CONSTRUCTION has started on the $400-million Somerton Intermodal Terminal – a key hub in Melbourne’s Port Rail Shuttle Network.

The Intermodal Terminal Company (ITC) is building the freight terminal at the 45-hectare Austrak Business Park in Melbourne’s north.

Work officially began with a sod-turning ceremony attended by ports and freight minister Melissa Horne and ITC chief executive officer Mishkel Maharaj.

“The investment by the state and federal governments and the private sector into the Port Rail Shuttle Network, enables these major investments to occur which will put more freight onto rail, take trucks off local roads and support exporters,” Ms Horne said.

The Somerton terminal is expected to increase efficiency and safety for freight operators, exporters, farmers and producers.

Its integration with the $58-million Port Rail Shuttle Network means containerised freight could be moved directly to the Port of Melbourne for export.

The Port of Melbourne is also investing $125 million in new rail infrastructure to facilitate the shuttle trains.

ITC expects the Somerton Intermodal Terminal, once at capacity, to reduce the number of truck journeys on Melbourne roads by 500,000.

The company estimates it would also save 451 million litres of fuel each year and reduce carbon emissions by 189,000 tonnes.

State member for Broadmeadows Kathleen Matthews-Ward welcomed the beginning of construction works.

“This investment in Melbourne’s north is great news for our community – supporting jobs on the ground, while also supporting our state’s busy freight industry,” she said.

State member for Greenvale Iwan Walters also highlighted the job opportunities the project would create.

“This is a fantastic announcement for our freight and logistics precinct and will create new jobs right here in Melbourne’s northern suburbs,” he said.

The Victorian government noted the latest milestone follows the start of services between the SCT Logistics Interstate Freight Facility in Altona and the Port of Melbourne last month.