a separate Victorian Government budget line item allocation for capital & maintenance investment in their freight-only network
shuffling the org chart
spinning off the Standard Gauge freight lines to a separate entityWouldn't this be a half reasonable solution? Not sure what ARTC has in plans for the Oaklands and Portland lines longer term but some sort of package deal akin to the NSW CRN could work there?
I'm pretty sure that ARTC would hand back custody of the Oaklands & Portland lines faster than a father getting a negative paternity test result on Maury Povich if the Victorian Government bought it up as a possibility.
But the real question is not who controls the lines, it is who pays. Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter whose in-house maintenance team or approved rail contractors are running the show, it's who's opening the chequebook.
The above-rail operators won't, because full-cost recovery for grain branchline access fees (and lets face it, the Mildura line too) would be far too onerous in today's grain haulage market on those lines.
The State Government won't, because they're running out of cash for self-funding infrastructure funding and as I mentioned above, bushels of grain don't vote.
Logically the the Feds are really who should be paying for the capital expenditure to rehabilitate the SG (and soon to be SG) branchlines in Victoria. How they do that is the real topic of debate. Direct grants, access fee 'top-up' subsidies, dodgy equity injections to ARTC, a "GWA-in-SA" exclusive operating license model with baked-in line rehabilitation funding thrown in... at this stage it might even be worth trying something weird like looking at a trust model, where there's a large pool of money built up to maintain and rehab these branch lines so that below-rail operators don't have to go looking for grant funding or subsidies on an annual basis.