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THE historic Murray River rail crossing between Albury and Wodonga will need to be replaced or undergo a major upgrade to accommodate inland rail.
A single, standard gauge track has existed between the two cities from the Victorian side of the crossing to just south of the Albury station platform for almost a decade following the decommissioning of the former broad gauge track.
The stretch of single track running alongside the Albury-Wodonga internal freeway, is about 1.5km in length.
Also, the rail bridge, which was built in the 1880s, presently is unable to accommodate double-stack containers, as required for inland rail route, due to seven arches over the top.
The heritage-listed bridge will require significant strengthening work to incorporate a second standard gauge track.
The federal government has confirmed as part of a $8.4 billion budget announcement that the inland rail route will use the existing major rail corridor rather than a previously preferred western option from Narrandera to Shepparton.
Inland rail supporter and former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer said the bridge's capability was the only major issue relating to inland rail coming through Albury-Wodonga.
He also predicted existing rail terminal hubs at Ettamogah and Logic Wodonga would both benefit from inland rail.
"If they are going to replace the bridge they might as well replace it with double-stack capable, double track standard gauge," Mr Fischer said.
"It is under-trafficked at the moment even allowing for the four XPTs, the V/Line service and the steel train there is not much else running at the moment.
"Just like parts of Texas we will be advantaged by the two terminals at Ettamogah and Logic and each will carve out their particular niche for particular operators."
Track diversions works at Wangaratta and track lowering works in 20 locations to allow for double-stack containers are among the requirements on the Victorian side to accommodate inland rail.
Australian Logistics Council managing director Michael Kilgariff said Albury-Wodonga was well placed to benefit from inland rail.
"Particularly the region's agricultural producers, who stand to benefit from the ability to send produce to Melbourne and Brisbane ports via double-stacked trains," he said.
"As we know, the phenomenal growth of Asia’s middle classed is driving demand for Australia’s high-quality agricultural produce, and inland rail is about allowing producers to meet that demand.
"The operators of existing rail hubs should take every opportunity to work with the Australian Rail Track Corporation to ensure their infrastructure can integrate as seamlessly as possible with inland rail when it does come online.
"Good planning now will result in optimal outcomes later."
Member for Farrer Sussan Ley said: “This is a massive $8.4 billion project with the real potential to provide thousands of new jobs in regional NSW and another reason I am delighted things look set to get moving pretty quickly from here.
"We also have to make sure every local food producer has the ability to get their stock to the line via the various logistic hubs in our region.
"This is why we are allocating additional resources to communities not directly located on the main corridor to help them also reap the benefits."
This article first appeared on www.bordermail.com.au
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