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MEDIA RELEASE - Government runs out of steam finishing Portland Maroona Rail Line

29 July 2019

The State Government has been labelled ‘off the rails’ in its continued failure to complete the cash strapped Murray Basin Rail Project, and the missing Portland-Maroona link.

For more than five years Glenelg Shire Council has been demanding urgent action to upgrade the deteriorating and sub-standard Portland line to ensure it is competitive with metro ports, such as Geelong and Melbourne, as part of the promised $440 million funding roll-out.

The much-needed upgrades will increase load capacity making the line more competitive and cost effective whilst assisting to take pressure of key freight roads. However not a single cent of the investment package has been injected in the inefficient Portland line, leaving it competitively stranded from the state rail network.

Glenelg Shire Mayor and Rail Freight Alliance deputy chair Anita Rank said news that State Government mismanagement had led to a funding shortfall for the project was “embarrassing”.

She said with freight volumes expected to double in the next 30 years, the government had to commit to investing in the line to keep freight moving and take pressure off crumbling arterial road networks.

“These upgrades are about fairness and equity. This is a line which feeds some of Australia’s most important export commodities to market, providing a significant impact to the nation’s GRP. Yet this rail line stands idle and ignored, being dealt with like a poor cousin, with work incomplete and no plans committed for its future.

“Whilst Melbourne’s metro tunnel breaks public investment records, our country line is left at an operating disadvantage, unable to compete against metropolitan markets because many northern customers cant access the line to get product to the Port of Portland. There is fear some lines in the Murray Darling network could completely close because of this ongoing mismanagement.

“Sadly this is a government which is off the rails, with no plans to support its hardest working producers gain access to their preferred export market in Portland.”

Glenelg Shire councilor Geoff White, a Rail Freight Alliance stalwart for the past 20 years, said the investment in the Portland line was critical to the prosperity of the region.

“For two decades I’ve been campaigning for this investment yet still there is no action, despite years of promises and ongoing lip service,” Cr White said.

“Our region and our hard working exporters deserves more. Freight is a key driver in our economy, forging economic growth and creating jobs and strengthening our agricultural sector. Many of these farmers initially invested in the upgraded Port of Portland to provide a direct avenue to get their product to market, yet here we stand 60 years on and they are fighting to get their goods on the track.

“The cost of moving product to market accounts for up to 30 per cent of producers costs and we know rail is the most cost effective and timely freight option, reducing supply chain costs.

“Putting more trucks on our network, which could be as many as 20,000 annually during peak harvest, will pose more community risks, damaging road surfaces and slowing traffic. There have already been eight fatalities on our local road network this year and we can’t increase the road pressure.”

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