PLANS for the Western Interstate Freight Terminal (WIFT), a freight hub that was to be situated in the suburb of Truganina in Melbourne’s west, have been deferred indefinitely according to the Victorian Government.

Plans for the now deferred hub were first proposed in 2018, and since 2021 were prioritised by the state government, which believed the terminal was needed to ensure Melbourne continued to have the interstate rail freight terminal capacity required going into the future.

The decision comes after the Commonwealth Government instead prioritised the development of the Beveridge Interstate Freight Terminal (BIFT) in Melbourne’s north.

The proposed WIFT and BIFT sites have been a source of fiscal debate and contention since their respective proposals in 2018, with the Victorian Government having previously urged WIFT’s development as a priority, and the Commonwealth Government’s preferring BIFT to be developed first.

The Victorian Government has now conceded to defer their support for WIFT after the Commonwealth Government endorsed the recommendations of an independent review of the Inland Rail Project, the freight rail line that will connect Melbourne to Brisbane, that prioritised delivery of a new terminal in Beveridge.

The preference for BIFT may lie in key factors such as its location, being better situated to the inland rail line, as well as the simple fact that two new freight hubs in Melbourne could be well beyond what is required.

Neil Chambers, Container Transport Alliance Australia director, spoke as to why WIFT may have been put on the backburner: “When it was conceived WIFT made sense, but it doesn’t have much to do with international freight”.

“Relatively close to Beveridge is a terminal that’s being developed by another company at Somerton, it will be a port rail shuttle, potentially interstate trains on the Inland Rail Network could terminate at this new terminal, (and) they will want to utilize train access to the port of Melbourne in what the industry calls the port rail shuttle network,” he said.

“You don’t need Beveridge and WIFT, you don’t need all of it” he said. In the Federal budget delivered prior to the 2022 Federal Election, WIFT received $740 million in Commonwealth funding, whereas BIFT received $1.62 billion.