Victoria has become the first state to sign a Bilateral Agreement in relation to Inland Rail.
The agreement – signed by Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Michael McCormack, and Victorian Minister for Public Transport and Major Projects, Jacinta Allan – includes a commitment to negotiate a new long-term lease with the Australian Rail Track Corporation and to support the extension of the corridor to accommodate any changes to the North East Rail Line alignment required to support the delivery of Inland Rail.
On completion, the Inland Rail Project will create a direct rail freight connection between Melbourne and Brisbane capable of moving double stacked freight containers.
Inland Rail will deliver almost $7 billion in additional state gross product through construction and in the first 50 years of operation.
Mr McCormack said this was a great step forward on a project that will create jobs and investment opportunities throughout regional Victoria.
“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.
“Once complete, Inland Rail will create thousands of jobs nationwide and return $16 billion to the national economy during the delivery phase and the first 50 years of operation.”
While the Inland Rail Project is a freight project, both governments acknowledge the North East Rail Line is currently used for both passenger and freight services and that this mixed use is intended to continue.
Ms Allan thanked the Deputy Prime Minister for acting quickly to release the funds which will provide much needed upgrades to every regional rail line, through the Regional Rail Revival program.
“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 works will be delivered under the Regional Rail Revival Program that will provide an upgrade to every regional passenger rail line in Victoria.
Planning and defining the scope of works has already begun to ensure these projects meet the transport needs of passengers and regional communities, and the Victorian and Australian Governments reaching agreement on the first stage of works, with some work already underway.
As part of the Regional Rail Revival program, a joint Victorian Government and Commonwealth Government steering committee was established to look at the work needed to upgrade the North East Line.
The steering committee resolved the $100 million committed was not enough to upgrade the track to run new modern trains, therefore the Commonwealth Government will contribute an additional $135 million to upgrade the track to at least a class two standard.
“I am also pleased that in addition to the $1.57 billion Regional Rail Revival package, the Commonwealth will increase its contribution by $135 million to upgrade the North East Rail Line to a class two standard to allow faster, modern trains and give communities along the North East line the services they expect and deserve,” Ms Allan said
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) welcomed the news.
“This is much welcomed news to the rail industry that an agreement has been reached between the Commonwealth and Victorian Government’s showing their commitment to the Inland Rail project,” said Danny Broad, CEO, ARA.
“In Victoria alone the Inland Rail project will create 2800 jobs at its peak and will reduce the transit time between Melbourne and Brisbane to under 24 hours, carrying for the first time double-stacked, 1800m trains from Melbourne to Brisbane.
“The rail industry eagerly anticipates construction commencing this year so we can realise the benefits for the supply chain.
“Industry backs the route that has been determined, backed up by detailed studies and community engagement and we are committed to next steps.
“It’s the best balance between economic, community and environmental considerations.
“Inland Rail meets the requirements of the logistics industry’s supply chain demands for a road competitive freight link between Melbourne and Brisbane in under 24 hours.
“The ARA recognises and supports the ARTC’s efforts to work with landowners and communities along the alignment to deliver the project.
“We are committed to the Inland Rail Project and are working with the Australian Logistics Council, with support from the ARTC and Parkes Shire in delivering the Inland Rail Conference on 18 and 19 July (2018)”.
The Victorian Government has committed to purchase new trains for the corridor once works on the track are complete.
The Regional Rail Revival program will deliver more frequent, reliable services and will support over 1000 jobs.