Federal funding on track

THE state government has received funding from its federal counterpart for the $1.57 billion Regional Rail Revival program.

The news was part of a wide passenger and freight rail agreement between federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Michael McCormack and state Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan.

“I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for acting quickly, so we can now get on with the job of upgrading track, stations and signalling throughout regional Victoria, to run modern trains and get people home sooner,” Ms Allan said.

The state government also committed to the Inland Rail project, which will provide a direct freight link between Melbourne and Brisbane.

“I’m pleased to reach agreement with Victoria, the first state to get behind Inland Rail which will improve freight travel times for local farmers and producers and support thousands of jobs,” Mr McCormack said.

Work on the Gippsland line began last week, with geological testing beginning on the replacement of the Avon River Bridge.

On Friday, Eastern Victoria MLC Harriet Shing announced work would now be able to ramp up on the Gippsland line upgrade to deliver more frequent and reliable train services that will benefit thousands of passengers each day.

“Now that the Commonwealth has finally paid its debt to Victoria we are getting on with delivering what Gippslanders need — better rail infrastructure and more services to get them to their destinations,” Ms Shing said.

“The $530 million Gippsland line upgrade will deliver more frequent, reliable train services, and will create hundreds of new jobs for our region as the long-awaited works get underway.”

The upgrade will enable much needed extra services on the Gippsland line and allow VLocity trains to run to Bairnsdale for the first time, though a spokesperson for Ms Allan’s office said there were no plans for VLocity stabling in Bairnsdale.

It will also boost safety for motorists and train passengers, with level crossing upgrades and improved train detection between Traralgon and Bairnsdale.

The relocation of Traralgon stabling facilities will house more trains, allowing extra services and a 10 kilometres per hour speed restriction will be removed following the replacement of the Avon River Bridge.

Other upgrades include track duplication to untangle notorious bottlenecks and building additional platforms at Bunyip, Longwarry, Morwell and Traralgon, to deliver more reliable and frequent train services.

More than 400 jobs will be created as part of the Gippsland line upgrade and a local site office will be set up in the Latrobe Valley.

Geotechnical investigations have begun with crews to drilling around 50 boreholes and 120 test pits along the Gippsland line to understand ground conditions and soil quality.

This critical work will inform the design and construction of the project ahead of major work.

Gippsland MHR Darren Chester announced an historic $530 million for Gippsland rail upgrades last year, when he was federal infrastructure and transport minister.

“This is the first time the federal government has invested directly in rail in Gippsland,” Mr Chester said.

The Gippsland funding is part of a wider $1.7 billion Victorian regional rail upgrade, to which the state government is contributing a smaller share of $150 million.

In other rail news, it is expected air conditioning repairs on the diesel fleet which currently services the Bairnsdale line will be completed by 2019, following a prototype program beginning in April.

“The 2017-18 budget provides $12.5 million for additional maintenance to replace end of life expired systems on V/Line classic fleet trains and carriages. V/Line is undertaking air conditioning upgrades as part of this allocation,” a spokesperson said.

No assurances were given about V/Line services being given priority over metropolitan trains once the “Skyrail” project is completed.

“Both V/Line and Metro are working closely to help improve performance on shared sections of the network,” a spokesperson said.

“These works include how we manage disruptions in shared sections of the network, connections between the two control centres to better manage the interface between services at the metropolitan boundary.

“As part of the Andrews Labor government’s new contract with Metro Trains Melbourne, over time V/Line trains expect to have a more reliable pathway when travelling through the metropolitan network.”