Nationals’ Member for Mildura, Jade Benham, says the Andrews Labor Government must provide funding certainty for the Mode Shift Incentive Scheme (MSIS) to encourage more freight on to rail and reinstate the Ballarat corridor.
“The drip-feed funding being provided by Labor does not offer the financial certainty required for businesses to commit to send their freight by rail,” Ms Benham said.
Since 2018, Labor has cut funding from the MSIS and is relying on a year-to-year funding model, with the program receiving $3.5 million funding in last month’s State Budget to continue operating until 30 June 2024.
The MSIS is an incentive program providing financial support to rail freight companies to make the cost of transporting goods on rail more competitive.
The program was established by the former Liberal Nationals Government in 2014 with an initial commitment of $5 million a year over four years towards the scheme.
Ms Benham said the MSIS program allowed regional rail freight operators to offer competitive transport options for exporters, encouraging them to use rail instead of road transport to get their goods to the Port of Melbourne.
“It is yet another perfect example of how wrong Labor’s priorities are when they refuse to commit ongoing funding to a program that is working in getting trucks off our dangerous and rapidly deteriorating roads, benefiting the entire community,” Ms Benham said.
Ms Benham also expressed the urgent need for rail freight to become more competitive than road with the reinstatement of the Ballarat corridor.
“Right now, rail freight just isn’t efficient enough. Trying to get to the Port of Melbourne via Ararat is like driving to Melbourne via Shepparton.
“Just by reinstating the Ballarat corridor which reduces the trip by 130km, it will remove 20,000 trucks from the roads and the Western suburbs of Melbourne.”
Maribyrnong City Council in Melbourne’s north has declared themselves in a health crisis because of air pollution and this is only one example of eliminating such pollutants.
“Wouldn’t removing 20,000 trucks from the major arterials going through the western suburbs make sense on so many levels?”
“There are options here, like reinstating the Ballarat corridor as a standard line at a cost of approximately $115 million, or dual gauge at a cost of approximately $300 million. We could remove some trucks, and allow food producers in the North West a more efficient way to get food to port.”