The NSW Government will spend $60.4 million to upgrade the rail line between Griffith and Junee, and $40 million on the South Coast rail line, in an effort to improve the efficiency of freight movements across the network.
The upgrades to the track come as part of the state government’s $400 million Fixing Country Rail program, which aims at improving efficiencies in the transport of commodities from NSW’s regional areas.
The Junee-Griffith upgrade will increase the axle loads from approximately 20 tonnes to 25 tonnes, and will allow train speeds to increase from 50 km/h to 80 km/h, enabling delivery times to be shortened and more produce to be placed on trains.
NSW minister for roads, maritime and freight, Melinda Pavey, said the greater efficiencies provided by the upgrade would encourage more freight to move to port by train instead of by truck.
“We are going to improve the capacity of the freight line between Griffith and Junee with a $60.4 million investment so that we can increase the tonnage that’s able to be carried on the line and get 200,000 tonnes of freight annually off the road and on to rail,” Pavey said.
Additional passing loops and sidings, level crossing and bridge upgrades are also to be funded along the Junee and Griffith corridor.
Member for Murray Austin Evans called the announced investment a “fantastic” development for the Riverina region’s agricultural producers.
“We’ve got wine, cotton, rice and more that we need to ship out of this area onto the main freight line, so this is going to increase that efficiency and that is just fantastic for our region,” Evans said.
The upgrade will begin in the coming months and will take approximately a year and a half to be completed, according to the government.
Dean Dalla Valle, CEO of Pacific National and chair of the Freight on Rail Group, applauded the announced investment, saying it would enable the Riverina region’s producers to remain competitive in global markets.
“Our rail freight networks must be efficient so the price of our products and commodities appeal to buyers and consumers around the world,” Dalla Valle said.
“Running freight trains at higher speeds and axle weights gives the Riverina rail network a boost in productivity, resulting in reduced costs and delays for farmers and exporters.”
Dalla Valle said the NSW government’s Fixing Country Rail program and $10 billion Inland Rail project, among others, signalled the beginning of a “rail renaissance” in Australia.
“Moving bulk freight by rail is safer, more efficient and cleaner than road – a typical freight train hauling containers takes up to 65 B-doubles off the road, while rail freight produces 16 times less carbon pollution per tonne kilometre than road,” he said.
“I believe the many and varied benefits of rail have started to capture both the imagination and interest of our key decision-makers – long may it continue.”
The South Coast rail line’s axle limit will also be raised to 25 tonnes, allowing heavier, faster trains to transport goods from the region to the Port of Botany.
“The removal of speed restrictions and the increased capacity on the South Coast Line will lead to a more efficient movement of higher volumes of freight to Port Botany,” Pavey said.
Dalla Valle said running heavier trains on the line to ports would deliver a productivity boost to the region’s rail network, thereby providing a reduction in transport costs for local producers and exporters.
“Australian businesses and exporters like Manildra Group operate in fiercely competitive global markets – our rail freight networks must be efficient so the price of our products and commodities appeal to buyers and consumers around the world,” Dalla Valle said.
Manildra spokesman Mark Owens told the South Coast Register that the rail upgrade would be integral to the company’s expansion.
“The demand for Australian-grown and made produce is huge, so we need efficiencies to move that produce,” he told the local paper. “We move starch, gluten, glucose, food and industrial-grade ethanol so this will allow us to grow our volumes through the port [of Botany].
“We’re fairly tied in today with what we’ve got, so this will free us up a bit.”