The proposed high speed inland rail link is expected to bypass the Goulburn Valley-Southern Riverina food bowl region and take a more easterly route.
Community leaders and freight operators have urged the Federal Government to continue to consider a route passing through Shepparton and Tocumwal for the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail Link.
A total of $8.4billion was committed in last week’s federal budget for the project, as concerned local stakeholders concede a route encompassing the Goulburn Valley is becoming less likely.
While commending the investment, local stakeholders have reinforced the benefits of any inland freight infrastructure passing through the agriculture-rich region.
Kreskas Bros general manager Peter Hill said he would be disappointed if the government was no longer considering the food bowl route through Shepparton-Tocumwal in favour of an Albury alignment.
Mr Hill said if the rail alignment ran too far from this capture area, additional transport costs could make using the infrastructure prohibitive.
Last Tuesday, Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison revealed the inland rail project would be funded with $8.4billion provided to the Australian Rail Track Corporation.
The region had campaigned for a National Trunk Rail inland rail vision — from the Port of Melbourne, north towards Shepparton — up against the proposal of the government-owned ARTC, passing through Albury rather than Shepparton.
Committee for Greater Shepparton chief executive Sam Birrell remained pleased the government had funded the project, and noted commentary ‘‘that the southern alignment is yet to be determined’’.
‘‘We implore those in the government who have a desire to see this project fully add to the competitiveness of the agriculture sector to see that the southern alignment comes through the major agricultural regions,’’ he said.
Committee for Greater Shepparton’s David McKenzie said while it was looking more certain the Albury alignment would be chosen, the region had ‘‘more time up our sleeves to get some common sense into the outcome’’.
Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley said the budget committed additional resources to help communities that will not be directly located on the main north-south corridor so they can also reap the benefits of inland rail.
‘‘Additional use of existing connecting rail links to the proposed inland rail route will be encouraged, and there is an additional $10million in works to boost rail connectivity to the Goulburn Valley,’’ Ms Ley told parliament.
‘‘Currently, rail freight from Deniliquin and Tocumwal travels through this area to the Port of Melbourne and these routes will be included in a new study.’’
She said there was still time to further investigate the option of fully linking the eastern and western options through southern NSW and northern Victoria.