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Rail openings stay on track despite runaway costs

<p>The Victorian government has promised to continue reopening rail services in country Victoria, despite cost blowouts revealed by the state Auditor General.</p> <p>An Auditor General’s report into the cost of upgrading the Ararat and Bairnsdale lines tabled in State Parliament has found costs were higher than budgeted.</p> <p>Transport minister Peter Batchelor said while final costs would not be determined until the Ararat line was open, they were expected to be around $32.7m.</p> <p>"We do admit that these projects haven’t been easy," Mr Batchelor said. "It is much harder to reopen railways than it is to shut them down &#8211 particularly in the case of country rail lines that have been closed for the past decade.</p> <p>"But we don’t apologise for additional funds spent to ensure we can run the services safely and reliably.</p> <p>"We remain committed to the reopening of the Mildura and Leongatha lines and we will get on with the job of delivering trains to regional communities."</p> <p>Mr Batchelor said the Mildura line was a key national freight route, and a strong contender to receive Federal funding under the Commonwealth’s Auslink plan.</p> <p>"We have been in discussions with the Commonwealth, and are confident it will recognise the importance of the Mildura line to Australia’s freight industry."</p> <p>However, Mr Batchelor said the possible sale of Freight Australia, which has a 45 year lease over Victoria’s country rail network, could have an impact on future upgrades of regional rail services.</p> <p>The Director of Public Transport is currently examining a sale application from Freight Australia to Pacific National. </p> <p>The sale is conditional on approval from both the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Director of Public Transport. </p> <br />