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MORE than $70 million lies in store for grain rail network upgrades and repairs in the 2015-16 State Budget.
"These are the largest levels of funding in a generation for grain rail lines in country NSW," said Roads, Maritime and Freight Minister Duncan Gay.
The Coalition committed to a five-year, $277m program of works running from 2012 to 2017 to refurbish grain rail lines in NSW.
A pot of $56m is in store for upgrade and repair for grain lines across the state in this financial year.
A further $20m is committed for upgrades on the Country Rail Network, including rail siding extensions at key grain receival sites to help reduce loading times for freight trains moving grain to NSW ports and mills.
Rail siding extensions have already been upgraded under the program of works.
Government provided $3.44 million to extend the existing rail siding at Ardlethan by 750 metres to 1170m, to be installed by Emerald Grain and GrainCorp.
A further $2.9m was spent at GrainCorp's Nevertire site to extend the current grain loop by 750m to 1215m.
On top of the budget commitment, Mr Gay said $400m will be invested in a new program, Fixing Country Rail, to be funded from the profits of the government's anticipated $20m "poles and wires" sale of the state's electricity assets.
The Liberal Party committed $6bn of the poles and wires funds to the Nationals under the Coalition partnership for investment in regional NSW.
Fixing Country Rail will operate in the same way as the Fixing Country Roads program, with government allocating funds through merit-based assessments of rail infrastructure needs.
Funding will be assessed against potential efficiency gains with an eye to freight volumes and demand, connections to mills, ports and regional intermodal sites, axle load weights and travel time savings.
The 49 kilometre Wee Waa to Burren Junction rail line is an example of the upgrades in store for grain rail, where heavier locomotives can travel the track, at increased speeds.
More than 40,000 old timber sleepers on that line have been replaced with modern long-life steel sleepers.
The track has been packed with 15,000 tonnes of new ballast and resurfaced to align it .
Two culverts have also been added and seven level crossings were upgraded along the line.
This article first appeared on www.theland.com.au
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