The Melbourne-Wodonga standard gauge rail line has been a vital part of a massive $400 million concrete railway sleeper project undertaken by Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).
Over 100 kilometres of new concrete sleepers will be laid along the Victorian main north line by the time the project is completed in February 2009.
Overall, the project will see nearly 2,200,000 new concrete railway sleepers laid on the Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane main railway line as well as the Hunter Valley coal line in NSW.
According to ARTC Chief Executive Officer, David Marchant, the project has not only injected economic benefits into local communities along the rail line but will also make rail a more efficient competitor to road transport.
Mr Marchant, said the project, which had now reached the halfway point, was perhaps the biggest upgrade since the original track was laid.
“What we’ve set out to achieve is to get some consistency in railway sleepers,” he said. “That may not sound significant but it is. By using concrete sleepers we can increase the efficiency of the track and reduce transit times between the major eastern capitals.
“When ARTC took over control of the track from State Governments there were three types of sleepers holding down the rails – traditional timber, steel and concrete.
“Consistency increases efficiency but if there are different sorts of sleepers then it has the opposite effect and efficiency is reduced.
“In Victoria, 114,000 sleepers have so far been laid and two sections of about 25 kilometres between Wodonga and Chiltern are about to get underway.
Mr Marchant said local communities near the work sites had benefited economically from ARTC’s presence.
“From work materials, equipment and right through to lunches and dinner there have been benefits spread through local communities.
“There have even been new employment opportunities created, which have gone beyond local communities as people employed at one site have had their employment extended as they move to another site along the rail line.”
Mr Marchant said the track efficiency improved by the new concrete sleepers would be enhanced as new passing loops and passing lanes were built as part of ARTC’s track upgrade.
“In the past, on single track sections, one train had to stand idle, waiting for a train travelling in the opposite direction to pass.
“This slowed the trains down and added to transit times between the major capitals.
“Once all the ARTC upgrades are completed, we can achieve transit times as low as 10 hours 40 minutes between Sydney and Melbourne and 15 hours 35 minutes between Sydney and Brisbane.
“This will make rail more competitive with road transport and as each 1500 metre lone train can take the cargo of 100 semi trailers we could see less trucks on our major roads,” Mr Marchant said.
Issued: February 27, 2008
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