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KEEPING Melbourne’s City Loop moving is a 24-hour-a-day job for Metro Trains.
While most Melburnians sleep, a small army of workers is busy beavering underground to ensure the 32-year-old loop continues to enable more than half-a-million trips per day.
With trains running 20 hours a day, there is only a small window of time in the early hours of the morning for workers to keep the 12km of track in pristine condition.
Metro Trains Melbourne project manager (track) Mat Holm supervised a team of 10 people replacing two sections of track approaching the City Loop entrance at Southern Cross station on Thursday.
Project Manager Mathew Holm in the loop near Flagstaff railway station. Picture: Jason Edwards
There is only a small window of time in the early hours of the morning for workers to keep the 12km of track in pristine condition. Picture: Jason Edwards
Workers repair part of the track. Picture: Jason EdwardsWith the last train running through Southern Cross at 12.30am, the team had just 2½ hours between 1am and 3.30am to replace the two 13m stretches of track ahead of testing at 4am and the first train of the day at 4.30am.
“It is a small window but we need to make sure we plan our works properly to be able to work in that small window,” Mr Holm said.
“It’s vital that we get it right and we get it right first time because our passengers rely on our trains to be running from the very first service. We do track inspections weekly and we could be in the tunnel anywhere between once a week to seven days a week depending on what we find.”
Workers busy ensuring the 32-year-old loop continues. Picture: Jason Edwards
Welder Adam Thurston checks out a repaired part of the track. Picture: Jason Edwards
Workers fix part of the underground train line. Picture: Jason Edwards
Workers repair part of the City Loop. Picture: Jason Edwards
Trackway maintainer Oriste Fabris. Picture: Jason EdwardsAs early as 1929, the Metropolitan Town Planning Commission recommended the construction of railway tracks and stations under the eastern and northern sides of the central business district, and connecting them to the existing railway system in the vicinity of North Melbourne and Richmond.
But it took 42 years until the first sod was turned on the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop in 1971. It was another 14 years before the project was complete with the opening of the fifth and final station, Flagstaff, in 1985.
Metro Trains chief executive officer Mike Houghton said the five stations the City Loop serviced were the five busiest on the network. Metro runs almost 5000 weekly services through the City Loop — about a third of all services.
Under Metro’s new contract from November 30, close to $330 million in network maintenance and renewal work will be carried out annually, an increase of $80 million.
Inside Melbourne's City Loop. Picture: Jason Edwards
Welder Adam Thurston inspects his work. Picture: Jason Edwards
Workers labour overnight to ensure by morning trains are running on time and safely. Picture: Jason Edwards“When most of Melbourne goes to sleep, our maintenance work ramps up so we can get the most done with the least impact to our passengers,” Mr Houghton said.
“We’ve got a maintenance team of more than 1000, with proactive crews out 24 hours a day improving the network.
“While this work largely goes unseen, it’s absolutely crucial to the functioning of our city.”
A shadow of one of the Metro workers. Picture: Jason Edwards
A worker repairs part of the City Loop. Picture: Jason Edwards
A sign showing the nearing exits. Picture: Jason EdwardsHaving served the city well for more than 30 years, the time has come for Melbourne’s rail network to be expanded even further to meet the ever-increasing demand for public transport.
By taking Melbourne’s busiest trains through two new 9km tunnels under the CBD, the Metro Tunnel will free up more space in the City Loop to run more trains in and out of the city.
Daily use of Flinders Street Station is expected to decrease from 345,000 people a day without Melbourne Metro to 257,000 a day with it.
Workers race against the clock to repair parts of Melbourne's City Loop underground train lines to ensure by morning trains are running on time and safely. Picture: Jason Edwardsandrew.firstname.lastname@example.org
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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