Australia’s Victorian Government has announced that almost 70,000 new sleepers will be installed between Korong Vale to Sea Lake, as part of the Murray Basin rail project.

Initiated in February 2015, the project includes essential upgrades on the regional rail freight network to standardise the rail freight services across northern Victoria and enhance the freight capacity.

The replacement work will increase safety and consistency along the line, with four level-crossing renewals and maintenance on more than 3,000 joints.

Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said: “In December last year, the Federal Government announced an additional $200.2m for the Murray Basin Freight Rail Network, including $195.2m for the most extensive package of works recommended by the revised business case undertaken by the Victorian government.

“I’m pleased that work has now started on this important 141km track, which services two major Victorian grain terminals. These works will improve safety and reliability along the line, with four level-crossing renewals and maintenance on more than 3,000 joints. This is just the start of a pipeline of shovel-ready works on this project that both governments will deliver.”

After reviewing the original Murray Basin Rail Project business case, the government was urged by farmers and freight operators to commence the project work as soon as possible.

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Victorian Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said that this project will introduce more freight onto rail along with increasing the state’s primary production output.

This will enable the Victorian farmers to get their products to market easily.

Horne said: “We are committed to shifting more freight onto rail to support our exporters and ensure Victoria’s freight and logistics system meets the needs of a growing population and economy.”

To eliminate blockages and improve the network’s efficiency, around 23,000 sleepers between Inglewood and Korong Vale will be replaced, and nearly 28,000 new sleepers between Dunolly and Inglewood will be installed in the coming months.

Wannon Federal Member Dan Tehan said: “The revised scope of works prioritised and recommended by the Victorian government will be delivered with an additional $195.2m investment from the Australian Government and $48.8m from the Victorian Government.

“These improvements include replacing sleepers, adding passing loops, upgrading signalling, and improving train sidings and refuelling facilities. The additional investment by the Australian Government brings our total commitment to the Murray Basin Freight Rail Network to more than $440m since 2016 and together with the Victorian Government, total investment in the network to more than $800m.”

The future works on the Murray Basin freight rail project is anticipated to generate around 1,000 direct and indirect jobs.