A new intermodal freight terminal near Melbourne, designed to handle freight from the under-construction Inland Rail line from Brisbane, which will take hundreds of trucks off inner-city streets, was at $A 2bn ($US 1.55bn) the single most expensive item of a $A 10bn infrastructure package included in the Australian federal government’s 2021-22 budget.

Two sites have been identified for the freight terminal, one west of Melbourne, and the other about 40km to the north.

Other big-ticket rail items in the budget included $A 400m for upgrades to Queensland’s Inland Freight Route from Mungindi to Charters Towers and $A 347.5m for additional work on Perth’s Metronet.

The budget also offered a boost to several other passenger projects, including electrification of the Gawler line in South Australia; Stage 2A of the Canberra light rail project; and Stage 3 of the Gold Coast light rail in Queensland. 

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO, Ms Caroline Wilkie, says the government’s initial investment in the Melbourne Intermodal Terminal will deliver significant benefits to the freight sector.

“An intermodal terminal in Melbourne with the capacity to manage double stack containers was an important part of the business case for Inland Rail,” Wilkie says. “This will realise that ambition and maximise the significant benefits of the Inland Rail project.”

The outlook for the Australian economy outlined in the budget was more optimistic than previously predicted, with 1.25% economic growth projected for the current financial year, rising to 4.25% in 2021-22. Unemployment fell to 5.6%, with more people in jobs than before the pandemic.

The full list of rail funding announcements are:

Intermodal facilities and freight rail
  • $A 2bn for initial investment in a new Melbourne Intermodal Terminal
  • $A 61.8m for Melbourne Intermodal Terminal planning and development
  • $A 400m for Inland Freight Route (Mungindi - Charters Towers) upgrades, Queensland
  • $A 16.5m to establish the National Freight Data Hub to enhance the collection and access to freight data across all modes, including rail, and
  • $A 300,000 for a proposed Tennant Creek Multimodal Facility and Rail Terminal development study, Northern Territory.
Rail upgrades
  • $A 347.5m for the Metronet Hamilton Street-Wharf Street grade separations and elevation of associated stations. Enhanced Metronet Byford Rail Extension, with a new grade separated rail crossing at Armadale Road and an elevated station at Armadale, Western Australia
  • $A 178.1m for the Gold Coast rail line capacity improvement preconstruction (Kuraby to Beenleigh), Queensland
  • $A 132.5m for the Canberra Light Rail - Stage 2A
  • $A 126.6m for Gold Coast Light Rail - Stage 3
  • $A 92.8m for commuter car park upgrades including Berwick, Frankston, and Ringwood stations in Victoria
  • $A 60m for the Gawler rail line electrification, South Australia
  • $A 24m for the Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation - Tranche 3 - Port of Burnie Ship loader Upgrade, and
  • $A 3.1m for the Goodwood and Torrens rail junctions project, South Australia.
  • $A 31.5m towards the Metronet high-capacity signalling project in Perth
Planning and business cases
  • $A 5m for the Greater Adelaide Freight Bypass planning study, and
  • $A 2m for the Kalgoorlie rail realignment business case, Western Australia.