Federal transport minister Darren Chester in Wangaratta to discuss $100 million for North-East railway upgrade

LET'S DO A DEAL: Federal minister Darren Chester is happy to do a deal with Victorian Government on a North-East rail upgrade.
LET'S DO A DEAL: Federal minister Darren Chester is happy to do a deal with Victorian Government on a North-East rail upgrade.

FEDERAL transport and infrastructure minister Darren Chester has urged Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to cease the theatrics and concentrate on the task at hand of fixing the troublesome North-East rail line.

Mr Chester visited the Premier's hometown of Wangaratta on Monday and pleaded with his government to come to the negotiating table so a start could be made on the long-awaited improvements.

The federal government announced as part of last week's budget that $100 million was available to fix the Melbourne to Albury line.

But the funding commitment was immediately criticised by the Labor state government as falling short of the mark.

“Right now I think we are a long way apart,” Mr Chester said.

“All I've had since last Tuesday is vitriol from the Victorian Premier.

“He needs to calm down and start acting more maturely and sit down with us.

“I'm a pragmatic person and I'm ready to work with them.”

The federal government committed $500 million to upgrades to regional rail lines including the North-East and the one in Mr Chester's own electorate of Gippsland.

“It is completely ridiculous to think the federal government is going to pay for all his rail upgrades and he is not going to put any money on the table,” Mr Chester said.

“There is no such thing as a free ride.

“My door is open to meet with Victorian ministers or the Premier any day.”

He acknowledged if $100 million already available wasn't enough he would consider providing more, but the priority needed to be action.

“It's a good start,” he said.

“But I don't expect it to be the end of the story.

“If it comes back that more is required I am open to that conversation.

“There are lot of moving parts in this and we need to be working together constructively and not yelling abuse at each other.”

Mr Andrews has been approached for comment.

Mr Chester said he had confidence in the Australian Rail Track Corporation being able to fix the problems despite failed previous attempts.

“I would acknowledge that ARTC has had some problems in the past in terms of the maintenance work that has occurred on the track,” he said.

“But I'm confident they've overcome that. They have my full confidence.

“What we need to see now is the ARTC sit down with the appropriate V/Line people and the two ministers at state and federal level negotiating on the total quantum of money available and let's get on with the job.”