Comments by Peter Walsh MP in Parliament this morning:
"There was $440 million to upgrade and standardise those railway lines in north-west Victoria. We have ended up with the majority of the money being expended with only the Mildura to Maryborough and the Maryborough to Ararat lines being standardised. The Maryborough to Ararat line in particular used second-hand rail—second-hand rail from the old Castlemaine line that was decades old. The two types of steel do not weld together well. That particular line now has to be redone and it is just an absolute disgrace. The Sea Lake and Manangatang lines have not been done. The minister has publicly released a few pages from the supposed business case she submitted to the commonwealth government for this project, and it is effectively only to get the money from the commonwealth to fix up the mess they have made of the project on the Mildura to Maryborough and Maryborough to Ararat lines and to re-rail that particular project. It says nothing about actually standardising the Manangatang or Sea Lake lines. It actually talks about a close-out part of this project, which I think is absolutely devastating to all the freight operators in north-west Victoria.
I urge the minister to put a line item in the budget on 24 November when it comes before this house to demonstrate to the commonwealth that the Victorian government actually has faith in this project and is not just relying on the commonwealth to pick up the tab to fix up a very, very botched project. Having standard gauge lines and having broad gauge lines will lead to even more inefficiency in the transport system. When you are running two different train sets, you do not get the economy of scale or the timely turnaround of trains to the various ports, and it still leaves the Manangatang and the Sea Lake lines blocked out of the port of Portland, which is one of our natural deepwater ports for grain shipments. As anyone in the grains industry would know, boats that go into Geelong cannot always fill up to their maximum load because the draught is too shallow, so they onload two-thirds or three-quarters of their load in Geelong and then call in at Portland to top up. If those lines were done, if all the lines were standardised, and if the line to Portland was upgraded from 19-tonne axle weight to 21- or 23-tonne axle weight, you could actually have whole ships being loaded in Portland, which would lead to some real efficiency for the grains industry in north and west Victoria and would assist in taking trucks off the roads running to Portland, because that is effectively how the majority of grain gets to Portland at the moment."