Murray Basin Rail Project
The Murray Basin region continues to be a key producer of agricultural feed, consumer food and building products. A reliable freight network with increased capacity is essential to move produce such as grain, fruit, vegetables, mineral sands and wine, which all rely heavily on transportation via road and rail.

The Murray Basin Rail Project (MBRP) aims to deliver key benefits for primary producers and freight operators on the existing rail network, including increased capacity, improved network reliability and resilience, and reduced journey times, without further gauge standardisation.


SMEC, together with MBRP Alliance partners Acciona Rail, Rail Projects Victoria and V/Line, are currently working on a range of track and signalling upgrades between Ararat and Maryborough in order to reduce the journey times, create more freight paths and increase axle load limits from 19 TAL to 21 TAL.

This is one part of the upgrades to the 1,055 kilometre Murray Basin rail network, which expands over north west Victoria, parts of New South Wales and South Australia, and is part of the Victorian intrastate freight network, comprising:

  • Yelta Line: 406km of single-track mainline connecting Yelta to Maryborough;
  • Murrayville to Ouyen branch line: 109km of single track linking Murrayville to Ouyen on the Yelta Line;
  • Maryborough to Ararat line: 88km of single track connecting the Yelta Line at Maryborough to the ARTC Interstate network at Ararat;
  • Sea Lake line: 140km of single track connecting Sea Lake to Korong Vale and then a further 72km to Dunolly;
  • Manangatang line: 175km of single-track connecting Manangatang to Korong Vale (and then a further 72km to Dunolly);
  • Maryborough to Gheringhap: 140km of single-track connecting Maryborough to the ARTC interstate network at Gheringhap to access the ports of Geelong and Melbourne.

SMEC’s designer role as part of the MBRP Alliance was focussed on delivering all non-signalling designs on the project. This mainly included designs for the track and civil (including track drainage), combined services route (CSR) and structural designs.

SMEC is working collaboratively with our Alliance partners to deliver designs that are safe, sustainable and high quality for the long-term benefit of regional communities.
———— Nilesh Patil, Design Manager

Innovative solutions for Bridge Ballast Retention

Enhancements to the pre-existing 80 kilometres of railway track, which connects Maryborough to Ararat, were imperative to establish a crucial link to the Murray Basin rail freight network in Victoria. This involved increasing the rail height to provide more ballast depth beneath the sleepers, replacing the old rails with new ones, and refining the track alignment. These measures enabled the line to accommodate heavier rail loads and improve operational speeds.

Infrastructure beneath the railway line, such as bridges and culverts, underwent evaluations to accommodate the heightened loading conditions. They were examined for compliance to AS5100 requirements, and measures to retain ballast were implemented along the structure edges to prevent spillage and facilitate future maintenance activities.

 Improvements on track

Once complete, the MBRP rail network upgrade will reduce road congestion by allowing thousands of vehicle journeys to be removed from roads, whilst also providing a major benefit to local producers and the regional economy. An increase to forty-nine weekly freight paths will see freight capacity increased, improved network reliability and thousands of jobs to be supported throughout the life of the project.

network upgrade
axle loading, between Ararat and Maryborough
weekly freight paths
will see freight capacity increased


Talk to one of our specialists about our role on the Murray Basin Rail Project.