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WATER damage on the Melbourne-Sydney railway line has contributed to a $290 million write-down this year for the operator of Australia's interstate rail network.
The government-owned Australian Rail Track Corporation posted the large impairment loss in its 2012 annual report, despite recording a 24 per cent access revenue boost from managing the 8500-kilometre network.
In its report, the corporation noted the impairment loss, or asset write-down, was due to the poor condition of the Melbourne-Sydney corridor, which has been blighted by severe speed restrictions and safety concerns since the rail line was converted to standard gauge at the turn of the decade.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is investigating the safety of the line, which is blamed for damage to V/Line trains due to muddied ballast making a rockier ride.
A corporation spokeswoman said the impairment loss was ''a standard accounting practice, and reflects the investment we are making in the entire north-south corridor''.
But Victoria's Transport Minister Terry Mulder said the botched $600 million conversion of the line in 2009-10 was costing rail freight operators money and travellers time.
''For V/Line passengers, the speed restrictions limiting trains to 60 or 80 kilometres an hour on parts of the Southern Cross to Albury train trip mean inevitable daily delays,'' Mr Mulder said. ''Rail freight operators' transit times are blowing out and becoming less predictable.''
He called on federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese to assure Victorians he was serious about restoring the line to much better condition.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation is spending $134 million over five years to replace fouled track ballast. It says much of the work will be done by mid-next year, and speed restrictions will be steadily removed.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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