Study into rail freight

By Geoff Adams

Shepparton’s food producers including SPC would benefit from better rail freight infrastructure, Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum said when announcing a $900 000 study into rail freight for the region yesterday.

He said about 1.2 million tonnes of produce came out of the Goulburn Valley annually.

‘‘We need to ensure that once an inland rail project gets up and running, the food bowl region here will have access to that.

‘‘This $900 000 will be spent quickly as we expect the report to be handed down early next year.

‘‘With upgrades for passenger services under way on the Shepparton line, the aim of the project is to understand the impact this increase in services will have on the current and future freight services on this line.’’

The announcement was supported by Kreskas Bros transport manager Peter Hill, who said it was in the interests of the valley’s agricultural economy to see integrated, inter-modal transport improved.

He said without further investment the region would see bigger, heavier trucks and more congestion on the roads.

SPC logistics manager, Christian Lecompte, said getting freight from Shepparton to the Melbourne Port in the most efficient way, was critical for SPC’s export plans.

Deputy Prime Minister, Nationals leader and Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Michael McCormack said the project was a key part of the $1.75 billion Victorian Regional Rail Revival Package and would help improve the reliability and efficiency of freight rail services across northern Victoria.

‘‘The first stage of the project will undertake planning to identify future investment priorities, including options and staging opportunities to standardise the line,’’ Mr McCormack said.

This is in addition to significant investments being made to improve rail infrastructure across northern Victoria, including $235 million to upgrade the north-east line, $81.9 million to upgrade the Bendigo and Echuca line and $9 million to upgrade the Shepparton line.

Victorian Public Transport and Major Projects Minister Jacinta Allan said the second stage of the project would deliver much-needed upgrades to remove restrictions that affected the ability to transport agricultural produce, particularly grain, to the Port of Melbourne.