FREIGHT train services from Warrnambool have resumed after a three-month lapse with high hopes of a dramatic increase in south-west exports.
A 340-metre long train carrying about 1000 tonnes of meat and dairy produce left the upgraded Warrnambool intermodal freight terminal last night for the port of Melbourne to the delight of rail enthusiasts and community leaders.
There are predictions more industries in Portland and Hamilton district could also send their products out through the Warrnambool terminal in future.
Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said it would help reduce the volume of road transport and a new $10 million train passing loop to be built next year near Birregurra would further enhance the effectiveness of rail.
Terminal operator Westvic Container Handling has been working during the break to get more south-west industries interested in using the link.
Westvic managing director Warrick Loft said yesterday there had been good support from Midfield abattoir, Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Company and Fonterra dairy company.
“Tonight’s train will be carrying the cream of south-west production,” he said.
“We now have capacity to run seven days a week if needed and we see good potential for freight from Portland and Hamilton.
“The upgrade opens up more efficiency and service capacity.
“When the new passing loop is finished it will allow more flexibility and even two trains a day.
“Warrnambool has the only intermodal freight terminal south-west west of Melbourne.”
Westvic has re-engaged El Zorro Transport to supply locomotives and rolling stock, with QUBE Logistics handling unloading at Victoria Dock siding.
El Zorro ran the freight trains from April to October 2008 taking over from Pacific National which returned late 2008 and continued until a contractual dispute with Westvic caused the service to cease on June 5.
Warrnambool City Council managed the $1.6m terminal upgrade off Walsh Road with input from Westvic, V/Line and VicTrack. City council chief executive Bruce Anson said the terminal upgrade was an important step towards reducing heavy vehicle traffic on roads.
“We now have improved capacity for future expansion of rail freight, which could have great economic benefits for our city,” Mr Anson said.
“The terminal currently moves 16 wagons a day, carrying an average volume of 1100 tonnes, 250 days of the year.
“A majority of the exported freight is dairy produce, but the line also moves meat, aluminium ingots, mineral sands and fertiliser. Warrnambool City Council helped secure state government and federal government funding for the project and managed the construction process.”
Mr Mulder said the state government was encouraging regional rail freight through a new “mode shift incentive package”.
“We have more to do on the Warrnambool line such as constructing a new crossing loop near Birregurra, but restoration of the freight train carrying some of the south-west’s exports to the port of Melbourne is a welcome return. I thank the contractors who have upgraded Westvic siding.”