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New South Wales has the suffered most of the issues, mainly on the outer urban fringes of Sydney. Fires in the Blue Mountains region to the west have been burning since mid-November and had already caused some service interruptions on the Penrith – Katoomba – Lithgow route.
On December 18 fires along the corridor between Mount Victoria and Lithgow resulted in the closure of the Main West rail link out of Sydney beyond Katoomba, with currently no forecast date for re-opening.
Mount Victoria to Lithgow has numerous steep grades and extreme curvature and is virtually inaccessible in some sections. An estimated 50 track-km of signalling and overhead electrification infrastructure has been severely damaged, while sandstone walls within the tunnel at Zig Zag have become out of gauge due to the intense heat.
The local heritage Zig Zag railway near Lithgow also lost buildings and rolling stock in the blaze.
Outer-suburban electric services that usually run to Lithgow have been terminating at Katoomba, while regional passenger services using the route to Bathurst, Orange and Broken Hill have been replaced by buses. Regional and inter-state freight services on the corridor, plus the Indian Pacific passenger service, have been re-routed where possible either via the southern inter-state corridor via Parkes and Cootamundra, or north via Dubbo and Ulan.
On January 4 rail freight operators suffered more than two days of delays trying to access terminals in Sydney. With the west already cut off, forecasts of further catastrophic weather conditions and subsequent bushfires led to the closure of the Main South route between MacArthur and Goulburn, while Short North was closed to all but priority services via the Gosford area.
As a result, passengers on the newly introduced ‘Great Southern’ luxury passenger train between Adelaide and Brisbane were rerouted via Cootamundra, Parkes, Dubbo, Werris Creek and Muswellbrook, rather than the direct route from Melbourne to Sydney.
There have also been additional short-term interruptions since mid-December on the northern corridor beyond Gosford towards Newcastle and south beyond MacArthur towards Moss Vale when bushfires have flared adjacent to the rail corridor.
To date the severe fires in the state of Victoria and South Australia have generally been in areas well away from active rail lines, therefore fire related service interruptions have been limited.
In Western Australia the line from Kalgoorlie to the south-coast port of Esperance, primarily used for iron-ore transport, has been closed for several days as the result of bushfires near the town of Norseman. While the main transcontinental rail route has not been impacted, the main highway linking Perth to the eastern states has been closed for over a week.
Frequent day time temperatures above 40°C across much of the country has led to numerous short-term heat-related temporary speed restrictions across most networks, further disrupting freight and passenger schedules.
The post Bushfires impact rail in New South Wales appeared first on International Railway Journal.
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