THREE locomotives hauled a 1.5-kilometre intermodal train as a trial for regular services between Merbein and the Port of Melbourne.

The train, operated by Pacific National, comprised 86 wagons.

According to a statement from the Victorian government, the longer, heavier train can haul approximately 4000 tonnes of freight without needing extra locomotives and train crews.

Longer trains are to operate during peak seasons to move higher volumes of produce such as table grapes and citrus from the Sunraysia Region, taking more trucks off regional and urban roads.

The service is thanks to a partnership between V/Line, freight operator Pacific National and freight forwarder Seaway Intermodal whose services are benefitting from a more resilient network with longer sidings, upgraded track and higher axle-loads.

The extra freight capacity will provide cost savings for farmers, producers and operators without the need to run an additional service.

The government statement said each year the train known as the Fruity carries about $450 million worth of horticultural produce on three return-services weekly from Merbein near Mildura to the Port of Melbourne.

Trains are also shifting export grain from Yelta, north-west of Mildura, for the first time in four years.

Victorian minister for ports melissa Horne said; “We’re laying the groundwork now for this and other services to grow as part of our long-term strategy and commitment to move more freight by rail and reduce the number of trucks on roads.”

“Our investments mean operators can capitalise on spare capacity from existing services and run longer, heavier intermodal and bulk grain services – that’s great news for operators and producers.”