Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan

THE wait for funds to improve Victorian rail network is over, with deputy prime minister Michael McCormack and Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan signing off on two major projects last week.

The state government’s promised Regional Rail Revival program will become a reality after Ms Allan and Mr McCormack signed off on a bilateral agreement to make Victoria the first state to sign up for the Inland Rail program.

That agreement will see the $1.7 billion in funds for the Regional Rail Revival Program begin to flow into the state’s coffers at a time that bodes well for the Labor party heading into this year’s state election.

The funds were previously held by the federal government under the asset recycling scheme after the sale of the Port of Melbourne.

The project’s history, nearly a year after it was first announced, is an indifferent one. Labor committed to it in May, determined to secure the funding Ms Allan said “belongs to Victoria”.

Ms Allan said this month she had previously reached a heads of agreement with former federal infrastructure minister Darren Chester, who was pushed out of the role by Barnaby Joyce in a cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Joyce was then deposed as Nationals leader, with the portfolio shifting to new deputy prime minister Mr McCormack, who agreed to release the funding late last week.

The project has major benefits for the Gippsland and north-east corridors in particular – Gippsland will see $530 million in much-needed improvements.

Services to Echuca will be the main beneficiary of $91 million of Bendigo line works under the program, with track and sleeper upgrades to allow services between Echuca and Epsom operate at 130 kilometres per hour.

Previously, Echuca services could only run at 80km/h.

Signalling upgrades will deliver stage two of Bendigo Metro Rail, with Ms Allan saying the upgrade will begin moving trains between Eaglehawk, Epsom, Bendigo and Kangaroo Flat into a metro-style service.

“In the long run there will be significant benefits from these construction works,” Ms Allan said.

“There will be the jobs that will be created, and then there will be the significant improvements, particular between Bendigo and Echuca, there will be improvements in the frequency and the reliability of the train services.”

– Joel Peterson