The Australian Rail Track Corporation is still unable to operate serviced beyond Maitland, but main line operations for local passenger trains have returned to the Hunter network since it was closed last week due to flooding.
The ARTC said on Sunday night that the Hunter Valley network should be opened by Monday morning, but confirmed that the North Coast line would remain closed.
Following flooding and high winds last week, the ARTC shut the Hunter Valley network between Maitland and the Port of Newcastle, along with its North Coast network.
Initially the authority believed it could re-open the Hunter network on Friday last week, but flood waters were slow to retreat, and the ARTC announced a further closer to the Hunter network of 48 hours.
The ARTC said on Monday that it would be able to give a forecast for return to services between Maitland and the port sometime on Tuesday afternoon.
“With flood waters dropping over the weekend and improved weather conditions, ARTC teams have been able to make good progress with repairs to the track between the Port of Newcastle and Maitland,” the ARTC said.
A Pacific National test train was run on the track to de-scale the rail and ensure all repaired signaling and track circuitry was working properly.
“The Maitland flood gates remain up but water has been dropping at a rate that we expect the gates to be removed tomorrow morning,” the ARTC said.
“There are still sections of track with high water levels around Wallis Creek, and this will be the key area of focus for our team after the flood gates come down.
“Some parts of the network are still without power, and there remains a sizeable track repair and signalling repair job to take place over coming days.”
The ARTC said crews will continue to work through the week to return the track to normal operating conditions.
“Residents are advised that this will involve heavy track repair machines working around-the-clock conducting track resurfacing and rail grinding.
“This is essential to get the network back up and running and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
The corporation said it will continue to work with customers and the Hunter coal chain on an operational start up plan for coal, passenger and general freight that will take into account the need to meet passenger timetables, provide coal customers with access to the port, “and above all, safety”.
The North Coast network, which sustained substantial damage during last week’s extreme weather – including severe ballast washouts and several landslips – remains closed, with no forecast for re-opening yet offered by the ARTC.