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AT LAST, there’s some light at the end of the line: the Victorian Government’s new Food to Asia Action Plan has flagged an upgrade to the decrepit, accident-prone Mildura to Melbourne rail link.
Page 32 of the new action plan released last week by Premier Denis Napthine, lists among “New Actions” upgrades to the Mildura and other priority rail lines and intermodal hubs that “will significantly improve turnaround times and reliability for horticulture and grain freight”.
On the following page, the government states: “We will support further investigation into the potential for standardisation of the Mildura rail line, including assessing the feasibility in the longer term of a new link from Mildura to the trans-national network to the north.”
The plan makes no mention of any timetable or commitment of funds to upgrade the Mildura line, or to conduct a feasibility study for a standard-gauge link to Mildura.
But Mildura Mayor Glenn Milne said yesterday the specific references to a Mildura line upgrade and an investigation into a standard-gauge link were “extremely positive news”.
Ken Wakefield, owner of Merbein intermodal freight company Wakefield Transport, said on Sunday that, after three derailments in the past six months, an upgrade for the decrepit Mildura line was essential if the State Government wanted to make Victoria a reliable exporter of fresh produce to Asia.
Mr Wakefield said rail was the best mode of transport for fresh produce, but as a major producer of fresh fruit for export, Sunraysia needed a guarantee that fruit could be delivered quickly to port, and on time, because ships carrying fresh produce to Asian ports could not wait.
Cr Milne said yesterday: “For the first time, the government has shown an interest in upgrading the Mildura line, by putting it down on paper.“It’s a first step forward,” he said. “It’s fantastic to know we’re on the agenda at last.
“But we now want to see some funding allocated – it’s no good just saying you’re going to do something. We want to see a state budget that tells us how much is going to be spent, and when.
This article first appeared on www.sunraysiadaily.com.au
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