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VICTORIA’s freight network is in decay.
If the state’s freight trains actually run, you can bet they’ve barely left the station before they have to slow down, due to heat, temporary speed restrictions or level crossings.
The thing about that is, it doesn’t actually have to be hot to have heat restrictions; the temporary restrictions aren’t really temporary and; there are dozens of level crossings.
It seems the real restriction is with V/Line’s maintenance budget. Sure, we want a safe rail network, but why should safe mean inefficient?
When a train takes almost three times as long as a truck to get to port, something is wrong.
And while we’re on the topic of the Port of Melbourne, let’s not forget the $10 billion cash injection its privatisation just delivered the state’s coffers.
That is taxpayer money to be invested in projects that deliver returns for the community and the economy. Projects just like the freight network.
Nothing grates quite like a government singing the praises of agriculture and the potential Victoria has to feed and clothe the world, only to realise it has cold-shouldered its share of the infrastructure burden.
We know it’s not sexy but neither are freeways choked up with trucks, farmers without customers, or containers filled with rotting produce.
It’s not just grain — mineral sands, wine, grapes, citrus rely on the network.
The State and Federal Governments have coughed up more than $440 million for the Murray Basin Rail network. That’s good, but it is their job.
If they’re going to continue to do their job properly our leaders need to ensure our money is spent maintaining, and expanding infrastructure.
Otherwise, come election time, they might be stuffed too.
This article first appeared on www.weeklytimesnow.com.au
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