The NSW Nationals will invest more than $24 million into upgrading 96 kilometres of rail line between Gilgandra and Coonamble to help boost freight loads and lower costs.
Nationals Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway said the funding is part of the government’s $400 million Fixing Country Rail Program.
“The NSW Nationals are investing in the projects that matter to strengthen our supply chain, to keep our economy running and secure a brighter future for our great state,” Mr Farraway said.
“A lot of work had been put into the development of this project and it is great news we are investing in infrastructure that will directly help freight operators and primary producers, such as grain farmers.
“It takes an average of 10 hours to load a freight train. By upgrading our rail network through our Fixing Country Rail Program, we will allow more freight to be transported per trip, reducing delays and allowing goods and produce to get from farms and factories to our ports and supermarket shelves quicker.”
Mr Farraway said the more efficient we can make our supply chain, the less it costs our freight industry, which will ultimately reduce costs for families at the register
“The rail line will be upgraded to a 25-tonne axle load, to allow access for heavier trains and increase the total produce that can be transported through the region from the current 84-tonne gross weight limit to 100 tonnes per wagon,” Mr Farraway said.
“By upgrading the rail line between Gilgandra and Coonamble, we’re enabling the line to provide the same axle load capability of the Inland Rail alignment that will connect at Curban in the future.
“Big loads and long distances are where our rail network shines. Rail freight is the most cost-effective way to transport large quantities over long distances with one 600-metre-long train carrying the equivalent load of at least 54 trucks.”
Manildra Group National Transport and Logistics Manager Mark Owens said the investment will be a positive boost for farmers, manufacturers and exporters in getting goods to the market more efficiently.
“We have been advocating for this project for some time. We are pleased to hear of the NSW Nationals’ investment as this project will be consistent with alignment and load limit requirements of the Inland Rail,” Mr Owens said.
Gilgandra Shire Mayor Doug Batten said this was a fantastic outcome in ensuring that 25-tonne axle weight grain trains on the Gilgandra-Coonamble line would be capable of joining the Inland Rail line at its intersection at Curban.
“This is one of many Inland Rail initiatives Gilgandra Council has been advocating for since the announcement of the Inland Rail Project,” Mr Batten said.
“The project is a game-changer for Gilgandra in connecting our farmers to the rest of the state and strengthening our local economy.
“This line services a large cereal and grain producing region supplying the domestic flour milling, oilseed and stockfeed sectors and bulk exports markets via Port Kembla and Newcastle; it is a vital part of the state’s economy.”
Coonamble Shire Council Mayor Tim Horan said the project will build on the benefits of another Fixing Country Rail project delivered on this line – the $2.5 million Coonamble rail siding.
“The Coonamble rail siding project was completed in 2020 and has boosted the capacity on this line allowing for an extra 450 operational hours per year on this line,” Mr Horan said.
“That means more goods are being transported from paddock to port and today’s news will further strengthen the rail line and our supply chain.
“It will also open up opportunities for economic growth for existing business and any looking to move out to the bush.”
Since 2017, Fixing Country Rail has provided over $270 million for more than 50 rail improvement projects.
Upgrade work on the line between Gilgandra and Coonamble is expected to start in mid-2023, weather and material supply permitting.