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From Albury Wodonga Border Mail
By Di Thomas
24/05/2008 8:53:00 AM
VICTORIAN Premier John Brumby says it is a matter of weeks before Wodonga will learn the outcome of negotiations related to the city’s rail bypass and the standardisation of the North East rail corridor.
Mr Brumby yesterday would not be drawn into confirming the project would go ahead or a potential starting date, just days before the two-year anniversary of an announcement of a further $50 million investment in the project.
On May 26, 2006, former Victorian premier Steve Bracks stood next to the High Street rail crossing to announce the boost in funding and suggested the project could start as early as October that year, but more reasonably in the first part of last year.
Mr Brumby yesterday praised the Wodonga community for its patience in weathering lengthy negotiations between his Government and the Australian Rail Track Corporation over several years.
He conceded those negotiations only began to gain some traction with the Victorian Government with the state’s buy-back of the regional rail network last year, a purchase that cost it $133.8 million.
“Last year’s decision to buy back the regional rail network was a major step forward in concluding this project because it’s meant that we’re in control of the track,” Mr Brumby said.
“It’s meant that we’ve been able to engage directly in negotiations with the ARTC to move it forward.
“Previously all the issues relating to access, broad gauge, standard gauge, passenger and freight were matters which were negotiated between the owners of the rail business and the ARTC and we never got a look in.
“One of the stumbling blocks was the fact the rail system was owned privately. Every time we sat down to discuss the issues with Freight Australia and then Pacific National, we just couldn’t make progress.
“Having purchased the track we’ve been in a position to sit down with the ARTC and expedite these matters.”
Mr Brumby believed the Government had made significant progress in its negotiations with the Australian Rail Track Corporation over the past year.
“I think it’s fair to say that the negotiations have taken longer than anyone wanted,” he said.
“By the same token we wanted to make sure that we got the best outcome.
“I understand too that the timeframe has been a source of frustration for the community but I want to assure you that we are looking toward securing the best outcome for the city and the region for the future.”
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