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Relocating North-East line in Benalla a ‘shovel-ready’ project?

By Simon Ruppert

The Save Our Station group is hopeful a government initiative to get people back to work post coronavirus could see their plan to have the north-east line relocated to the opposite side of Benalla station become a reality.

This week Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled funding for infrastructure which he said would help revive the post-COVID economy, and included money for rail projects

“I am committing a further $1.5 billion to immediately start work on small priority projects identified by the states and territories,” Mr Morrison said.

“As part of this package, $1 billion will be allocated to priority projects which are shovel-ready.”

The SOS group has been lobbying against the ARTC plan for the Inland Rail Route in Benalla.

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ARTC has resisted calls to relocate the north-east line, instead favouring the replacement of Benalla's railway overpass with a seven-metre-high structure.

SOS Committee member David Moore said he was delighted to hear the Prime Minister's proposal.

“I thought it was great news that finally there is an opportunity for Benalla to get a decent outcome for its station,” Mr Moore said.

“I hope that ARTC would see this an an opportunity to revisit their plans.

“We as a group have always been very concerned about their costings.

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“We have asked for detailed costings for their proposal, but they have not provided them.

“I feel that their figures are not right.

“All our research indicates that our proposal to move the track could, in fact, be cheaper than their proposal to rebuild the overpass.

“But even if their costings are correct, perhaps access to this fund will see them revisit their plans.

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“And the PM's announcement is also about jobs in the post COVID-19 world.

“Jobs are sorely needed in all country towns and we should be at the forefront of this

“This is an opportunity that would be foolish to miss and I do hope that our council picks up on this and runs with it.”

Benalla Rural City chief executive officer Dom Testoni said the funding would be looked into.

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“Whenever funding is being made available, we will always look at it and assess it against projects that we have that may fit the criteria,” Mr Testoni said.

An ARTC spokesperson told the Ensign that they feel the scope of the funding made available by the Prime Minister will not cover this type of work.

“Relocating the railway line would require significant works that far exceeds the scope and budget of the Inland Rail project,” the Spokesperson said.

“While it may appear to be a relatively straightforward solution, our investigations show that it would require complex track work, a major signalling upgrade, additional platform and pedestrian connecting and cost significantly (up to four to six times) greater than replacing or removing the existing overpass.

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“We know that the Benalla community is eager to arrive at a solution, however with construction not due to commence until late 2023 we have plenty of time to work together to find a solution that will meet the needs of the community in the long-term.

“The Working Group will have an independent Chair, include representation from Council and is a structured consultation and engagement process.

“Expressions of Interest to join the Benalla Working Group are currently open and we encourage community members to apply.”

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