The Victorian Coalition Government will invest up to $220 million to deliver key country freight rail line upgrades and build the transformational Mildura to Geelong rail standardisation link.

Deputy Premier and Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan today unveiled the Coalition Government’s Murray Basin Rail Project that will revolutionise the movement of freight across the state and unlock the economic potential of regional and rural Victoria.

In the keynote address to The Nationals State Conference in Benalla, Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government’s State Budget would deliver funding for the Mildura to Geelong standardised rail link with construction expected to be completed by 2018.

“This landmark project is more than a century in the waiting and the Victorian Liberal and Nationals Coalition have delivered funding to build it in our first term of government,” Mr Ryan said.

“The Murray Basin is one of the nation’s leading food production regions, exporting in excess of $3 billion worth of food products and mineral resources per year.

“By converting the existing broad gauge tracks to standard gauge, the Murray Basin Rail Project will deliver modern rail infrastructure and transform Victoria’s freight network to meet the increasing demand for freight services.

“The project involves building and upgrading freight lines to 21 tonne axle loading, providing an immediate 15% productivity improvement that will increase train loads by 300 to 400 tonnes.

“It will improve transport efficiency and enhance access to the ports of Portland, Geelong and Melbourne for Victorian exports.

“A modern and efficient rail freight network is critical to Victoria’s economic productivity and this Project marks the first phase in the Coalition Government’s vision to standardise regional and rural Victoria’s freight-only lines to drive future growth and prosperity.”

Mr Ryan said the first stage of the Murray Basin Rail Project would deliver urgent upgrades on the Mildura to Maryborough and Hopetoun to Murtoa rail lines, while the business case for the full Mildura to Geelong standardisation was finalised.

“The first stage of the Project will include an initial $41 million to upgrade the Hopetoun and Mildura rail lines to ensure quick benefits from more efficient freight movement,” Mr Ryan said.

“The final cost and alignment of the full Mildura to Geelong rail standardisation will be guided by the final business case to be delivered by the end of the year.

“The standardisation is also a crucial first step in the return of passenger rail to Mildura.”

Mr Ryan said the Project would assist in moving freight off road and onto rail and pave the way for the potential future creation of a new ‘transcontinental link’ near Broken Hill, connecting to the Sydney- Perth rail line.

“The project will enable further logistical flexibility and ease of use of the Victorian rail network. It will result in a mode shift to rail and thereby improve road safety, reduce road congestion and lower road maintenance costs,” Mr Ryan said.

“Ultimately, the project will enable a Transcontinental Rail Link between Mildura and Menindee, near Broken Hill, NSW, connecting to the Perth interstate rail line.”

Mr Ryan said this historic investment formed a central part of the Coalition Government’s plan to build a better Victoria by delivering new job-creating infrastructure projects that unlock economic potential and drive growth across the state.

Source: State government media release