After fires forced the closure of the Blue Mountains line in late December and early January, limited services resumed between Mount Victoria and Lithgow on the evening of Monday, January 21.
Bushfires in the Blue Mountains area laid waste to a 25 kilometre stretch of railway, damaging signalling equipment and rail infrastructure. In early January services between Mount Victoria and Lithgow were expected to be closed for months, after being suspended since 19 December.
Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Paul Toole, highlighted that crews have been working on restoring services since the closure.
“Sydney Trains’ engineers have worked tirelessly to develop temporary systems that will allow us to restore rail connectivity and safely operate a limited number of freight trains from Monday evening and passenger trains from Tuesday 21 January,” he said.
“We recognise how important this rail connection is to passengers travelling to and from the west and to moving freight and we are doing everything possible to resume full services as soon as possible.”
Freight on Rail Group (FORG) of Australia chair Dean Dalla Valle, praised the NSW government for its swift resumption of services, noting that without the rail line, more freight had to be moved via roads.
“NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole MP and Sam Farraway MLC – both Bathurst boys – immediately understood the urgent need to restore rail freight services along the bushfire impacted section of track between Lithgow and Mount Victoria.”
The damage was so extensive that significant parts of the line will need to be wholly restored, said Toole.
“This will be a long recovery process as we are essentially rebuilding some parts of the operating system from scratch.”
Sydney Trains staff have removed over 300 trees and relaid kilometres of communication, electrical, and signal wiring.
Dalla Valle highlighted the nature of the NSW operator’s response.
“I’d also like to call out Sydney Trains Chief Executive Howard Collins OBE for rolling up his sleeves, quickly travelling to bushfire impacted zones to assess first-hand what needed to be done, and liaising closely with industry,” said Dalla Valle.
Schedules are still be altered to account for maintenance, said NSW TrainLink chief executive Pete Allaway.
“The first Bathurst Bullet, the Broken Hill XPLORER and most Dubbo XPT services will resume to a slightly altered timetable, with the remaining affected services to continue to be replaced by coaches and buses while repair work continues.”