The Turnbull Government has announced $675,000 in funding for a rail track stability research project to be conducted by the University of Wollongong in partnership with the private sector.
Minister for education and training Simon Birmingham announced the funding as part of a four project, $1.9 million injection for collaborative research to be conducted by universities and the private sector.
The projects are the first to receive funding under the Federal Government’s Linkage Projects scheme, which is being launched in response to an OECD report ranking Australia last out of the 33 participant nations when it comes to collaboration between industry and higher education researchers.
Three of the projects are mining-related and will be conducted at the University of Queensland.
The fourth project is focused on rail strengthening, and is to be run by the University of Wollongong in collaboration with Infra Tech, the Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation (ACRI), Geoharbour Group, Coffey Geotechnics and SMEC.
“When researchers and businesses come to the Government with strong proposals that will clearly deliver real benefits for industry and Australians, we want to be able to green light them as quickly as possible,” Birmingham said.
“With the National Innovation and Science Agenda we sped up the processes for approving Linkage Projects that fund collaborations between researchers and businesses and we made changes so that grants could be made year-round so worthy projects don’t need to wait months and months until applications open.”
According to the minister’s release, the rail track stability project will examine causes of ‘mud pumping’ and effectiveness of drainage. The study will aim to improve track longevity, reducing maintenance costs and boosting productivity.
Mud pumping is an issue the ARTC is currently tackling, especially on its Melbourne to Sydney network.
According to the ARTC, it occurs when poor or inefficient drainage and a build-up of water results in the ballast becoming ‘fluid’ and unable to support the track properly. “Rail traffic passing over the mud-holes has the effect of pumping the sleepers and track into the trapped water in the ballast exacerbating the mud-holes and creating a ‘rough ride’ for the train,” the track corporation said in January 2016.
“The work the University of Wollongong has planned with their partners shows they are some of the leaders in infrastructure research and their project will potentially reduce the huge maintenance costs and extend the long-term use of rail networks around Australia,” the minister said.