AUSTRALIA: The New South Wales state government has approved funding for improvements to the 96 km Gilgandra – Coonamble line north of Dubbo, as part of its A$400m Fixing Country Rail Program.

The A$24m upgrading scheme will see the maximum axleload on the branch raised from 21 to 25 tonnes, allowing access for heavier trains and making the route compatible with the Inland Rail Narromine – Narrabri corridor with which it will connect at Curban. Work is expected to start in mid-2023.

The line serves a cereal and grain producing region, supplying both domestic and export markets via Port Kembla and Newcastle. Sidings at Coonamble were improved under an earlier A$2·5m investment from the programme completed in 2020, boosting capacity on the route.

‘We are investing in infrastructure that will directly help freight operators and primary producers, such as grain farmers’, explained the state’s Minister of Regional Transport & Roads Sam Farraway when the project was announced on February 3.

‘By upgrading our rail network through our Fixing Country Rail Programme, we will allow more freight to be transported per trip. Big loads and long distances are where our rail network shines. Rail freight is the most cost-effective way to transport large quantities over long distances, with one 600 m long train carrying the equivalent load of at least 54 trucks.’