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A PASSENGER train from Mildura to Maryborough would operate at a profit "almost immediately", according to Member for Northern Victoria Tim Quilty.
The Liberal Democrats member said he had received a report from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) which revealed a passenger train from Mildura to Maryborough would cost just $22 million over three years from 2020-21 to 2023-24.
Mr Quilty commissioned the report from the independent PBO to cost a shuttle service running three times a week from Mildura to Maryborough and connecting with existing services to Melbourne. The costing includes regauging an existing train for the standard gauge line and upgrading shuttered stations at Ouyen, Woomelang, Birchip, Donald, and St Arnaud.
He claimed $22 million would be "a small price to pay" compared to billions of dollars for transport expenditure in and around Melbourne announced in this year's state budget.
"It's peanuts. To put this in perspective, the total amount announced this year for fast trains to Geelong was roughly 100 times more," Mr Quilty said.
"Money allocated to Melbourne trams this year was 70 times more. Let's not even try to work out how this compares to the billions being spent on the cross-city tunnel, let alone the suburban rail loop.
"This will be a huge shot in the arm for northern and western Victoria and reintroduce a great train journey to the people of Melbourne.
Member for Mildura Ali Cupper said regardless of whether a passenger service was profitable, it was an essential service long denied to the people of Sunraysia.
"I have never regarded a passenger rail service as a profit-making exercise, it is there as an essential service. Primary schools don't run at a profit, but they are kind of important. Same as hospitals," Ms Cupper said.
"The idea that we have a plane and we should get over is completely out of touch and insulting. Flights are expensive, families can't afford it.
"The lack of connection has caused so much pain for our community and it needs to be addressed. That is not mentioning the economic opportunities such as tourism that we would unblock.
"And keep in mind that this is not a Springfield monorail pie in the sky idea, this is about a passenger train and one of the first roles of government is to provide connection to a major city. There is one region that doesn't have a passenger train and that is us."
Mr Quilty said he wanted to work with Ms Cupper and build an alliance of northern and western Victorian MPs who will together bring trains back to the Mildura line.
"It is good to see any parliamentary colleague with that platform to promote would be an incredible asset," Ms Cupper said.
This article first appeared on www.sunraysiadaily.com.au
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