HOPEFUL: Victorian Farmers Federation Grains Group president Ashley Fraser calls for more rail funding ahead of one of the biggest harvests ever seen. PIcture: FILE

HOPEFUL: Victorian Farmers Federation Grains Group president Ashley Fraser calls for more rail funding ahead of one of the biggest harvests ever seen. PIcture: FILE

VFF calls for rail funding

Victorian Farmers Federation issues statement as harvest season finishes

Infrastructure
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Reports indicate record bumper crop for Wimmera

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HARVEST: The recent ABARES report forecasts Victorian grain production to reach 9.3 million tonnes for the 2020 - 21 season. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

HARVEST: The recent ABARES report forecasts Victorian grain production to reach 9.3 million tonnes for the 2020 - 21 season. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

VICTORIAN Farmers Federation is calling on the government to invest more into Victoria's regional road and rail infrastructure to cope with increased grain harvests.

This comes as Victoria and New South Wales enjoy a record breaking bumper crop season, with areas like Natimuk seeing its best harvest season.

Victorian Farmers Federation Grains Group president Ashley Fraser said a recent Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics report forecast this season's harvest to be one of biggest ever seen.

"We are expecting the second largest grain harvest in Victoria's history," Mr Fraser said.

"While this is a fantastic result for growers and our regional economy, it will no doubt put immense pressure on our already strained regional road and rail freight networks as it goes from paddock to market.

"Regional roads continue to crumble and freight trains crawl to port at a huge cost to industry.

"Our freight network is critically under-maintained and urgently needed Murray Basin Rail Project is already two years overdue."

Read also: National oversight needed for rail freight

The Murray Basin Rail Project was announced in 2014 as a plan to upgrade and standardise the rail network in North and North-West Victoria, to get harvest produce to ports faster.

The $440 million project ran into funding difficulties late last year, with the Victorian government announcing the original scope of the project underestimated its real cost.

In December 2020, the Federal Government announced a $200 million rescue package for the project.

Mr Fraser said investment in rail freight was essential to get trucks off roads and reduce Victoria's future road maintenance and upgrade bill.

"On certain sections of the track, trains have been reduced to a maximum speed of 20km per hour," Mr Fraser said

"Time is money and many operators have made the decision to transport produce on our roads.

"This is forcing more trucks onto the roads, with the potential for 10,000 B-double trucks of grain using the road each month.

"We are calling on the government to do the planning now to ensure this year's budget invests big in regional Victorian freight infrastructure and plans for the future."

Under the Victorian Government's Grain Harvest Management Scheme, from October 2020 to May 2021 trucks transporting grain will be allowed a five per cent concession above the General Mass Limit for vehicles.

The scheme also outlines a map of approved roads to transport grain across.

The story VFF calls for rail funding first appeared on The Wimmera Mail-Times.

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