The Victorian Government says a business case into standardising the freight network from Mildura to Geelong will be completed by the end of the year.
The Murray Basin Rail Project will convert existing broad gauge tracks to a standard gauge, bringing rail networks in Victoria's west into line with key freight networks across the country.
Construction on the project is expected to be completed by 2018; $41 million dollars in rail maintenance will be spent in the project's first stage for ageing tracks from Mildura to Maryborough and from Hopetoun to Murtoa.
View the full story
The Victorian Government says the plan to standardise Mildura's rail network opens the way for the return of the passenger train, although there is no formal committment on their part to do this.
But Mr Crisp says the standard gauge has always been a pre-requisite to getting a passenger train to return to the region.
"A sustainable passenger train service for Mildura is one that is on a successful freight line, and a successful freight line is a standardised line," he says.
"So, by doing this we are making sure that we keep passenger [rail] open as an option for the future of Mildura."
On what basis does Peter Crisp contend that a standard gauge line is a pre-requisite for a passenger train? Once upon a time we had a previous Transport Minister (Peter Batchelor) suggest that it was not possible to run passenger services on standard gauge. Whilst I don't agree with this latter proposition, I would have thought converting the Mildura line to standard gauge would have made the reintroduction of a passenger service more difficult.