Prime Mover Magazine

Trucks to pick up slack on controversial ‘botched’ rail project

Grain trucks in Victoria are set to be deployed in Western Victoria to carry freight that would have otherwise been delivered by rail on the faltering $440 million Murray Basin Rail project.

Designed to increase the capacity by upgrading and converting the railway lines in the state's west to standard gauge used across the border in New South Wales, the project was supposed to remove 25,000 trucks off the state's roads.

But with only two stages so far completed out of the projected five, trucks are expected to be brought in to carry grain and other agricultural products to the port for export.

Rebuilding the rail line between Maryborough and Ararat has seen cost saving measures introduced in which steel rails from 1913 have been used on the project.

Reports suggest this has since resulted in significant speed reductions in which trains take three times as long to make the journey in comparison to road transport.

According to Nine News trains that have been reduced in capacity, now take roughly three times as long to make the journey between the two towns as trucks on the road, with speed limits as low as 25 kilometres an hour imposed on sections of the line.

Parts of the line have reportedly also been abandoned as the project runs out of money.

The Murray Basin Rail project was jointly funded by both Federal and State governments.

To date the most pressing concern for the State Government is to complete a $23 million upgrade of the Manangatang and Sea Lake lines, ahead of this year's grain harvest.

Liberal MP and Shadow Treasurer Louise Staley told 9News not enough ballast had been put into the track work.

"There's whole parts of the line further north that they haven't done at all, they've just abandoned fixing them," she said.

In June the Victorian Auditor-General was looking into the project. The findings from that report have not yet been made public.

The State Government acknowledged it had already spent most of the project's entire budget, halfway through its completion.

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