The Victorian Government has completed upgrade works on three freight lines in north-west Victoria, making it safer and quicker for freight operators to transport local produce to port.

Victorian Minister for Ports and Freight, Melissa Horne, said the works have been carried out on the Mildura, Sea Lake and Manangatang lines to improve the condition of the track and reduce the risk of infrastructure faults which can delay grain loading.

The works included the installation of more than 170,000 new sleepers, the addition of over 30,000t of ballast to the track, and maintenance on more than 8,000 joints between pieces of rail.

The works included siding extension works at Merbein near Mildura, to allow 1200m-long trains to stable away from the main line so grain trains can run more frequently to Yelta, ahead of what is expected to be another bumper grain season. 

Crossing loops further south will also be extended to allow opposing freight trains to pass each other and increase the current Seaway service between Mildura to the Port of Melbourne from to three to five days a week, moving thousands more tonnes of freight by rail and removing thousands of trucks from local roads. 

An average loaded-800m long intermodal freight train carries a massive $2.25 million worth of produce – which is the equivalent of 55 semi-trailers removed from local roads, making Victoria’s roads safer and reducing carbon emissions.

The works also involved operating specialised machinery along the entire length of the Manangatang line to improve the surface of the track along with the section of track between Korong Vale and Dunolly, which Manangatang and Sea Lake line trains share.

“We’re improving the freight network and ensuring we’re continuing to support our freight operators and farmers by completing these works across the Mildura, Sea Lake and Manangatang lines,” Ms Horne said.

“These works will provide a huge benefit – allowing for more frequent and heavier services of fruit, wine, grain and peas to operate on freight trains between Mildura and the Port of Melbourne.”

Staff walkways were also improved to make it easier to access different parts of the train during loading, and 15 sidings where trains load product across the lines were upgraded. 

The works now also pave the way for 29km of temporary speed restrictions to be removed on the Manangatang line, slashing travel times for freight trains by 20 minutes.

The works were completed as part of V/Line’s program of infrastructure improvements across the regional rail network.

The Victorian Budget 2022/23 will deliver $181 million for critical maintenance works on the regional rail freight network to improve rail freight competitiveness and support the growing freight task that is vital to regional economies and supply chains. 

In addition, a further $3.5 million has been allocated to extend the Mode Shift Incentive Scheme (MSIS). The MSIS supports more than 170 freight industry jobs at intermodal terminals in regional Victoria – including Seaway Intermodal – and removes the equivalent of 28,000 truck trips from the state’s roads every year. 

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