Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Maintenance of Hunter network a reminder of level crossing safety

Level crossings in the Hunter network are undergoing maintenance to improve safety for trains and motorists.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is carrying out the works during a shutdown of the network from Newcastle to Ulan and Turrawan.

From September 22 to 25, 1,000 workers will conduct 500 maintenance jobs not limited to level crossings. These will include upgrading 3,500 metres of track, replacing 13,200 metres of rail, and regularly scheduled maintenance activities.

ARTC General Executive Hunter Valley Network Wayne Johnson said the level crossing work was in addition to regular maintenance.

“In the upcoming rail shutdown, in addition to our regular maintenance work, level crossings will be getting some special attention with tamping being carried out on 34 level crossings,” he said.

“A tamping machine is used to pack (or tamp) the track ballast under railway tracks to make the tracks more durable. The base of the level crossing is replaced and stabilised to improve the geometry of the track and this also helps improve the surface so vehicles will experience a smoother ride as a result.

“Tamping the levels crossings allows safer access across the railway crossings for vehicle traffic.”

Level crossings, of which only 21 per cent nationally are active, are a critical safety concern for the rail industry, and Johnson warned motorists of the consequences of not driving safely near level crossings.

“Tragically, every year too many people lose their lives in level crossing collisions, while there are more than 1,000 ‘near misses’ each year – the difference between a fatal collision and a near collision can be just seconds,” he said.

“With a bumper grain season ahead, we can expect high volumes of freight trains coming from the central areas of the state, so people need to be vigilant with level crossings in the regional parts of New South Wales.”

Maintenance is expected to finish on September 25.

Hunter Valley Coal Network

Major works during shutdown on Hunter Valley Coal Network

The ARTC will carry out major works to renew track and infrastructure on the Hunter Valley Coal Network during a shutdown.

Maintenance work will include replacing an almost 100 year old bridge at Qurindi over the Jacob and Joseph Creek.

The original steel bridge was built in 1927 and will be replaced with a new 85-metre long steel bridge.

ARTC group executive Hunter Valley Wayne Johnson said work had been underway for some time already.

“The Quirindi works have been underway since last October with significant earthworks, concrete piling and concrete preparation now complete,” he said.

“It’s a huge undertaking to remove the existing steel bridge and then to install by crane 28 precast concrete bridge girders and a new steel walkway and access stairs.”

Across work sites on the Hunter Valley Coal Network from Kooragang Island in Newcastle to the Ulan region, the ARTC will attempt to minimise wastage by reusing spoil. The excavated materials will be reused on the project or diverted through local waste recyclers.

“We did the first trial in March this year where spoil was screened, crushed and tested for suitability to use for a rail reconditioning project and we used it again successfully during the May shutdown for the reconditioning of 240 metres of track,” Johnson said.

“For this shutdown, recycled material will be used to recondition 330 metres of track.”

From August 3-7 work will be carried out on 100 separate points around the network from Muswellbrook to Narrabri. In addition to bridge replacement work at Quirindi, bridges will be renewed at Gunnedah, along with replacing 270 transoms on the Aberdeen bridge. 1,850 metres of track formation will be upgraded while preventative and routine maintenance tasks are undertaken.

Between Kooragang Island and Ulan works will commence on August 4 and finish on August 6. 700 workers on 400 jobs will complete works such as laying 10 kilometres of new track, upgrading 450 metres of track formation, ballast replacement of 450m of track and the initiation of major construction works on the Muswellbrook bridges replacement.

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.