After data showed that the Rainbow-Dimboola line had carried 33 return freight services and 66,000 tonnes of grain since it was reopened in April, the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) is calling on governments to upgrade regional freight lines.
VFF grains group president Ashley Fraser said that the grains industry in the Wimmera and Mallee regions had a high demand for rail freight.
“We know the demand is there, industry knows the demand is there and here is the government’s data demonstrating the demand is there. All that is required is a willingness to get on with the job,” said Fraser.
Freight demand in Victoria is expected to triple by 2051 and rail is seen as vital to take a greater share of this demand.
“The government should heed their own message in this case – improvements to Victoria’s regional rail freight network will take trucks off roads resulting in lower freight costs and better road maintenance and safety outcomes,” said Fraser.
So far, major upgrades to the network of freight lines which connect Victoria’s agricultural regions to its ports have stalled since the halting of the Murray Basin Rail Project. A bumper grain crop in 2020 and calls for infrastructure funding to boost COVID-19 affected economies are driving demands for the project to be restarted.
Funding for regional rail improvements was part of the Victorian government’s COVID-19 stimulus package, however focused on resleepering existing lines, rather than opening new lines or gauge conversions.
Fraser said that now was the time for the Victorian government to act and these projects would have the support of farmers.
“If the Victorian government build it, absolutely, the trains will come.”