Image Upload

File size must be less than 2Mb

You must have online publishing permission or full ownership of this image

File types (jpg, png, gif)

  • Hero image
    Nhill cancer patient Graham Ruse uses The Overland service to travel to and from Melbourne for specialist appointments. West Wimmera Health Care chief executive Ritchie Doods supports the move to keep the service.

Port rail investment welcomed

 By Lauren Henry

Councils and transport bodies have welcomed the Federal Government’s investment of $150 million into the Maroona to Portland rail line.

Announced in the Federal Budget last week, the money to upgrade the rail line, which starts at Maroona, west of Ararat, is part of $540 million from the government’s Infrastructure Investment Program allocated to the Australian Rail Track Corporation, ARTC, for its interstate freight rail network.

Works are set to begin in the 2026-27 financial year.

Article continues below

Horsham Mayor Robyn Gulline described the upgrade as ‘very good news’ for the Wimmera. Cr Gulline said the line was once a busy corridor for the movement of Wimmera grain to the Port of Portland, but had not been substantially upgraded since being leased in the early 2000s.

Currently, the permitted speed on the line is limited to 40 kilometres an hour, making rail freight inefficient compared to B-double trucks, but the upgrade will enable heavier axle limits for trains and lift the speed limit to 80 kilometres an hour. 

“Upgrading this key section of the Ararat-Portland line will enable more competitive freight options for grain and mineral sands to be transported to the port of Portland,” Cr Gulline said.

“In the Wimmera, we have an intermodal freight terminal that links us with Melbourne and Geelong. 

“Regaining our rail link with Portland would make Horsham and the Wimmera even more enticing for industries to invest in.”

Cr Gulline said the upgraded rail line would also result in a ‘drastic reduction’ in the amount of trucks travelling to the port from the Wimmera.

“So many of these trucks currently travel right through the heart of Horsham, reducing the amenity of our city and placing costly strain on our key regional roads such as the Henty Highway,” she said.

“Reducing the amount of trucks will also have a positive impact on carbon emissions.”

Cr Gulline said the Horsham council had long advocated for the Maroona line to be upgraded. 

“With four of the world’s largest sand-mining projects planned within a 70-kilometre radius of Horsham, for the Wimmera there is a lot riding on this upgrade,” she said. 

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King said the government’s reforms to the Infrastructure Investment Program aimed to improve productivity, liveability, and sustainability for new and existing projects during the next 10 years. 

The Budget provided $16.5 billion for the projects, with $4.6 billion for 69 new projects, including $540 million to improve the reliability of the interstate freight rail network.

“We’ve provided additional money to the Australian Rail Track Corporation to really build resilience and improve the national freight network for rail,” she said.

“There’s over $540 million in this budget, ARTC will put in $700 million themselves. 

“The Portland to Maroona line, replacing those sleepers, which are in some areas just absolute dust, will bring the Port of Portland into the national freight network in a way that it has not been before and it’s a huge initiative, I know that’s been called for, for a long time.”

“Given that Portland is such a big, deep-water port, it’s a really important part of infrastructure and providing that rail connectivity,” Ms King said.

Rail Freight Alliance chair Glenn Milne said the upgrade was needed to alleviate the amount of freight travelling on western Victorian roads.

“We always knew the need to invest in this line, given the mineral sands 900,000-tonne annual freight task to commence within two years,” he said.

“If this freight was to go by road, it would have been devastating for the communities along the route. Safety, amenity, road longevity matter to all Victorians, as well as to the economy in getting freight paths to export”. 

Rail Freight Alliance chief executive Reid Mather said the 172-kilometre line was leased by the State Government to the Federal Government and managed by ARTC.

“The ongoing challenge for the alliance was who pays,” he said.

“The additional grain from the standardised Mildura line and the mineral sands freight task has demonstrated the need for this investment”.  

Mr Mather said the Port of Portland was experienced in handling mineral sands concentrate.  

“This upgrade will serve the Victorian community well and demonstrate to successive governments the value of rail freight investment,” he said.


The entire May 22, 2024 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!