Inland rail hope for the MIA as ARTC faces bipartisan condemnation

Mud holes plaguing tracks, carriages bouncing up and down and trains moving slower than they did in the 1860s.

Which part of the world could this be? India? Afghanistan? Try Albury.

Bipartisan condemnation of government-owned Australia Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has come amidst hope that a major inland rail freight route through the MIA could still be possible. 

Federal member for Farrer Sussan Ley says ARTC is facing a “crisis of confidence” due to the “shambles” of  work they did on the line between Albury and Seymour.  

Cathy McGowan, the independent member for Indi, said one train “is running slower now than it did in Ned Kelly's time”.

Steph Ryan, Nationals member for Eurora in Victorian state parliament, said mud holes have been reoccurring for decades, and previous ARTC upgrade work made the problem worse. 

Despite this, ARTC have been entrusted with one of the  biggest rail projects in Australian history – an inland rail freight network from Melbourne to Brisbane.

The inland rail network is aimed at moving farm produce to ports more quickly, for export. Federal budget papers stated ARTC would get $8.4 billion to build the rail line through Albury and Wagga. 

The MIA’s farmers and freight operators favoured an alternative proposal, from private consortium National Trunk Rail, to build a route further west through Narrandera and Shepparton. This route would’ve picked up more than six times as much freight. 

The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester has refused to answer questions put to him by The Area News on why the ARTC route was chosen and if the government acknowledges the “crisis of confidence” in ARTC. 

Ms Ley says she does not want this western route killed off. 

“We still have time to further investigate the option of fully linking the eastern and western options through southern New South Wales and northern Victoria,” she said in a post-budget speech.

Her office said she is seeking a meeting with the minister to see what  can be done. 

Lobbying the minister can work. The tireless efforts of Steph Ryan and Cathy McGowan over the years resulted in him allocating $100 million to upgrade the Victorian North East line

Ms Ryan says they’ll be “considerable oversight” of ARTC to help ensure they get the job done right this time.