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Truganina Freight Terminal Delayed Indefinitely

Truganina freight terminal

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State government postpones long-promised Truganina freight hub, sparking fears of increased truck congestion despite years of advocacy and significant investment.

The much-anticipated Western Interstate Freight Terminal (WIFT) in Truganina has been indefinitely postponed, leading to concerns about increased truck traffic on local roads. This delay comes despite years of advocacy from councils, industry leaders, and Premier Jacinta Allan, who had emphasized the project’s urgency.

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The state government recently informed the industry that the WIFT, first proposed in 2018 and deemed an urgent priority since 2021, will be “deferred until it is needed.” Instead, the Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal in Melbourne’s north, favored by the former Morrison government, will be prioritized. Victoria has already spent $400 million compensating landowners for the proposed Outer Metropolitan Ring Road, which was intended to connect the now-delayed terminal.

This decision marks a significant shift for the state government, which had long advocated for the Truganina site to precede or coincide with Beveridge. The deferral is the latest in a series of Victorian project delays, including Airport Rail and school upgrades, as the state contends with the nation’s highest debt-to-revenue ratio and an impending $25 million daily interest bill by 2027.

The WIFT had secured $740 million in federal funding in the pre-2022 election budget, compared to $1.62 billion for Beveridge. At the time, Allan, then transport infrastructure minister, stressed the immediate necessity of the facility for Melbourne’s west, calling it the “first cab off the rank.”

In 2022, Allan reiterated the priority of the western suburbs for an intermodal freight terminal, citing the area’s central role in Australia’s freight and logistics industry. However, the state government recently updated its website, stating that “things have changed” since 2021, with the Commonwealth advancing the Beveridge site and private freight projects providing adequate medium-term capacity.

“While the WIFT remains a priority for the Victorian government, its delivery will be deferred until when it’s needed,” the update read. The government will now focus on protecting land at Truganina for WIFT, potentially unlocking land for industrial development in the interim.

Planning for both freight hubs began in 2018, with Victoria’s freight strategy indicating the necessity of both to handle long double-stacked trains along the national Inland Rail corridor. The strategy recommended Truganina as the first development due to its proximity to 50% of existing interstate freight rail customers.

LeadWest, an alliance of five western Melbourne councils, supported the project, anticipating it would generate significant investment and create 28,000 jobs. Group chair and Melton councillor Sophie Ramsey expressed concerns about the impact on local roads, anticipating an additional 400-plus trucks daily on already congested routes like the Western Ring Road.

Peter Anderson, CEO of the Victorian Transport Association, criticized the decision, noting the western site’s proximity to the Port of Melbourne and relevant customers. He raised road safety concerns, predicting that trucks from Beveridge would cause lengthy queues on key corridors.

A spokesperson for federal Transport Minister Catherine King confirmed the federal government’s support for prioritizing Beveridge, following an independent review of Inland Rail. The review recommended two terminals in Victoria, with the northern site as the priority. The federal government has allocated $61.8 million for planning work around WIFT and the Outer Metropolitan Ring Road, maintaining the existing $740 million commitment to the project.

A Victorian government spokesperson highlighted that private investment and the Commonwealth’s prioritization of Beveridge meant additional capacity from WIFT was unnecessary in the short term. The government has extended Pacific National’s lease for interstate rail freight operations at South Dynon until 2051, though it remains unclear if this affects Pacific National’s proposal for a private freight hub at Little River.

Wyndham City deputy mayor Josh Gilligan urged Pacific National and the state government to prioritize Truganina with clear timelines. Opposition ports and freight spokeswoman Roma Britnell blamed the delay on the government’s financial management, emphasizing the necessity of both the Beveridge and Truganina projects for Victoria’s freight system.

Liberal Northern Metropolitan MP Evan Mulholland accused the state of reluctantly supporting the Beveridge project due to federal Labor’s adoption of the former Liberal government’s policy.

The Outer Metropolitan Ring Road, a proposed 100-kilometre link from Werribee and Melton to Craigieburn, Epping, and Thomastown, remains a key feature for the Truganina site. The Victorian government has allocated land for this corridor, compensating landowners to the tune of $400 million since 2018-19.

As the state navigates these changes, the deferral of the WIFT raises significant questions about the future of freight and logistics infrastructure in Melbourne’s west.

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