Work is underway on the second phase of the Murray Basin Rail Project, after the $440 million contract was awarded in June.
Federal infrastructure and transport minister Darren Chester joined his Victorian counterpart Jacinta Allan in Maryborough on Monday, to inspect equipment and meet rail workers as the project kicked off.
This was just a month after a joint venture of McConnell Dowell and Martinus Rail was announced as the successful tenderer to deliver the major upgrade.
The contract represents stages two, three and four of the Murray Basin Rail Project, with work to take place up to August 2018. The three stages of work included in the contract cover the gauge conversion and upgrades on rail freight lines from Maryborough to Yelta, Ouyen to Murrayville, Dunolly to Manangatang, Korong Vale to Sea Lake, and Gheringhap to Warrenheip.
Preliminary works are now underway at Maryborough, including vegetation removal and site investigations. Works are also set to begin in Dunolly, delivering major upgrades to the Mildura freight rail line.
The project will increase train axle loadings from 19 tonnes to 21 tonnes between Dunolly and Yelta, and Maryborough to Ararat to allow freight trains to carry heavier loads.
“Improving the performance of the regional Victorian rail freight network will bolster the state’s agricultural sector, drive economic growth, help create jobs and boost regional communities,” Chester said.
“The Murray Basin Rail Project will standardise rail gauges and increase maximum freight volumes, allowing higher volumes of goods to be carried more efficiently.”
Federal Member for Wannon Dan Tehan, who also visited Maryborough, said the upgrade project itself would also benefit employment in the region.
“More than 400 people will be employed on the project at its peak with up to 60 local jobs generated in the Central Goldfields Shire,” Tehan said.
“The Murray Basin Rail Project will ultimately enable trains to carry up to 500,000 more tonnes of grain each year and capture about 20,000 journeys currently undertaken by trucks, improving road safety and the road network for all those who use our local roads.”
The Sea Lake and Manangatang lines will remain open for now, so freight operators can consider using these lines as another option to keep moving freight by rail with works being scheduled outside of grain harvest seasons, the ministers said.
Meanwhile, work on the Mildura line will start on August 7, requiring the closure of the line north of Dunolly for the next five months to ensure the safety of work crews.