AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Southern Sydney Freight Line cost blowout

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) says the cost of the Southern Sydney Freight Line (SSFL) has blown out but won’t comment on the exact figure.

The Sydney Morning Herald last week claimed the $300m cost of the SSFL had blown out by about $50m after work was suspended on the project for almost a year

However, ARTC who is delivering the SSFL as part of its $2bn North South improvement program declined to comment on exactly how much the cost blowout was.

“We have no idea where the SMH got that figure from,” ARTC spokesman Brian Dale told Rail Express.

“We’re not saying that there is no cost blowout on the project, we just won’t comment on that figure.”

Work on the project began in December 2008 but was suspended in October 2009 and only resumed in September last year.

Dale said progress had slowed on the project for a number of reasons.

“We needed to do some redesign work because of issues, especially around Glenfield, particularly the new East Hills line and the Glenfield tip,” he said.

“We also had to work with RailCorp to make sure our possessions did not interfere with theirs and we needed to work out the project’s signalling tie-ins with Railcorp’s own signalling network.”

Dale said ARTC and RailCorp had also experienced issues locating where essential services were located along the corridor because diagrams and maps dated back to the 1920s.

Since work resumed in September last year ARTC has completed a number of civil works with these due for completion in December. The project is scheduled for commissioning in December 2012.

The SSFL will separate freight services from passenger trains for the 36km between McArthur and Sefton on the southern rail approaches to Sydney
a key component in achieving faster transit times for freight trains and removing part of Sydney’s bottleneck.

The biggest challenge for freight trains transiting the Sydney metropolitan area is the interface with CityRail commuter services, with passenger and freight trains having to share the same tracks.

While the SSFL will free up freight movements south of Sydney, in the medium to longer term, major improvements to the rail alignment north of Sydney will be required to provide additional capacity through to Newcastle to cater for increased freight demand.

The Federal Government committed $840m towards the first stage of the Northern Sydney Freight Line (NSFL) in 2008, and following an initial $15m scoping study, the government approved a further $37.2m of project funding to enable the New South Wales Government to proceed to the next stage of work on developing options for the corridor.

While the NSW and Federal Governments are working in partnership to deliver the NSFL, progress on unlocking the stranglehold for Sydney’s rail freight is expected to drag on for some time.