MURRAY BASIN RAIL: West Victoria claims the rail cash

NORTH East Victoria has missed out again in the state’s pre-budget regional rail announcement.

The $220 million Murray Basin rail project, announced in Benalla on Saturday, focuses exclusively on the state’s north west with the upgrade of key freight routes from broad to standard gauge.

It comes after the Albury-Wodonga line last month missed out on a slice of a $40 million program to introduce free wi-fi on V/Line services, amid ongoing track repairs from problems with the line’s own standardisation works.

But Deputy Premier Peter Ryan and the region’s MPs hinted at a rail announcement for the North East ahead of the November state election.

Murray Valley MP Tim McCurdy and Benambra MP Bill Tilley said while there was nothing in the project for the North East, the region was not falling behind in terms of rail infrastructure.

“Absolutely not — we have to get the infrastructure to a certain standard to ensure the passenger service is reliable,” Mr Tilley said.

Mr Ryan, who made the announcement during his address to the Victorian Nationals annual conference, said it was a “transformational” project for all of Victoria that would make moving freight more effective from Mildura to Geelong.

Asked if he anticipated any of the difficulties that have beset the North East’s track standardisation, Mr Ryan firmly said: “There won’t be”.

“The issue this initiative goes to is standardisation of the North West,” he said.

“The issues with the North East line we’ll deal with in the future.

“The North East line is perpetually on the agenda and we will deal with it as and when we are able to do so.”

Mr Ryan said the government would “have more to say” on it before the election.

Mr Tilley said the line’s main issue was that it was already on the standard gauge, not broad gauge like many others, meaning certain services did not suit the line.

“V/Line is working on the future of our rolling stock in particular and our rolling stock has some life left,” he said.

“What we need is more people to have the confidence to use the V/Line service because it is getting better and better.”

Mr McCurdy said while work on the line was not necessarily moving “as quick as we’d like, we’ll get there”.

“It’s just the re-ballastration and that machine is working as fast as it can,” he said.