NSW government praised for resumption of services on Blue Mountains line

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.”

T6 Carlingford Line permanently closes for construction

Parramatta Light Rail and Sydney Trains commenced decommissioning works on the T6 Carlingford Line on January 5 as part of its conversion to dual-track light rail last Sunday.

The Parramatta Light Rail team are currently undertaking decommissioning works on the rail track at Clyde Station and near the Parramatta Road intersection at Granville for the next few weeks. 

The $2.4 billion Parramatta Light Rail will connect Westmead to Carlingford via the Parramatta CBD and Camellia

From January 10th the high priority has been piling works, installing rail signage, and assembling construction cable routes and pulling at Rosehill Station to Clyde Station within the rail corridor.

24/7 operation works will commence between January 18 and 19 that will involve track removal, construction of concrete wall, rail cutting and welding, and reconfiguration work at the level crossing on Parramatta Road.

Parramatta Light Rail said equipment will include, but is not limited to, concrete saws, boring machines, jackhammers, compactors, power tools, trucks, light vehicles, light towers, and vacuum excavation trucks.  

Member for Parramatta Geoff Lee said Greater Parramatta will see new light rail bridges built, 60,000 tonnes of concrete poured, and more than 215,000 tonnes of earth moved to make way for the Parramatta Light Rail.

Hi-rail equipment will include excavators, dump trucks, and elevated work platforms. 

“The community will start to see work ramping up with fencing and hoardings installed along the future light rail route, and construction sites established,” Lee said.

Decommissioning works are due to conclude at the end of the month.

Over 1,000 people attended a farewell event hosted by Sydney Trains and Transport Heritage NSW to ride a historic Red Set F1 before the closure of the rail tracks on January 5th.

The light rail is expected to open in 2023 and transport around 28,000 people through the Parramatta CBD every day. 

Shorten promises $20m for TAFE-focused rail technology campus

The Labor Party has proposed that it will invest $20 million into a Rail Technology Campus (RTC) at the Chullora rail precinct in New South Wales if it wins the federal election on Saturday.

Labor said that as a federal government it would partner with the rail industry and unions, as well as the NSW Government to establish a TAFE-focused campus complete with digital learning labs, VR simulators, mechanical plant and workshops, welding facilities and more.

Labor stated that the initiative would be co-funded by the NSW Government, with the RTC operating as a partnership between TAFE NSW, NSW rail agencies, Sydney Trains, and rail vendors, contractors and unions

The investment is part of $1 billion of proposed TAFE funding set out in Labor’s Fair Go Budget Plan.

Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) National Secretary Bob Nanva said that Labor’s plans would “fill a critical gap in the rail sector’s skills development framework”

Nanva added that rail training systems and institutions needed to keep pace with the development of the industry, which he said was rapidly changing. He also criticised the Coalition Government’s approach to public policy

“The jobs of tomorrow on the railways will bear little resemblance to the jobs of yesterday,” Nanva said.

“But there will always be a need for skilled workers who understand the technicalities of rail, and the complexities of modern transport networks.”