Big budget wish list

MORE train services to Sale and Bairnsdale, an upgraded rail track, and a definite timetable to complete the Traralgon-Sale highway duplication, are key projects on Gippsland local governments’ ‘wish list’ for this year’s State Budget.

The Gippsland Local Government Network has also called for a $500,000 grant to fund a Gippsland rail freight corridor development study, including an assessment of options for connection to the Port of Hastings.

The priorities were set out by the network’s chair, Wellington Shire mayor, Scott Rossetti, in GLGN’s submission to the 2014-15 Victorian State Budget.

GLGN consists of the municipalities of Wellington, East Gippsland, Latrobe City, South Gippsland, Bass Coast and Baw Baw.

The driving force behind the priorities was the need to upgrade road and rail infrastructure to cope with the growth in population and the economy in Gippsland.

Key requests included:

A clear delivery timetable to complete the Traralgon-Sale duplication.

Eliminate road crossings between Nar Nar Goon and Longwarry to improve road safety and bolster freight efficiency.

Start the business case for a Traralgon bypass.

Identify preferred alignments for Sale and Bairnsdale alternate truck routes.

Extend the National Network (Princes Highway corridor) from Sale to the Port of Eden.

Cr Rossetti said the submission endorsed projects in V/Line’s investment plan.

For a $10 million investment in infrastructure and $8 million operating costs a year, a crossing loop can be provided near Sale and additional stabling can be provided at Bairnsdale. This work, which also requires a second platform at Traralgon, would allow four to five return services per day.

An investment of $46 million in infrastructure and $60 million in rolling stock more trains would upgrade the track to class two with signalised sidings.

This cost would include the upgrade of 16 passive crossings and 24 crossings with flashing lights to boom barriers.

These changes, the submission said, would allow the conversion of services to V/Locity vehicles and 130 kph operation (160 kph within the Regional Fast Rail area).

New rolling stock to increase the number of services and passengers would cost $105 million.

The submission underlined the need for the $500,000 to fund a freight planning study. Gippsland’s has a 260,000 population and a gross regional product estimated at $13.3 billion, driven by agriculture, forestry, mining, manufacturing, energy, construction and service sectors.

The regional freight task was estimated to have substantially risen to 24 million tonnes per annum from 16 million tonnes in 2001.

The submission said the Port of Hastings had the potential to handle bulk trades from Gippsland. Victoria’s freight plan envisaged a likely rail connection to the port parallel to the Western Port Highway.

“Preliminary analysis has shown that, if introduced with capacity improvements on the Gippsland line between Pakenham and Dandenong, up to 8 million tonnes of freight could be transported from Gippsland via a new Dandenong to Hastings rail line,” the submission said.

“The study would include a focus on future freight links to the Port of Hastings.”