North East Line to be shut down for major works

The first 60-hour track closedown will occur this weekend on the North East Rail Line in Victoria.

From 6am, Saturday, March 14 to 6pm, Monday, March 16, 200 works will contribute to more than 12 projects along the line.

Known as a “possession” period, the work will be delivered by major contractor John Holland. A project office has been established by John Holland in Wangaratta, where 100 people are working full time.

An important focus of the $235 million North East Rail line, being carried out by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is engaging with local businesses in the regions the rail line passes through, said ARTC general manager projects Victoria, Ed Walker.

“A key focus of the North East Rail Line upgrade is to ensure regional centres in North East Victoria directly benefit and more than 18 local businesses are already contracted to work on the multi-million-dollar project,” he said.

This focus has led to local contractors being able to invest in their business. Seymour-based contractor, Tenex Rail have bought new railway maintenance machines, and invest in their workforce, having been part of the North East Rail Line project since 2019. The company has invested almost $1 million since beginning work on the project.

Due to the work on the line, coaches will replace Albury line trains for the entire journey from Saturday, March 14, to Monday, March 16.

Works around Seymour and Wallan will require the closure of level crossings in these areas and Walker cautioned residents to be careful while works are being undertaken.

“While every effort will be made to minimise disruptions – we would like to thank the community for its patience with us while these essential works are being delivered.”

Work on the North East Line has been progressing since the major contract was awarded in late 2019.

V/Line train. Photo: Victorian Government

V/Line to benefit from influx of new drivers

V/Line has revealed plans to boost driver numbers in Victoria by 20 per cent by the end of 2020.

The move is in keeping with promises made by the Andrews Labor Government to increase regional rail reliability by increasing the number of services by 40 per cent.

The group, which is responsible for regional rail services to towns in Victoria such as Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong, stated that it had trained around 30 fully qualified drivers in the last year. A further 120 trainees are currently completing an intense training course.

The course includes on-the-job training, classroom work and driving practice using train driving simulator systems. Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes said that the “fresh crop” of drivers would help to improve reliability in the short term and support the network for years to come.

“We’re providing a massive boost to driver numbers by the end of next year, which will mean more reliable services, less cancellations, and more local jobs,” said Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne.

“As our regional cities continue to grow – we’re investing in the people and infrastructure to help keep our regional network moving and get you where you need to go safely and quickly.”

In addition to the training ramp-up, the state government recently started works on the first stage of a $7.2 million sleeper replacement program on the Seymour V/Line, which is due for completion by June 26.

Certain evening trains on the Seymour line are being replaced by coaches for a two-week period until May 23 as a result of the ongoing maintenance. These coaches will also replace certain evening trains on the line from May 26 to June 6.

The works form part of wider track maintenance investment in Victoria by Labor on the Seymour and Shepparton lines, which will see 55,000 life-expired sleepers on the two tracks between Donnybrook and Seymour replaced in 2019.

V/Line also carried out works to install new boom gates, bells and flashing lights at the Ewings Road level crossing at Avenel and the High Street level crossing at Barnawartha between March and April this year.