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Historic standard gauge rail link to proceed



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HISTORIC STANDARD GAUGE RAIL LINK TO PROCEED

Funding for the historic conversion of the Melbourne-Adelaide rail link to standard gauge will proceed following an agreement between the Federal and Victorian governments.

The Federal Government will provide funds to conve rt the main rail line, while the Victorian Government will finance the integration of associated grain lines.

This assurance follows a joint announcement by Federal and State Transpo rt Ministers, Bob Brown and Alan Brown, which was released today.

State Minister Alan Brown said the standardisation of the main broad-gauge line would reinforce Melbourne's position as the transport hub of Australia.

'Our $20 million commitment to enable conversion of grain lines to standard gauge will clear the way for the Federal Government to proceed with the $153 million standardisation. Of this sum, $118 million will be spent on the Victorian section of the Melbourn e-Adelaide link', Mr Alan Brown said.

Federal Land Transport Minister, Bob Brown, welcomed the decision and congratulated the Victorian Government for its commitment to a major national initiative. n

'The decision represents a clear determination by the Victorian Government to lock itself into the future of rail transport . In the light of severe financial difficulties, which it inherited, the Victorian Government decision to commit $20 million for the branch lines represents an important step in State development and Victoria's place in the Australian transport network', Mr Bob Brown said.

Both Ministers said they were keen to see an early commencement of trackwork. A ll work would be completed within two years.

Mr Bob Brawn said a Commonwealth condition for the release of further One Nation U funding had been an acceptance by rail unions of National Rail's enterprise agreement.

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Negotiations on this agreement are almost complete. I am. confident that the parties will finalise the few remaining matters quickly so that construction can start and, more importantly, jobs can be created', Mr Bob Brown said.

'Up to 4000 jobs will flow from the Commonwealth spending'.

Mr Bob Brown said much detailed planning of the project had been completed.

'Standardisation of this section of the national rail network will complete the "missing link" in the standard-gauge network linking intermodal rail freight terminals and ports of the mainland State capitals and Alice Springs', Mr Bob Brown said.

'It will allow direct freight services between Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth without the need for gauge changes in Melbourne and Adelaide. Faster transit times on the Melbourne-Perth link will enable National Rail to compete more effectively with road transport on the east-west route. This will also allow savings in travel time, in operation

of rolling stock and labour costs'.

He said the new line via Geelong would include a new line dedicated exclusively to freight through suburban Melbourne.

'By separating National Rail and passenger train services in this way, the efficiency of freight operations will be maximised', Mr Bob Brown said.

Works associated with the standardisation will boost the construction industry. In addition to the manufacture of concrete sleepers and the transport of rail and raw materials, there will be a demand for other construction components', he said.

Contact Minister's Office: Margaret Robson (06) 277 7440