The Victorian and Federal government has revived its $58 million port-rail shuttle project, in a bid to take an estimated 3500 container trucks off Melbourne’s congested western roads.

It is thought that existing railways could be used to transfer freight instead of trucks, with traffic set to grow from 12 to 15 million containers annually in coming years. Expressions of interest will soon to be sought to deliver a series of rail freight ‘shuttle’ initiatives on the existing rail network by connecting the port to major freight hubs and businesses.

The project coincides with full-scale planning of the West Gate Tunnel, which upon completion will see an increase of around 7000 trucks per day in some suburbs.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said the proposal would take advantage of rail’s ability to shift larger volumes of freight than trucks, while also busting congestion in Victoria’s capital.

“The Australian Government’s free trade agreements are seeing a boom in exports, which has led to trucks taking more produce and freight to the ports. This project will provide the ability to shift larger volumes of freight via rail compared to trucks, and reduce congestion on our roads,” Mr Chester said.

“The freight and logistics industry had identified rail’s potential to reduce transport costs by about 10 per cent, with the proposal potentially improving Australia’s competitiveness, which is why the Australian Government is investing $8.4 billion in the Inland Rail project connecting Brisbane and Melbourne.”

Victorian Minister for Roads, Road Safety and Ports Luke Donnellan said the initiative will take trucks off local roads in Melbourne’s inner west.

“The Port of Melbourne will remain our primary freight hub for a generation. With container numbers expected to double over the next two decades we need to act now to share the load between road and rail.”

“Alongside the West Gate Tunnel, 24-hour truck bans in the inner west and the Port’s rail access plans, this project will help shift containers from residential streets onto dedicated routes to the port.”

The Australian Government has committed $38 million and the Victorian Government has committed $20 million to the initiative.

Funding will be available to upgrade rail connections and improve terminal access.

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