The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) has called for the Murray Basin Rail Project (MBRP) to be delivered as originally promised.
VFF Grains Group President Ashley Fraser said that the delivery of upgrades to regional rail lines in the north-west of the state would be a critical for the region to come out of coronavirus (COVID-19).
“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,” he said.
“This project 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.”
The MBRP has been stalled since funds ran out and a dispute between V/Line and the contractor increased costs. Stage one of the project is complete, however stage two is only partially complete, with further stages unclear.
A new business case has been submitted by the Victorian government to the federal government for funding, however a decision is yet to be made.
Fraser said that farmers and industry needed the Sea Lake and Manangatang lines to be standardised.
“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.”
The two lines are currently remnants of Victoria’s broad gauge network, which requires freight to be swapped from broad gauge to standard gauge to get past Maryborough and access the ports of Melbourne, Geelong, and Portland. Standardising these lines would also future-proof Victoria’s rail network, said Fraser.
“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,” said Fraser.
“The Murray Basin Rail Project 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.”