MAJOR work of Australia’s Inland Rail project has commenced in Victoria, with work now underway in two of the three states that the new 1700km Melbourne - Brisbane freight railway will pass.

Infrastructure manager Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is building the new railway, which has a budget of $A 14.5bn. However, some observers suggest the project will cost closer to $A 20bn and a government review is now underway.

Running from Victoria to New South Wales and Queensland, Inland Rail will cut 200km off the existing coastal route between Melbourne and Brisbane and will offer transit times of less than 24 hours, improving connections to national and international markets for Australian businesses, manufacturers and producers.

McConnel Dowell won the first $A 200m contract to conduct the work in November.

Inland Rail follows the existing North East Rail Line, which was upgraded in 2021. Work in Victoria includes providing greater clearances at 12 sites to enable the operation of double-stack container trains. ARTC has has already completed the Parkes - Narromine section of Inland Rail in New South Wales with major construction work also underway on the Narrabri - North Star section