15 May 2017
Subjects: Infrastructure funding in Victoria.
Damian Drum: It is good to be able to be here this morning with the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Darren Chester. So in relation to this announcement, we are delighted to be able to address a black spot intersection here that has been identified by the local council at the corner of Poplar Avenue and Orrvale Road. Four major accidents have taken place in this vicinity in recent years, as well as fatalities in years gone by. So it has been identified as a major concern for the people of this region, and just in the short while we've been here this morning, apart from standing in what looks like an old wreckage yard with car pieces and tail lights, we have seen a combination of heavy transport, agricultural tractors, and just normal vehicles all using this intersection. So the installation of these flashing lights to give this intersection greater safety will be much improved and it will be much appreciated.
So with a whole range of other announcements as well to talk about, I thank you and hand over to Darren.
Darren Chester: Thanks Damian. It is great to be here. Too many people are killed and injured on our roads every year, and the road black spots program is about working with the community to provide safer roads. $37,000 is a relatively small amount of money if it can help to reduce the chance of serious injuries or even deaths at this intersection. We are working with local communities right across the seat of Murray to identify road black spots with the sole aim of reducing the amount of road trauma on our regional roads. It is a sad fact that more people are killed each year on regional roads than metropolitan roads despite all our efforts in the last 10 or 20 years. So I am very keen to work with Damian and work with the local community identifying other road black spots and making sure the Federal Government's doing its share to reduce the amount of deaths and serious injury in regional areas.
Damian Drum: Alright so, that is effectively this announcement. Following this we are going to check out the sites of the alternate route—we have got some major improvements going on there, which will see $10 million of the Federal Coalition's money partnering up with $10 million from the State to build two major roundabouts to improve the safety and the flowing of the traffic at Doyles Road. Also, Darren is happy to discuss with our council meeting later on the $10 million for a planning study into rail which will open up a whole range of other opportunities for investment into rail in the Goulburn Valley.
Question: So we have got the $10 million for rail, but can we just clarify exactly what that is going to be used for?
Darren Chester: The Federal Budget had an unprecedented amount of money for rail for the states to work in partnership with us to address the passenger and freight rail needs throughout our communities. There is $20 billion in total, $8.4 billion of that will go to the Inland Rail project. There is also funding through the National Rail Program where states will be able to bid into improving their services. The $10 million allocated to Shepparton under the regional program is about getting the planning right so we have a blueprint for future investment in the Shepparton region. We recognise, in terms of passenger and freight rail services, there's need for improvements but we need to target that money in a way that delivers the best possible outcome for Shepparton and the broader Goulburn Valley region. This, I think, is a great step forward in terms of the future for Shepparton where we have a pipeline of projects that will be able to be identified through that $10 million and then we need to work at the state and federal level to secure money for the infrastructure required. So it is the first step in a process that will make sure there is other money available for Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley in terms of meeting their future passenger and freight rail needs.
Question: So is that 50/50 in terms of passenger and freight?
Darren Chester: The commitment for $10 million is all about getting the work done to identify future passenger and freight rail needs for the Shepparton and Goulburn Valley region. We will get that terms of reference developed for that study to begin as soon as possible. The point of meeting with the Greater Shepparton City Council today and Damian Drum is to identify what the priorities are going to be in terms of developing that terms of reference, get the work done, and then start bidding into that National Rail Program to secure more money for Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley region.
Question: How long will it take if there is the feasibility study, how long does it take?
Darren Chester: My expectation is we can start work on that within the next six to eight weeks and have something back to the community within 12 months, and then we bid into the National Rail Program for that $10 billion which is available for use right around Australia. My expectation of that $10 billion is a very significant percentage will be available for regional communities and I think we are going to see some real progress in the years ahead.
Question: How much of that 10 million is used for the feasibility study itself?
Darren Chester: There will be $10 million for the feasibility work, which is going to start in the next six to eight weeks and be carried out over the next 12 months, and we want to involve the community in that. That is why I am meeting with the council today and I am here with Damian to work through what his expectations are in terms of developing that up for the community. We recognise that connecting this region through better passenger and freight rail links will allow the community to grow. We are actively pursuing a decentralisation agenda to see communities like Shepparton prosper into the future and we have got a very optimistic view about where Shepparton's going to be in the next 10, 20, and 50 years.
Question: Darren, just back to roads quickly, we are at this site here; so what exactly is happening at this intersection in terms of funding that was announced recently?
Darren Chester: There'll be vehicle-activated flashing lights which will alert drivers to the intersection approaching. What we find in some of these intersections is that in poor light conditions or fog, drivers inadvertently enter the intersection and are involved in collisions. Obviously, that sort of high speed crashes results in serious injuries and tragically, deaths on several occasions. So it's a reasonably cheap treatment in terms of alerting drivers to a potential for a very serious accident. So it is a question of having a commitment to safer roads and safer drivers and safer vehicles is the only way we are going to reduce road trauma across Australia.
Question: When is that happening?
Darren Chester: My expectation is work can start straight away. The money has been allocated in this year's Budget so we need to work with the community, get the money rolling—that is straight away—and get the job done.
Question: And is it just this intersection or will Shep' be getting any more improvements on the roads?
Damian Drum: No. In the electorate of Murray for black spot road funding we have three projects that have been identified. Shepparton City Council have identified this particular intersection as the most dangerous, so in Shepparton it will only be this one. We have further work at Lockington and also in the electorate of Moira which are going to be announced today and they will be done locally there.
This will go on top of all of the Roads to recovery funding which again sees various councils spending millions of dollars of Federal Government money to fix up their own roads.
Question: Do you know the exact dollar figure for this intersection?
Damian Drum: Yeah, $38,000 for the vehicle-activated flashing lights. That's $38,000 for this project. Part of $359,000 that we are going to announce around the electorate today. So it's $359,000 invested in black spots by the Federal Government that have been identified by the relevant local council.
Question: And you guys are off to Echuca Moama today; excited about that?
Damian Drum: Yes it is great to be able to take Darren; this is a 50 year project with various politicians who have been advocating for 50 years for a new Echuca Moama Bridge. So to actually be in the position to now drive this project—there will be some drilling on site today which is great to be able to, again, show the Minister who is ultimately responsible for coming up with the funds for the twin cities of Echuca and Moama. So we will be able to look at some of the work that is getting started there.
Our understanding is this project has been divided into four smaller projects to enable local tradespeople and local businesses to have a piece of this government wealth that has been invested in the region. We understand that one of those contracts has already been let and work is getting started. So for many, many years people have been talking about a second cross of the Echuca-Moama Bridge—a new Echuca-Moama Bridge—but we are actually getting out there and getting it built. It is great to see that work has started and great to see that some of the smaller contracts have in fact been let and we are on the way.
Question: Sorry, just on the alternative freight upgrade, you mentioned two new roundabouts along Doyles Road. Where will they be located?
Damian Drum: New Dookie Road and Old Dookie Road where they intersect with Doyles Road. Therefore we already had one completed last year. This time last year we were in the middle of getting the Benalla Road-Doyles Road roundabout built and we have now moved to a situation where we are going to have two new roundabouts completed. Darren will also be having a conversation with VicRoads today to ensure that those two roundabouts are built concurrently. If we are going to have this construction work taking place on the alternate route, forcing the heavy vehicles through the City of Shepparton, we want to minimise that timeline. If we can get this work done concurrently instead of having it done one after the other, certainly it is going to have a huge impact on finally having an alternate route that is safe, allowing for easier flow of the heavy vehicles around the alternate, but also then minimising the amount of time that Shepparton residents have to have those heavy vehicles coming through the CBD.