The 87-kilometre freight railway between Maryborough and Ararat has been re-opened, with driver training along the corridor beginning this week.
Transport and infrastructure minister Barnaby Joyce was joined by Victorian transport minister Jacinta Allan and federal member for Wannon Dan Tehan to inspect the railway on Monday, almost two decades after it was shut down in the early 2000s.
The railway has been upgraded as part of the Murray Basin Rail Project, which is jointly funded by the Australian Government ($240 million) and the Victorian Government ($200 million).
Joyce said the re-opening of the line would be a boost for local primary producers and exporters.
“Victoria’s Murray Basin is a nationally important producer and exporter of grain, mineral sands, fruit, vegetables and wine,” Joyce said. “The Murray Basin Rail Project is an investment in these industries, the competitiveness of our port and freight operators, and Australia’s economy.”
Allan said the start of driver training was a significant milestone.
“The reopening of the Ararat to Maryborough line for driver training is a significant step forward as we get on with the job to help our primary producers get more produce to port,” the state minister said.
“This stage of the project has supported hundreds of local jobs, delivered real economic benefits to rural communities and will provide long lasting support to Victorian farmers and businesses.”
Tehan said the project supported farmers, their families and the region’s economy.
“The overarching project will be a game changer for rail freight in Victoria and will provide a viable alternative to road freight,” Tehan outlined.
“More than 500 workers, including 220 from regional Victoria, have been employed on the Australian and Victorian government-funded project, with more than 40 businesses from central Victoria engaged to provide a range of services.”
A phased return of freight services to the Mildura line is also underway, with sections of the track progressively opening from south to north, as part of the Murray Basin Rail Project.
The Maryborough-Ararat line upgrade is part of Stage 2 of the MBRP. Stage 2 also includes gauge conversion and upgrade works on rail freight lines between Maryborough and Yelta, and Ouyen to Murrayville.