By Paul Hemsley
Ballast and drainage systems along the North South rail line connecting Sydney to Melbourne will be refurbished following rain downpour, causing the tracks to be flooded.
The project will cost $134 million under the Ballast Rehabilitation Program, with the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) contracting engineering company Downer EDi to manage the project.
Infrastructure and transport minister, Anthony Albanese said the added urgency for the project was caused by the “adverse impact” of change in weather since mid-2010 had on the line.
Mr Albanese said the region experienced “well-above average” rainfall after almost a decade of drought.
ARTC spokesperson, Brian Dale said the project stemmed from assessments and “arms length reviews” on the rail track as a result of emerging mud holes.
“Our issue was that we had real problems with the track and the drainage,” Mr Dale said.
“When they lifted it and cleaned out the ballast and lifted the sleepers under the track, so much water poured out, which led to the mud holes to the rough riding to speed restrictions all along the track.”
He said trains had been travelling over these affected tracks for about a year.
According to Mr Dale, ARTC rearranged some of its finances that added to the money for the upgrade of the North East track in Victoria.
“ARTC raises money from the financial sector for all different works which we recoup by selling rail paths also used by the federal government, as a vehicle to nation building and infrastructure financing,” Mr Dale said.
There was no involvement from RailCorp or VicRail as the track belongs to ARTC, Mr Dale said.
He said passenger trains may experience slight delays with speed restrictions while the work is being carried out, but it is being done to minimize disruptions to passenger and freight traffic.
ARTC CEO, John Fullerton said the work will upgrade the ballast, which supports the sleepers and provides drainage.
Funding will come from the “re-scoping” of the existing North Coast Curve Easing Program.
“Whilst the North Coast Curve Easing Program is important and will continue, the immediate priority is to bring the remaining sections of the Sydney to Melbourne line up to a standard consistent with the rest of the interstate rail network,” Mr Fullerton said.
Work on the railway line is expected to be completed within 18 months.
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