Rail disparity bites in the Hume

New rail freight and passenger review finds Victoria’s Goulburn Valley food bowl infrastructure and services drastically under par

Rail disparity bites in the Hume
Rail disparity bites in the Hume

By Anna Game-Lopata | September 15, 2011

A new rail freight and passenger review finds Victoria’s Goulburn Valley food bowl infrastructure and services drastically under par.

The Hume Region Passenger and Freight Rail Review reveals Shepparton is significantly underserviced by both freight and passenger services compared with other parts of the region such as Traralgon and other regional centres such as Geelong and Ballarat.

Commissioned by Regional Development Australia, and undertaken by leading engineering company GHD, the review highlights the urgent need for Shepparton’s rail line to be gauge standardised.

GHD Global Technical Leader Transport Bernard Shepherd, who led the research, says it is vital for the future of Victoria for Shepparton to be connected to the rest of the north east corridor, which is gauge standardised from Seymour to Albury and Benalla to Oaklands in NSW.

The Hume region including Shepparton supplies Victoria and the country with 60 per cent of its agricultural products.

With a broadly diversified economy, the region boasts strengths in manufacturing, food processing, packaging, warehousing, freight and logistics.

Critically, the region lies at a juncture linking the towns and cities of Victoria to national highways, rail freight lines and the Port of Melbourne.

"Shepparton is an extremely important link in the freight network," Shepherd tells SCR.

However currently, the Goulburn Valley town, with its broad gauge line is not connected to the interstate rail network.

"Very few freight operators are willing to use broad gauge," Shepherd claims.

"The substandard state of the infrastructure makes it costly and slow, the availability of rolling stock is minimal and the lack of competition results in poor reliability."

"Overall it’s a very negative situation."

In addition, the GHD Review released in August finds a huge disparity in passenger services between Shepparton and Melbourne compared with other local towns.

For example, while Traralgon has 35 passenger services to and from Melbourne each week day, Shepparton, despite being of similar population and distance only has 11.

Shepherd plans to use a conference to be held in Shepparton tomorrow to call for more passenger services and gauge standardisation to be put on the Victorian government’s immediate agenda.

"Provision could be made in the next state budget and upgrades could take place in the next financial year," he says.

"In doing so, the line will go to both Deniliquin and Tocumwal to pick up the whole Goulburn Valley food-bowl network."

While Shepherd concedes other parts of the interstate network had to take priority, he says Hume region municipalities must lobby the state government to standardise Shepparton’s rail gauge as soon as possible.

Shepherd will tell delegates
at the ‘Reinventing the Regions Series’ run by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), a total conversion to standard gauge is vital for the development of Victoria’s rail freight network.

NSW is currently the only state with a fully standard gauge intrastate network. South Australia is well advanced into the process of resleepering for a complete changeover to standard gauge.

Meanwhile Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania still have partially standard and partially broad or narrow gauge lines.

One of five in the CEDA series, the 'Hume Region –Transitioning for the Future' conference will be held at Shepparton’s Parklake Hotel from 8.30 am
tomorrow, Friday 16 September.

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