The Murray Basin Rail Project will deliver important upgrades to Victoria’s rail freight network to meet increasing demand for freight services.

The project will drive economic growth, create jobs and provide a major boost to the transport industry, agricultural sector and regional communities.

Project scope

The Murray Basin Rail Project will deliver key benefits for primary producers and freight operators including increased capacity, improved network reliability and resilience, and reduced journey times.

The project includes:

  • re-sleepering, adding ballast and adjusting track on the Ouyen to Murrayville Line (complete)
  • track upgrades from Ararat to Maryborough (complete)
  • new or upgraded sidings at Donald and Merbein (complete)
  • new and extended passing loops
  • upgraded signalling at Ararat and Maryborough junctions and the Ouyen yard
  • new turnouts at Dunolly junction
  • re-sleepering from Sea Lake to Dunolly (complete)
  • planning and assessment work for further upgrades.

Map of regional train lines in Victoria and works on some of these lines. Broad gauge lines operated by V/Line: Line Melbourne to Castlemaine to Bendigo to Elmore stopping at Echucua. Line from Bendigo to Kerang, Swan Hill, Woorinen and Piangil. Line Melbourne to Ballarat to Ararat. Ballarat to Maryborough. Line Korong Vale to Boort to Quambatook to Ultima to Manangatang. Line Melbourne to Geelong to Warrnambool and Geelong to Ballarat. Standard gauge lines operated by ARTC: Line Geelong to Ararat to Hamilton ending at Portland. Line from Ararat to Mutoa to Horsham to Dimboola to Nhill to Wolseley. Standard gauge lines operated by V/line: Murtoa Warracknabeal to Beulah to Hopetoun and Dimboola to Rainbow. Details of works: Ouyen to Murrayville Line (includes stop at Underbool): re-sleepering and rail adjustment.  Maryborough to Ararat Line: track upgrade, upgraded signalling at Ararat Junction and Maryborough junction and new or reinstated passing loop between Maryborough to Ararat. Ballarat to Maryborough: Passing loop at Tourello Mildura/Yelta lines: sleeper upgrades between Outen to Carwarp to Mildura and siding extension at Merbein. Dunolly to Donald to Birchip to Woomelang to Speed to Ouyen to Underbool to Murrayville: reinstated siding at Donald, extending existing passing loop at Emu, new turnouts and re-signalling at Dunolly junction, re-signalling and new mobile refuelling site at Ouyen   Sea Lake to Korong Vale (includes stop at Wycheproof): sleeper upgrades.

Project benefits

The Murray Basin Rail Project will deliver key benefits for primary producers and freight operators across the Murray Basin freight network, and support 1000 direct and indirect jobs during delivery.

Upgrades to the Ouyen to Murrayville Line, including re-sleepering, adding ballast and adjusting track, are now complete and have removed most speed and heat restrictions which have limited use of the line.

Track upgrades from Ararat to Maryborough, including re-railing and a passing loop, will increase load capacity to 21 tonne axle loading (TAL) and improve travel times by enabling freight trains to operate at higher speeds.

Siding works at the Donald Yard will provide improved operations for freight trains and wagons to be stored when not in use.

Extending the siding at Merbein will allow for the stabling of a 1200-metre train off the mainline to help increase capacity for rail freight users in the region.

Work is also complete to replace approximately 120,000 sleepers between Sea Lake and Dunolly, enabling speed restrictions to be removed along the line.

The revised package of works will increase the number of weekly train paths on the Murray Basin network from 28 paths to 49 paths, removing thousands of truck trips from Victorian roads.

These works will address key operational issues identified by industry and will deliver more freight paths, reduce journey times and boost network reliability and resilience.

The revised program of works has been developed in consultation with industry stakeholders, with their feedback used to inform the project scope and staged delivery of works.

The project will increase the capacity, reliability and efficiency of the network, supporting the movement of goods by rail.

Next steps

Rail Projects Victoria is progressing the detailed planning and design work for each package of upgrades.

Track upgrades from Ararat to Maryborough are complete, with re-re railing in this 88 km section finished at the end of last year.

Construction is complete on a 300-metre siding in the Donald Yard, providing additional options for freight trains and wagons to be stored when not in use.

The Merbein siding extension works are complete, allowing for the stabling of a 1200m train off the mainline.

V/Line has been appointed to deliver signalling upgrades at Ararat Junction, with works underway.

Significant and complex signalling design is underway on further upgrades including new passing loops and sidings and improvements to Maryborough junction.

Ongoing consultation with industry remains a critical element in planning delivery of the project, to identify opportunities for works to be delivered as quickly as possible while minimising the impacts of construction over peak grain seasons.

Project delivery

Rail Projects Victoria will deliver the project, which will support 1,000 direct and indirect jobs during delivery.

An Alliance of ACCIONA, Coleman Rail and SMEC has been awarded the contract for the current stage of the project, which includes Ararat to Maryborough Line re-railing and Merbein and Donald siding works. The Alliance will also deliver the next package of works, including passing loop upgrades at Tourello and Emu, a mobile refuelling station at Ouyen and signalling upgrades at Maryborough Junction.

Revised business case

A revised Murray Basin Rail Project business case was developed by the Department of Transport and Planning and Rail Projects Victoria and submitted to the Commonwealth Government in 2020.

The business case outlined a revised scope of works to optimize the standard and broad gauge networks, which was funded by the Australian and Victorian governments.

Download a copy of the Murray Basin Rail Project Business Case Review Summary 2020 (PDF, 235.1 KB).