In regional Victoria, the rail freight network transports commodities to national and export markets. Expected growth in global demand for Victoria’s agricultural produce, grains and mineral commodities will increase demand on this network.
This audit examines whether regional rail upgrades are improving rural freight outcomes in a timely and cost‐efficient way. We reviewed two major regional rail upgrade programs:
- the $440 million Murray Basin Rail Project (MBRP), and the complementary $130 million Freight‐Passenger Rail Separation Project (FPRSP)
- freight‐related components of three upgrade projects within the $1.75 billion Regional Rail Revival (RRR) program. These projects are along the Gippsland, Shepparton and Warrnambool rail corridors.
The Victorian Government announced the MBRP in 2014 as a once‐in‐a‐generation upgrade for much of the state’s regional rail freight network. It expected to complete the project by 2018.
The MBRP and the FPRSP have the potential to improve the competitiveness and reliability of rail freight for regional Victoria. Rail freight’s contestability is key because the cost of road freight and its easily available infrastructure make it increasingly attractive for freight operators. Reliability is also key for transporting bulk commodities and containerised freight over longer distances—for example, to export ports—and aligns with the rail strategies and goals in the government’s Victorian Freight Plan 2018–50 (the Freight Plan).
The direct outcomes expected from the projects are improved freight efficiency in the Murray Basin region; rail standardisation; reduced costs; easier access to export ports; and improved logistical flexibility to support more freight on rail. There are also wider social and economic benefits expected.