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THE Murray Basin Rail Project (MBRP) has missed out again on a share of the Federal and Victorian governments' latest round of multi-million-dollar funding.
The governments this week announced a $525.8 million cash splash for road and rail projects across the state, however nothing was allocated to the MBRP.
Member for Mildura Ali Cupper, who has been advocating grants to complete the project, expressed her disappointment that it had been snubbed again.
"This project needs to be completed in full, it's as simple as that," Ms Cupper said.
"It is disappointing to see so much money again being poured into road and rail projects across the state and the Murray Basin Rail Project has been ignored."
More than $300 million of the current package will go towards Victoria's Regional Rail Revival, to upgrade passenger rail services across regional Victoria.
Ms Cupper said Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the funding would better connect Victorians.
Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allen said the investments were building on the government's investment in road and rail.
"But people in the Mildura electorate would rightly question those assertions when the Murray Basin Rail Project continues to sit idle," Ms Cupper said.
"My understanding is the Victoria Government's updated business plan is with the Federal Government, so it's high time they get on with funding the project and finishing it."
The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) said the MBRP was a critical opportunity to fill the rural job void created in Victoria by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The VFF has called on the governments to deliver the project as originally promised.
VFF Grains Group president Ashley Fraser said research conducted by the Grattan Institute highlighted that rural Victoria, and in particular the federal Mallee electorate, had been hit hard by job losses recently.
He said building the project would not only boost rural jobs, but help position agriculture to lead the economic recovery.
"Now, more than ever, the MBRP needs to be delivered as originally promised.
"Rural Victoria is crying out for major infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy and provide much-needed local jobs.
"This is a nation-building project and a no-brainer to give the green light.
"It is also key to unlocking the agricultural potential and prosperity of north-west Victoria and Sunraysia and will help Victorian agriculture and the grains industry lead the nation's economic recovery."
Mr Fraser said the VFF was promised the standardisation of the Sea Lake and Manangatang lines in 2014 and was deeply concerned about the potential impact for farmers and industry in the region if the works were not completed.
"We supported the project as it was slated in 2014 and we support it today, but that support is for the full project as promised, including the standardisation of the Sea Lake and Manangatang lines," he said.
"Failure to standardise the Sea Lake and Manangatang lines would effectively isolate them from the rest of the Victorian and interstate network, including the Inland Rail, which goes against the benefits of the entire project.
"The MBRP was always about growing capacity, improving efficiency and providing better access from Victoria's key grain and horticulture growing regions to major ports.
"We must not lose sight of this and now is the time is now to do the job properly."
This article first appeared on www.sunraysiadaily.com.au
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