WORK to upgrade the Murray Basin Rail network in Victoria has resumed after the Australian federal government provided an additional $A 200.2m ($US 155.7m) for the project, which stalled when the initial budget was exhausted. 

A major element of the package of work now underway is the replacement of nearly 70,000 sleepers on a 141km section between Korong Vale and Sea Lake, a line that services two major grain terminals. 

“These works will improve safety and reliability along the line, with four level-crossing renewals and maintenance on more than 3000 joints,” says deputy prime minister and federal minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development, Mr Michael McCormack. “In December last year, the federal government announced an additional $A 200.2m for the Murray Basin Freight Rail Network, including $A 195.2m for the most extensive package of works recommended by the revised business case undertaken by the Victorian government.”  

The Murray Basin project will convert nearly 1000km of the broad-gauge freight rail network in the northwest of the state to standard gauge and increase axle loads from 19 to 21 tonnes. It was launched in 2016 but ground to a halt in 2019 when the $A 440m funding ran out while with the project was only half complete and under the revised plans not all lines will be converted to standard gauge. 

Nevertheless, Victorian minister for transport infrastructure, Ms Jacinta Allan, says Victorian farmers are already seeing the benefits of the project.  

“Freight trains have returned to the Mildura and Murrayville to Ouyen lines, the Maryborough to Ararat line reopened after 15 years and we’ve seen significant upgrades to the Hopetoun, Manangatang and Yelta lines,” she says.