AN ALLOCATION of more than $1 billion in the 2024-25 Federal Budget has pleased the nation’s rail freight and infrastructure bodies.

Peak body the Freight on Rail Group welcomed a commitment of $540 million to improve the resilience of the interstate rail network, while via the Australian Rail Track Corporation a further $500+ million will be spent on its Network Investment Program.

GFORG notes the package includes targeted projects aimed at preventing outages from flooding and severe weather events on the key east-west and north-south rail freight corridors and includes the upgrade of existing crossing loops and culverts, track rehabilitation and re-railing, signalling works and sleeper replacements.

“This is a very welcome investment in improving the resilience, reliability and competitiveness of interstate rail freight services which are so vital for a healthy, growing Australian economy,” Andrew Harding, FORG chair and Aurizon MD & CEO, said.

“Improving the resilience of interstate rail infrastructure is a key priority of FORG. More efficient and reliable rail freight supply chains are good for the economy because they enable increased investment by rail freight operators and customers to increase volumes on rail, and they also deliver community, safety and environmental benefits.

”As Australia moves rapidly to decarbonise transport supply chains, rail freight can do the heavy lifting for the nation because it is substantially more energy efficient and less carbon intensive than road transport.

“Flooding and high rainfall events have resulted in a number of significant outages to infrastructure in recent years. For example, on the east-west corridor between Sydney/Melbourne and Perth we have seen outages due to flooding averaging 40 days per year over the last three years.

“Given the importance of reducing the impacts from future weather events, FORG also supports the timely implementation of the infrastructure projects that will improve interstate rail freight resilience.”

The budget outcomes were also welcomed by ARTC CEO and MD Wayne Johnson for echoed FORG’s comments, saying the freight and logistics task in Australia was rapidly growing “and rail is central to supporting the national objective to transport large volumes of goods and commodities efficiently to market to help increase economic productivity and growth with a reduced emissions footprint”.

“Targeted and strategic investments along key sections of ARTC’s 8,500-kilometre network will have a measurable impact on the ability of the national supply chain to withstand and recover quicker to the challenges of extreme and intense weather events,” Mr Johnson aid.

The Commonwealth funding is in addition to ARTC’s own commitment of $500 million via the corporation’s Network Investment Program, which was developed in close collaboration with industry and shareholders.

These significant funding commitments build on the $150 million already invested in resilience activities by ARTC over the past two years, to upgrade the existing national network.

Amongst state-specific funding, $290.1 million has been allocated to Victoria’s Gippsland Rail Line Upgrade, and $150 million to upgrade the Maroona-Portland Rail Line; $720.0 million will be earmarked for the construction of the Inland Freight Route in Queensland.