Complete shutdown for major maintenance on Hunter rail network

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) will commence a three-day shutdown to conduct over 120 maintenance works from Tuesday 11 February.

Maintenance shutdown will affect the Hunter Valley Network on the rail network from the port of Newcastle through to Narrabri and out to Ulan.

Majority of the works will be on the coal lines between Kooragang and Maitland as well as the main lines from Muswellbrook to Ulan, Narrabri and Maitland.

The maintenance will include removing and replacing almost 14 kilometres of rail, upgrading approximately 1.5 kilometres of track subgrade across six sites, continue ongoing signal upgrade work between Islington and Sandgate, routine maintenance and defect removal, and various other major upgrades.

A new 120 stone Loram grinder will be introduced to the Hunter Valley to improve rail grinding performance.

Wayne Johnson ARTC group executive Hunter Valley said the work requires a total shutdown of the rail network.

“As days of extreme heat can have an impact on the track, such as causing signal faults, circuit breaks or track buckling due to intense heat conditions, we need to carry out this work to ensure the track remains safe, particularly in recent extreme weather conditions,” Johnson said.

“We continue to also carry out spot maintenance as required, to ensure the safety and reliability of the track and limit ‘hot works’ on these days, such as welding or rail grinding to reduce risk.

“We remind residents to remain vigilant as there may be more vehicle movements in and out of work sites in residential areas around the work sites.” 

1,200 workers will assist the three-day maintenance shutdown.

The work is set to start at 6.30am on Tuesday, February 11 and is expected to be completed early in the morning on Friday, February 14.

Overnight outages will impact the passenger network from Islington to Maitland and alternative bus services by Transport for NSW will be in place.

The next major maintenance shutdown is scheduled from 1 to 3 April. 

Inland Rail grants $4000 to a men’s cultural group in QLD

Over $55,000 in community donations from Inland Rail will be granted to groups across the whole rail corridor in regional Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

The Maibin Jaihilah Yahgilah men’s cultural group from Beaudesert, Queensland will receive $4000 in the third round of the Inland Rail Community Sponsorships and Donations program.

The funds will be used for the completion of an amenities block on a five-hectare site that has significant cultural ties to Mt Warning (Wollumbin) and the Mununjali people dating back thousands of years.

Rebecca Pickering, Inland Rail Director of Engagement, Environment and Property said more than $180,000 has already been allocated in the first three rounds of the program to help communities through a range of events, projects and activities.

“We congratulate successful recipients for this round which include sporting groups, schools, men’s groups, and Indigenous Cultural Groups. Funded projects represent a diverse range of initiatives such as upgrading community facilities, skills building in the areas of STEM education and inclusive events,” Pickering said.

Sharne Iselin, president of the Maibin Jahyilah Yahgilah men’s group said they meet every month to discuss challenges and barriers and how to overcome them.

“The work we do is really important and sadly it’s something that is badly needed in today’s society. We do all we can to support our community empower and strengthen local Mununjali cultural values and principles,” Iselin said.

The next round of funding applications for the program is now open and eligible groups can still apply for funding of between $1000 and $4000 for their project or service by Friday 31 January.

Inland Rail said in a statement that applications are encouraged from individuals and organisations in regional centres along the corridor, to ensure regional areas receive maximum benefit.

People are invited to visit the Inland Rail website to apply for a donation and for further information on the program.

Calls for Gladstone to be part of Inland Rail route

Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett is calling on the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and state and federal governments to review and invest in connecting the Inland Rail to the Port of Gladstone.

Gladstone Regional Council has provided its submission to the Senate Inquiry into the management of the Inland Rail Project by the ARTC and the Commonwealth government. 

Burnett told the senators via teleconference at the hearing in Brisbane on Thursday that extending inland rail to the Port of Gladstone was a “strategic priority”.

Burnett said it doesn’t have to be “Gladstone vs Brisbane,” because the route alignment “can be both, so there is no reason it can’t be both”.

“The Australian rail network is an important network, so why not include central Queensland as well,” he said.

“The Port of Brisbane has issues with capacity, costs, and efficiencies, which I believe strengthens our case for the line to come to the Port of Gladstone. The Toowoomba to Brisbane project is reported at an estimate of $6.7 billion, alternatively the route from Toowoomba to Gladstone is projected at $1.2 to $2.7 billion.”

The Gladstone mayor said “there is no doubt Brisbane is a distribution centre” but it’s “heavily congested”.

“Our port has the capacity to grow to more than 300 million tonnes per annum which is more than double the import and export tonnage currently experienced.”

Burnett said The Gladstone Regional Council is calling on the Australian government to finalise and release the study into the extension of the Inland Rail to the Port of Gladstone. 

“The Australian Government should work to align with regional councils and other key stakeholders to invest in the Inland Rail extension to the Port of Gladstone to advance the case for this important piece of regional enabling infrastructure,” he said. 

Infrastructure Australia knocks back North East Rail line upgrade

Infrastructure Australia has announced that the current business case for the North East Rail Line upgrade is not nationally significant.

The business case, submitted by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), covers the 316km Victorian line from Melbourne to Albury, via Seymour and Wangaratta. The estimated cost would be $198.3 million.

In a statement, Infrastructure Australia noted that rail service disruptions are locally or regionally significant, but not of national importance. Infrastructure Australia’s independent review of the business case found that the estimated benefits were overstated, while the business case itself said the costs would be higher than the benefits, highlighted chief executive of Infrastructure Australia, Romilly Madew.

“We know compared to other regional Victorian passenger lines, there is relatively poor punctuality, and reliability on the North East Rail Line. However, based on the current evidence available, the cost of the project would significantly outweigh its benefits.”

The Commonwealth’s independent infrastructure advisory board noted that 1,800 people use the line each day, however demand has fallen due to poor punctuality, while the neighbouring Hume Highway has been improved.

The lack of benefit to freight services was one reason that Infrastructure Australia turned down the project, along with the lack of new rail services, new rolling stock, or faster travel times.

Madew noted that a revised business case would be welcomed by Infrastructure Australia.

“We recognise the importance of good-quality regional rail transport to give people genuine travel choices and equitable service levels,” she said.

Over 63km of track removed in first phase of Inland Rail project

The Australasian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has now removed over 63 kilometres of existing rail line from the Inland Rail construction in Parkes, New South Wales.

The project, a partnership between the Australian Government and private sector, is intended to upgrade the national freight network between Melbourne and Brisbane by developing regional lines across Victoria, NSW and Queensland.

The works on the section of line between Parkes and Narromine represent the first of a planned 13 Inland Rail projects encompassing over 1700 kilometres.

The track, which has been removed from the freight line between Parkes and Narromine (the P2N project), will be recycled and repurposed for Pacific National’s Intermodal Terminal in Parkes as well as other parts of the NSW rail network.

“It’s just one of the ways we keep our commitment to sustainability,” the ARTC stated in an inaugural project newsletter.

In addition to the track removal, over 100,000 cubic metres of material has been removed as a result of ongoing earthworks.

The works are being carried out by INLink, a joint venture between BMD Group and Fulton Hogan, which is focused on upgrading existing links, building new embankments and culverts, and upgrading signage, signals, level crossings and fencing.

The ARTC stated that they would install over 4000 culverts across the project in total.

Neighbouring projects include the southerly Stockinbingal to Parkes (S2P) project and northerly Narromine to Narrabri (N2N) project, which are both currently in the project feasibility stage.

The ARTC held its first community forum on the project, with two more set to follow on June 19 at the ARTC Community and Working Hub in Parkes and on June 20 at Peak Hill RSL in Peak Hill.

ARTC details benefits of longer coal trains in Hunter Valley

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has detailed plans to improve coal train capacity in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales.

The combined strategy of longer trains and trains that can run closer together is intended to increase capacity, boosting productivity and efficiency for coal mining companies in the region that are reliant on the route. The Hunter Valley coal chain feeds coal to busy export terminals at Port Waratah and Newcastle.

Train length in the Hunter Valley is limited to 1,543 metres at present, but the ARTC stated in a report that increasing train lengths could be “a potentially effective mechanism to increase capacity when implemented in a systematic manner”.

The plans form the backbone of the ARTC’s 2019 Hunter Valley Corridor Capacity Strategy, which looks at ways to provide capacity to meet contracted coal volumes in line with the ARTC Hunter Valley Access Undertaking (HVAU).

“ARTC is continuing to review options for longer trains, and is currently undertaking engineering investigations,” read the report.

“Further modelling will be required to validate capacity impacts and opportunities.

“Subject to the findings of the engineering investigations, ARTC will develop business case assessments of the costs and benefits of providing necessary infrastructure enhancements.”

The ARTC points to in-house technologies such as the ARTC Network Control Optimisation (ANCO) project and Advanced Train Management System (ATMS) as ways to offer significant improvements in efficiency by increasing the use of existing assets through digitisation for a relatively low cost, in keeping with the preference of thermal coal producers.

The ARTC also advised that empty trains travelling on single track sections be allowed to travel at 100km/h. Trains with 120-tonne capacity wagons are currently permitted to run at 60km/h when loaded and 80km/h when empty.

The group said that it would work with operators to undertake analysis and risk assessment to determine the viability of this speed increase.