The reality is that if it were not for the floods some years back Inglewood - Eaglehawk would still be open and used daily by grain trains from the Korongvale Group lines and also by the Ultima Inter-modal train and 100 plus export containers a week from Bridgewater. Forget Murray Basin standardization - separate issue. The only reason the link is not open is because of the flood damage and that VLP being principally a pax Operator made little or no effort to lobby Governments for funds to repair the flood damage. The line is actually 47kg full plated rail in long welded lengths on wooden and concrete sleepers and with around $ 25 - $ 35m is easily resuscitated to a fit for purpose 40 to 50 kmh goods speed first up. The main works are a tie renewal cycle, and re-decking of a bridge at Marong. The junction at Inglewood needs certain track components replaced, and around 2 kms of track washed away by floods needs replacement near Bridgewater.
The forthcoming closure of the North line at Millbrook on the Ballarat line, will release lots of broad gauge mainline sleepers in good enough condition for further use on a cross country goods line, plus around 8kms of 107lb rail with years of serviceable life remaining, plus 5 sets of boom barriers. So re-opening Inglewood - Eaglehawk is a no brainer in terms of short term job creation , takes hundreds of trucks off the roads, will see regular daily trains apart from grain, and in future allows extension of VLP pax services to Marong. The line and top are excellent, very little fouling of ballast, probably needs a 1 in 4 tie renewal and minimal top up of ballast to realize 40 - 50kmh for freight trains. Then by working Southbound loaded trains via Bendigo and Northbound empty via Maryborough, one has no bg crosses between Gheringhap and Inglewood, and frees up valuable paths on the dg bottlekneck between Maryborough and Dunolly to run more sg grain trains on the Mildura line.
The extra Southbound grain trains can run largely late evening and overnight as ditto Ultima Intermodal trains having no or minimal impact on Bendigo passenger services.
The latest grain harvest forecasts from ABARE for Victoria are upped again on both February & June projections and with all the recent rains in the right quamtities at just the right time we are staring down the barrel potentially at an absolute bumper harvest for grain and canola, best for over a decade.
If we do not re-open Inglewood - Eaglehawk to a minimum 50kmh speed now then the Murray Basin network in its current state of conversion will simply NOT be able to handle the bumper grain harvest we are facing and in the case of the Sea Lake and Manangatang lines their ability to run two grain trains a day on each line will simply not be realized as there is insufficient network capacity to handle extra bg trains South of Dunolly. NO railway re-activated 90 extra road trucks for each extra grain train that cannot be run , potentially for many months well into 2021.
This sensible info...virtually as it is needs to be sent to Transport Infrastructure Minister Allan asap, to save her face from wearing lots of egg in a few months. However with signal lights being installled on the new BLU works just this week at Ballan and new tracks with gaping gaps still to be completed, the old Bungaree Loop will still be in place...probably till Christmas, so it's slightly late for a holus-bolus transfer of materials to Marong...but still a great idea.
It is understood the case for the early re-opening as fit for purpose 40 - 50kmh operation of Inglewood Eaglehawk has been put to to Ministers Allan and Horne by multiple parties since mid year but no announcements as yet. Unfortunately this project is seen politically by many as re-open Inglewood Eaglehawk, OR complete Murray Basin standardization as original plan. Removing the politics the two are completely separate, and potentially complementary issues.
Timing wise it should be a 10 to 12 week project if we attack it with vigour and there appears two options with an eye to using some readily available re-claimed materials (if we are smart) from the soon to be abandonded North Line at Millbrook .
1. Thinking outside the box (if that is allowed these Nanny State days) - Commission Millbrook Loop separately ahead of the mid December tt change say by early November, maintaining existing pax tt but with crosses at Millbrook Loop instead of on the longer North Line. Thus allowing earliest release of sleepers, rails and bb installations to allow Inglewood - Eaglehawk to re-open by say mid February 2021.
2. If the above is genuinely not possible for a real and valid reason, then decommission the old North line mid December allowing Inglewood - Eaglehawk to re-open from early April 2021.
The bumper grain harvest off the two bg lines is not a two week wonder in that all Operators are going like a cut cat to get remainder of last years crop cleared before this years harvest starts. Then we start seriously with this years harvest direct to Geelong storages, then as harvest gains momemntum we start storing in regional silos and bunkers, and then we clear all that backlog from the regional silos for months and months on end to the ports.
Minister Horne recently said some 30 plus grain trains had operated from Rainbow since line re-opening of that line saving 90 road truck movements for each train that had been able to run = 2700 road truck movements to & from ports avoided.
In the case of currently throttling the Sea Lake and Manangatang lines to only 1 grain train a day, the resultant overflow to road if the low cost expedient of re-opening Inglewood - Eaglehawk is not enacted by early 2021 will be many times worse in terms of avoidable truck movements than the case of the Rainbow line quoted above.
Re BLU the missing bits of track on the Down side of Ballan and both ends of Bacchus Marsh are relatively small now and RPV have proven on past occasions that they can indeed complete such "Blue Hills" sagas fairly quickly when they have to meet a deadline. Therefore those small missing sections of track can realistically be completed at both locations within the next 6 weeks.