Work begins on rail freight super-highway

By: Graham Gardiner

The first stage of a joint government project of more than $500 million will begin today to revitalise Victoria’s north-east

The first stage of a joint government project of more than $500 million will begin today to revitalise Victoria’s north-east rail corridor and link it to major transport hubs.

The Rudd and Brumby Governments have committed $501.3 million towards building an interstate rail freight super-highway, with the first stage beginning with the Wodonga Rail Bypass.

The bypass, which will consist of 5km of single track, is part of the North-East Rail Revitalisation Project, which will also convert 200kms of broad gauge track to standard gauge and provide a rail link between Melbourne and Sydney.

"Removing the rail line from the centre of Wodonga will open it up to major commercial opportunities, rejuvenate the city centre and is central to the urban development of Wodonga as a vibrant regional hub," Victorian Premier John Brumby says.

Federal Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese says the freight route between Melbourne and Sydney is Australia’s busiest, with freight volumes forecast to increase by 70 percent in the next 20 years.

He says the project will result in efficiency gains, in turn reducing the capacity constraints on the rail freight transport sector.

"This project is part of the $2.4 billion being invested by the Australian Government and the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) in a better east coast rail freight line," Albanese says.

Once complete, Albanese says the new rail network will slash travel times between Melbourne and Sydney by more than three hours.

"The five-kilometre Wodonga rail bypass alone will cut 10 minutes off an interstate train trip. It will also improve safety for the community by removing 11 level crossings in the centre of town," Albanese says.

The ARTC is investing $285 million in the project, with $171.3 million coming from the Victorian Government. The Rudd Government is investing $45 million through AusLink.

The North-East Rail Revitalisation Project will be completed in 2010.

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