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TWO minor party Federal Election candidates for McEwen have pledged commitment to lobbying for a rail extension to Mernda and beyond.
If elected, Palmer United Party candidate Trevor Dance promised to push the State Government to act on the extension all the way to Whittlesea township.
Katter's Australian Party candidate Bruce Stevens said he would attempt to procure state and federal funds for an extension to Whittlesea township within five years.
South Morang and Mernda Rail Alliance spokesman Darren Peters said the announcements had turned the extension into a genuine election issue.
"The fact that both of these candidates have listed the Mernda rail extension as a major part of their campaign shows that it is something that people will vote for in our area," Mr Peters said. "McEwen is marginal. I think people are looking for an alternative that offers what people actually want.
"If the minor parties play hard, they know they're going to pick up votes of dissatisfied voters.
"It could have a major impact, particularly if it comes down to preferences."
ALP incumbent Rob Mitchell has announced Labor would support the project if the State Government put an offer on the table.
Liberal candidate Donna Petrovich favoured Plenty Rd upgrades over a rail extension.
"When I knock on doors, they always talk about the Mernda rail extension,'' Ms Petrovich said.
"They also talk about the duplication of Plenty Rd.
"From my perspective, I will be fighting very hard for the duplication of Plenty Rd as a priority."
Whittlesea Council advocacy director Griff Davis said the stance by the two minor party candidates would encourage discussion about public transport among voters and politicians.
Mr Davis said the Liberal Party had made it clear that it would support roads projects in Victoria over public transport, but a balanced approach was vital, especially in growth areas.
"Our roads are pretty much not functioning," Mr Davis said.
"The track record here is that neither level of government seems to show much interest in the interface of Melbourne or generally in the growth of Melbourne.
"Unless there's a change of mindset from both levels, we're going to see these challenges for several years to come."
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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