Freight rail project needs to be completed, VFF says

By Rodney Woods

The Auditor-General’s assessment of the Murray Basin Rail Project has revealed it is three years behind schedule and 87 per cent of allocated funds have been exhausted, without a completion date in sight.

That is according to VFF president David Jochinke, who is concerned the project has been on hold since mid-2018.

“The MBRP is a once-in-a-generation project to create a fit-for-purpose regional rail network in Victoria and the current COVID-19 pandemic has exposed just how vital transport links are to our food supply,” Mr Jochinke said.

“This is a nation-building project.

“At a time when our economy is in crisis, it is projects like this that are essential to our future prosperity.”

Mr Jochinke said the Murray Basin Rail Project would "reduce transport logistics costs for our industries and primary producers and ensure our rail network can meet the future freight demands of our state".

“The government estimated the MBRP would lift efficiency by 15 per cent and allow for an additional 500 000 tonnes of grain to be transported by rail each year.

“Not only does this project have significance for rural communities with an estimated 280 construction jobs but it is also important for Melburnians who will benefit from fewer trucks on the road, especially to Geelong.

“We want it finished.

“It will get freight off road, reduce road damage and improve road safety as well as getting agricultural exports to port quicker and cheaper.

“Melbourne is getting tens of billions of dollars in transport infrastructure upgrades.

“Regional Victoria just wants its fair share.

“This project is a no-brainer.”