Australia's Rail Gauge Disgrace

 
  Myrtone Chief Commissioner

Location: North Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
When I asked if converting cape gauge to standard gauge would be less complicated than converting from Victorian gauge to standard, I was wondering if it could be done will less disruption. First by adding dual gauge track to the network, section-by-section, and buying more and more standard gauge rolling stock, and then remove the the cape gauge rails once the rolling stock that needed them has been withdrawn or re-gauged.

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  nswtrains Chief Commissioner

When I asked if converting cape gauge to standard gauge would be less complicated than converting from Victorian gauge to standard, I was wondering if it could be done will less disruption. First by adding dual gauge track to the network, section-by-section, and buying more and more standard gauge rolling stock, and then remove the the cape gauge rails once the rolling stock that needed them has been withdrawn or re-gauged.
Myrtone
Converting one is a difficult or easy as the other. The main difficulty is having to install dual gauge points which are frightfully expensive, especially if their installation is only for th interim.

As for narrow gauge rolling stock, piece of cake, install standard gauge bogies, or even new bolsters and axles and retain the rest.
  Donald Chief Commissioner

Location: Donald. Duck country.
You would have the problem at points no matter which way you tried to  covert.    It would be either too complicated or expensive or both to put in dual points just to pull them out weeks/months later.
  br30453 Chief Train Controller

When I asked if converting cape gauge to standard gauge would be less complicated than converting from Victorian gauge to standard, I was wondering if it could be done will less disruption. First by adding dual gauge track to the network, section-by-section, and buying more and more standard gauge rolling stock, and then remove the the cape gauge rails once the rolling stock that needed them has been withdrawn or re-gauged.
Converting one is a difficult or easy as the other. The main difficulty is having to install dual gauge points which are frightfully expensive, especially if their installation is only for th interim.

As for narrow gauge rolling stock, piece of cake, install standard gauge bogies, or even new bolsters and axles and retain the rest.
nswtrains

The big problem is the smaller rollingstock outline allowed on the narrow gauge systems and in Queensland the narrower track centres.

Standard gauge rollingstock would not pass Queensland platforms necessitating rebuilding and moving the faces further back from the track to allow for increased track centres as well as the distance to allow for the wider sg rollingstock.


One of my areas of oversight when at QR Network was clearances and as we covered the Queensland section of the interstate network I am well acquainted with the differences.


When the old South Coast Line was extended from Nerang to Tweed Heads the matter of allowance was raised.

I did at one time work out a scope of work for rebuilding the line from Tweed Heads to South Brisbane to standard gauge and it would have been an enormous task, considering the need to keep train services operating.

Expand that to the entire Queensland network and realise the enormity of the task.


Extending the standard gauge from Kyogle t Brisbane and builds a separate SG track from Salisbury to South Brisbane was the best solution.
  62440 Chief Commissioner

There is more to gauge than track gauge, there are a range of track centres, loading gauges, platform clearances which date from the past, allied with the different administrations tinkering with dynamic clearances. Witness issues with tunnels and platforms on new rolling stock. Train deliveries can be across networks they are not designed to run on eg Perth trains on SG bogies running through Sydney. Profile gauging is a very important skill.
With track, in Adelaide, for instance, all concrete sleepers in plain track are BG-SG convertible but the turnouts are not.
  Myrtone Chief Commissioner

Location: North Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
In spite of all the difficulties mentioned, some railway networks elsewhere in the world (see the example above) seem to have been re-gauged without that much difficulty.
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
In spite of all the difficulties mentioned, some railway networks elsewhere in the world (see the example above) seem to have been re-gauged without that much difficulty.
Myrtone
Yes and No and mostly No unless its a remote or rural railway for which Australia has done a number of times with few issues and often quite quickly. Through suburbia on a suburban network, completely different ball game and usually avoided.
  Myrtone Chief Commissioner

Location: North Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
I don't know what "Yes and No and mostly No" means. I've heard of re-gauging of rural railways with very infrequent trains, and maybe this can be done without disruption.
But there's the issue of interconnectivity; If any two routes share a common section of track, temporarily closing one line for conversion while service on the other is uninterrupted is only possible if dual gauge track is possible on the shared track. Or if a depot serves two or more lines, then there must by track of both gauges within the depot during line-by-line conversion in order to store and maintain trains and take then into and out of service. If there are two depots, this is also the case if both depots serve the same lines.

All suburban rail networks are interconnected, look at the interconnectivity of the Sydney suburban!
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
I don't know what "Yes and No and mostly No" means. I've heard of re-gauging of rural railways with very infrequent trains, and maybe this can be done without disruption.
But there's the issue of interconnectivity; If any two routes share a common section of track, temporarily closing one line for conversion while service on the other is uninterrupted is only possible if dual gauge track is possible on the shared track. Or if a depot serves two or more lines, then there must by track of both gauges within the depot during line-by-line conversion in order to store and maintain trains and take then into and out of service. If there are two depots, this is also the case if both depots serve the same lines.

All suburban rail networks are interconnected, look at the interconnectivity of the Sydney suburban!
Myrtone
Quite simply it means some re-gauging is simple, cheap and causes minimal disruption, ie the NW Vic now, NE SG conversion and Mel to Adelaide lines of the past. Other is so complex it causes massive disruption or simply not worth doing.

If we look at Australia now, forget how we got here rail gauge wise, what is worth gauge converting now, its actually not that much.

- Most of Qld is an island rail wise and certainly by far more freight is moved internally than across the border and hence its not really justified to re-gauge anything apart from the SW line post Inland. However PN's NG yard should be relocated to co-exist in the SG yard.

- Tas is a island, so no value there

- WA intrastate excluding Pilbra, again value in regauging

- SA BG outside Adelaide is now dead anyway
- SA NG is an rail island
- SA BG Metro is now a rail island with SG mostly segregated and would have mostly happened regardless of gauge

- Vic rural, basically converting most of rural Vic to SG is so cheap its a just do it. As most of this freight is grain and tied with conversion of Qld SW line, this places the bulk of the east coast grain on one gauge which has significant benefits for all operators and customers. It gets a bit more complex where V/line services penetrate deep into rural Vic and shared with freight and some compromise needs to occur. But I also think parts of Vic grain network need to be rationalised for greater productivity.

- Vic Metro will also remain BG

Mt Gambia is potentially one of the rural lines lost because it wasn't converted, but unlikely much more than that as some not converted would have likely closed anyway.
  Myrtone Chief Commissioner

Location: North Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
Quite simply it means some re-gauging is simple, cheap and causes minimal disruption, ie the NW Vic now, NE SG conversion and Mel to Adelaide lines of the past. Other is so complex it causes massive disruption or simply not worth doing.
RTT_Rules
One factor here is whether dual gauge track is possible, which depends on the width of the rails and how much spare clearance there is.

If we look at Australia now, forget how we got here rail gauge wise, what is worth gauge converting now, its actually not that much.

- Most of Qld is an island rail wise and certainly by far more freight is moved internally than across the border and hence its not really justified to re-gauge anything apart from the SW line post Inland. However PN's NG yard should be relocated to co-exist in the SG yard.

- Tas is a island, so no value there

- WA intrastate excluding Pilbra, again value in regauging

- SA BG outside Adelaide is now dead anyway
- SA NG is an rail island
- SA BG Metro is now a rail island with SG mostly segregated and would have mostly happened regardless of gauge

- Vic rural, basically converting most of rural Vic to SG is so cheap its a just do it. As most of this freight is grain and tied with conversion of Qld SW line, this places the bulk of the east coast grain on one gauge which has significant benefits for all operators and customers. It gets a bit more complex where V/line services penetrate deep into rural Vic and shared with freight and some compromise needs to occur. But I also think parts of Vic grain network need to be rationalised for greater productivity.

- Vic Metro will also remain BG
RTT_Rules

- Queensland does have some dual gauge track shared by interstate trains. This is possible in many locations because the gauges differ by more than the width of the rails sufficiently to allow normal speeds.

- Just because Tasmania is an island doesn't mean there isn't value in converting. Standard gauge, being wider and almost as wide as the wheel track of modern road vehicles does have advantages even for lines that don't need to be interoperable with existing ones. Note that standard gauge trains are generally wider than narrow gauge ones.

- No comment specific to Western Australia.

- Is there any dual gauge track in South Australia?

- Melbourne and Adelaide suburban are large interconnected networks, so basically must remain broad gauge.

- Some VLine services still share tracks with suburban trains. This happens on the Sunbury, Cragieburn and Pakenham lines. So these VLine routes must also remain broad gauge because dual gauge track is not feasible on these suburban lines. Freight trains sometimes run on the Frankston line too, and so other lines they also use must also remain broad gauge.

No comment on the Mt. Gambia line but if all narrow gauge lines except the island and "islands" were converted, the islands would now need non-standard rolling stock with non-standard bogies, note that standard traction motors might not fit in a narrow gauge bogie. Things like bolsters may also be different. They would also need different maintenance support equipment, such as different rail grinders and different hi-rail adapters.
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
- Is there any dual gauge track in South Australia?
Myrtone

The line from Dry Creek to the Port Flat Yard and Outer Harbor is Dual Gauge..............
However, the Broad Gauge is cut at Dry Creek so no BG trains can enter the Line. http://www.sa-trackandsignal.net/Pdf%20files/Adelaide/AD2032.pdf

Also some parts of GSR's Keswick terminal are Dual Gauge but dual gauge points have mostly been removed so the BG is not accessable at all. http://www.sa-trackandsignal.net/Pdf%20files/Adelaide/AD2003.pdf

Parts of G&WA's Dry Creek South yard is Dual Gauge http://www.sa-trackandsignal.net/Pdf%20files/ARTC/SP092g.pdf

The Motive Power Centre at Dry Creek is also Dual Gauge http://www.sa-trackandsignal.net/Pdf%20files/ARTC/SP093g.pdf

Islington Works has some Dual Gauge track http://www.sa-trackandsignal.net/Pdf%20files/ARTC/SP091g.pdf

Mt Gambia is potentially one of the rural lines lost because it wasn't converted
RTT_Rules

Where is Mt. Gambia?
Gambia is a republic in West Africa ..................

Oh....................... wait........................


Do you mean Mount Gambier in South Australia?
  tazzer96 Deputy Commissioner

- Queensland does have some dual gauge track shared by interstate trains. This is possible in many locations because the gauges differ by more than the width of the rails sufficiently to allow normal speeds.

- Just because Tasmania is an island doesn't mean there isn't value in converting. Standard gauge, being wider and almost as wide as the wheel track of modern road vehicles does have advantages even for lines that don't need to be interoperable with existing ones. Note that standard gauge trains are generally wider than narrow gauge ones.

- No comment specific to Western Australia.
Myrtone
There is no point in converting tasmania.  It was built as narrow gauge for a reason, and circumstances haven't changed.   Its not like there is going to be a "interislander" style roll on/off ship for railway wagons.  

Queensland has very little dual gauge track.   The daily XPT is the only train to go all the way to roma street.  there is no SG traffic on the DG line to the Port of Brisbane.  There are some dual gauge roads in the acacia ridge yard.  The only SG freight traffic that goes north of Acacia ridge is the 3 times a week steel  train which only goes as far as Clapham yard.
  Myrtone Chief Commissioner

Location: North Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
There is no point in converting tasmania.  It was built as narrow gauge for a reason, and circumstances haven't changed.   Its not like there is going to be a "interislander" style roll on/off ship for railway wagons.
tazzer96
Maybe at the moment, because they can use the same type of trains and maintenance support equipment as those in Western Australia and the large narrow gauge network of Queensland. If these were re-gauged, then Tasmanian railways and a few isolated lines on the mainland would be the only ones left with that gauge, making it harder to obtain this.
Standard gauge also has engineering advantages.

Queensland has very little dual gauge track.   The daily XPT is the only train to go all the way to roma street.  there is no SG traffic on the DG line to the Port of Brisbane.  There are some dual gauge roads in the acacia ridge yard.  The only SG freight traffic that goes north of Acacia ridge is the 3 times a week steel  train which only goes as far as Clapham yard.
tazzer96
But still, it is not isolated from other railways on the mainland. Furthermore changing gauge surely could be done, without that much disruption, simply by adding dual gauge track a little at a time.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Converting NG to SG cannot be done without a complete relay including formation, bridges, sleepers, alignment and perhaps rail. Suitable rail ex NG is the only component likely to survive gauge conversion.
Queensland is a system of 1,000s of kilometres and conversion to SG is simply not practical, feasible, realistic, financially viable, necessary or sensible.
Invest a minuscule proportion of the conversion cost in a decent transfer terminal and equipment and any problems are solved.

Gauge conversion of the country branches in Victoria is far more urgent and necessary.
  tazzer96 Deputy Commissioner

It took 60 years to gauge convert the Standard gauge line from acacia ridge to south brisbane.  How long do you think it would take to convert an entire state.  It would require the rebuilding of everything, and in qld we cannot even build critically important projects such as Cross River Rail, Sunshine coast realignment or inland rail.  
I would personally much rather electrify the whole NCL with serious upgrades north of rocky.   I would much rather see loop extensions so we can have 1300m trains.  

Intrastate intermodal in queensland does surprisingly well and will easily double if some of the serious critical infrastructure projects finally get done.
No point in gauge conversions when the NSW freight lines have poor alignments and steep grades.
  Myrtone Chief Commissioner

Location: North Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
60 years is unbelievably long, it seems unthinkable that the conversion could take that long. I am now wondering if narrow gauge was even chosen just to save the initial cost of roadbeds and bridges.
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
60 years is unbelievably long, it seems unthinkable that the conversion could take that long. I am now wondering if narrow gauge was even chosen just to save the initial cost of roadbeds and bridges.
Myrtone
I thought it was well documented that NG was chosen in parts of Australia including Qld as the poor mans railway allowing lower ROW construction costs. At the time the above rail equipment was I think very simply in overall size.

Modernisation of NG technology has eliminated much of the reason to use SG over NG and hence the economic driver for mass conversion has mostly evaporated as modern NG is moving the tonnes at very similar efficiency and productivity as SG.

If you are not convinced look at CQ coal. Its basically a modern but loading gauge isolated part of the Qld network which would probably have the lowest per km cost of converting to SG as the ROW is more suited to SG as is the current loading gauge and could have been built or converted as SG, but there is little incentive to do so.

While same track gauge, much of the CQ rolling stock is not suited for use on the North Coast Line and certainly not other parts of the network where loading gauge restrictions would cause significant problems. Likewise the Brisbane and North coast line passenger rolling stock cannot be used west of the range and most branch lines.

Other points to take on board regarding operating costs and greater priority over standardise track gauge.
- Qld NCL freight was DOO in the mid 90's, Tassie DOO driver and shunting in early 90's. All SG inter/intrastate freight is still dual driver
- Qld NCL had CTC safe working in the 90's, SG crossing NSW into Qld and on south main was still using signal boxes and electric staff until around 10 years back.
- Brisbane to Rockhampton was realigned, wired, CTC, concrete sleeper by early 90's. Meanwhile NSW SG was a goat track that had varied little from the 1950's.
- The RTT has I believe the highest average speed for a passenger train for 650km of track, (maybe equal or just behind to Kalgoorlie service)
- The Golf Coast Train and the Perth South Coast Line interurban commuter services had the highest and fastest average speed for Interurban commuter services. V/line now exceeds with 160km/h.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
60 years is unbelievably long, it seems unthinkable that the conversion could take that long. I am now wondering if narrow gauge was even chosen just to save the initial cost of roadbeds and bridges.
Myrtone
Of course it was. This is common knowledge.

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