The Sydney-Brisbane rail line has become an integral part of a massive $400 million concrete railway sleeper project undertaken by Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), which will maintain rail’s transport competitive edge.
Nearly 200 kilometres of new concrete sleepers have so far been laid along the North Coast line, from north of Newcastle to the NSW-Queensland border.
ARTC Chief Executive Officer, David Marchant, said this week marked the half way point in the total project, which was on schedule for completion in August this year.
“”Even the recent floods have not impact on our final delivery date,” Mr Marchant said.
“This project means nearly 2,200,000 new concrete railway sleepers will have been laid on the Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane main railway line as well as the Hunter Valley coal line,” Mr Marchant said.
“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.
“It’s probably 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.
“So far, ARTC has spent over $76 million on the main south line in NSW and that correlates into nearly 300,000 new concrete sleepers.
“On the way through we developed what we call the Pony Express delivery system, which sees the Pony Express machine lay 11 sleepers every minute and that’s the world’s best installation record, something we’re proud of,” he added.
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 long train can take the cargo of 100 semi trailers we could see less trucks on our major roads,” Mr Marchant said.
“To meet our needs, ARTC has launched a recruitment campaign to attract more than 150 new skilled workers to maintain rail lines and signals so that rail can maintain its competitive edge.
“In many respects, we’re seeing the rebirth of rail,” Mr Marchant said.
Issued: February 27, 2008
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