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THERE’S a gap in Victoria’s new “Food to Asia Action Plan,” that only a major upgrade of the Mildura to Melbourne rail freight line can fix, Wakefield Transport owner Ken Wakefield said yesterday.
Mr Wakefield said the Napthine Government should spend some of the $35 million allocated to drive the growth of Victoria’s food exports to Asia, on ensuring Sunraysia can reliably get its fresh produce to Melbourne on time, to be shipped to Asia.
Last month Mr Wakefield lobbied visiting Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, suggesting that if the Commonwealth contributed to an upgrade of the line, Victoria would feel pressured to follow suit.
Mr Wakefield said the line was operating “with one leg and one arm”, after three derailments in just six months.
He told Mr Joyce that agriculture was one of the few sectors in which Australia enjoyed a natural advantage over its Asian competitors, and rail was the best way to move large volumes of produce from production areas like Sunraysia to Australia’s ports.
“Our horticultural and agricultural commodities need to be delivered to port on schedule, for loading on vessels that depart on a particular date – if you don’t get it there on time, the cargo may be abandoned.”
Mr Wakefield said that when former Nationals Leader Tim Fischer had reviewed the state’s rail network for the Victorian Government in 2007, he had assigned platinum, gold, silver and bronze ratings to the various links in network, according to their economic importance.
“He gave platinum ratings to three Victorian links – Melbourne to Sydney, Melbourne to Adelaide, and Melbourne to Mildura,” Mr Wakefield said.
He said that in his discussions with Mr Joyce, he had suggested that if the Commonwealth provided some funding to upgrade the Mildura-Melbourne line, in recognition of its importance to the national rail network, it would put pressure on the Victorian Government to allocate its own share of funding towards the upgrade.
This article first appeared on www.sunraysiadaily.com.au
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