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Work has begun on replacing 39,000 sleepers on the Rainbow to Dimboola line in Victoria’s North West.
V/Line crews with the support of contractors are conducting the works that are funded through the Victorian government’s Building Works program which sets aside $83 million for regional rail maintenance.
Victorian minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the works would support freight movements and economic growth in the region.
“This investment will help improve our freight network and ensure we are continuing to support farmers and freight operators at a time when they need it the most,” said Horne.
“We’re continuing to maintain and improve the network, taking extra steps to allow projects like this to continue safely and help keep track workers, suppliers and contractors working.”
In addition to sleeper replacement works, ballast will also be renewed and resurfacing will improve the condition of the track. Scheduling has aimed to minimise the impact on freight services using the line.
Member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford said the works were essential with a large grain harvest expected this year.
“This upgrade will provide easier and more efficient ways for farmers to transport their goods ahead of what is expected to be a bumper grain harvest,” said Pulford.
“The line has already been put to good use since re-opening in April, and this investment will make it even better.”
The 66km line from Rainbow to Dimboola was reopened in April after a $1m investment to replace 5,000 sleepers. So far, 38 freight services have used the re-opened line, carrying 100,000 tonnes of grain and replacing 5,700 truck movements.
Heavy use of the line has led farmers to previously call for further reopening of freight lines servicing grain growers and other primary producers throughout regional Victoria.
Sleeper replacement works on the Ararat line were completed last week, taking the total number of replaced sleepers on the Victorian regional rail network to 100,000 in 2020.
34,000 sleepers were replaced between Ararat and Wendouree in just over two months, and followed sleeper replacements on the Bendigo and Warrnambool lines.
Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said the works showed the ability for works to continue safely during COVID-19.
“We’ve taken extra steps to allow projects like this to continue safely and help keep track workers, suppliers and contractors working during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Carroll.
“To install 100,000 sleepers on the regional rail network this year is a fantastic effort from crews and shows that we are continuing work on important infrastructure projects during these extraordinary times.”
With the sleeper replacement works complete, Ararat line services can return to normal speeds and the permanent timetable will come into effect from October 22. Trains have been running at slower speeds to allow the newly installed sleepers to bed down.
Old sleepers were replaced with new, long-lifespan concrete sleepers produced at Avalon, near Geelong.
Over 50 people worked during the night in 10-day blocks to ensure that trains could continue running. Works began after the last train each night and finished before the first service each morning.
Every sleeper on the 22-kilometre section between Buangor and Dobie was replaced, and the track beneath the road at the Warrayatkin Road level crossing in Dobie was renewed.
Member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford said the works would improve the passenger experience on the Ararat line.
“These works are vitally important for the ongoing upkeep of the line, to ensure passengers can continue to have a safe, reliable, and comfortable experience on services to Ararat.”
Works have been carried out by V/Line and followed Health Department guidelines.