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The Blue Mountains rail line is likely to remain closed to most passenger trains for at least another two months between Lithgow and Mount Victoria due to extensive damage to power and signalling equipment from massive bushfires.
Train passengers have been forced to catch replacement buses since December 21 after the Gospers Mountain megafire destroyed signalling and other railway infrastructure along a 25-kilometre stretch of the line in the Blue Mountains.
A burnt power pole fallen across the rails along the Blue Mountains Line, near Dargan.CREDIT:JAMES BRICKWOOD
While a small number of diesel-powered passenger trains are expected to begin operating on the line by late January, the extent of damage means it is likely to be at least two months before electric trains can run between Mount Victoria and Lithgow. The worst damage has been to signalling equipment, much of which was destroyed, and power supply.
The closure of the line between Lithgow and Mount Victoria has meant passengers who usually travel by Xplorer trains from Broken Hill, or diesel-powered XPTs from Dubbo, have had to catch buses for their entire journeys to and from Sydney.
Regular commuters travelling to Sydney have had to catch buses at Lithgow for the closed section of the line and then switch to rail at Mount Victoria for their onward journeys.
Sydney Trains said crews were working to construct and commission safe working systems to allow limited freight services to start operating between Mount Victoria and Lithgow from late January.
A date for the resumption of limited diesel passenger services would be decided this month.
But the rail operator said it would take longer to fully rebuild infrastructure, including overhead power, to run electric passenger trains due to the extent of the damage. "Buses will continue to replace trains between Mount Victoria and Lithgow in the meantime," it said.
Lithgow is the end of the line for the electrified rail network.
The damage includes large sections of the communications and signalling systems and 100 timber power poles and wires. About 200 trees beside the line will have to be removed or cut back due to the impact of fires.
Buses have replaced XPT trains between Dubbo and Sydney due to the damaged track in the Blue Mountains.
The Indian Pacific, which traverses the continent from Sydney to Perth, has been re-routed to travel on lines via Goulburn to get to the harbour city.
With mega blazes destroying vast tracts of the state, NSW's lead transport agency said the focus for the next two weeks would be to assess damage.
"Where possible, work will start immediately to open roads where minor work, such as the removal of dangerous trees and emergency road surface repairs, are required," Transport for NSW said.
A large number of roads south of Nowra, around Braidwood, the Southern Highlands and the Snowy Mountains, remain shut to vehicles due to bushfires. Closures also remain in force for sections of the Princes and Snowy Mountains highways.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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