A $14 million cold-storage centre is the icing on the cake in an upgrade of rail freight operations in the south-west.
Westvic Container Hand-ling announced that it would build the facility at yesterday’s official opening of Warrnambool’s revamped rail freight hub.
Westvic’s Warrick Loft said the $1.6 million upgrade of the terminal had given the company confidence to expand its rail freight operations.
The new cold-storage centre will have the capacity to store 17,000 pallets of goods and are part of Mr Loft’s aim to double the volume of freight now handled by the freight terminal on Rooneys Road.
He expected the new centre would create about 12 new jobs and construction to start early in the new year.
Providing storage facilities was critical to the growth of rail freight in the south-west, Mr Loft said. Without adequate storage in the city, local manufacturers were likely to keep trucking their products to Melbourne warehouses rather than the Warrnambool intermodal terminal.
“You need to build a warehouse to capture their product,” Mr Loft said. Westvic Containers presently has about 35,000 square metres of storage space.
Mr Loft said he was pleased with the support he had received for rail freight from local manufacturers.
Much of the rail freight from the Warrnambool terminal is dairy products and meat destined for export through the Port of Melbourne.
Mr Loft said a further initiative to improve the efficiency of rail freight from the south-west was the construction of a passing loop on the Warrnambool-Melbourne line.
Member for South West Coast Denis Napthine said the state government realised the lack of a passing loop constrained the use of the rail freight in the region, forcing it to be done without interference to passenger services.
Dr Napthine said a rail loop, costing $10 million, was expected to be completed by the middle of 2013.
The loop would also give the region the opportunity to argue for more passenger services, he said.
Dr Napthine said the difference between the present redeveloped Warrnambool terminal and what the site had been a few years ago was “chalk and cheese”.
He said before the upgrade it had been difficult to store and move containers at the site.
“This upgrade takes freight off our roads, meaning our roads are safer, there is less damage to the roads, reduced greenhouse emissions and less congestion at the Port of Melbourne.
“On average, 10,000 twenty-foot (six-metre) equivalent containers go through the terminal each year. This is effectively taking more 5000 semi-trailers off our busy roads.”
Works to upgrade the terminal included removing the inactive level crossing on Rooneys Road, constructing a turning lane for trucks off Rooneys Road onto a new access road removing internal fences.