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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Not towing the line

A rail line upgraded at a cost of $7.2 million to provide a more efficient freight route to port still is not up to speed nearly four months after it was opened.

DARREN LINTON January 24, 2014 5:38am

Flashback: The News story about the reopening of the Echuca-to-Toolamba railway line on October 4 last year.


The 67km Echuca-to-Toolamba rail line was opened to freight on October 3.

The route was primarily for rice exporter SunRice as a more efficient route than the Bendigo line.

But almost immediately problems emerged and the company stopped using it because of a 30km/h speed restriction.

SunRice yesterday confirmed it did use the line for three weeks while works were being done on the Bendigo line.

‘‘SunRice can confirm it has been using the Echuca-to-Toolamba rail line for freight transport over the Christmas and New Year period,’’ a spokesperson said.

‘‘However, negotiation is still being undertaken by the track owners and freight providers to secure access to the line on a more permanent basis.’’

The News understands freight is being shunted through Bendigo again because the route remains more efficient, despite the multimillion-dollar expenditure to upgrade the Echuca-to-Toolamba section.

Key issues remain the operational problems on the Echuca-to-Toolamba section and the difficulty meeting the restrictive train slots on the busy Seymour-to-Melbourne corridor.

Acting Victorian Transport Minister David Hodgett said the Echuca-to-Toolamba rail line was reopened to provide a more efficient alternative freight route to V/Line’s busy Bendigo-to-Southern Cross line where passenger and freight trains competed for access.

‘‘It also provides an alternative route for SunRice to continue to develop new export markets using very tall containers,’’ Mr Hodgett said.

He said SunRice had committed to repaying to the Victorian Government half of the project cost by way of special access charges.

‘‘The line will represent very good value for government when the current issues have been resolved,’’ Mr Hodgett said.

‘‘Post-implementation works undertaken by V/Line last year including improved signage and vegetation clearance at level crossings were included in the initial project cost.

‘‘The current speed limit is economic for the rail operator and is appropriate for the level crossings on the line.

‘‘Determining suitable train paths is a complex issue for both the Seymour to Melbourne segment and the metropolitan train network and we are continuing to work with V/Line and Metro Trains on this matter.

‘‘Freight traffic from Deniliquin does not use the Regional Rail Link corridor.’’

 

Shadow Minister for Freight and Logistics Natalie Hutchins MP was critical the line was not delivering the intended efficiency and productivity gains.

‘‘This decision by the Napthine Government to waste $7million on an unused freight line is more about politics than productivity,’’ she said.

‘‘Questions need to be asked whether there was an appropriate ‘cost benefit analysis’ done before the Napthine Government made its expensive decision.’’

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