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Regional Rail Revival – Full Steam Ahead

Victoria’s ageing regional rail network will receive upgrades to 9 major railway lines when Prime Minister Turnbull today announces a major funding package.

Coming in at a total of $1.6 billion, the Federal Government will contribute $1.42 billion after long negotiations with Premier Daniel Andrews and his Labour Government.

Flow FM’s Han had the story.

Works will include the next stage of upgrades to the state’s Murray Basin Rail Network at a cost of $20 million ($440 million in total), set to start in a matter of weeks.

Construction will involve temporary closure of the Maryborough to Yelta and Ouyen to Murrayville sections while the upgrades take place.

The Sea Lake and Manangatang lines will remain open during this time so freight operators can use these as an option to move grain and other produce using rail.

Upgrades include standardisation of the track from broad gauge to standard gauge, increase of axle loading from 19 tonnes to 21 tonnes on the network apart from Ouyen to Murrayville line, and the reopening of the 87-kilometre rail line between Maryborough and Ararat.

The main project office will be established in Maryborough, with other sites located across the region, including Ararat, Ballarat, Dunolly, Ouyen and Mildura.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said “Once the Murray Basin Rail Project is completed, trains on the freight network will be able to carry more product, more often.

“There will be huge benefits to the Australian economy, with the project supporting an increase in competition between the three ports and operators of freight trains and increasing export volumes to overseas markets,” he said.

The first stage of the project was completed in 2016, with the installation of 175,000 sleepers and 3400 metres of new rail on the Mildura and Hopetoun lines.

Other major rail upgrades across the state include $516.6 million towards the Ballarat Line Upgrade already underway, with an extra $39 million for Stage 2 of the project which will deliver better services for Ararat and Maryborough.

More than half-a-billion dollars will be invested on the Gippsland line, creating 400 local jobs with $435 million for major upgrades between Pakenham and Traralgon, and $95 million to replace the Avon River Bridge.

$110 million to fund Stage 1 of the new Surf Coast Rail Project, which will prepare the corridor for duplication between South Geelong and Waurn Ponds.

Further west, $114 million will be pumped into the Warrnambool line to upgrade track and signalling to enable more services and new VLocity trains to run to all the way to Warrnambool.

$140 million will be provided for track, signalling and station improvements on the North East Line, and passengers in Bendigo and Echuca will also benefit, with $91 million in upgrades to run faster trains, an extra daily service to Echuca, and delivery of Bendigo Metro Stage 2 with more services to Epsom and Eaglehawk.

The package also includes $10 million to plan an improved freight network in and around Shepparton.

Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan said “This is a once in a generation investment that will deliver improvements for every regional passenger line in Victoria.

“It will upgrade track, stations and signalling across the state, to run more trains and get people home sooner, wherever they live.”

Premier Daniel Andrews said “This is a win for regional Victoria and a win for Victorian jobs.”

The entire rail revival will see over 1,000 jobs created in regional Victoria, according to the State Government, with Victorian Acting Minister for Public Transport Luke Donnellan outlining the specifics for the Murray Basin Rail Network.

“This project will create more than 400 jobs at peak construction, with at least 15 per cent of this workforce being recruited from the Murray Basin region,” he said.

Find out more here.