Keeping Victoria moving27/02/2018
Improving regional roads and rail was front of mind for many attending Assemblies in 2016 (and 2017) and a priority for many Partnerships in their first year.
The Victorian Government listened to Partnerships, and to the many others in this space, and, in the 2017/18 State Budget, delivered with an investment of $556.4 million in regional roads, while for rail, there was the announcement of the $1.57 billion Regional Rail Revival program, a joint Victorian and Australian government initiative.
Driving forward regional roads
The 2017/18 regional roads investment covers projects across the state with work already underway including:
- Construction started this January on the Western Highway between Stawell and the South Australian border (the State and Federal Governments are both funding this project to the tune of $10 million each, with the work set to improve the safety and reliability of the road);
- Planning for stage 1 of the long-awaited Shepparton bypass ($10.2 million was allocated for this project in the 2017/18 State Budget and is going towards planning of the Shepparton – Mooroopna second river crossing, pre-construction work including detailed design and strategic land acquisition and early construction activities; estimated completion date for this stage is 2019);
- Planning for upgrades along the Calder Highway between Bendigo and Mildura (a joint Victorian Government/Australian Government funded project with $10 million from each). A number of priority sites have been identified and VicRoads will continue to work with the Calder Highway Improvement Committee and keep communities updated throughout 2018;
- Community engagement was undertaken at the end of 2017 to discuss safety upgrades on the Murray Valley Highway between Echuca and Yarrawonga (a joint Victorian Government/ Australian Government funded project with $10 million from each);
- Investigating options for the Rutherglen Heavy Vehicle Alternative Route (an Origin and Destination Study to understand travel movements around Rutherglen is underway while community consultation is due to kick off shortly);
- Planning for upgrades of the Midland Highway, Hamilton Highway, Princes Highway Colac to the South Australian border and delivering major upgrades to the Great Ocean Road and roads that serve the Port of Portland in the Green Triangle;
- In Gippsland, improvement works such as shoulder sealing, road widening, and safety barrier installation are underway on key roads such as The Great Alpine Road, Monaro Highway, Highland Highway and Princes Highway East.
Regional rail revival on track
The once-in-a-generation $1.57 billion Regional Rail Revival program will upgrade stations, signalling and track across Victoria, delivering major upgrades to every regional passenger line in the state and creating more than 1,000 jobs.
The Victorian Government secured $1.42 billion in Commonwealth Government funding and is contributing an additional $150 million to fund this massive investment in regional Victoria.
Melbourne Metro Rail Authority (MMRA) is responsible for the planning and implementation of the program on behalf of the Victorian Government, with planning work already well underway. MMRA will work with key stakeholders including local councils and communities as planning and implementation progresses on the project over the coming months.
Among the projects are the Ballarat Line Upgrade which will improve the frequency and reliability of Ballarat line trains, bringing extra peak services and a train every 40 minutes off-peak for growing communities along the line.
An additional $39 million has been allocated for Stage 2 of the project which includes signalling upgrades and track improvements, and developing stabling facilities at Ararat.
Also of local Wimmera Southern Mallee interest is the recent re-opening of the Maryborough to Ararat line for freight - and the start of the pilot, Wimmera Southern Mallee Community Transport Service Kaniva to Horsham route, helping locals in Kaniva, Nhill, Dimboola and Pimpinio who require transport assistance or who do not have a driver’s licence, to travel into Horsham town centre and to the Wimmera Base Hospital and then home.