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WORK is slowly progressing on the troubled Murray Basin Rail Project, as grain growers ready themselves for this season’s harvest.
But former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer said some elements of the project should have been completed by the State Government a year ago.
Mr Fischer — the chairman of the Rail Freight Network Review — said while earthworks had been partially completed there was still “much more work to be done”, including construction of a new diamond that would allow the track to cross the broad gauge passenger trail.
“Upon completion of the triangle, which should have been built a year ago, freight trains will save an average of one to two hours between Mildura and Geelong,” he said.
“There is slow progress being made on the new east Ararat triangle, the shortcut standard gauge, which will allow trains between Mildura and Geelong to cut straight through Ararat and not have to proceed towards Adelaide, and then reverse.
“The Australian Rail Track Corporation has taken over the construction and final planning, but some elements of Victorian Transport and V/Line have caused massive delays in this vital project.
“Rail project Victoria has also finally stepped up, as it’s realised the absurdity of having completed the standardised gauge of Geelong and Mildura without the new east Ararat triangle.”
A spokeswoman from the State Government told The Weekly Times works on stage two of the Murray Basin Rail Project were largely complete, with freight trains now in operation on the Mildura line, the Murrayville to Ouyen line and the Maryborough to Ararat line.
“We’re finalising detailed planning and designs for the $130 million Freight-Passenger Rail Separation Project, and remaining stages of the $440 million Murray Basin Rail Project to provide for security of freight pathways through the Murray Basin region to our ports,” the spokeswoman said.
“The Mildura to Maryborough line is now operating at 80km per hour.
“The Ararat to Maryborough line is operating at 65km per hour with the few remaining track speed restrictions on the line to be progressively removed before the end of the year.”
The spokeswoman said that V/Line had implemented a manual train order system on the Maryborough to Ararat line to allow for an increase in the number of train movements on the line for trains travelling in the same direction.
There have been works at the Maryborough railyards, and the upgrade to the Ararat junction is on track for completion at the end of this year.
According to the State Government, Rail Projects Victoria have currently been inspecting 388km of track on the Manangatang and Sea Lake lines, along with 66km of track between Gheringhap and Warrenheip as part of the planning for the remaining stages of the project.
Both the freight-passenger rail and Murray Basin rail projects are estimated to be completed in 2020.
This article first appeared on www.weeklytimesnow.com.au
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