THE Australian Government last week announced a new $1.52 billion investment in Victorian rail infrastructure, including funding for the Regional Rail Revival package of upgrades on every regional line across Victoria.
The announcement was described as a win by the State Government, who argued that it was owed almost $1.5 billion from the Commonwealth's Asset Recycling Initiative following the long-term lease of the Port of Melbourne in September last year. The State Government announced the Regional Rail Revival package as part of its 2017-18 Budget in May with the expectation it would receive the funding.
The Regional Rail Revival package includes:
- $516.6 million for the Ballarat Line Upgrade already under way, plus an extra $39 million for Stage 2 of the project which will deliver improved services for Ararat and Maryborough.
- More than half-a-billion dollars will be invested on the Gippsland line, with $435 million for major upgrades between Pakenham and Traralgon, and $95 million to replace the Avon River Bridge.
- $110 million for the first stage of the Surf Coast Rail Project, which will prepare the corridor for duplication between South Geelong and Waurn Ponds, while work is undertaken to complete the business case for the duplication. The funding will also reserve land for a future line to Torquay.
- $114 million for the Warrnambool line to upgrade track and signalling to enable more services and new VLocity trains to operate all the way to Warrnambool.
- $140 million for track, signalling and station improvements on the North East Line to Albury
- $91 million for the Bendigo and Echuca Line to support faster trains, an extra daily service to Echuca, and delivery of Bendigo Metro Stage 2 with more services to Epsom and Eaglehawk.
- $10 million to plan for an improved freight network in and around Shepparton.
- More than $20 million for the $440 million Murray Basin Rail Project.
In addition to funding the Regional Rail Revival package, the Commonwealth will also provide $30 million towards a Melbourne Airport rail link, as announced in the recent Federal Budget.
"We ask the Andrews Government to constructively partner with us on the completion of the business plan, providing access to information and officials so that we can get on with this long-overdue project," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement.
The Prime Minister also used the announcement to continue the Coalition's criticism of the State Government for its decision to cancel the East West Link tunnel in Melbourne.
"While Victorians have been left without a road, the Victorian Government is holding approximately $70 million in interest earned from the Commonwealth's $1.5 billion prepayment for the East West Link," Mr Turnbull said.
"We remain committed to the East West Link, and will provide $3 billion to any Victorian Government to deliver this vital project."
Mr Turnbull added that further funding is available for metro and regional rail in Victoria under the $10 billion transformational National Rail Program announced in the recent Federal Budget.
"Victoria will also significantly benefit from the once in a generation $8.4 billion Inland Rail project between Brisbane and Melbourne," he said.
More information about Regional Rail Revival is available from the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources website at <http://economicdevelopment.vic.gov.au/transport/rail-and-roads/public-transport/regional-rail-revival>.