Coal, rail top tabled strategy

Visions for Latrobe Valley’s brown coal and rail futures were among a host of plans for the state when Infrastructure Victoria tabled its final 30-year infrastructure strategy in Parliament on Thursday.

Included in the report were recommendations around transitioning away from brown coal and the potential for improvements to Gippsland’s rail network.

In advocating for a substantial decrease in reliance on brown-coal, the report says “impacts on communities in the Latrobe Valley will require careful consideration”.

It suggests developing policy within five years to abandon brown coal energy generation to help hit greenhouse gas reduction targets and provide clarity to the industry and community.

Placing environmental standards on coal generation licences and a reverse auction process for coal generation were among the policy mechanisms for investigation.

The report states the impending Hazelwood closure contributed to a cloudy future for Victorian energy generators.

“The announcement of the closure of Hazelwood power station in November 2016 demonstrates in part the influence of environmental standards on the brown coal industry,” it said.

“It is unclear what the long-term future of brown coal energy generators in Victoria will be.”

The strategy also recommends State Government should explore the need for a regional eastern rail link, including the possibility of additional tracks to increase capacity along the Dandenong rail corridor.

“It is likely this extra capacity will be required in the latter part of the 15-30 year period or potentially beyond 30 years,” the report states.

“One solution could involve the construction of additional tracks along the corridor to support demand for increased rail services from the southeast of Melbourne and Gippsland.

“However, this is a particularly high cost solution and further network planning is required.”

There were a number of other recommendations for the Gippsland region.

They included maintaining regional state and local roads, regional highway upgrades, regional rail upgrades, additional long distance rail services to Bairnsdale, new and expanded regional buses and coach services, delivering onsite community facilities on state school grounds and improvements for internet and mobile phone coverage.