Cash to fix rough sections of track between Albury-Wodonga and Melbourne

A $100 million upgrade to the North East rail line, funded in the federal budget, could finally provide the end to frustration and delays on the troubled tracks.

The inland rail project and national rail plan were two of the Infrastructrure Department's big ticket items for 2017-18.

Budget papers described Victoria's $1 billion allocation from the additional $10 billion fund as aiming to "reduce travel times and improve transport connections between regional centres and metropolitan Melbourne".

The department confirmed money would be provided to the Australian Rail Track Corporation to repair problems including mudholes and aging steel materials on the North East track, raising the standard of the line.

Investment in North East Victoria made up 20 per cent of the $500 million spent on the whole of regional Australia.

Some of the $100 million would be spent on planning, but most would go into the physical works.

The break-through cash injection was confirmed in the budget on Tuesday night and is one of the biggest investments in the region since the $524 million Albury-Wodonga internal freeway.

It will be used to fix rough sections of the track between Albury and Melbourne and once complete will eliminate the need for speed restrictions.

The budget confirmed the $8.4 billion inland rail project would go through Albury, Wodonga, Indigo and Wangaratta using the existing track, but specific stops along the way had not been determined.

The Infrastructure Department indicated in Senates Estimates earlier this year the cost of fixing the North East line could be more than $100 million.

Budget paper's described Tuesday's announcement as one of the "initial investments".

The project included a a 1700-kilometre freight corridor between Brisbane and Melbourne, to be built by the ARTC, which trains could complete in less than 24 hours - a 10-hour reduction on current times.

BUDGET WINS: Treasurer Scott Morrison at Parliament House on Tuesday said he wanted regional communities "to take control of their own economic future" with funding announcements. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

BUDGET WINS: Treasurer Scott Morrison at Parliament House on Tuesday said he wanted regional communities "to take control of their own economic future" with funding announcements. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Treasurer Scott Morrison described the project as "one of the biggest investments ever seen in regional Australia" and said investing in rail would support growth.

"The Turnbull government will establish a $10 billion national rail program to deliver rail projects that provide better connections for our cities and regions, and create new opportunities to grow our economy," he said.

"It is important to invest in infrastructure, but we have to make the right choices on projects as part of a broader economic strategy."

Allowing freight trains to be double-stacked on the rail line for the first time would double their capacity, which the government estimated would result in 200,000 less truck movements along the corridor each year.

"It will improve access to markets, increasing export opportunities for manufactured products, agricultural commodities and mineral resources," the budget papers stated.

"It will also improve the productivity of the national land freight network, reducing transport costs for regional agricultural producers and consumers."

Work on sections of the track in central NSW was expected to begin during the 2017-18 financial year, but the Infrastructure Department could not confirm a start date for the North East upgrade because it would involve negotiations with the Victorian government.

The budget included a $500 million commitment for regional rail passengers in Victoria - less than the $1.45 billion the Victorian government included in its state budget last week for train projects, which was entirely dependent on federal money it said was owed as a result of the sale of the Port of Melbourne.

High speed rail also remained on the federal agenda with $20 million allocated "to partner with proponents to develop business cases for three projects that would deliver faster connections between major cities and major regional centres".

Darren Chester experienced first-hand the frustrations of North East rail passengers during a trip to the area in April.

Darren Chester experienced first-hand the frustrations of North East rail passengers during a trip to the area in April.

Federal Transport and Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester’s funding commitment immediately turns the pressure back on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to bankroll new trains for the North East line.

Mr Chester recently experienced first-hand the track’s problems and said the Coalition government had responded.

“Our federal money is on the table,” he said.

“It’s now time for Daniel Andrews to come good on his promise to provide modern trains for people in North East Victoria.

“These upgrades to the North East line will improve train punctuality, reliability and provide a better experience for passengers.

“I have recently travelled the line and I understand how frustrating the service has been to the local community.

“The Coalition has listened to the concerns of people in the Seymour, Benalla, Wangaratta, Wodonga and Albury regions, and we’re making good on our commitment to upgrade rail services in the North East.

“Locals want to use the train more often, but currently can’t always rely on the service.”