MAJOR works are underway to deliver an 862-metre track connection will link the Cranbourne rail line to a new freight terminal to be built and operated by Salta Properties.

The $28-million track connection will enable freight to be transported from Dandenong South to the Port of Melbourne by rail, cutting transport costs for businesses and taking trucks off arterial and suburban roads.

Once fully operational, the Port Rail Shuttle connection in Dandenong South is expected to remove more than 300 truck trips every day from the Monash Freeway, reducing congestion, pollution and impact on the road network.

The Dandenong South connection is one of three key projects to be delivered as part of the Victorian Port Rail Shuttle Network, with works to link the Somerton terminal and the Altona terminal also underway.

Once complete, the Port Rail Shuttle Network is estimated to cut freight transport costs by up to 10% and slash truck movements on suburban roads by up to 175,000 trips each year.

By 2050, the Port Rail Shuttle Network is predicted to move 30% of Melbourne containers by rail.

Deputy Prime Minister and minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development Barnaby Joyce said construction of the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 thanks to careful planning and co-investment between Australian and Victorian governments and the private sector.

“This project is about capitalising on the existing rail network, supporting and connecting industry, and creating jobs in the south east of Melbourne,” he said.

“Once complete, the new spur line will build on the strengths of this region as a freight and logistics hub.”

Victorian minister for ports and freight Melissa Horne said connecting Melbourne’s rapidly growing south east to the Port Rail Shuttle Network was a key priority.

“Melbourne’s south east supports the largest employment numbers in Victoria outside the CBD – home to 90,000 jobs and generating 40% of Victorian manufactured products every year,” she said.

“A dedicated rail freight terminal will provide an alternative to truck transport for the business community, reduce the need for trucks to visit the port, the Monash Freeway and other key arterial and suburban roads.”

The terminal will be built close to major distribution centres for Bunnings, Woolworths, and Amazon Australia.

To minimise the project’s impact, crews from the Level Crossing Removal Project are delivering the works in parallel with work already underway to duplicate the Cranbourne line, allowing for metropolitan passenger trains to run every 10 minutes on average in the morning peak.

Crews have been gearing up for significant works over the past few months, carrying out design and geotechnical investigations, setting up site sheds and relocating underground gas, electricity, and communications cables.

State member for Dandenong Gabrielle Williams said major road projects and level crossing removals in the area were already well on the way to creating jobs and improving transport networks and freight movement.

“It’s a highly anticipated upgrade and will generate jobs for workers and suppliers in addition to the hundreds of workers already employed on projects such as major upgrades to the Monash Freeway and Cranbourne line,” she said.

Salta Properties is investing an additional $50 million to build Stage 1 of the terminal located on its 180-hectare site.

Salta Properties managing director Sam Tarascio said that the terminal – which begins construction in 2022 – would use the latest technology to achieve optimum efficiency around container tracking, leading to fast turnaround times.

“Salta is planning for five train trips per day to service stevedores at the Port of Melbourne, and each leg will transport up to 84 import/export containers.”

Every container entering and leaving the terminal will be photographed with high-definition cameras, allowing trucks and trains to pass through without stopping whilst their containers are photographed.

The first phase of this project is expected to be completed in two years, with Salta anticipating the value of the new Nexus Industrial Estate to exceed $1 billion over the next three to five years.

The Australian government has invested $18.3 million into the Port Rail Shuttle Network, and the Victorian government is investing $9.7 million.