AS reported by Allan Murphy in the Sunraysia Daily on August 8, the Baillieu Government announced it would support a truck bypass of Mildura on the Sturt Highway and a Transcontinental Rail Link between Mildura and Menindee, in its 2012 Priority Infrastructure submission to Infrastructure Australia.
However, it was also flagged that the Murray Basin Transcontinental Rail Link would include standardising the Mildura line and construction of a rail bypass of the city.
While I am totally in favour of the transcontinental link and standardising the rail, I believe it would be a fatal flaw to have the rail line bypass Mildura, for the following reasons:
If, as originally planned – the bypass begins at Yatpool and ends at Yelta – none of our Red Cliffs, Irymple, Mildura or Merbein citizens would have direct access to the passenger service. The original inter-modal (train/transport) hub was to be positioned at Thurla, well south of Red Cliffs.
If, as originally planned, the bypass includes a spur into the current airport, this would obviously advantage the airport and disadvantage rail passengers (we would have to wonder why?).
The growth of rail transport around the globe has been because of its ability to delivery passengers directly to the city centre (rather than airports far removed from the city), as much as for its ability to provide spacious comfort and for environmental and energy-conservation reasons. To bypass our towns and main city is to disadvantage passenger rail transport.
The immense cost of buying land and laying a new rail line between Yatpool and Yelta would not be cost effective when there is already a line that goes all the way to Merbein.
A fraction of the cost of a new bypass could be spent on boom-gating all the city crossings, something all cities with city-central passenger rail services have – and live with.
The riverfront development interface would still be possible, with the Mildura Railway Station track being lowered a metre, to allow for a piazza-extension at Langtree/Seventh street level, as proposed by Don Carrazza.
While the Baillieu Government is to be applauded for proposing these infrastructure projects, we cannot afford to have the benefits of passenger rail “bypass” us.