”WE’VE all waited a long time for this”.
Those were the jubilant words from Leeton Shire Council mayor Paul Maytom on Monday morning as the state government announced a $60.4 million project which will see an upgrade of the Griffith to Junee rail line.
NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey made the announcement at the Leeton Railway Station, flanked by the mayors of the towns which are set to benefit.
The upgrade is set to improve efficiency for freight carriers and reduce costs for producers and consumers as part of the Fixing Country Rail initiative.
Ms Pavey said the announcement came after a lot of hard work from many people.
“We needed to get the Griffith to Junee line better … to make it what it deserves to be for the people of the Riverina – the workers, the producers and the farmers who contribute enormously to our state and nation’s wealth,” she said.
“To have a rail line that is increasing it’s capacity from around 20 tonnes per axle to 25 tonnes per axle means an enormous difference in the amount of freight we can carry efficiently.
“We are the world’s best farmers, but one of the things we need to do is reduce freight costs and our government is committed … to ensure our farmers can be as efficient as they possibly can.”
The upgrade will mean 200,000 tonnes of freight will be moved off the region’s roads onto rail.
The upgrade of the 174 kilometre track and increased axle loads will allow line speeds to increase from 50kmh to 80kmh, cutting down on delivery times and allowing more goods to be transported.
Councillor Maytom said this announcement was “wonderful news”.
“Too many times we’ve been left wanting, but I must say as mayor this is such a pleasure today to be here to hear this announcement,” he said. “This will give us a lot of great hope for the future as far as our economy drivers and things like that are concerned.”
The work is expected to start in the coming months and take around a year-and-a-half to complete.
We needed to get the Griffith to Junee line better … to make it what it deserves to be for the people of the Riverina.NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey
The Fixing Country Rail Program aims to relieve bottlenecks by upgrading parts of the regional rail network which are constraining effective freight movement.
Member for Murray Austin Evans said industries in the region would be the big winners of the upgrade.
“We’ve got wine, cotton, rice and more that we need to ship out of this area onto the main freight line, so this is going to increase that efficiency and that is just fantastic for our region,” he said.
The upgrade will also create employment opportunities both while it is happening and possibly after the fact.
Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke could barely contain her excitement at the news.
“I'm absolutely ecstatic … I love rail, (especially) with Junee right in the hub of my electorate," she said.
“To see this investment through fixing country rail is fantastic. It means this wonderful produce we produce right across this area.
“I know this us just the start. We take rail very seriously as the Nationals (Party). There’s enormous potential there. Rail is seeing a renaissance.” The funding for the project has been welcomed by the Freight On Rail Group (FORG) of Australia.
Chairman Dean Dalla Valle said Riverina farmers and exporters can look forward to getting their commodities from “paddock to port” quicker and cheaper.
“Australian farmers and exporters operate in fiercely competitive global markets – our rail freight networks must be efficient so the price of our products and commodities appeal to buyers and consumers around the world,” he said.
Mr Dalla Valle said moving produce by rail from towns like Junee, Griffith, Leeton and Narrandera should be efficient and cost-effective; not an exercise in battling 20th century freight bottlenecks.
“Running freight trains at higher speeds and axle weights gives the Riverina rail network a boost in productivity; resulting in reduced costs and delays for farmers and exporters,” said Mr Dalla Valle.
Griffith deputy mayor Dino Zappacosta also threw his support behind the upgrade.
“This is certainly great news … we need to be getting our produce out there as fast as we can,” he said.
“The faster the better and the cheaper the better. This will help with that.”