At Uranquinty in southern NSW, Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) today laid the 1,000,000th new concrete sleeper marking a milestone in a $2.1 billion plus boost rail’s freight transport competitiveness.
ARTC Chief Executive Officer David Marchant said the halfway milestone reached today on the sleeper replacement program showcased the upgrade of the Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane rail line, which included new passing lanes and loops and signal upgrades.
Mr Marchant said it was appropriate the 1,000,000th new concrete sleeper was laid at Uranquinty as the area was the focus of the sleeper replacement program as well as the $420 million new passing lane construction and signal upgrades.
“The first of the new passing lanes on the Sydney-Melbourne line will be commissioned at Uranquinty in a couple of weeks,” he said. “So, we’ve got all aspects of the rail upgrade on show in one area.
“The Uranquinty passing lane will be the first of five passing lanes on the NSW side of the border, which will allow trains to pass each other at speed rather than one standing idle in a siding while waiting for the train travelling in the opposite direction to pass.
“The new passing lanes and signal upgrades on both sides of the border will cut transit times between Sydney and Melbourne.
“Include the new passing loops, signal upgrades and track and bridge work on the NSW North Coast line along with the $200 million plus Southern Sydney Freight Line and there will be a whole new rail era unfolding between Melbourne and Brisbane,” Mr Marchant said.
Mr Marchant said ARTC had allocated some $400 million to replace wooden and steel sleepers on the Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane rail corridor with around 2.2 million new concrete sleepers.
“Consistency in rail sleepers may not sound significant,” Mr Marchant said, “but it means better efficiency from the track and reduced transit times between the main eastern State demand centres.
“The new concrete sleepers, the passing lanes ARTC is constructing along the rail corridor and signal upgrades are, combined, perhaps the biggest rail project since the track was originally laid,” Mr Marchant said.
“For ARTC it marks rail’s resurgence as a realistic freight option.
“Once the resleepering and passing lanes are completed, ARTC will be able to offer the freight industry transit times as low as 10 hours 40 minutes between Sydney and Melbourne and 15 hours 35 minutes between Sydney and Brisbane.
“Rail will be more than competitive again and as each 1500 metre long train can replace 100 semi trailers we could see less trucks on our major roads,” Mr Marchant said.
Mr Marchant said that, overall, nearly 1,500 kilometres of new concrete sleepers would be laid along the main rail line between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane as well as along the main coal export line up the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. The project was scheduled for completion in February 2009.
“This program has been an economic boost to regional and rural Australia not only with new employment opportunities that have been created along with ARTC local purchases and equipment hire but with the actual production of the concrete sleepers.
“Grafton was where the NSW North Coast and Hunter Valley sleepers were produced while those for southern NSW were produced at Mittagong and a specially built plant at Wagga Wagga.
“Sleepers for the Victorian part of the project were produced in Geelong,” Mr Marchant said.
“There have been real economic gains spread along the entire rail corridor.”
The projects, Mr Marchant said, had also produced some technical innovations that would have positive impacts during the final stages leading to completion.
“Working with our alliance partners in the NSW North Coast projects, we developed enhancements to the technical equipment, which saw us achieve the world class installation rates with the ‘Pony Express’ machine laying 11 sleepers every minute.
“On the project south of Sydney, by working with our South Improvement Alliance partners we improved efficiencies with side sleeper insertion techniques, which had never been previously used in Australia, and, again we set new standards.
“We’re quite proud of what has been achieved so far, and there’s more to come,” Mr Marchant said.
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