Reliability and safety upgrades underway on Hunter Valley Line

Just as work on upgrades to the North East Line have continued in Victoria, despite the COVID-19 crisis, so too will works on the Hunter Valley Line.

The works will focus on ensuring reliability on the Hunter network, which carries passenger and freight services, said the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).

“The freight and transport industry has been identified as an essential service by the State and Federal Government – this  is a responsibility the Australian Rail Track Corporation takes very seriously, and we are working hard to ensure we balance the challenge of ensuring the safety and reliability of a critical transport network, alongside our obligations to meet and respond to the current public health challenge,” said the ARTC’s group executive Hunter Valley Wayne Johnson.

Half the services on the line are passenger services from Newcastle to the towns of Dungog and Scone, while the rest is comprised of freight services carrying coal, grain, and other export products. Regional and interstate goods services also use the Hunter rail network.

“It is critical that we continue to meet the need of delivering goods, products and people – but we are acutely aware of balancing the demands of running an extensive rail network, with the health and welfare of our people and the communities in which we operate,” said Johnson.

Although a planned maintenance shutdown was scheduled for the Hunter Valley network this week for major upgrades, the ARTC will instead only deliver essential works during the shutdown to maintain the rail network’s safety and reliability. The ARTC has implemented a number of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), and ensure that workers are safe.

“As coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread and disrupt people’s daily lives, we  have implemented a range of preventative measures to ensure the safety of our team and the community, while endeavouring to ensure reliable network operations can be sustained for critical freight movements in coming weeks,” said Johnson.

Complete shutdown for major maintenance on Hunter rail network

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) will commence a three-day shutdown to conduct over 120 maintenance works from Tuesday 11 February.

Maintenance shutdown will affect the Hunter Valley Network on the rail network from the port of Newcastle through to Narrabri and out to Ulan.

Majority of the works will be on the coal lines between Kooragang and Maitland as well as the main lines from Muswellbrook to Ulan, Narrabri and Maitland.

The maintenance will include removing and replacing almost 14 kilometres of rail, upgrading approximately 1.5 kilometres of track subgrade across six sites, continue ongoing signal upgrade work between Islington and Sandgate, routine maintenance and defect removal, and various other major upgrades.

A new 120 stone Loram grinder will be introduced to the Hunter Valley to improve rail grinding performance.

Wayne Johnson ARTC group executive Hunter Valley said the work requires a total shutdown of the rail network.

“As days of extreme heat can have an impact on the track, such as causing signal faults, circuit breaks or track buckling due to intense heat conditions, we need to carry out this work to ensure the track remains safe, particularly in recent extreme weather conditions,” Johnson said.

“We continue to also carry out spot maintenance as required, to ensure the safety and reliability of the track and limit ‘hot works’ on these days, such as welding or rail grinding to reduce risk.

“We remind residents to remain vigilant as there may be more vehicle movements in and out of work sites in residential areas around the work sites.” 

1,200 workers will assist the three-day maintenance shutdown.

The work is set to start at 6.30am on Tuesday, February 11 and is expected to be completed early in the morning on Friday, February 14.

Overnight outages will impact the passenger network from Islington to Maitland and alternative bus services by Transport for NSW will be in place.

The next major maintenance shutdown is scheduled from 1 to 3 April.