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Batchelor concedes that all options are on the table

<p>The Victorian minister for transport, Peter Batchelor, has conceded that if Freight Australia were to approach the government to transfer back the rail track leases or certain assets, it would be obliged to consider such an offer.</p> <p>Discussions between the parties are proceeding on a broad range of issues, he said last week. </p> <p>The talks centre on access regimes in Victoria, access options and all the attending policy and operational issues. </p> <p>While the question of a buy-back has not yet been addressed formally, discussions are expected to conclude by mid-year, he said.</p> <p>Freight Australia, which is owned by Rail America, bought the former state-owned V&#47Line Freight for $163m in May 1999. </p> <p>The sale included a 45-year lease over the state’s country rail network.</p> <p>The open-access regime has been a long source of dispute, with the company maintaining that that the price third parties pay for using the Victorian track does not allow it to recoup its investment.</p> <p>Mr Batchelor told <em>Lloyd’s List DCN</em> that the present discussions result from a standstill agreement the parties entered into last year as a legal mechanism to help resolve access issues. </p> <p>"Freight Australia was seeking to have a national access regime apply in Victoria so as to upgrade the Victorian access regime," Mr Batchelor said.</p> <p>"As a result of the standstill agreement, we both stepped back from each of us pursuing the course that was underway to enable us to have umbrella discussions."</p> <p>The discussions have been conducted very professionally and that encouraged him, Mr Batchelor said.</p> <p>"It is fair to say that Freight Australia is a key stakeholder in the business here in Victoria," he said. </p> <p>"It is also worth acknowledging that we have a long-term commercial relationship with Freight Australia."</p> <br />