The alliance said safety was “paramount … (but) it has been a disastrous policy that has cost the state dearly”.
In the letter, the Alliance claimed it had sought to work with the Government and V/Line to address the issue.
“After consecutive meetings, however, V/Line has not been willing to progress the matter, this is why we look to you,” the letter said.
Following a meeting with the alliance and freight handlers on April 4, V/Line chief executive James Pinder said V/Line “continues to communicate and work with our freight stakeholders to discuss ways to minimise disruption to their freight movements and advise of any changes”.
V/Line claims to have moved more than a million tonnes of grain from last July until March 31.
Public transport minister Jacinta Allan said the Murray Basin Rail Upgrade would improve the freight network’s safety, reliability and capacity.
“We’re happy to continue meeting with the councils, farmers and the freight lobby to discuss this issue — but we’re not going back to the bad old days under the Liberals and Nationals when derailments were just accepted,” she said.
This article first appeared on www.weeklytimesnow.com.au
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