THE largest component of works in the $235 million upgrade of the North-East rail corridor is being put to the market with the hope it will start early in 2020.
Australian Rail Track Corporation reaffirmed the $100 million-plus contract would include track repairs, drainage and bridge upgrades, level crossing improvements and installation of new ballast between Melbourne and Albury-Wodonga.
"This is the big one," ARTC chief executive John Fullerton said. "We are still on track to finish June 2021.
"We always thought it would be a three-year program from when we got the funding approved last October, but we are trying to accelerate things as best we can.
"It's important we get this project right and we are going through a staged, robust process ensuring that we find and procure the best available engineering companies to deliver the major packages of work."
Mr Fullerton said he expected the successful contractor to be announced in the latter stages of this year after short-listed companies from the EOIs advance to request for tender phase.
Once work does start, the impacts on passenger and freight trains on the line would be a major consideration.
"The line will continue to operate and our focus is to keep them running as best we can," Mr Fullerton said.
"There maybe occasions when it is best to cancel some trains, but we only want to do that as a last resort.
"Freight trains don't have too many other options so we've got to keep the freight moving.
"Fortunately for a fair proportion of the corridor we've got dual track and some of the early work we are doing is putting some more cross-overs in to allow trains to flip from one track to the other."
Level crossing works at more than 100 locations and more works will take place on April 6-8.