Aug 21, 2009

$73 million Mildura rail freight line upgrade complete

$73 million Mildura rail freight line upgrade complete

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

August 21 2009

A major $73 million Rudd and Brumby Government project to upgrade the Mildura rail freight corridor to increase train speeds and drive economic growth in regional communities is complete.

Premier John Brumby and Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Anthony Albanese today announced the completion of the $73 million upgrade.

“The Victorian Government is taking action to create jobs and ensure our regions continue to grow and thrive by investing in high-quality, efficient transport connections,” Mr Brumby said.

“The $73 million Mildura Rail Upgrade will shave at least 20 per cent off the travel time along this important rail freight route which will mean goods can be transported more quickly to customers – this is great news for industry and in particular the grain industry which will benefit in time for this year’s grain harvest.

“It will improve the reliability of the line, give producers greater incentive to transport goods via rail freight and is part of unprecedented investments our Government is making in Victoria’s rail freight network, with more than 70 per cent of the network upgraded or being upgraded.

“The completion of the Mildura freight upgrade now paves the way for the signalling and station works to start on the return of passenger services to Maryborough which are on track to begin in the middle of next year – this is great news for the Maryborough community.

“This project also demonstrates how together, the Victorian and Commonwealth governments are taking action to support the state’s rail freight industry, grain growers and regional communities which benefit from a sustainable rail freight network.”

Mr Albanese said: “The Rudd Labor Government has made a record investment of $7.9 billion into the nation’s rail network because we want to take more trucks off our roads, cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, and deliver produce and products to market quickly.

“We have invested $20 million into the Mildura Rail Freight Project, along with the Victorian Government’s contribution of $53 million.

As a result of this upgrade, travel times for trains will be reduced from 14 hours to less than 10 hours between Melbourne and the outskirts of Geelong.

“Freight trains will be able to operate at speeds of up to 80km an hour along this line.

“The project involved the upgrading of 525 kilometres of track between Gheringhap and Mildura and was completed on time and on budget within 18 months.

“The Mildura line is one of the busiest freight corridors in Victoria, with around 1.5 million tonnes of produce transported every year,” Mr Albanese said.

“The Rudd Government is committed to supporting jobs today by investing in the infrastructure Victorians need for the future.”

Victorian Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky said almost two in every five sleepers along the 525km line was replaced with gauge convertible sleepers and a third rail line added over 60 level crossings to allow for future standardisation.

“The Mildura line upgrade forms part of a never before seen substantial package of rail freight investment presently being undertaken in Victoria,” Ms Kosky said.

“With the upgrade of Gold Lines complete, and the majority of Silver Lines underway, more than 70 per cent of Victoria’s rail freight-only network has been upgraded or is in the process of being upgraded.”

Ms Kosky said with a number of rail projects in north-west Victoria, a new consultative forum was being established to ensure continued liaison with stakeholders throughout the region.

“The Rail Project Consultative Forum will provide a forum for high level engagement with local government on the development and roll-out of announced rail projects in the region,” she said.

“Mayors and CEOs from 13 shires throughout north-west Victoria will be invited to participate, with forums held every four months.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to work together with local government to deliver quality rail projects that will benefit regional communities.”

The Victorian Government announced the return of passenger services to Maryborough as part of its $38 billion Victorian Transport Plan in December last year.

“Passenger services will be returned to Maryborough next year, with a daily return service to provide access to education and employment opportunities in Ballarat, as well as health and retail services in Ballarat and Melbourne,” Ms Kosky said.

“Preliminary works are already but will become more visible over the coming months.

“The $50 million Maryborough Passenger Rail Project is a key initiative of the $38 billion Victorian Transport Plan which aims to deliver the best transport network in Australia and help to link rural, regional and metropolitan Victoria.”

The first passenger services to Maryborough are expected in the middle of 2010 with the first Rail Project Consultative Forum held in Ouyen in early October.