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About Victoria's rail freight network

Victoria's freight network relies on road and rail connections. Investment works in moving more freight from road to rail, are underway.

The Victorian freight plan, Delivering the Goods, prioritises greater use of the state’s rail freight assets.

Across Victoria, our freight network relies on both road and rail connections. We’re investing in works to move more freight from road to rail, particularly long-haul freight where rail is superior.

Victoria generates more economic growth and more jobs from freight than any other state. Freight is the economic engine for much of regional Victoria

A freight industry helps Victorian businesses and primary producers and creates jobs across all parts of our economy.

Projects underway include:

Planning for a new interstate rail freight terminal has also commenced.

An increase in Victoria’s gross product by $40 billion over the next three decades will see freight volumes more than double.

Victoria’s plan to meet this challenge is in the Victorian freight plan, Delivering the Goods.

To better understand how Victoria’s road, rail and intermodal assets interact to move freight efficiently, watch the video below.

Current projects

Statement of Freight Network Capability

We know how important it is to have a stable operating environment for rail freight operators to carry goods and grow the industry. 

The Department of Transport and Planning has developed the Statement of Freight Network Capability (Statement) to clearly state the rail network’s capability and when it's available for carrying goods. 

This statement is meant to make things clear for both customers and the operators who run the trains and helps achieve the goals we set in the Government ‘s 2018 Freight Plan - Delivering the Goods.

If there are any material changes in the rail network's standards, capacity, use, or availability, a new Statement will be made.

It's important to remember that the information is just a guide, we encourage everyone involved to check with the network managers for the most accurate information.

Releasing the Statement is the first step in making a new rail freight access regime in the state. This new plan will make things clearer and give more space for thinking about how to help the freight industry grow. 

With the release of the Capability Statement, the Department is now commencing work on the other components of the new regime including access pricing and guidelines for network managers.

Victoria’s rail infrastructure Statement of Freight Network Capability October 2023
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$181 million to deliver capital upgrades to the regional rail network

The 2022-23 Victorian Budget contains a massive investment in freight rail. This investment will allow Victoria to deliver a rail freight network which is fast and efficient in the movement of exports to port.

It will also boost the capacity of lines that only carry freight. This will increase the volume, mass and speed of freight carried per train. The work will include:

  • Rail replacement on high-use trunk lines
  • New rail-joint works and/or welding to remove stress points at rail ends
  • Extra ballast to lift lines to the required ballast depth to distribute heavier loads
  • Assessment and upgrade of culverts and bridges to withstand higher loads

An 800-metre-long grain train can transport 2000 tonnes of grain, equal to 50 B-double trucks. Lifting axle loads from 19 to 21 tonnes will allow trains of an equal length to carry 3000 tonnes of grain.

$83 million investment as part of our COVID-19 stimulus package

The Victorian Government announced an $83 million freight improvement package focused on:

replacing sleepers,replacing ballast andrenewing level crossing equipment along almost 400 kilometres of critical freight-only rail lines.

This, in turn, reduced the number of temporary speed restrictions to its lowest level since the database commenced in 2005.

Big Build: regional rail freight upgrades

The Australian and Victorian Governments are delivering the Murray Basin Rail Project(opens in a new window).

This project has a total investment of $800 million.

Works have included:

  • track and signalling upgrades,reopening and standardisation of the Ararat-Maryborough line, andstandardisation of the Maryborough-Mildura and Ouyen-Murrayville lines.
  • Standardising the gauge of the track brings it into line with the national standard. This will deliver greater competition among rail operators and boost efficiency.

Works underway or in the delivery phase include:

  • a further track upgrade of the Ararat-Maryborough line,a new siding at Donald, and upgraded sidings at Yelta and extensions to passing loops.

Learn more on the Victoria’s Big Build website(opens in a new window).

Mode Shift Incentive Scheme

Since 2012-13, the Victorian Government has invested more than $51 million in the Mode Shift Incentive Scheme (MSIS) to make regional intermodal freight more cost-effective for Victorian exporters.

The MSIS helps rail freight operators compete with road freight and allows exporters to get their goods efficiently to port. These operators play a crucial role in moving Victorian produce from the farm gate for export including meat, dairy, grain, hay, fruit, oats, beans and wine.

Terminals at Dooen, Mildura, Tocumwal and Warrnambool take part in the scheme.

North Geelong C signal box automation

Automating the North Geelong C signal box along with other signalling work has:

doubled grain train at the Geelong grain loop, increased unloading capacity at the Port of Geelong.

Removing manual signalling has improved safety, increased rail access into the Port and allowed more trains per day to unload.

Automation allows two trains to enter the loop at the same time. This means the 24-hour Train Control Centre can control permitting around-the-clock operations.

Freight operators and grain companies can save costs on:

train-crew rostering, and reduce turnaround times between silo and port.

This will in turn reduce costs to exporters and improving the competitiveness of Victoria’s grain for overseas markets.

More rail freight service from East Gippsland

On 18 May, rail freight returned to Bairnsdale for the first time since 2009. That was when a test train arrived at the Fenning Intermodal Freight Terminal (FIFT).

Once regular services begin, three freight trains per week will transport more than 10,000 containers yearly to the Port of Melbourne. Six thousand truck trips will be removed from regional roads and deliver long-term benefits to the Gippsland economy.

Significant development is planned for the terminal. This includes an increase in warehouse capacity and storage facilities.

Port Rail Shuttle Network

The Port Rail Shuttle Network (PRSN) will:

reduce truck numbers on roads, reduce congestion around the inner city and make rail freight cheaper

A $58 million government initiative will see public land will be brought. This will encourage investment from the private sector in new rail connections and terminals.

The PRSN will deliver an efficient and cost-effective alternative to road transport. Particularly for the 87 per cent of import containers that travel to destinations less than 50 kilometres from the port gate.

This means trucks will deliver or pick up containers from outer metropolitan rail terminals at:

  • Somerton,
  • Dandenong South, and 
  • Altona

instead of crossing the city to the port.

Grants have been allocated to Austrak, Salta and SCT Logistics to connect their terminals to the existing rail network.

Construction works have commenced at Dandenong South and Altona. It’s anticipated these new rail connections will enable port rail shuttles to begin running from 2022.

By 2050, the PRSN could move 30 per cent of Melbourne’s containers by rail, avoiding millions of truck trips each year.

Port Rail Transformation Project

The Port of Melbourne is delivering new port-rail infrastructure. This includes on-dock rail facilities at Swanson Dock.

The $125 million Port Rail Transformation Project(opens in a new window) will increase the competitiveness of rail freight by:

  • cutting the cost of last-mile travel, and
  • reducing truck congestion at the port gate.

Major works in the Swanson Dock precinct are in progress. Completion of the on-dock rail facilities in the Swanson Dock precinct is scheduled for 2023.

Port Rail Transformation Project at the Port of Melbourne
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Rail network planning

New intermodal freight precincts

New intermodal freight precincts are planned for:

  • Truganina in Melbourne’s west, and
  • Beveridge in Melbourne’s outer north

to service the state’s growing freight and logistics sector.

The role of the new precincts will be primarily to handle interstate freight, but also the import and export container trade.

A joint Australian and Victorian governments' investment case has been completed for the location of the new intermodal freight terminal.

Its findings that a new terminal should be developed in Melbourne's west were endorsed by the Victorian Government. Planning for a new intermodal terminal at Truganina has commenced.

The new terminal will support the Inland Rail Project(opens in a new window) and supplement, and replace, the existing terminal at Dynon.

Intermodal freight precincts fact sheet
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 Renewing the Principal Freight Network

The Principal Freight Network (PFN) has been reviewed and updated. Twenty amendments were made following stakeholder consultation in 2020-21.

The updated PFN has been incorporated into the Victorian Planning Provisions to protect key freight corridors and places.

The PFN is a strategic network of current and recognised future freight places and connecting movement corridors that are of national, state or regional significance and accommodate freight of significant quantity, value or importance.

Shepparton Rail Freight Planning Study

The Shepparton Rail Freight Planning Study is underway. It aims to maximise the benefits for both freight and passenger services on the line.

The $10 million study is jointly funded by the Victorian and Commonwealth governments. This includes a $9 million package of rail-freight infrastructure upgrades.

The Port of Melbourne’s 2050 Port Development Strategy proposes a Webb Dock Freight Link to be delivered by 2030.

The link will connect Webb Dock with Swanson Dock via a dedicated heavy rail freight line. This will deliver:

an improved land-side efficiency, meet future freight demands, and reduce road congestion.

The Victorian Government is working with the Port of Melbourne and the Fishermans Bend Taskforce to identify and protect an alignment for the link.

About rail networks

The Victorian interstate, regional and metropolitan rail networks are owned by VicTrack and leased to the Department of Transport and Planning. The Department of Transport and Planning sub-leases sections of the network to a network manager (the access provider) which is responsible for operations, maintenance, customer service and local asset management.

The network managers are:

  • Metro Trains Melbourne for the broad-gauge network in the Melbourne metropolitan area
  • V/Line, for the regional broad-gauge and standard-gauge network
  • Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), for the interstate standard-gauge network, including the Maroona-Portland and Benalla-Oaklands lines.

Rail freight terminals

Rail freight terminals are largely privately leased to freight operators.

Regional container terminals operate at:

  • Dennington, 
  • Dooen, 
  • Merbein, 
  • Donald, 
  • Ultima, 
  • Tocumwal, and 
  • Barnawartha.

Customer-specific container terminals are located at Deniliquin and Maryvale.

Metropolitan intermodal terminals are located at Laverton and Spotswood, and Port Rail Shuttle terminals are planned for Somerton, Altona and Dandenong South.

Major new interstate terminals at Truganina and Beveridge are being assessed to serve the ARTC Inland Rail project.

Terminals for bulk aggregates are located at Kilmore East, Brooklyn, and Westall. There are also cement terminals at Somerton and Dandenong South.

Grain trains operate from an extensive network of regional terminals to Port of Melbourne, Port of Geelong and Port of Portland and to a metropolitan terminal at Kensington.

The Port of Melbourne is a key freight hub with rail terminals at West Swanson, Appleton and Victoria docks.

The Dynon Rail Freight Terminal at North Dynon is jointly operated by VicTrack and Qube Logistics and handles interstate and intrastate freight trains.

The Melbourne Freight Terminal at South Dynon is the main interstate rail terminal and is leased to Pacific National as an open-access terminal. It also includes shared facilities for refuelling and maintenance.