13 May, 2014 12:15PM AEST
Confused messages over passenger rail
By Charlotte King
A recording has emerged of the Premier Denis Napthine downplaying the possibility of a connection between a standardised rail network and a passenger rail service for Mildura.
The comments were made at a media conference in Ararat last week, and contradict statements made by the Deputy Premier, Peter Ryan, when launching the policy that standardisation is a 'crucial first step' in the return of Mildura's passenger rail.
In the recording Dr Napthine tells a journalist there will be no available train carriages for the rail line, with the change to a standard gauge making it impossible for Victoria's broad gauge passenger trains to travel on the line.
"Um...that's challenging because, other than the Sydney service, we don't have passenger rolling stock that's for standard...all our rolling stock passenger services are for broad gauge," he says.
"So there may be some opportunity in the future, but I would not emphasise in any way shape or form anything about pa...I wouldn't want to raise people's expectations. This is about freight rail."
A member of a group campaigning for the return of Mildura's passenger rail says the National party need to be clear about the possibilities of a train for the region.
Ali Cupper, from the North West Rail Alliance says the Deputy Premier is being dishonest with the electorate.
"Given that the Premier is saying: 'no false hope, I'm being up front with you guys, don't be thinking you're going to be getting the passenger train, that ain't happening'. That I respect, because at least he's being clear about it. I think that the Nationals need to be upfront and honest about the realities - they are in Coalition with the Libs; we don't want to be hood-winked," she says.
"So if it is the case that there is no chance of passenger rail piggy-backing on freight at this point in time and for the forseeable future, that's their prerogative, but be clear about it, don't be trying to sort of give us false hope."
A government spokesperson says both leaders have clearly stated there may be future opportunities to return passenger rail to Mildura and the Murray Basin Rail Project is an essential first step.
The spokesperson says that passenger lines run on standard gauge from Melbourne to Albury and also from Melbourne to Adelaide.