Push for Murray Basin track change

Maryborough Station.Central Goldfields Shire Council has resolved to advocate for the standard gauge conversion of the Maryborough to Ballarat rail line.

The upcoming Murray Basin Railway Rail Project will see the section converted from broad gauge to dual gauge to allow both passenger and freight trains to run.

However, council fears the dual gauge connection would have a detrimental impact on passenger services, which would be required to run at slower speeds on the tracks.

“The Central Highlands Regional Growth Plan identified a residential growth corridor along the Ballarat-Maryborough Rail line to Maryborough including Creswick, Clunes and Talbot,” a statement in the agenda read.

“The use of passenger rail is very dependent on regular, convenient and fast services. Increasing the rail speed to 130 kph reduces the time to and from Ballarat.

“Failing to deliver on higher passenger train speeds will be an impediment to regional growth, jobs and improved opportunities for regional communities.

A motion to advocate to Transport Minister Jacinta Allan for a switch to standard gauge was approved at a council agenda on Tuesday night.

Central Goldfields mayor Bob Henderson said the future of passenger services between Ballarat and Maryborough is crucial to growth and tourism along the corridor and said council would push for a meeting with Ms Allan.

“We want standard or broad gauge, but not dual,” Cr Henderson said.

“We want to increase services, not take them away.”

However, it’s understood that a bulk of the V/Line passenger fleet would not be able to run on standard gauge tracks, meaning passenger trains would have to be specially fitted out for the standard gauge tracks at an enormous cost –possibly in the hundreds of millions.

It’s understood the state government is comfortable with the current plan to change the line to dual gauge.

“We’re building a dual guage connection between Ballarat and Marybourough to enable both freight and passenger trains to operate,” Ms Allan said.

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