Federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters MP.

The Labor Party’s National Rail Plan has a firm focus on local manufacturers as federal member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters announced what the plan could mean for Bendigo.

The next decade could see as much as $100 billion spent on rail projects across the country, with local manufacturers a priority to complete these projects under a federal Labor government.

“We want to see the railways built here in Australia. These are good jobs that we want to see kept in our region,” Ms Chesters said.

Speaking at the North Bendigo Railway Workshops, Ms Chesters also committed to one in 10 new jobs being for an apprentice.

“We need to leverage every single tax payer dollar going into rail into local jobs and businesses to give the next generation a start,” she said.

When asked about how many more jobs there will be for Bendigo rail workers, Ms Chesters couldn’t commit to a figure.

“It comes down to how many contracts they [North Bendigo Railway Workshops] can leverage at the state and federal level,” Ms Chesters said.

Liberal candidate for Bendigo Sam Gayed criticised Ms Chesters’ announcement for lacking specifics.

“We need fast rail between Bendigo and Melbourne and we need a train station in Heathcote,” Mr Gayed said.

“After we address those two requirement, the manufacturing needs will become clearer and in order,” he said.

“She talks about a national plan as if she doesn’t represent Bendigo,” Mr Gayed said.

The North Bendigo facility has seen its workforce almost triple in the past 12 months, going from 15 to 40 staff. Leading workshop hand Darren Thompson has been lobbying governments to get more jobs for his workshop and is encouraged by recent developments.

“We are getting apprentices and more staff all the time. Things have really turned around for Bendigo and our workshop here,” Mr Thompson said.

At present, V-Line carriages are being restored in Bendigo, while workers in Castlemaine continue to build parts of railway tracks.

– NICHOLAS NAKOS