The Argus at KellyGang 20/11/1873

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The completion of the longest main trunk line ever likely to he constructed in Victoria is an event both important and interesting in the history of the colony. The North-Eastern line, which was yesterday opened throughout its entire length, is considerably longer than even the Melbourne and Echuca line. It forms a great portion of the main line which must ultimately unite Melbourne with Sydney, the whole distance between the two places being by this route 500 miles. Already the New South Wales Government have completed a line of the best and most substantial construction from Sydney to Goulburn, a distance of 120 miles, so that now Victoria has built a line to Albury, there is only a gap in the railway communication between the two cities of 200 miles. That this missing link will be shortly supplied can scarcely be doubted, and when it is, the colonies will be one step nearer a federal union than they are at present.

An agitation was commenced in the North-Eastern districts for an extension of railway communication to the Upper Murray some years ago. It was urged, with reason, that the rich agricultural lands along the valley of the Goulburn and around Avenel and Wangaratta could be turned to little account so long as all these places were so isolated from the centres of population. The residents in the mining districts of Beechworth and Chiltern also complained that they were almost inaccessible, owing to the impassable state of the roads, and that capital to develop the auriferous country around them could not be expected to be forthcoming while they continued so. No doubt, the claims of this part of the country would have been attended to sooner had not the first estimates of the cost of railway construction in this direction deterred any Government from undertaking such a costly work.

The extension of the main Sandhurst line to Echuca showed, however, that substantial railways could be constructed at a very much less cost than had formerly been the case, and at length some surveys were made with the view of discovering the best route to take. It was originally thought that the best way to give railway accommodation to the Upper Murray district would be by a branch line, leaving the Melbourne and Echuca line at either Woodend or Rochester . Surveys in these directions were made, but both routes were found to be considerably more costly than the direct route from Essendon would be. By the construction of an additional three miles of line, the necessity of travelling over the existing main lines could be avoided, for the branch lines surveyed were only that distance shorter than the direct line, and in addition they passed through more difficult country.

In 1867 the then Government promised Parliament additional railway extension, and in the succeeding session that promise was redeemed by the introduction of a Railway Loan Bill. On September 18,1868, Mr, now Sir James, M'Culloch moved the second reading of that measure, which proposed to give authority to borrow £2,100,000, to be chiefly expended in railways. Mr M'Culloch explained that the policy of his Government was to construct substantial lines at a cost of about one fourth of that which previous lines had reached. He stated that the debt in connexion with railways then amounted to £8,618,100, and he proposed to expend £1,720,000 out of the new loan in the construction of a railway from Essendon to the Upper Murray, at Belvoir or Wodonga.

Considerable opposition was shown to the measure, as there was a party in the Assembly disposed to give the preference to a line to the Western district. The Government proposal was denounced as being an emanation from a diseased brain, and motives of a very uncomplimentary character were attributed to some of the leading members of the Ministry. It was suggested that the Murray was to be tapped simply to serve the squatters of Riverina and the merchants of Melbourne at the public expense; that the Premier was, attempting to make his peace with the Melbourne merchants by giving them, by means of the railway, the trade of the Upper Murray.


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