THE federal government has announced a $200.2m “rescue package” for the Victorian Murray Basin Freight Rail network.

Deputy PM and infrastructure minister Michael McCormack said the extra money, which includes $5m for planning the standardisation of the network, was in addition to the $240.2m the federal government had already committed.

“The federal government’s $195.2m rescue package is funding the most extensive package of works recommended by the revised business case and the Victorian government, which includes remedying key issues caused by works to date,” Mr McCormack said.

The Victorian government requested the package after completing a revised business case.

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“It’s crucial that a reliable rail network is available to efficiently move this grain, mineral sands, fruit and vegetables and wine, and to encourage more of that freight off the road network and on to the rail network,” Mr McCormack said.

“In April 2016, the Australian government committed to the Murray Basin Freight Rail Project, which was to standardise the rail network and deliver significant efficiencies for industry and allow more freight to be carried by rail,” he said.

“A key part of the rescue package is $5 million for planning to deliver a fully standardised network of the Murray Basin Freight Rail Network.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Credit: Ian Ackerman/DCN

“I will be asking the Victorian Government to match the Federal Government’s $5m planning funding and come up with a robust plan for full standardisation.

“It is clear to both governments that there needs to be greater accountability for this project going forward, to ensure these works are delivered in a timely and efficient manner.”

Member for Wannon Dan Tehan welcomed the additional investment, which is to see the re-railing of the line between Ararat and Maryborough.

Federal member for Mallee Dr Anne Webster said work must continue towards full standardisation.

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