A major overhaul of Victoria's rail freight network is set to cost almost double what the state government has so far budgeted for the project.

The Murray Basin Rail Project is expected to cost $416 million.

Major standardisation works to boost freight connections with NSW and South Australia, and to the state’s major ports, is expected to begin in the second half of 2016.

Premier Daniel Andrews is committed to the overhaul and wants the federal government to pitch in.

“It would be great if they were an equal partner, it would be great if they were a partner in any form that they saw fit to be involved in this important project,” Mr Andrews told reporters in Maryborough on Monday.

“If the federal government are not a partner in this it will happen anyway, we will get on with this and deliver it in full.”

Mr Andrews wouldn’t go into specifics on how much was being sought from the federal government, or how the state would afford any additional cost if support was refused.

Work began on stage one in February with $5 million fast-tracked from the $220 million allocated in the 2015-16 state budget.

The project includes standardising freight lines from Geelong to Mildura, Manangatang, Sea Lake and Murrayville and bringing lines between Maryborough and Ararat back into use.

Load limits will be increased to 21 tonnes to increase capacity of larger trains.

The project is expected cut about 20,000 truck trips to ports ever year, and create 270 new constructions jobs, Mr Andrews said.

Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said there would be some shutdowns on the lines to allow work to be carried out but they would be worked around the peak grain periods.

Work could be completed in 2018, subject to federal funding.


  • 2 million tonne of grain
  • 1-1.5 million tonne of mineral sands exports
  • 13,000 export containers of grain, wine, grapes, citrus, dried fruit and juice
  • 5000 import containers