THE Department of Transport could reopen the Dimboola to Yaapeet rail line to shift almost 150,000 tonnes of grain from storage before this year's harvest.
The future of the line was in doubt after V-Line closed it late last year but the State Government has revealed funding to repair and reinstate the line could be available within months.
Minister for Public Transport and Roads Terry Mulder told the Mail-Times the government was investigating an 'innovative method' of funding to assist with reopening the line.
Mr Mulder said he was aware there was a large quantity of grain in storage along the line and the government recognised the need for efficient and low-cost transport solutions.
"The government wants, where possible, to reopen rail lines provided there is a sufficient volume of annual freight to make the investment worthwhile," he said.
"Since becoming minister I have already acted to temporarily re-open a freight line between Echuca and Toolamba, adjacent to the Goulburn Valley."
GrainCorp Rainbow site manager Joe Gould said Mr Mulder's announcement was promising.
He believed the cost of repairing flood damaged roads in the district prompted the government to make the return of rail freight a priority.
"We were under the impression the line was to be closed and never opened again," he said.
"Any news is good news."
Mr Gould said there were at least 120,000 tonnes of grain in the Yaapeet and Rainbow silos and around another 25,000 tonnes in storage at Jeparit which needed to be moved by October.
He said growers in the district were expecting another good season and GrainCorp was unsure about storage options.
"We didn't know where we were going to put it because the roads just can't handle it," he said.
"The trucks are moving now but they don't want to come to Rainbow or Yaapeet because the Jeparit-Rainbow Road is still under water, so we're not getting anywhere near as many as we'd like."
Mr Gould said he was pleased the government was putting rail 'back on the agenda' but he hoped roads were not being forgotten.
"A lot of people are using back roads and they are in such poor condition it's only a matter of time before there is a bad accident," he said.
"The condition of the roads is something we're really disappointed in and they're getting no attention."
Hindmarsh Shire councillor and former mayor Michael Gawith welcomed the announcement.
Cr Gawith appeared in the Mail-Times in January challenging the Coalition to fund rural railway lines in the Wimmera following closure of the Dimboola-Yaapeet line.
"Lifting the profile of that line is something the shire has been working towards for many years," he said.
"Grain for export needs to go on rail and be kept off the roads for safety reasons if nothing more, but I'm a firm believer it would be cheaper to maintain the railway line than the roads."
The Dimboola-Yaapeet line was ranked bronze in the Labor Government's Rail Freight Network Review in 2007, placing it at the lowest level of investment priority.
The future of the line was referred to the Department of Transport for review in December when V-Line deemed it unfit for use.
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