Agribusiness & Food, Logistics, Ports & Terminals

Successful tenderer announced for Murray Basin Rail Project

Federal infrastructure minister Darren Chester and acting Victorian public transport minister Luke Donnellan have named a McConnell Dowell / Martinus Rail joint venture as the successful tenderer to deliver a major upgrade Murray Basin Rail Network.

The contract represents stages two, three and four of the Murray Basin Rail Project, with work to take place from July 2017 to August 2018.

“We are ready to maximise the benefits of this substantial investment in Victoria’s rail network, and deliver a safer, more productive rail freight network for V/Line and the people of Victoria,” McConnell Dowell’s Australian managing director, Jim Frith said.

“Generating local jobs and spending locally will be a key focus of our team and we will be recruiting at least 15% of our workforce from the Murray Basin region.”

Martinus chief executive Treaven Martinus said the project would be important for local and regional economic development.

“We know that this project is not just about providing more efficient rail freight services and increasing capacity, the project has the potential to deliver hundreds of local jobs, boost exports and create ongoing sustainable economic growth across North Western Victoria,” Martinus said.

The three stages of work included in the contract include gauge conversion and upgrades on rail freight lines from Maryborough to Yelta, Ouyen to Murrayville, Dunolly to Manangatang, Korong Vale to Sea Lake, and Gheringhap to Warrenheip.

This follows the completion of the first stage of the project, where 175,000 sleepers were installed and 3,400 metres of new rail was installed on the Mildura and Hopetoun rail lines, in June last year. Terms for the fifth and final stage of the Murray Basin Rail Project, gauge conversion and upgrade works on freight lines from Warrenheip to Maryborough, are still TBC.

All-in-all, the Murray Basin Rail Project will upgrade 1,055 kilometres of track, and convert it from broad gauge to standard gauge. This will increase the allowable train axle loading from 19 tonnes to 21 tonnes, although the Ouyen to Murrayville line will remain at a 19-tonne axle limit.

Ministers Chester and Donnellan said the project, which has $220 million in funding from the Commonwealth and $220 million from the Victorian Government, will increase exports of regional freight from Portland, Geelong and Melbourne.

“Once the Murray Basin Rail Project is completed, trains on the freight network will be able to carry more product, more often,” Chester said.

“There will be huge benefits to the Australian economy, with the project supporting an increase in competition between the three ports and operators of freight trains and increasing export volumes to overseas markets.”

“This huge project will make it easier for primary producers to get their goods to market — boosting exports, supporting local jobs and growing our regional economy,” Donnellan added.

“This project will create more than 400 jobs at peak construction, with at least 15% of this workforce being recruited from the Murray Basin region.”

Work will begin in coming weeks and will involve the temporary closure of the Maryborough to Yelta and Ouyen to Murrayville sections while the upgrades take place.

The Sea Lake and Manangatang lines will remain open during this time so freight operators can use these as an option to move grain and other produce using rail, V/Line said.

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