Mildura Line

Ouyen intermodal future awaits MBRP outcome

A community group in in Ouyen, north-west Victoria, is closing in on the construction of a new intermodal terminal, however is awaiting one missing link; the replacement of a rail siding removed in the aborted Murray Basin Rail Project (MBRP).

The Ouyen Intermodal Project, backed by local development organisation Ouyen Inc, hopes to remove roughly 9,000 trucks off rural roads in the region with five weekly train services between Ouyen and the Port of Melbourne.

The facility would serve local agricultural businesses seeking to get products to port, including hay growers Wingara AG who announced this week its subsidiary JC Tanloden is planning to construct a hay processing plant in Ouyen. The hay, grown in the Mallee region, would be processed at Ouyen and then transported by rail to the Port of Melbourne for export.

Other industries keen for an intermodal facility at Ouyen include grape growers and mineral sands enterprises.

According to Ouyen Inc president Scott Anderson, the facility would be welcomed by growers, transport businesses and the local community.

“With the right governance structure and operators in place we are confident of getting these big freight volumes off the road and onto the rail network. We don’t want to compete against the road transport industry in North West Victoria, but instead work with them. These companies already have existing export warehouses and cool rooms established, so working in conjunction with them means not having to duplicate this system at Ouyen.”

Project consultant Michael O’Callaghan said the choice of situating the intermodal facility at Ouyen was also strategic for freight rail operations.

“Our selected site will allow a short road haul from warehouse or farm to a rail terminal that is the furthest distance from the Port of Melbourne, where trains can get up and back in a day, unloading and reloading at both ends and refuelling on a consistent basis. This is considered the ‘holy grail’ of running freight trains into North West Victoria.”

With an agreement now negotiated between Ouyen Inc and the landowner, a Heads of Agreement with a national intermodal operator, and support from local exporters, the only thing holding back the terminal is its connection to the rail network.

The former rail siding was removed during the first stage of the MBRP, which involved converting the Mildura and Murrayville lines, which Ouyen sits at the junction of, from broad to standard gauge. With the revised business case for the MBRP awaiting federal government approval, Ouyen Inc. is calling upon the Victorian government to ensure that the siding is replaced.

While a Victorian Department of Transport spokesperson would not commit to the works, they encouraged further development of the proposal.

“The Department of Transport is aware of ongoing work towards establishing an intermodal terminal in Ouyen and encourages the proponents to continue working on the necessary elements to demonstrate the terminal is commercially sustainable,” the spokesperson said.

“We look forward to further discussions regarding this proposal as the proponents continue to advance it.”

With a business case being prepared on behalf of Ouyen Inc, the construction of the facility, scheduled for December 2021, hinges upon government support.