Grain accumulator and processor GrainCorp has expressed caution about continuing to invest in Victorian rail network sites, while the outcomes for the Murray Basin Rail Project remain unclear.
GrainCorp's concerns come as work is about to begin on further upgrades of the Murrayville to Ouyen section of the MBRP.
The work is due to be finished by mid-2022.
The 109-kilometre line was last upgraded to standard gauge and re-opened three years ago.
A GrainCorp spokesperson welcomed the commitment to upgrade the line, saying it ensured continued access to the Victorian export supply chain for northern Mallee growers.
"Domestic demand, the cost of road freight, site locations, labour costs and loading times are all affected in bumper years, so access to an export supply chain will always be a viable and necessary option for growers," the spokesperson said.
"While GrainCorp has invested in numerous sites across Victoria, including at Murtoa, Warracknabeal, Tocumwal, Oaklands and Donald, we remain cautious with our investment into Victorian rail network sites while the timeline and outcomes of the Murray Basin Rail Plan are unclear.
While GrainCorp has invested in numerous sites across Victoria .....we remain cautious with our investment into Victorian rail network sites while the timeline and outcomes of the Murray Basin Rail Plan are unclear.- GrainCorp spokesperson
"We continue to consult with the Victorian Government on the plan and when the future of transport infrastructure for growers in these regions is secured, we'll be in a position to allocate our own investment accordingly."
Sleeper replacement and track maintenance took place on the line as part of the government's $440 million Murray Basin Rail Project.
Since then, the state government abandoned plans to complete the MBRP as initially scheduled, dropping the standardisation of the Manangatang and Sea Lake lines.
Regional Rail Revival director Mark Havryluk said planning was continuing on major upgrades, including track upgrades from Ararat to Maryborough, which were targeted to commence early next year.
"We're working closely with industry to plan these upgrades to minimise the impacts of construction on peak grain seasons."
The work on the line would include re-sleepering, adding ballast and adjusting track to remove most speed restrictions, which had limited the use of the line.
ACCIONA, Coleman Rail and SMEC, who completed works on the Ballarat Line Upgrade earlier in the yea, were contracted to complete the project.
Rail Projects Victoria is delivering the upgrades to the Ouyen to Murrayville Line as part of the revised scope of works for the Murray Basin Rail Project, delivered with an additional $244 million investment by the Victorian and Australian governments.
Track upgrades from Ararat to Maryborough - which will increase load capacity to 21 tonnes and improve travel times - are targeted to start early next year.
Further upgrades will include new passing loops and sidings, improvements to Maryborough and Dunolly junctions, signalling upgrades, and more information about project timelines to follow as works progress.
The DoT said the revised works package would increase the number of train paths on the Murray Basin network from 28 paths to 49 paths and support 1,000 direct and indirect jobs during delivery.
The work comes when the department has advised the Victorian Auditor-General's Office it believes the current approved project scope for the MBRP can be delivered within budget and will only be up to three months behind schedule.
But it told the VAGO the project, which will eventually cost nearly $800 million, would not be finally completed until the second quarter of 2023-24.
The VAGO looked at the MBRP as part of its review of the performance of the government's $144 billion investment in public sector capital works.
It found the Department of Treasury and Finance public sector entities' reporting to Parliament and the public about major projects performance was not timely, relevant or sufficient.