Portland railway line
Portland railway station
|Converted to Standard Gauge||1995|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
|Old gauge||1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)|
|Operating speed||80 km/h (50 mph)|
Freight operator Pacific National indefinitely suspended all rail services to the town of Portland in 2004, impacting local companies including Portland Aluminium, transport company Kalari, and freight broker Anchor Logistics. Portland container traffic was conveyed between Maroona and Portland on grain services twice a week, but Pacific National said that due to the drought there were no trains to attach the loading to. On the route the price differential between rail and road is $12.97 per tonne in rail's favour. Pacific National closed their Portland operations in March 2008, with GrainCorp leasing a limited number of locomotives and rolling stock from them, but favour transporting grain to the Port of Geelong instead.
In July 2008 the Victorian Government announced a $15 million upgrade to the line, raising maximum speeds to 80 kilometres an hour as they were previously. Australian Rail Track Corporation signed a 50-year lease to manage the line and will start the upgrade within months. The line was finally transferred from V/Line to ARTC on 22 March 2009.
In September 2008 it was announced that freight traffic would restart using the line, with operator El Zorro signing a multi-million deal with miner Iluka Resources to carry containerised mineral sands from Portland in the south-west to Melbourne, with Iluka saying rail transport was cheaper than road. The train continues to run today on an irregular basis. In March 2010 the State Government announced a $3.97 million grant for the construction of a rail loading facility alongside the Iluka Resources mineral sand separation plant (near Hamilton railway station) for the rail transport of heavy mineral concentrate extracted from the Iluka mine site at Ouyen via the standard gauge Murtoa - Hopetoun railway.
Grain trains on the line restarted with the 2010 harvest, with AWB Limited and their rail partner El Zorro using the GrainCorp terminal to load 26,250 tonnes of canola bound for Pakistan on 4 March 2010.
A branch line was opened from Hamilton north to Cavendish between 1910 and 1920. This was connected to the Horsham - Balmoral railway in the 1920s, which itself connected back to the main Serviceton line. This line was closed south of Noradjuha, (just south of East Natimuk) in the 1970s.
A branch line was opened from Heywood west to Mount Gambier in 1917. Service was suspended in 1995 due to the standardisation of the Maroona - Portland line. There are regular calls for the Heywood - Mount Gambier line to be standardised.
The only regular service on the line is the thrice weekly El Zorro containerised mineral sands train from Portland. The last passenger train between Ararat and Portland was on 12 September 1981, operated by a DRC railcar. A new passenger station at Portland had been officially opened on 29 June 1968.
- "VICSIG - Infrastructure - Line Data Portland line". www.vicsig.net. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- Sid Brown (March 1990). "Tracks Across the State". Newsrail. Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division). pp. 71–76.
- Bill Meldrum (17 December 2004). "Freight off the rails Pacific National suspends rail services to Portland". Portland Observer. web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2005-01-24. Retrieved 2008-07-02. (via Internet Archive)
- Bill Meldrum (30 June 2008). "State loses focus on Portland line". Portland Observer. www.spec.com.au. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
- "Rail track upgrade announced for Portland". ABC News. www.abc.net.au. 16 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- V/Line Weekly Operational Notice No. 11/2009
- "Rail freight back on Portland-Maroona line". ABC News. www.abc.net.au. 3 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-04.
- "Wongm's Rail Gallery - Mineral sands train". wongm.railgeelong.com. Retrieved 2010-03-18.
- Premier of Victoria (18 March 2010). "Media Release: GOVERNMENT HELPS PUT MINERAL INDUSTRY ON TRACK". www.premier.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 2010-03-18.
- Rob McKay (4 March 2010). "Shipment breaks Portland grain export drought". Lloyd's List DCN. www.lloydslistdcn.com.au. Retrieved 2010-03-18.
- "New push for Mount Gambier railway". The Border Watch. www.borderwatch.com.au. 17 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- "Penola rail pledge confirmed". The Border Watch. www.borderwatch.com.au. 18 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- BILL MELDRUM (13 February 2008). "Portland railyards given the shunt". Portland Observer. www.spec.com.au. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- Chris Banger (March 1997). "Rail Passenger Service Withdrawals Since 1960". Newsrail. Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division). pp. 77–82.
- Vincent Adams Winter (1990). VR and VicRail: 1962–1983. p. 205. ISBN 0-9592069-3-0.