THE VICTORIAN Government is claiming credit for a massive increase in rail transport of domestic and export grain in the state.

Grain volumes moved by rail in Victoria increased by 95% between July and December 2023 compared to the same period in 2022 and by 57% between July 2023 and March 2024 compared to the previous year.

This has resulted in an extra 500,000 tonnes of grain transported across the state by rail – with one standard 3,000-tonne grain train carrying about $1.2 million worth of produce being the equivalent of removing 70 B-Double trucks from regional roads, the government says.

Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the government’s investment in Victoria’s regional rail-freight network had given the state’s $4.4 billion grain industry the confidence it needed to shift more grain by rail freight for both domestic and export markets. 

Speaking while visiting GrainCorp’s Geelong export terminal, Ms Horne said more than $181 had been invested in the regional freight network and had allowed heavier trains to discharge at Geelong Port through increasing axle-load capability at key grain handling sites, as well as through recommissioning the Gheringhap loop near Geelong.

V/Line has already delivered axle-load capability upgrades across Piangil, Woorinen, Tocumwal, Murchison East, Elmore, Mitiamo, Charlton, and Wycheproof, with more upgrades in the pipeline.

GrainCorp has since invested in rail improvements at several of its up-country sites in Victoria, to handle larger and more modern wagons, including extending railway sidings at some terminals in partnership with V/Line to accommodate longer, heavier trains, the minister noted.

Further confidence in the rail network was demonstrated by operator Southern Shorthaul Railroad’s recent purchase of 22 new broad-gauge grain wagons – the first order for new broad-gauge grain wagons in 16 years.

In October 2022 V/Line, bulk grain handling companies, and rail freight operator Pacific National formed the Grain Rail Improvement Plan Working Group – formalising their commitment to optimise the rail freight network.