The first freight train on the standardised railway line between Maryborough and Yelta will rumble through Mildura between 10am and midday on Thursday February 1.
The train will leave Melbourne late on January 31 and will be loaded up at the Merbein Container depot for the trip back to the Port of Melbourne on the Thursday night.
Wakefield’s Transport operator Ken Wakefield said that while the re-opening of the line was around a month later than originally forecast, he was looking forward to resuming his normal schedule of three trains a week.
“We have had two trains out of Manangatang this week and will send three out next week – all with about 30 wagons,” he said.
“From February we will be despatching on average 40 wagon trains three times a week,” he said.
Mr Wakefield said that as the freight trains will run in an ark from Maryborough to Ararat and back to Ballarat the time taken for the Merbein to Melbourne journey will be lengthened by two hours.
“Hopefully the standardisation of the line section from Maryborough to Ballarat will be completed in the 2018/19 budget which will return us to the previous time schedule.”
But Mr Wakefield said that he was aware the dual gauging of that section would reduce the speed of the passenger train to Melbourne down from 120 kph down to 80 kph which could cause unhappiness with passenger rail travellers on the route.
“We have kept up our service but from a company aspect we have had to bear the cost of road transporting the containers to Manangatang so the freight gets to Port and it’s a cost we could not pass on to the producers,” Mr Wakefield said.
He said around 12 railway workmen are at the Merbein Container depot this week doing work on the sidings in readiness for the re-opening.
Last week the Railway workers removed the old railway siding to the Sarnia Fruit Company (pictured above) and salvaged the rail for use elsewhere.
The siding had been de-commissioned in 1999 but had remained intact until last week. The points where the siding joined the main line were also removed.