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BIFT hopes remain for Mitchell Shire Council

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By Colin MacGillivray

Mitchell Shire Mayor Fiona Stevens is adamant that plans for a private $400 million freight terminal in Somerton ‘don’t change anything’ regarding council’s desire to see the Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal, BIFT, built.

Council has lobbied the state and federal governments to build the BIFT as a freight hub supporting the Inland Rail project, which aims to connect ports in Brisbane and Melbourne via a 1700-kilometre rail line.

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Council forecasted the project could support up to 20,000 jobs in the rapidly-growing Beveridge area.

The former Liberal-Nationals Federal Government pledged $1.4 billion towards the BIFT prior to last year’s election but Labor declined to match the pledge.

The State Government has expressed a desire to build a Western Intermodal Freight Terminal, WIFT, in Truganina before constructing the BIFT.

While the newly-established Intermodal Terminal Company, ITC, last week announced plans to build a privately-funded Somerton Intermodal Terminal in Melbourne’s north, Cr Stevens said council would continue to push state and federal governments to build the BIFT.

She said the smaller scope of the Somerton terminal meant the BIFT was still essential to support Inland Rail.

“The Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal is essential to freight and logistics for Victoria as its size allows far more capacity and ensures it will meet the growing demands well into the future,” she said.

“The Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal will be able to accommodate all train lengths considered by Inland Rail.

“Council will continue to strongly advocate to the State Government to expedite the planning for the Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal.

“The Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal is a unique opportunity – it’s a greenfield site and is positioned along the inland rail route and adjacent to the Hume Freeway.”

Member for Northern Metropolitan Region Evan Mulholland characterised the Somerton terminal as private industry stepping up in lieu of government investment, saying Labor had ‘refused to cooperate’ with the former Federal Government’s plans for the BIFT.

“Federal and state Labor both abandoned the Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal and prioritised the western suburbs, so it is good to see the private sector stepping up where Labor failed,” he said.

“After years of talking down the project, it is pleasing to see that Labor are finally talking up the economic benefits of the inland rail project, kickstarted by the former federal Coalition government.”

Member for Kalkallo Ros Spence said the Somerton terminal would not replace the BIFT.

“The Andrews Labor Government knows that interstate freight terminals in Melbourne’s west and north are needed to support the state’s, and the nation’s, growing freight task,” she said.

“The Somerton Intermodal site is a fantastic investment in Victoria’s freight industry – creating new local jobs and keeping heavy vehicles off our local roads.

“While the investment case undertaken in conjunction with the Commonwealth found that a new freight terminal located in the west was a priority location, it also recommended protecting land at Beveridge for a future terminal.

“Activation of this Somerton site does not alter those findings.”

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