Representatives from both sides of the political tracks have used the Regional Rail Revival project as their platform to lock horns over planned works on the Bendigo-Echuca rail line. Two very separate announcements were held on Monday to spruik the interests of each party and level of government in having delivered the $91 million worth of track and signalling upgrades. The railing began with Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan being flanked by Bendigo’s federal MP Lisa Chesters to talk about the potential benefits for growth along the corridor. “We’re confident that we are going to see more people catching the train between Bendigo and Echuca and all stops in between. This means we’re making the most of the infrastcucture we have right here,” she said. Ms Chesters took a swipe at her Coalition counterparts, saying it had been “a battle” to get the federal government to fund Victoria fairly.
The main source of consternation from the coalition, led by Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie and Murray MP Damian Drum, was that the Victorian government had consistently left behind areas of Victoria beyond the likes of Bendigo and Ballarat. “For Echuca this is fantastic… This will turn an hour and 40-minute trip into an hour and 15 minutes. That’s what it should have been for the last 10 to 15 years,” Mr Drum said. But beyond the political gamesmanship, there was very little to be announced. Rail Projects Victoria, the body overseeing the project and formerly known as the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority, is yet to undertake its assessments of the line to see what work needs to be done. RPV CEO Mark Havryluk could not say how many level crossings will require work, how many signalling bottlenecks there are to iron out and what delays may be seen by commuters and motorists. “We’re working through the timelines at this stage through design and planning, the line speed upgrade to Echuca is targetting 2020, and the signalling between Epsom and Eaglehawk early 2021,” he said. Work is expected to start by the end of the year.