ACTING Prime Minister and Nationals’ federal leader Warren Truss yesterday said the North East railway was “an asset worthy of preservation” – but stopped short of endorsing the efforts of Independent Cathy McGowan (MHR, Indi) to win government support to ensure a reliable passenger service.
Mr Truss – filling the nation’s top government role while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is overseas – met in Chiltern with people affected by the Barnawartha-Indigo Creek December 20 bushfire and later visited Rutherglen to speak with the community about the Commonwealth’s National Stronger Regions Funding program.
He said he was “very conscious of the need to have a road and rail network that adequately services the needs of the community”.
“We’re committed to the Melbourne-Brisbane railway line that has enormous potential for areas like this one,” he said.
He said the coalition government was also committed to water infrastructure and ensuring that local rural communities – not just cities – benefited from “our nation’s growth and prosperity”.
But in response to a question about whether Ms McGowan had successfully engaged the government in her long campaign to secure improvements in the North East rail passenger service, Mr Truss said “she certainly writes to me from time to time about the quality of the line between Melbourne and Albury”.
He said other people in the North East also contacted him about the rail infrastructure.
“The Australian Rail Track Corporation has some role in the maintenance of that track but improvements remain the responsibility of the track owners – the Victorian government,” Mr Truss said.
“The provision of passenger services is absolutely a matter for the Victorian government.
“We have no intention of running passenger services as a federal government – and I don’t think the Independent member is suggesting that we would.
“But the reality is that there have been some issues with the line – mainly legacy issues going back to…the century before (last) – so there’s been a conscientious and significant investment to get the track to the stage where it can carry the traffic it needs to.
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