After “significant progress” repairing its heavily-damaged North Coast network in the past week, the Australian Rail Track Corporation has brought forward the re-opening of the interstate line.
The ARTC now believes it can open the North Coast line between Telarah and Taree for operations as of 10am this Saturday, May 9.
“This will allow a full return to Sydney-Brisbane, export coal and passenger rail services from this timeframe onwards,” the ARTC said on Tuesday.
The North Coast network, along with the Hunter coal network, were both knocked out of action late in April by extreme weather and flooding.
Crucial to the export of coal from northern NSW, the Hunter network was reopened roughly a week after it had been shut.
But the North Coast line, which sustained significant damage, including land and ballast washaways, in almost 50 sites, has remained closed into May.
The ARTC late last week announced it would not be able to re-open the line until May 17. Operator Aurizon sent home its staff from its Brisbane-Sydney operations until May 18.
But the good news over the weekend means services to the interstate network may return earlier than expected.
“ARTC made significant progress with repair works between Telarah and Dungog over the weekend and as a result we are able to bring forward the forecast to return the ARTC network along the mid North Coast operations, with some certainty,” the ARTC said.
The ARTC said the forecast has been brought forward due to heavy rains in the area last week fortunately avoiding work sites, as well round-the-clock work periods and the ability to deliver truck movements from Martin’s Creek Quarry, in double shifts, 18-hours a day.
The cancellation of the local Tocal Agricultural Days also helped, the ARTC added, as it allowed for consistent access over three days through the main access point to the major washaway sites.
“We cannot thank the Agricultural College enough for their assistance over the last two weeks in allowing us access to the main repair sites,” the ARTC said, “their support has been immense in allowing us to return operations quickly, safely and ahead of schedule.
“Following completion of civil works later this week, there will be final track testing and certification requirements before the track can be formally reopened.”
The ARTC said its operations staff is underway planning a return to service with its customers, and will manage a staged, balanced return to operations from Saturday morning onwards.