REGION - Premier Denis Napthine announced that the Victorian Coalition Government will invest up to $220 million to deliver key country freight rail line upgrades and build the transformational Mildura rail standardisation link.
The Coalition Government's Murray Basin Rail Project will revolutionise the movement of freight across the state and unlock the economic potential of regional and rural Victoria.
This project will deliver greater capacity to move goods more efficiently to Victorian ports for export.
Dr Napthine said that the previous Labor government promised to standardise the Mildura line but failed to deliver.
"The Coalition will deliver this project and provide the much needed rail connection between the Port of Portland and the Mildura-Mallee region. This will provide the opportunity for massive boost in the exports of grain, mineral sands and potentially other products through the Port of Portland.
It will improve transport efficiency and enhance access to the ports of Portland, Geelong and Melbourne.
This initiative will help to underpin our Food To Asia strategy which is positioning Victoria to take the lion's share of demand for quality food from Asia's growing middle class.
Increasing Victorian food exports to Asian markets will generate massive growth in employment and investment right across the state, particularly in regional areas with 55 percent of all food export industry jobs located in country Victoria.
Victoria's food and fibre exports increased to more than $9.4 billion in 2012-13.
Premier Napthine was in Ararat on Saturday with Liberal Candidate for Ripon Louise Staley to inspect the Western Interstate Line, which will be connected to the Mildura Freight Line via one of three options when the project is complete.
Premier Napthine said the Coalition Government's State Budget would fund the Mildura standardised rail link with construction expected to begin in 2015 and be completed by 2018.
"This landmark project is more than a century in the waiting and the Victorian Coalition Government has delivered funding to build it in our first term of government," Dr Napthine said.
"The Murray Basin is one of the nation's leading food production regions, exporting in excess of $3 billion worth of food products and mineral resources per year.
"By converting the existing broad gauge tracks to standard gauge, the Murray Basin Rail Project will deliver modern rail infrastructure and transform Victoria's freight network to meet the increasing demand for freight services.
"The Port of Portland will be connected by rail to the Mallee region and therefore provide another international gateway alternative to customers. This increased competition will make Victoria's bulk commodities more internationally competitive.
"The Mildura rail standardisation project will also include upgrading the line to 21 tonne axle load which will significantly improve rail capacity and productivity. This increases rail capacity which will provide even greater incentive for the use of rail freight taking hundreds of trucks off our roads.
"A modern and efficient rail freight network is critical to Victoria's economic productivity and this Project marks the first phase in the Coalition Government's vision to standardise regional and rural Victoria's freight only lines to drive future growth and prosperity."
Dr Napthine said the project would also pave the way in moving freight off roads and onto rail and for the potential creation of a transcontinental link from the standardised Mildura line to the Sydney-Perth rail line.
"The standaridsation of the Mildura rail line will result in a mode shift to rail and thereby improving road safety, reducing road congestion and lowering road maintenance costs," Dr Napthine said.
Dr Napthine said this historic investment formed a central part of the Coalition Government's plan to build a better Victoria by delivering new job-creating infrastructure projects that unlock economic potential and drive growth across the state.