Hopetoun to Murtoa rail line to be part of $220m upgrade

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE: A plan to standardise rail in the Murray Basin was revealed at The Nationals State Conference on Saturday. The line from Hopetoun to Murtoa is slated for upgrading. Image: CONTRIBUTED

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE: A plan to standardise rail in the Murray Basin was revealed at The Nationals State Conference on Saturday. The line from Hopetoun to Murtoa is slated for upgrading. Image: CONTRIBUTED

THE rail line from Hopetoun to Murtoa will be upgraded as part of a $220-million rail upgrade.

The State Government has committed to a standardised rail link from Mildura to Geelong.

Deputy Premier and Nationals leader Peter Ryan unveiled the Murray Basin Rail Project at The Nationals State Conference in Benalla on Saturday.

"The project involves building and upgrading freight lines to 21-tonne axle loading, providing an immediate 15 per cent productivity improvement that will increase train loads by 300 to 400 tonnes," Mr Ryan said.

The State Government has set a 2018 deadline for construction.

An initial $41 million has been allocated to upgrading Hopetoun to Murtoa and Mildura to Maryborough rail lines, as a priority.

"The final cost and alignment of the full Mildura to Geelong rail standardisation will be guided by the final business case, to be delivered by the end of the year," Mr Ryan said.

Member for Swan Hill Peter Walsh said the project would improve efficiency and access for farmers sending their produce to ports for export.

"Victoria exported food and fibre worth $9.4 billion during 2013-14 and that figure is expected to rise further to meet growing demand in Asia," he said.

"I have also set a target for the state's food and fibre producers to double production by 2030.

"We need the infrastructure to support that increase, which this freight rail upgrade will provide."

Yarriambiack Shire Mayor Andrew McLean welcomed the announcement.

He said upgraded rail would encourage further investment in the area.

"It also means we'll see fewer grain trucks on the road," he said.

"Iluka has recently been talking to us about bringing some of the mineral sands across from Balranald in New South Wales to Hopetoun and putting it on that line, if they receive final approval for a mine at Balranald.

"At the moment, Iluka is operating towards Ouyen, just outside Yarriambiack Shire.

"We've only got about 18 months until they finish there."

He said the Hopetoun to Murtoa rail line had been busy transporting grain and mineral sands.

"There has also been a continual push for passenger rail up the Mildura line," Cr McLean said.

"If they do standardise the line, that might improve the chances of it.

"But I'd like to see some money put onto the roads also."

As chairman of the Sunraysia Highway Improvement Committee, he said he was particular to the cause.

"The Henty Highway also needs some money spent on it," Cr McLean said.

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