Calls for regional rail upgrades

Latrobe City Council wants the State Government to increase the allocation of funding to upgrade the regional rail network “so regional businesses, importers and exporters can get greater access to the Port of Melbourne”.

It will put this motion to the Municipal Association of Victoria state council meeting on 23 October.

Documents noting the rationale for the motion state there is currently a substantial price differential between the cost of moving a container via rail compared with truck.

“For example, the cost to move a container through the port facilities to a vessel on rail can vary from $85-$100, whereas the same container delivered on a truck is $10-$15,” the document stated.

Councillor Peter Gibbons said council had been asking the government to take away this price differential so “any exporter interested in developing some major industry is not put in a disadvantageous position in regards to transport options”.

“Employment is the biggest issue in the Latrobe Valley and if we are going to (address) that, then we need export routes out of the city,” Cr Gibbons said.

“If you’re talking about millions of tonnes (of goods) then the only (thing) that can do that is rail.”

The motion rationale stated “rather than have all of the funds directed to the upgrading of level crossings in urban Melbourne, a portion of these funds should be directed to upgrading the regional rail network that supports the goods movement to the port facilities by regional businesses”.

A State Government spokesperson said the decision not to proceed with the proposal for a port-rail shuttle was made under the previous government.

“The port-rail shuttle is one concept that may lead to improved rail modal share at the Port of Melbourne but there are a range of other potential initiatives,” the spokesperson said.

“The Victorian Government will pursue these in conjunction with the Port of Melbourne lease transaction.

“The successful bidder will be required to protect rail corridors inside the port, consider rail modal options during the lease term and pursue one if agreed with government.”

They said following the successful passage of the Port of Melbourne lease legislation through Parliament, the government would also establish a $200 million fund to “support investment in agricultural infrastructure and supply chains to boost productivity, increase exports and reduce costs so our farmers, businesses and industries can stay competitive”.

The spokesperson said the state budget included $257 million for 21 new regional carriages and more than $2 billion to remove 20 of Victoria’s worst level crossings, including nine on the Dandenong corridor.

“The Dandenong corridor services key regional freight and passenger rail lines from Gippsland, so removing every level crossing will enable more V/Line and freight services from the Latrobe Valley,” they said.

The state budget also included $10 million for the Gippsland Logistics Precinct.