The Victorian government has established an advisory council that will guide V/Line in improving the state’s freight rail network, and will begin by reviewing planned rail heat restrictions for the coming summer.
The Freight Advisory Council is made up of leading industry representatives, who will share information with the rail operator, and make expert recommendations and consultation efforts across the freight rail industry, reaching out to stakeholders such as farmers and freight train operators.
“Our farmers and primary industries across Victoria rely on the rail freight network – it’s vital we make it as efficient and safe as possible,” state transport minister Jacinta Allan said.
Some of the advice that V/Line will receive from the Council will relate to operational requirements, restrictions and rail freight project delivery including the Murray Basin Rail Project, which is currently underway.
This project involves standardising the rail freight lines servicing the Murray Basin region in the north-west of Victoria, and will also increase axle loading on these lines from 19 tonnes to 21 tonnes, allowing more efficient and competitive freight exports due to a reduction in logistics costs.
“With the Murray Basin Rail Project underway to revitalise our freight network, this group will look at the entire supply chain from farm to port and recommend ways to make it easier for farmers to transport their produce,” Allan said.
The first area that the Council will address is V/Line’s proposed heat restrictions for the coming summer. It will review the measures brought in last summer to stop trains travelling on days when temperatures reach 33C.
Many in the freight and farming sectors are concerned about the impacts these measures on export logistics, particularly after the restrictions led to freight service cancellations during last year’s record grain harvest.
The Council, which came together for the first time yesterday, is chaired by Peter Tuohey, an industry leader and a former president of the Victorian Farmers Federation.
“This group will enable regular communication across the entire rail freight industry, including farmers, freight train operators, port managers and V/Line,” Mr Tuohey said.
“The council will be ideally placed to provide expert advice to V/Line on operational requirements, heat and temporary speed restrictions and rail freight project delivery including the Murray Basin Rail Project.”