Why is this project needed?

The Murray Basin region is a nationally important producer of grain, mineral sands, fruit, vegetables, wine and other products. Much of this product is exported via the ports of Portland, Geelong and Melbourne and is transported using the region’s road and rail network. Grain and mineral sands are the largest bulk freight products for the state and this region.

Rail has a natural transport advantage over road for bulk freight products as it more efficiently delivers large volumes of products over long distances in a single movement to port.

This jointly funded project is essential to better connect key freight centres in Victoria with our ports and encourage competition and private investment in our rail freight network.

What are the project benefits?

The Murray Basin Rail Project is driving economic growth, creating jobs and providing a major boost to the transport industry, agricultural sector and regional communities. Once complete, it will improve rail freight services and reduce the costs of moving freight.

By standardising and improving the rail network, the freight industry in the Murray Basin region will be able to deliver exports to Victoria’s ports in a more efficient and cost-competitive way. An increased axle loading will allow higher volumes of product to be safely freighted across the network. This will allow trains to carry up to 500,000 more tonnes of grain each year.

Following the upgrade, rail freight transportation is forecast to capture approximately 20,000 journeys currently undertaken by trucks. This will provide producers with an attractive alternative to road freight and improvements to local amenity.  The project will also ensure the ongoing integrity of the rail track and improve safety on the lines.

What problems does the Murray Basin Rail Project address?

The Murray Basin Rail Project addresses three key problems for the Murray Basin region:

  • Restricted access to Victoria's major ports, which can undermine the international competitiveness of bulk products
  • Poor performance of the rail network, which can increase costs to business
  • ‍Growing road freight movements, which can reduce community amenity.

Stages and key dates

The project is being delivered in a number of stages, which are outlined in the map below. Hover over the map to view details.

Stage 1

Mildura and Hopetoun rail lines

Enabling works and repair of existing rail on the Mildura and Hopetoun rail lines.

Completed June 2016

Stage 2

Maryborough to Yelta, Ouyen to Murrayville, and Maryborough to Ararat

Gauge conversion and upgrade works on rail freight lines between Maryborough to Yelta, and Ouyen to Murrayville. Upgrade works and reopening of the Maryborough to Ararat line.

July 2017 to January 2018

Stage 3

Dunolly to Manangatang, and Korong Vale to Sea Lake

Gauge conversion and upgrade works on freight lines from Dunolly to Manangatang and Korong Vale to Sea Lake.

March 2018 to August 2018

Stage 4

Gheringhap to Warrenheip

Gauge conversion and upgrade works on freight lines from Gheringhap to Warrenheip.

March 2018 to August 2018

Stage 5

Warrenheip to Maryborough

Gauge conversion and upgrade works on freight lines from Warrenheip to Maryborough.

Timing TBC


The Australian Federal Government and Victorian State Government have jointly funded the $440 million Murray Basin Rail Project.

Local benefits

How has the project benefited local businesses?

Where practical, both V/Line and the delivery contractor have sought to optimise local content on the project, including materials and jobs.

The project team has sought major materials such as ballast, concrete sleepers, fasteners, turnouts and crossings from within Victoria and engaged more than 40 businesses from central Victoria to provide a range of services.

These materials include turnouts and crossings from Vossloh Cogifer in Castlemaine, concrete sleepers from AusTrak in Point Wilson and fasteners from Ajax Fasteners in Melbourne.

In addition, hospitality, catering, accommodation and rental properties across central Victoria and the north-west of the state have also been in demand since construction started in July.

How many local workers have supported the project?

More than 500 workers, including 220 from regional Victoria, have been employed on the project.


Can I collect timber sleepers after they have been removed from the rail line?

The contractor delivering the Murray Basin Rail Project, a McConnell Dowell Martinus Rail Joint Venture (MMJV) is responsible for the collection and disposal of timber sleepers removed from the track.

Sleepers cannot be burnt or used as firewood due to the small chance of the timber containing noxious residual substances.

Requests to collect sleepers should be directed to opportunities@mcdmartinusjv.com

Do train drivers have to sound their horns near level crossing?

Freight train drivers are required to sound the horn on approach to level crossings to warn road users and pedestrians. As required by the Australian Standard the horn must be a minimum of 88 decibels when a train is 200 metres away from a crossing, 95 decibels at 100 metres, and 100 decibels at 50 metres.

Level crossing bells are set to an international standard of a minimum of 90 decibels at a distance of three metres.

How is the project managing the local environment?

The project team has completed assessments of potential environmental and cultural impacts associated with the upgrade and reopening of the Ararat to Maryborough rail line.

Following these assessments, the project team secured environmental permits relating to vegetation management, as well as heritage permits from Heritage Victoria and local councils where required.