WORK has started on a $10 million railway passing loop at Warncoort which will enable more passenger and freight trains to use the route to Warrnambool.
Work is expected to be completed by Christmas.
Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder, who inspected the project late last week, said the new 1200-metre loop would allow trains to pass each other safely.
“Late-running freight trains are less likely to have to sit at North Geelong for hours waiting for a clear run on the largely single-track Warrnambool line,” he said.
“When it opens at the end of 2013 the new Warncoort crossing loop will complement the recently upgraded Warrnambool intermodal terminal.
“Rail freight is not just efficient, but environmentally friendly.
“Warrnambool freight trains, operating five nights a week, keep 280 trucks a week off the Princes Highway west, while also lowering farmers’ and exporters’ costs.
“The crossing loop is a further step in the revitalisation of rail that is occurring under the Coalition government.”
An old passing loop at Winchelsea was ripped out under the previous Labor government.
Mr Mulder said the existing shorter crossing loop at Camperdown would remain open to assist with the operation of trains.
He said passenger numbers on the Warrnambool to Melbourne service rose by almost 10 per cent last year to about 480,000.
“It’s great to see local residents and visitors taking advantage of good value V/Line fares,” he said.
The Department of Transport said track and civil works were contracted to Whelans Earthmoving and new signalling to Invensys Rail.
VicTrack is also rolling out fibre optic cable between Geelong and Warrnambool and signals at the loop will be connected to the new cable.