We actively work to prevent the threat of bushfire through:
- Routine track maintenance
- Vegetation control and management
- General upkeep of railway land
- Regular inspections across the network
- Ongoing staff training and encouraging all staff to remain observant and report possible fire risks
- Collaborating with rail operators using our track to ensure train inspections prior to departure.
We have an annual vegetation management program involving pruning, slashing high grass, weed control and spraying.
We typically clear a five metre wide strip of vegetation on either side of the rail track. If our track crosses a high fire risk area, we build fire breaks by creating a mound or barrier made of earth running parallel to the track.
We also run bushfire training drills with emergency services in some areas so they’re familiar with our rail corridor. These training drills also provide us with an opportunity to verify track maintenance is up to date and that the track meets required standards.
Fire risk has also been significantly reduced by advanced, high-tech trackside monitoring systems across the network. There’s a system of acoustic bearing detectors (or RailBAMs), which detect faults in the wheel set and monitor rail wheel condition and defects. They listen for internal defects as equipment moves past a trackside detector. They’re very sensitive and can detect problems before a bearing fails – which can create a fire risk.
What do ARTC staff do if there’s a fire?
Our staff are trained to observe conditions and will call 000 if they see a fire or signs of one.
In the event of a bushfire, or high bushfire risk, we work closely with authorities and local emergency services. This can involve providing fast and safe access to the rail corridor for emergency service vehicles and personnel. It may also require holding or stopping trains to avoid closing level crossings if they were to impede residents evacuating an area.
Does ARTC do anything different on high fire danger days?
Our staff actively monitor fire ban advice on high risk days. During fire danger season, our Network Control monitors fire service danger ratings. If there’s a catastrophic fire, we issue a notice to operators to let them know. This notice requests rail operators undertake additional pre-departure checks focusing on areas such as exhausts and braking systems.
We also advise operators to ensure their train and systems are operating correctly and braking systems are properly released.
Train crew are asked to be vigilant and keep an eye on the operations of the train and any suspicious activities around the corridor, and report them to Network Control.
Other Preventative Measures
ARTC does not operate trains. However, it is standard procedure for rail operators to reduce fire risk by inspecting all trains before departure, testing brakes work properly and doing roll-by inspections during a train’s journey.
Prior to fire danger season, operators also check locomotives and rolling stock conditions, especially exhausts and brakes, as a pre-summer precaution or as part of normal service schedules. We also remind train crews to be vigilant on pre-departure checks and during the journey on catastrophic fire days.
We have local teams undertaking regular track inspections right across our rail network.
Can ARTC undertake track maintenance on days of high fire risk?
Track maintenance is always important, and is critical during high temperatures. Extreme heat can have an impact on the track, such as causing signal faults, circuit breaks or track buckling. We’re vigilant during these periods and undertake spot maintenance as required, to ensure the safety and reliability of the track for everyone.
There are limitations to our work on days of high bushfire risk. For example, we’ll avoid ‘hot works’, such as welding or rail grinding. If ‘hot works’ need to be performed, we submit a permit to the relevant fire authority before proceeding.