After months of lead-up work, the Toolamba-Echuca rail line, which passes through Tatura, Byrneside and Merrigum, was officially re-opened at Toolamba on Thursday by Victorian Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder.
The first freight train since March 2011, almost a kilometre long, passed through Tatura at 9.30 am before making the return trip later in the night.
And with the large time-lapse since the last train travelled on the line, Tatura police Acting Sergeant Brent Ward was urging motorists to take care at all level crossings and observe the signs at all times.
He said learner and P-plate drivers probably haven’t dealt with trains in the area, so they need to be extra careful when approaching level crossings.
‘‘In fact, I appeal to all motorists to exercise caution at all level crossings, and warn that police will step-up their monitoring of crossings now that trains are running again,’’ Act Sgt Ward said.
Mr Mulder said the freight train was the first of many that will travel to the Port of Melbourne on the newly re-opened Echuca to Toolamba rail line with Australian rice bound for Japan, the Middle East and other destinations.
This was the second country rail line the Victorian Coalition Government had re-opened.
‘‘The Coalition Government’s re-opening of rail lines stands in stark contrast to the previous Labor Government, which allowed the Echuca via Toolamba line to decay into disuse by 2007,’’ Mr Mulder said.
‘‘After the Coalition Government was elected in 2010, we worked with GrainCorp to re-open the Dimboola to Rainbow line in western Victoria.
‘‘This proved successful in lowering graingrowers costs, so when the opportunity arose to partner with SunRice in a $7.1 million investtment to re-open the 67 km Echuca to Toolamba line, the Coalition Government quickly acted with V/Line replacing 30 000 timber sleepers,’’ he said.
Mr Mulder joined SunRice chairman Gerry Lawson at Toolamba to meet the first train bound for SunRice’s Deniliquin Rice Mill to be loaded with export rice.
‘‘More than 500 000 tonnes of export rice moved through the Port of Melbourne last financial year,’’ Mr Mulder said.
‘‘It gave me a great sense of pride to see the first freight train on its way to be loaded with more than 1000 tonnes of export rice.
‘‘The Echuca-to-Toolamba line re-opening will allow Qube Logistics to deliver up to six trains a week to the Port of Melbourne.
It provides a more efficient alternative route to V/Line’s busy Bendigo to Southern Cross line where passenger and freight trains compete for access.
‘‘The re-opened line will also be available to other exporters moving freight from the Goulburn Valley and southern NSW.
Mr Lawson said SunRice was pleased to be partnering with the Coalition Government on the re-opening of the Echuca-to-Toolamba rail line, which would benefit not only SunRice and the Australian rice industry, but other export businesses as well.
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