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Question mark over the Beveridge Interstate Freight Terminal

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By Colin MacGillivray

The future timeline of a Beveridge Interstate Freight Terminal, BIFT, will hinge on an independent review of the Inland Rail project announced by the Federal Government last week.

Infrastructure Minister Catherine King revealed on Friday that former Energy Security Board chair and investment banker Kerry Schott would head an independent review of the Inland Rail project, which aims to create a rail link between Melbourne to Brisbane to enable faster and more efficient freight movement between the cities.

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The BIFT is proposed as one of two Victorian hubs capable of processing the double-stacked freight trains enabled by Inland Rail. The other proposed hub is the Western Interstate Freight Terminal, WIFT, located in the Melbourne suburb of Truganina.

Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell welcomed the review, which Labor promised during the lead-up to May’s federal election.
Mr Mitchell said the 1700-kilometre Inland Rail was ‘miles over budget and miles behind’.

“There’s more than 1000 kilometres of rail yet to be laid and bridges to be done,” he said.

“This is why we committed to having this review. It’s a nation-building project that needs to be done properly the first time.

“Properly means the proper use of taxpayer funds, making sure everything is done on time and making sure everything that needs to be done gets done.”

Mr Mitchell said the review would show an election pledge by the former Liberal-Nationals government and its candidate for McEwen Richard Welch to build the BIFT were ‘a sham’.

During the federal election campaign, Mr Welch and the Liberal Party pledged $1.9 billion to build the BIFT by 2027.

“After the election there was an Infrastructure Australia report that showed that the BIFT was embryonic – it wasn’t in a ready-to-go state, which shows once again that the Liberal candidate and the Morrison government were being misleading,” he said.

“They were using BIFT versus WIFT as a political wedge. The fact is that it wasn’t ready to go, and was nowhere near ready to go.”

Mitchell Shire Council has advocated for the BIFT, arguing it could support up to 20,000 jobs in the fast-growing Beveridge area.

Despite council concerns that Labor would abandon the BIFT, Mr Mitchell said the government remained committed to the project in the long term.

“My view is that the BIFT will have to go ahead, absolutely, but the WIFT has to go ahead as well,” he said.

“The people who use it the most, industry, have said they prefer the western option because of the freight volumes heading to South Australia and Western Australia.”

Mr Mitchell said Dr Schott’s review was unlikely to make mention of a timeline for the BIFT’s completion.

“This [review] is going to be more focused on how Inland Rail is going to get on track and get certainty. When we’ve got that certainty we’ll have a better idea of whether the BIFT goes first or the WIFT goes first,” he said.

“We need to know where [the rail is] going so we can make the decisions that will mean more for jobs, more for investment and a better freight system that takes trucks off our roads.

“We’re not cancelling it – we support it and we want it to happen. We want it done properly though.”

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