The Australian and Victorian governments have released tenders for the second and third stages of a project that will standardise and upgrade the Murray Basin freight rail network.

Stage one of the project, completed earlier in 2016, upgraded the Mildura line with the installation of sleepers and the replacement of rail.

The second stage released to market will standardise the track between Yelta and Maryborough which will increase axle loading and allow heavier trains carrying more product with each trip to market.

The Maryborough to Ararat line will also be upgraded and reopened as part of stage two, providing a key freight connection to the Port of Portland from north west Victoria and interstate.

Stage three of the project will standardise the gauge and increase axle loading on the Manangatang and Sea Lake lines.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, said the Murray Basin Freight Rail Project would boost the safety, capacity and reliability of freight services in north-west Victoria.

“This project is economically crucial to better connect primary producers to Victoria’s major ports,” Mr Chester said.

“The Australian Government is committed to supporting farmers, their families and our regional economy through investment in much-needed regional transport infrastructure projects such as the Murray Basin Freight Rail Project.”

Victorian Minister for Public Transport and Major Projects, Jacinta Allan, said the project was great news for regional Victoria.

“This vital project will allow our primary producers to get more produce to port, more efficiently – boosting jobs and the regional economy,” Ms Allan said.

“It’s good for farmers and their families, and we’re not wasting a moment getting it to market and getting it done.”

Complementary works funded by the Victorian Government include the completion of sleeper and rail upgrades on the Hopetoun Line and as part of the tender for stage two works, standardisation of the Ouyen to Murrayville line.

The $440 million Murray Basin Freight Rail Project is jointly funded by the Australian and Victorian governments, with both contributing up to $220 million.

The tender for stages two and three closes in early February 2017.

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