By Colin MacGillivray

GREATER capacity and consistency for rail services in northern Victoria are among the expected benefits of a rail project funded by the Federal Government.

Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell welcomed the government’s announcement of $4.45 million for the Improving Passenger Rail Services from Northern Victoria project, which will aim to identify and fix inefficiencies in the rail network to provide additional capacity, increase reliability and reduce congestion along the northern rail corridor.

Mr Mitchell said people across the McEwen electorate would be among the biggest beneficiaries of the project.

“One of the big problems we face at the moment is getting people work, so having a more reliable service means we’re going to get better access for people to go to work, go to school and access tertiary education,” he said.

“As someone who has had to use the rail myself as a local, I know it’s been a problem.

“It’s not directly to us as far as the money being spent on the ground in our area, but it means that we’re going to get better capacity and reliability in that rail corridor.”

Mr Mitchell said he had long advocated for the project and was pleased to see the government commit to funding part of the project’s $7.5 million total cost.

“We’ve been consistent in talking to the government about improvement for passenger rail services,” he said.

“Under the former deputy prime minister we had started getting some work together, but last week they announced $4.45 million for the rail services.

“It’s about looking for additional capacity, because the northern rail corridor is the busiest rail corridor around.”

Mr Mitchell said there would be few on-the-ground infrastructure works, but the project – in conjunction with the State Government’s rail projects – would boost the efficiency of the entire rail network.

“It’s one of those things where you’re not going to see a lot of shovels in the ground, but there will be a lot of detail work for things to get organised,” he said.

“The problem we have is south of us where the congestion is. We’ve got to address that problem all the way through. There’s no point just having trains running but backed up and queued up in the middle of nowhere.

“It’s track linkages, signalling, timing, frequencies – all these sorts of things to try to get the most consistent services for people.”

A business case for the project is expected to be completed by 2023, setting up the rest of the project.

Mr Mitchell said the project would take pressure off the northern railway system until the implementation of the Inland Rail project – a federally-funded interstate rail system designed to transport freight between Melbourne and Brisbane.

“Having the money now to make sure we can go on with it, we just need the [Federal Government] to get the money to the State Government as quickly as possible and get things underway as quick as we can,” he said.

“We’ll do it with what we’ve got until we can finally start looking at Inland Rail to move freight, which is the long-term plan that we hope the government will one day actually fund.”

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