MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA — Australia committed A$416 million ($297 million) to standardize and upgrade the northern and western rail freight network in Australia, The Weekly Times reported on Aug. 26.

The entire rollout of the project will upgrade 1,113km of rail lines, from Geelong to Mildura, Manangatang, Sea Lake and Murrayville.

The Ouyen to Murrayville rail line — which some in the industry considered too costly to repair and convert to standard gauge — has been saved in the new plan.

GrainCorp supply chain general manager Matt Warrington said the investment would benefit growers, exporters and end-user customers.

“It’s about getting more tonnes on rail to reduce the supply chain costs, which ultimately benefits the farmers,” he said.

He said it would also align with the company’s own Project Regeneration investment of its up-country facilities. This investment will increase the company’s rail loading capability

“It’s a great step forward for the grains industry and an investment in rail in Victoria,” Warrington said.

Warrington said Murrayville and Swan Hill growers would particularly benefit from the standardization and it would open up the Portland port facility to new opportunities.

Under the plan, in addition to the upgrade of the Maryborough and Ararat connection as well as the Manangatang and Sea Lake, Yelta lines, all of these lines will also be linked to the Portland port facility, which is managed by GrainCorp.

“It means the grain grown in the Swan Hill region can access Portland, and this facility is a deeper port and can take bigger ships,” Warrington said.

“It’s a benefit for our grain export customers. They can ship grain to their customers in China and the Middle East, using bigger ships.”

Emerald Grain spokesman Adam Chilcott commended the Australian government for “having the courage to invest in rail” and said this plan was something all state governments could learn from.

Cargill spokesman Peter McBride said the investment would lead to reduced costs and improved efficiency.

“It will assist the competitiveness of Victoria’s grain exports and improve farmgate returns,” McBride said.