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The Federal Government has announced a whopping $320 million to fund stage three of the Shepparton Rail Line upgrade as part of Tuesday’s budget.
The funding will join the $356 million invested by the state government in the project, which has seen completion of stage one of the upgrade, with stage two about to start.
The Victorian Government will also contribute an additional $7.5 million for the business case, and $80 into the stage three upgrade.
But the big question remains: when will Shepparton commuters get their speedy trip to Melbourne?
The Federal Government indicates it could be late-2023 when stage three is completed.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED SO FARStage one has been completed, which saw an extra 10 train services run a week, as well as extra coach services to Seymour.
Stage two – which is said to start soon – will allow VLocity trains to run on the line through platform extensions at Mooroopna, Murchison East and Nagambie, 59 level crossing upgrades and a “business case” to figure out the costs of delivering nine return services to Shepparton each day.
This stage is said to be finished in late-2022.
Stage three will see signalling and “additional upgrades” to allow nine services a day to run to and from Shepparton at a max speed of 130km/h.
Stage two will see the introduction of VLocity trains, which Rail Futures president John Hearsch said are “better, newer and more comfortable”.
It has been a while coming for Shepparton, as Ballarat got them in 2005, Geelong in 2009 and Bendigo in 2018.
But Mr Hearsch said train times would not be increased until the track was upgraded to allow the trains to travel at higher speeds.
“They might be a few minutes faster after stage two, but track speeds are not being increased until stage three.”
WHEN WILL TRIPS BE FASTER?
The Federal Government has indicated stage three would start in late-2021 and finish late-2023, which would mean it would overlap with stage two works, essentially fast-tracking the project.
It means Shepparton could see under two hour trips to Melbourne in three years time.
The Goulburn Valley News understands the $320 million was calculated from a Victorian Government preliminary business case, but we won’t know more about the specific works until the business case is finalised.
WHAT EVERYONE IS SAYING
Independent Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed hailed the funding as “absolutely transformational” for the region.
“The Shepparton rail project will play an important role both at a national and state level to lead recovery and support employment in the region,” she said.
Federal Minister for Nicholls, Damian Drum and Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell also welcomed the funding was welcomed and the 990 jobs the project would create in the region.
But Mr Drum said it was an example of the commonwealth “bailing” the state government out.
“Looks like it’s only going to progress because the federal government is going to pay for the vast majority of it,” he said.
Mr Hearsch said joint commonwealth and state funding on rail projects was “not unusual”, and was looking forward to future discussions about fast rail, which would see 200km/hr trains from regional cities to Melbourne.
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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