On 5 September 2004, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) commenced a 60 year lease of the NSW interstate and Hunter Valley rail lines. ARTC previously controlled the interstate rail network within the area bounded by Albury on the NSW / Victoria border, Kalgoorlie inWestern Australia and Broken Hill in wesern NSW. The commencement of the NSW lease consolidated control of themajority of the interstate rail network under ARTC
In 2002, ARTC developed a detailed infrastructure investment program for the NSW network in the context of the lease proposal to NSW. This investment program was worth $872 million including complementary investment on the Melbourne –Albury corridor.
Subsequently, the Commonwealth made available $450 million to ARTCto invest in the network, with a focus on the NSW North Coast. The Commonwealth has made a further $550 million available for rail freight projects through Auslink, of which $110 million is available for works to improve freight access through Sydney.
It is now 3 years since ARTC’s NSW investment program was developed and it needed to be reviewed and revised in light of subsequent developments. Similarly, while an indicative scope of works was developed for the $450 million, there was also a need to subject it to rigorous analysis, to optimise the scope of works in the context of the available funding and an improved understanding of business needs.
The review and revision process fell naturally into two parts:
- Understanding the needs of ARTC’s major customersand the freight market they service.
- Understanding how best ARTC can improve its service to these customers, within known and likely funding limits.
In relation to the first of these, a discussion paper was provided to major customers and followed-up with meetings. Discussions covered a range of issues, including:
- predictions of market growth
- factors that will make a material difference to rail’scompetitiveness with road
- outcomes operators and themarket require with respect to transit time, reliability, capacity, yield, pathing etcto achieve predicted rail market growth
- how operators will address issues such as rolling stock availability, terminal capacity and operation, and other issues that will affect the achievement of market growth
In parallel with thismarket evaluation, an extensive review was carried out of the existing infrastructure and operating patterns on the Melbourne –Sydney –Brisbane corridor to define the current situation and provide a datum by which improvements could be gauged. The effects of staged improvements that can reasonably be undertaken within the known development budgets for the next 10 years have then been analysed to see what kind of service can reasonably be offered to customers by 2010 and 2015.
Looking further into the future, there are a large number of projects, mainly deviations on the North Coast line that have been considered in the past to further reduce transit times,.
This report sets out the analysis undertaken of improvement options and integrates the outcomes into a future train plan designed to deliver substantial improvements in transit time, reliability, capacity and above and below rail yield.