CONSTRUCTION of the Wimmera Intermodal Freight Terminal has started following an official sod-turning ceremony yesterday.
Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty turned the earth with an historic spade, first used on July 26, 1878, to turn the first sod for the Horsham railway.
Horsham Mayor Michael Ryan joined Mr Delahunty at the project site near Dooen, along with a gathering of more than 50 people including government representatives, councillors from throughout the region, project contractors, nearby residents and media.
Mr Delahunty said he was pleased to see the $16.7-million project underway after years of planning.
"This facility will create countless opportunities for the region by boosting business, creating jobs and improving the safety of Horsham's CBD and our highways," he said.
"This is a very exciting development and I am very pleased to be here on the first day."
Cr Ryan said the sod turning was a 'very special day' in Wimmera history before introducing Horsham councillor Bernard Gross, who was heavily involved with the freight hub as chairman of council's project working group.
Cr Gross provided a history of the project, including financial concerns when quotes blew out to $32 million with a budget of $11 million.
He said the former State Government intervened, capping the project at $16.7 million and funding the shortfall.
Cr Gross said he looked forward to seeing the terminal completed before the end of the year and operational by early 2012.
"I would like to thank those who have helped with the project and those who are continuing to do so," he said.
Former Wimmera Development Association executive director Philip Sabien said he was relieved to see the project come to fruition almost 10 years after the idea was first raised in 2002.
He said the association 'led the charge' in the early stages of planning, completing a feasibility study, business case and securing funding before 'handing the reins' to Horsham Rural City Council.
"There was a lot of uncertainty along the way, particularly when we realised we would need a longer track for the super trains," he said.
"The size nearly doubled and the price did too. For a while there I was uncertain if the project would go ahead or not."
The association's new executive director Jo Bourke said she expected Dooen to become a hub for complementary businesses in the near future.
"There will be interest for other businesses to co-locate to this site," she said.
"It is a great regional resource and government investment in this type of infrastructure opens opportunities for other regional businesses."