I asked the Minister for Transport Infrastructure to fix and finish the Murray Basin Rail Project. Media Release – https://rodbarton.com.au/fix-and-finish-mu…
Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (12:28): My question is to Minister Pulford representing the Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan. The Murray Basin rail project was heralded as a project that would shift freight services from road to rail and remove some 20 000 truck trips from our roads to ports, improving safety for regional communities, driving economic growth and jobs and giving a boost to our agricultural sector and our rural communities. It was supposed to be completed at the end of last year. Recently I met with the Rail Freight Alliance, who are concerned that now, more than halfway through 2019, the project has not even made it to the halfway point and is on hold until it can be rescoped and a commitment for further funding from the federal government is secured. So I ask the minister: what is the commitment to rural and regional Victorians to get the Murray Basin rail project fixed and finished to the original scope?
Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Roads, Minister for Road Safety and the TAC, Minister for Fishing and Boating) (12:29): Thank you, President, and I thank Mr Barton for his question and for his interest in this important project. I can certainly provide an assurance to Mr Barton that our government is very committed to achieving the best possible outcomes for the communities of rural and regional Victoria. In recognition of that, we have committed to the delivery of this project as well as many, many other significant investments for rural Victorian communities. I will seek a written response from Minister Allan in accordance with our standing orders.
Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (12:30): Thank you, Minister. Currently stage 2 of the project is incomplete, with automated signalling on the Ararat interchange not operational. This means many sections of track along the section have speeds which reach as low as 40 kilometres an hour and freight trains from Merbein must travel an additional 130 kilometres via Ararat to get to Geelong or Melbourne. These delays are hurting Victoria’s primary producers, who already pay up to 30 per cent of their cost getting their product to port. I ask the minister: what will she do to ensure stage 2 of the project is completed swiftly to alleviate delays and the increased costs faced because of these delays by the agricultural sector?
Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Roads, Minister for Road Safety and the TAC, Minister for Fishing and Boating) (12:30): I thank Mr Barton for his supplementary question. I understand the issues that he has raised and the very strong desire of many communities in Victoria to see the completion of this project. I will seek a written response from the responsible minister for you.