A $3.9 million package of maintenance and improvement works is kicking off on the Ballarat, Ararat, and Maryborough lines.
The works will begin on Wednesday, April 22, and continue until Sunday, May 3 and involve a works crew of 90 to complete the major infrastructure upgrades. Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne said that the upgrades will make for better rail services.
“We’re getting on with this work now to improve reliability and services for passengers on the Ballarat, Ararat and Maryborough lines.”
Work will involve maintaining and renewing infrastructure, such as the Melton Reservoir Viaduct. In addition, the surface of the rail bridge over Toolern Creek and other culverts will be replaced, allowing water to easily pass under the tracks.
Other sections of track will be replaced and improved, while signalling equipment will be installed and the road surface at the Dowling Road level crossing in Windermere will be upgraded.
Coaches will be replacing trains while the works are underway.
Physical distancing measures will be in place on site.
“These works are going ahead with extra precautions in place to keep workers safe as we continue to slow the spread of coronavirus,” said Horne.
Member for Wendouree, Juliana Addison said that the works would improve regional rail.
“We are carrying out these important works now, to ensure that the many members of the Ballarat community who rely on V/Line services, get the service they deserve.”
Over the past weekend, Queensland Rail has been taking extra steps to ensure that freight rail can continue to transport essential goods to Australia and export commodities to ports.
Over the weekend of April 4 and 5, six freight trains travelled in each direction between Brisbane, Townsville, and Cairns. The extra capacity on the network was enabled by Queensland Rail cancelling a scheduled maintenance closure and only completing essential maintenance on the South East Queensland network overnight.
Carrying household goods, groceries, manufacturing materials, and exports, the freight services are more in demand than ever for businesses, households, and exporters.
“Queensland Rail is working closely with its freight partners to ensure Queenslanders get the essential supplies they need, by keeping the network open to extra freight services wherever possible,” said Queensland Rail CEO, Nick Easy.
Although some long-distance and tourist-focused rail services in Queensland have been cancelled, the continuation of freight rail has been a priority for state and federal governments around Australia. Easy said that the network was open for greater freight movements, if required.
“Queensland Rail is continuing to liaise with its freight partners to discuss any necessary changes to future works to accommodate freight services, should they be required,” he said.
“Most lines across the Queensland Rail regional network can currently accommodate more freight movements alongside normal timetabled passenger services. Reducing long distance Travel and Tourism passenger services has naturally increased network capacity for freight operators should they require it.”
Loram is expanding its innovative solutions in track and below rail maintenance in Australia.
In late 2019, global railway maintenance equipment and services provider Loram Maintenance of Way, Inc. significantly grew its contract services operations in the Australian railway industry with its purchase of Aurizon’s rail grinding business and its fleet of Loram rail grinders.
Although Loram and its advanced equipment has serviced Australian railways for over 50 years, its increased scale is enabling its Australian-led operations
to draw on its global range of track maintenance solutions, Tom Smith, director business development, told Rail Express.
“Loram has a 122 year history and what it’s rail maintenance service division is best known for is rail grinding but we have a portfolio of other products. Now that we’ve made this acquisition and with our base here, we are now in the process of introducing our other products that have had a lot of success in North America and other parts of the world to Australia.”
Having cemented itself as a market leader in North America, and with global expansion underway in its establishment of a UK-based subsidiary, and now Brisbane headquarters for Australasia and sub-Saharan Africa, Loram is taking its reputation for dependable and productive rail grinding service and combining that with product innovation.
“Loram has experienced significant growth over the years, attributable to keeping a customer focus. Loram wants the railways to be successful using Loram services and equipment – our customers have come to trust Loram. When we finish our grinding, they know the rail is going to be improved and they receive useful reports that show the results and improvement of the rail,” said Smith.
“We are constantly in communication with our customers. They often come to us with a problem and Loram is here to develop solutions. New developments are almost always driven by our customers and the needs that they have.”
RAILVAC One example of where Loram has worked to provide a unique solution is with its Railvac excavator. Already in use across North America, Brazil and Europe, the excavation machine combines a powerful articulated arm to breakup compacted material with extremely strong vacuum pumps to remove ballast, clay, mud, water, sand, and soil. The machines have proven their value to railway infrastructure owners and network operators.
“The first Railvac we came up with went to work on a demo. It was supposed to be there 30 days and never left, it’s still on that same railway after nearly 20 years,” said Smith.
What distinguishes the operation of the Railvac is its versatility to work in places that traditional excavation equipment cannot, or has difficulty to complete in available track time. The machine can be used in applications varying from full section undercutting mainline mud spots, to removing all material in the ballast section right to the deck of bridges and tunnels, in yard clean-ups, along platforms, or around other obstacles and reconstruction.
“The Railvac is being used quite a bit in iron ore clean up at the ports and coal clean up at some power plants. It’s an excavating tool that finds limitless uses around a rail network,” said Smith. “Track windows keep shrinking for maintenance, if you don’t have the four to eight hours to go out and fully undercut a section or turnout you can perform work for just half an hour or the time available, clear to let trains run, return and get through the section or turnout in stages rather than all in one go.”
Initially, Railvac was developed for a specific, customer-driven requirement, said Smith.
“The Railvac was first thought up because there was a need to remove the ballast without cutting through the cables buried underneath the track. Trying to do that with traditional equipment, even manually with a shovel, you’re going to tear up your cables. That was the first application and is still being used for that same purpose.”
Other areas where the Railvac has been put to use is removing spillage in grain yards and to clean up areas around car dumpers. What ties these uses together with its other applications is the ability for the Railvac to get into areas that would be otherwise inaccessible.
“It works in places that’ve never been able to be maintained with traditional equipment – along a platform, on a bridge deck – and rather than tear out the panels and scoop up the fouled material, very much disrupting the track, the work can be done in small chunks with the Railvac sucking up everything right down to the floor of a tunnel, or the deck of a bridge,” said Smith.
In one project, on an iron ore railway in Brazil, the excavator was used to fully clean out a tunnel that was otherwise inaccessible to traditional equipment.
“They had tunnels where there were significant speed restrictions due to little maintenance over 40-years, no drainage, just a bunch of broken-up ballast, mud and iron ore dust,” said Smith. “With lengthy tunnels, the excavation averaged about 25 cubic metres an hour. It took some time with the limited track windows, but at the end of the job there was water rushing out of the tunnels that had been dammed up inside.
“The track structure has been engineered to provide stability. Internally there was the understanding there was a serious mud problem, but they had no idea there was that much water dammed up. When you think of the heavier loads being hauled, similar to here in Australia, when the track shows signs of movement, track slip potential shows the importance of drainage. The study proved the advantages of using the Railvac as it provided the most efficient and effective solution as compared to the alternative options. Most important, now that the tunnel is properly draining and the track is performing as designed, the speed restrictions have been removed,” said Smith.
Currently, Loram is in the process of upgrading and modifying one of its existing Railvac designs for operations in Australia.
FRICTION MANAGEMENT With 50-years’ experience in rail grinding, the rail-wheel interaction for extending rail life is well known to Loram. Optimising the rail life is also influenced with friction management.
Again, listening to customers’ needs, ten- years ago Loram acquired a small company specialising in friction management and has grown that to become a major supplier to the industry. Today, Loram is able to offer the next generation of friction management systems to Australia.
For decades, gauge face lubricators (Greasers) have been used to lubricate the gauge corner of rails in order to help the wheels roll through a curve, thus reducing gauge-face wear and extending rail life, as Smith explains. Noise reduction is also important through metropolitan areas, a calculated combination of top-of-rail friction modification and gauge-face lubrication can assist in this.
Not stopping there, in addition to the traditional gauge-face lubrication, Loram helped spearhead heavy-haul railroads’ system centric implementation of top- of-rail friction modification program as a solution to reduce fuel usage and reduce rail wear. Smith, who himself has a 40-year history within Loram – starting in the rail grinding operations department – and speaks with railways around the world, understands how valuable saving fuel can be.
“Fuel is often one of the biggest operating expenses a railway has these days and it is easily quantifiable with Australian heavy haul traffic.”
“The top-of- rail (TOR) friction management is really where a big cost savings for railways can be realised. Unlike grease, the TOR friction modifier are specially designed such that when applied in very small amounts, the modifier is carried by the train wheels for up to seven kilometres. Loram’s TOR modifiers do not affect tractive effort or braking conditions of a train. The traffic and track conditions are analysed and the modifier is strategically applied in very small amounts, maybe every third or even sixth wheel.
“The fuel savings are tremendous.”
In tests conducted by Loram’s customers, savings of seven per cent on fuel have been observed when using Loram’s top-of-rail friction modifiers.
Already, thousands of units have been installed or converted to use Loram’s modifier and greases across North America in the 10 years since Loram has started selling this range of products.
The friction management range comprises three types of top of rail friction modifiers and two types of greases. Friction modifiers consist of a water-based, synthetic, and hybrid modifier and two heavy-haul greases where one has an ECO certification. These are then applied with Loram’s range of application systems and backed up by Loram’s service offering.
Smith highlighted the experience and knowledge that the Loram’s team has in servicing and maintaining any type of brand of lubricators. Proper maintenance and unit up-time is key to maximising investment. The team understands that it’s not just about equipment, consumables and parts, it’s the unique combination of all three categories coupled with field maintenance that provides the winning ROI to its customers. There are many companies that claim to understand this, but Loram live this day in and day out. Each customer has unique operating parameters and as such friction management is not a ‘one size fits all’ application.
With decades of experience in the production of friction management systems, all the way from research and development, through manufacturing, installation, field service and maintenance to analysis, Loram expects to continue to innovate in this field, both in response to the emerging needs of its customers globally and locally in Australia.
While rail and transit organisations are great at collecting various forms of data, they typically struggle to effectively analyse it in order to inform decision making. With the ongoing digital transformation, the increasing volume and speed at which data can be collected, and therefore needs to be consumed, is becoming a significant problem for track maintenance teams.
Compounding this is the likelihood that data is coming from multiple hardware suppliers, each providing their own independent software solution for its analysis, resulting in the creation of data silos across the organisation. What is needed is a solution that is hardware-neutral. A system that provides the ability to consolidate and manage all third-party information, thereby providing easy access to data it can trust as the basis of all types of analysis, including for example linear analytics related to track maintenance.
The data silo obstacles for rail and transit
With data coming from multiple sources and in many formats, the variety of this information often exceeds the understanding of a single person. Different teams will likely use a range of isolated datasets to perform specific activities across a network, and different team members will typically use and understand the different types of data in a number of ways, so the system should allow for the seamless sharing of datasets between the business units involved. In a world where so-called ‘Big Data’ is increasingly the basis for critical decisions within an organisation, any solution they deploy needs to address four substantial obstacles of these ‘Linear Data’ silos.
Providing turning capability in a tram depot comes with a unique set of challenges compared to that of a train depot. Rail Express spoke to Andrew Engineering’s engineering director, Chris Parish, to find out how the supplier went about the challenge.
When Australian equipment supplier and engineering firm Andrew Engineering was contracted to provide wheel turning capability at Adelaide’s Glengowrie tram depot in 2017, the supplier’s multi-faceted capabilities endowed it with the flexibility to adapt to a different type of depot.
“Tram depots, especially on brownfield or existing sites have unique challenges compared to heavy rail,” Parish said.
“The systems generally operate around existing road networks, so maintenance facilities are often located in well- established urban areas with all the requisite planning restrictions.”
“Train depots, however, tend to be in remote locations with less restrictive planning environments, where civil construction works are often a cost effective alternative. As such, space is often at a premium at tram depots and major civil construction works are restrictive and expensive.”
At Glengowrie, a highly restrictive location with very little room “even for mobile equipment”, Andrew Engineering undertook a process of providing wheel turning capability that limited civil construction works.
“We measured up the relevant sections of the facility, provided proposals and layouts and helped the client settle on the most cost-effective location.”
The supplier prides itself in its significant technical capabilities as an engineering firm. Its highly skilled team of engineers and technicians are able to develop bespoke technology and provide off- the-shelf solutions. They are also able to provide comprehensive support for rail depot equipment with custom designed rail wheels, bogie exchange system (BES), turntables, lift platforms, and automated handling systems, according to Parish.
“We have a strong engineering focus, so we’re not just a reseller or an agent. We have a large number of tradespeople that work alongside with engineers and project managers all within the same organisation.”
At Glengowrie, the maintenance of the tram fleet was enabled with the supply of Andrew Engineering’s purpose-built mobile wheel lathe and mobile lifting jacks.
“Our Eurogamma mobile jacks and Hegenscheidt MFD Mobiturn 2 mobile wheel lathe were particularly well suited to this depot,” Parish said.
These products greatly minimised civil engineering requirements allowing the client to make minor modifications to their existing maintenance roads in order to achieve in-house turning capacity.
The Mobiturn 2 has the only genuine mobile wheel lathe on the market, according to Parish, and is the world’s first and only wheelset machining system which comes to the rail vehicle.
“Our competitors provide small devices capable of re-truing single wheels but none of them provide the necessary performance for serious wheel maintenance.”
It has been specifically designed for the machining of wheels, wheelsets and brake discs of rail vehicles in both the installed and dismantled state. It is a pit-less lathe for machining installed wheel sets on raised vehicles, single wheel sets and bogies.
The machine moves by motorised traction drive, and using radio control, under the wheel set to be machined, it can also be moved by means of a shunting vehicle. The machine is provided with transport lugs to allow it to be loaded/unloaded onto trucks.
The Eurogamma Jacks, alternatively, were designed specifically to fit in the restricted space of the Glengowrie depot.
“They are highly sophisticated synchronised lifting jacks capable of operating in a 4, 8 or 12 jack configurations.
“The jacks have all the requisite features required to meet local and international standards, including primary and safety nuts, failure detection, obstruction detection, automatic lube etc., as well as sophisticated electronics that control the lifting plane to better than 1mm across all 12 units.
“They are also intuitive to use with a display that constantly updates the operator on their status,” Parish said.
The Glengowrie depot fit-out was completed in 2019 and contributed towards improved vehicle maintenance, with shorter rolling-stock downtimes and considerably higher efficiencies in maintenance.
Aurizon Holdings Limited revenue has increased by $73.4 million or five per cent in the 2019/20 first-half earnings before interest and tax.
Australia’s largest rail-based transport business has released a half year report for the period ending 31 December 2019, detailing new growth in the company.
Aurizon stated in the report that the higher revenue is offset by the sale of the rail grinding business.
A spokeswoman from Aurizon said the large sale transaction for the rail grinding business was completed with Loram in October 2019 for $167m with $105m net gain on sale (not included in underlying earnings).
With revenue up five per cent to a total of $1.53 billion, the company’s underlying net profit rose 19 per cent to $268.9m.
The group credited the UT5 Undertaking as a factor that improved revenue. In December last year, Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) approved the agreement that governs access to its rail network.
Aurizon executives stated that the company’s financial position and performance was partially affected by the closure and sale of Acacia Ridge Intermodal Terminal.
Two years ago the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) opposed the sale of Acacia Ridge Intermodal Terminal and commenced proceedings against Aurizon and Pacific National in the Federal Court. Aurizon and the proposed new owner of the terminal, Pacific National, both filed notices of cross-appeal that will be heard by the full Federal Court later in February.
Aurizon executives highlighted its full-year earning guidance to $930 million from $880 million. This figure was noted before assumed impacts from the Australian bushfires and the world health emergency, coronavirus.
The coronavirus has delayed the arrival of 66 rail wagons being made in the epicentre of the disease, Wuhan in China.
A spokeswoman from Aurizon said an initial order of 66 wagons have already been delivered and the remaining 66 wagons are planned for delivery in February or March.
“The first batch of 132 coal wagons have been completed by our supplier. The construction of the second tranche of 132 wagons has been delayed due to a slow down of production in China,” the spokeswoman said.
Operating costs increased $13.9m or 2 per cent, which were identified as due to to increased labour costs.
Aurizon’s network operates the 2,670km CQCN, the largest coal rail network in Australia.
Aurizon executives stated in the 2019/20 half year report that 58 per cent of the company’s revenue, a total of $887.5m, was from transporting coal from mines in Queensland and NSW to customer ports.
Operational performance across the network “remained strong” during the first half of the new financial year, according to Aurizon.
Total system availability improved from 81 per cent to 82.2 per cent, and cycle velocity improved 4 per cent.
Aurizon’s executives said the focus has been on the trial and implementation of schedule adherence in the Blackwater system in QLD.
Compared to the previous half, the network delivered an average reduction in turnaround time of 1.2 hours per service and both on-time arrival to mine and to port increased.
Aurizon’s executives said the network is now working with operators to improve the current scheduling process by realigning maintenance constraints to unlock capacity and optimising the weekly Intermediate Train Plan to avoid pathing contests between operators. The report stated that system throughput is expected to increase, in the third quarter of this year.
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.
Digital twins have become one of the most talked about topics because of their promise to leverage innovation to improve design, visually enhance collaboration, and increase asset reliability, and performance, explains Meg Davis, senior product marketing manager for the Bentley AssetWise transportation asset management products.
However, rail is a very traditional and safety-sensitive industry, and with the backdrop of owner-operators and project delivery firms needing to work within tighter budgets, shorter deadlines, and with increased legislation, change can be slow and challenging.
While the risks associated with changing a tried-and-true formula weigh heavily on the minds of those responsible, the upside is that the highly complex nature of rail networks and systems allow for the opportunity to innovate and leverage technology to change the way rail networks do business.
Many owner-operators around the world have recognised the potential for digital twins in their work and have begun to explore the opportunities for applying big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) throughout the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of rail and transit networks.
What is a digital twin?
A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical asset, process, or system, as well as the engineering information that allows us to understand and model its performance. Plainly stated, a digital twin is a highly detailed digital model that is the counterpart (or twin) of a physical asset. That asset might be anything from a ticket machine or escalator in a station, through track and the switches and crossings within it, to related infrastructure like overpasses or overhead line structures, right up to and including an entire city.
Connected devices and sensors on the physical asset collect data that might relate to condition or performance that can be mapped onto the digital twin to understand how the physical asset is performing in the real world, but also, through analysis or simulation, how it might perform in the future or with a different set of parameters.
Why are digital twins important?
Digital twin technology has existed in industries like manufacturing for many years, driving lean processes, improving performance, and predicting and highlighting components at risk of failure. Additionally, digital twin technology ensures that the lessons learned contribute to design enhancement and are applied to future products and systems. The relevance and influence of digital twins, which span the entire asset lifecycle, are significant when applied to rail infrastructure.
During the planning, design, and construction of a new railway or major upgrade, project digital twins can enable the optimisation of design in line with operational requirements and reduce the risk of delayed or nonconformant construction through simulation. Project digital twins can also improve logistics and communication within the supply chain, which can help maintain the schedule and budget.
During operations, performance digital twins become the most valuable. Owner-operators gain insight when inputs from Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices, such as drones that deliver continuous surveys to provide real-time tracking of asset changes in real-world conditions, add to the digital representation. This transparency helps owner-operators prioritise and improve maintenance or upgrades.
Consequently, the most significant value a rail or transit system can achieve is through the successful implementation of digital twin technology. By using digital twins to plan, design, and build the network, and utilising the digital twin during operations, a rail or transit owner-operator will improve performance and reliability.
With the application of AI and ML, analytics visibility gained from big data can provide insight and immersive digital operations to enhance the effectiveness of operations and maintenance. In this instance, access to performance digital twins might enable staff to anticipate and avoid issues before they arise or improve reaction times to system failures to reduced downtime.
With the application of drones and robots, plus AI-based computer vision, automating inspection tasks via a digital twin experts can conduct inspections remotely, increase productivity, leveraging the value of specialists, and reducing the risk of exposing team members to dangerous environments.
Realising the potential of digital twins
There must be practical solutions for the synchronisation of the physical asset’s changing condition to realise the full potential of digital twins. The timing and scope of this synchronisation is key because certain assets update in near real-time, which can be critical to their reliability. For others, a weekly, monthly, or even annual update on condition may be sufficient. Therefore, it is important that the organisations and professionals involved have a clear strategy when setting the criteria for synchronisation, including which assets should be analysed, when, and by what parameters.
However, merely capturing and representing physical conditions, including IoT inputs, can never be sufficient enough to understand, analyse, or model intended improvements, without also comprehending the digital engineering information used in the project’s or asset’s engineering design and specification.
Digital engineering information is like the “digital DNA” for infrastructure assets. Just as doctors can analyse human DNA to anticipate health issues and personalise care for better health outcomes, project delivery firms can harness digital engineering information to enable collaboration, improve decision making, and deliver better project outcomes.
For owners, leveraging “digital DNA” is all about creating and using digital twins to their full advantage—personalising asset maintenance and maximising asset reliability and uptime. It is about creating an open, connected data environment (CDE) that provides trusted information wherever and whenever it is needed to help design, build, operate, and maintain physical assets. Then, owners will use digital twins to make better decisions, gain more efficiency, and improve performance.
Current networks are the digital twins for future projects
Bentley sees its users advancing digital workflows and using intelligent components, and digital context to improve project delivery and/or enable assets to perform better, every day and all around the world. One organisation achieving these objectives is Maharashtra Metro (Maha Metro) in Nagpur, India.
Maha Metro’s implementation of Bentley’s OpenRail solution uses iModels as its final delivery format due to their ability to provide reliable, long-lasting asset models for reference. The organisation is committed to a full lifecycle approach and has deployed a digital project delivery system with OpenRail’s connected data environment (CDE) at its core and encompassing every phase of the asset lifecycle from planning to performance.
Maha Metro’s CDE is configured to record all data and uses asset tags to link components created with Bentley’s open modelling applications, such as its enterprise resource planning system. Hundreds of thousands of drawings and documents are transacted among approximately 400 users within the CDE currently, providing real-time access to trusted information wherever and whenever it is needed. The expansive CDE also provides data mobility to close communication gaps, speed up design issue resolution and approvals, and achieve millions of US dollars in cost savings.
The digital DNA Maha Metro and its supply chain is creating during design and construction will allow the organisation to manage current, future, and refurbished assets. By ensuring this trusted information remains current and accessible, the organisation’s system will enable strategic decision making, establish condition-based monitoring, and progress toward predictive maintenance strategies that are expected to save at least USD 222 million over 25 years of the railway’s operational life.
It is clear that digital twins are gaining momentum, particularly within organisations that presently have IoT initiatives. The emergent nature of digital twins will require an approach with clear business objectives and an agile approach to experiment and learn from experiences. Just as Maha Metro is setting the agenda and direction for the industry, we at Bentley fully expect to see the use and adoption of digital twins become common place within rail owners and their supply chains.
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.”
An internal NSW government report, completed in September, has forecast a $1.3 billion maintenance backlog on Sydney’s trains, the Sydney Morning Herald has revealed.
“Escalating maintenance costs, increasing levels of technical and component obsolescence and the ability to integrate into future network systems platforms … are prohibitive and present short and medium-term challenges,” SMH quotes the report.
Almost one-quarter of the passenger trains are more than 30 years old, while nearly half of the fleet is more than 20 years old.
The report cites the compounding impact of increased services, leading to trains, tracks and other rail assets “wearing out faster”. In turn, the rail network needs “more regular maintenance”.
While the overall condition of rail tracks is “good”, the backlog of deferred track maintenance is forecast to grow if more funding from the state is not forthcoming.
The backlog will surge to $1.3 billion by the end of the decade, from $419 million last year, if there is no funding boost, according to SMH.
“Due to the significant growth planned for time-tabled passenger rail services, it is anticipated the levels of wear and tear on infrastructure will increase proportionally,” the report says.
The report says there is “lack of long-term commitment for sustainable funding” by government to improve the condition of civil assets such as bridges, culverts and tunnels.