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Funds for rail freight study

By Country News

Northern Victoria’s agricultural production will benefit from better rail freight infrastructure, Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum said when announcing a $900000 study into rail freight for the region.

The Nationals MP was critical of the poor state of the railway infrastructure into Shepparton, because of what he described as the neglect by Labor governments.

‘‘Their performance has been disgraceful over many years,’’ Mr Drum said.

He said about 1.2million tonnes of produce came out of the Goulburn Valley annually.

‘‘We need to ensure that once an inland project gets up and running, the food bowl region here will have access to that.

‘‘Commodities need to find the quickest and easiest way to market.

‘‘This 900000 will be spent quickly as we expect the report to be handed down early next year.

‘‘With upgrades for passenger services under way on the Shepparton line, the aim of the project is to understand the impact this increase in services will have on the current and future freight services on this line.’’

Nationals candidate for Shepparton in the November Victorian election Peter Schwarz said rail freight offered a cheaper and more efficient way of moving bulk commodities like grain.

The announcement was supported by Kreskas Bros transport manager Peter Hill, who said it was in the interests of the valley’s agricultural economy to see integrated, inter-modal transport improved.

He said without further investment the region would see bigger, heavier trucks and more congestion on the roads.

Deputy Prime Minister, Nationals leader and Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Michael McCormack said the project was a key part of the $1.75billion Victorian Regional Rail Revival Package and would help improve the reliability and efficiency of freight rail services across northern Victoria.

‘‘The first stage of the project will undertake planning to identify future investment priorities, including options and staging opportunities to standardise the line,’’ Mr McCormack said.

This is in addition to significant investments being made to improve rail infrastructure across northern Victoria, including $235million to upgrade the north-east line, $81.9million to upgrade the Bendigo and Echuca line and $9million to upgrade the Shepparton line.

Victorian Public Transport and Major Projects Minister Jacinta Allan said the second stage of the project would deliver much-needed upgrades to remove restrictions that affected the ability to transport agricultural produce, particularly grain, to the Port of Melbourne.