May 05, 2011

Victoria boosts funding for rail

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RAIL transport in the Australian state of Victoria has received a major boost after $A 403m was allocated in the state's budget to improve existing services and pave the way for network expansion.

In addition to the $A 222m ($US 224.5m) included in the budget to purchase seven new trains, $A 2m will be spent on plans to restore passenger services between Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, which is home to more than 400,000 people. Another $A 3m will be allocated over two years on plans for a new line to Avalon Airport.
 
"Avalon is Victoria's next international airport and this budget ensures that the necessary planning and design work can commence immediately for a new rail line to the airport terminal," says state transport minister Mr Terry Mulder. "This project will ultimately provide a new station at Avalon Airport and a new rail link between the airport and Lara, providing passengers with direct rail access to Geelong and Melbourne."
 
The budget also includes significant funds to improve maintenance, while $A 47m is being allocated to remove and upgrade level crossings across the state, and $A 20m will be invested over four years to improve access for disabled passengers.
 
Mr Bryan Nye, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association, praised the state government's willingness to back rail, particularly through the investment in new trains.
 
"Victorian commuters constantly experience the Victorian Rail Network running at capacity," Nye says. "The allocation of $A 222m to immediately purchase seven additional trains is a critical step to combat crowding but the Victorian government must ensure it follows quickly with the remaining promised trains."

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