The Sydney-Albury section of the main southern rail line has been an integral part of a massive $400 million concrete railway sleeper project undertaken by Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).
Over 215 kilometres of new concrete sleepers have so far been laid along the main southern line from Macarthur on the edge of the Sydney metropolitan area to Albury on the NSW-Victorian border.
The sleeper laying techniques that have been developed have resulted in record installation of around 60 kilometres a month in January and February 2008.
ARTC Chief Executive Officer, David Marchant, said this week marked not only the half way point in the total project but the week in which the 500,000th concrete sleeper was laid on the Sydney-Melbourne line.
Mr Marchant said the overall project was due for completion in February 2009.
“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 320,000 new concrete sleepers.”
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.
“As well, a new industry was created in Wagga Wagga as a special plant was built just to make the sleepers.
“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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