Train passengers have been promised “a better ride” after the federal government approved the scope of works for the $235 project to fix the North East rail line.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack was in Albury on Thursday to make the announcement, but Victorian Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan was notably absent, with the Victorian government yet to be convinced train passengers will be looked after during works.
Although the scope of works has not been released publicly, Mr McCormack said the track upgrade would allow VLocity trains to travel at 130km/h.
“It’s to actually get commuters to their destinations sooner and safer. We’re happy to work with the Victorian government to achieve just that,” he said.
“These sorts of works don’t come cheaply and of course there has to be community consultation, there has to be engineering works, but we’ve done the scope of works now.”
Works are scheduled to start in March 2019, after tenders are awarded, and be completed by 2021.
He said although he was delighted by last week’s $19 billion election promise from the Victorian Opposition to build a rail link with trains reaching 200km/h, the current works would still take the track to class 2, not the class 1 required for high-speed rail.
“If the Victorian Liberals want to spend that amount of money, then we’ll be happy to work with them to seeing that achieved, but at the moment this is what we’ve announced,” Mr McCormack said.
Ms Allan said she was pleased the money would flow to the project, even if the announcement was made in NSW after the Victorian government fought for funding.
“We haven’t signed off on the scope as of yet as we want to ensure that North East line passengers are the priority as the works are carried out,” she told The Border Mail.
“The devil will be in the detail, and the Andrews Labor Government will make sure this delivers exactly what was promised: a better track for North East locals that can run modern VLocity trains.”
Australian Rail Track Corporation national assets manager Brian Green revealed the rail line would be closed for three days in March or April to install “turnouts” so trains could use one side of the dual track during works to minimise further disruption.
But he could not confirm if passengers would be stuck on replacement buses after that point.
“We’re certainly working with the Victorian agencies to prevent that,” he said.
Mr Green said all the mudholes which have caused problems on the line would be removed with an undercutter, working beneath the tracks before new ballast was added.
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