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MORE work is needed to bring North East Victoria’s rail line up to scratch for inland rail — despite more than $1.5 billion being spent on it in the past decade.
Department of Infrastructure secretary Mike Mrdak conceded further work could come at “a considerable cost” so far not included in the inland rail budget.
The southern part of the Federal Government’s $10 billion inland rail project — led by the Australian Rail Track Corporation — relies on using the existing rail line from Melbourne to Albury.
More than $1.5 billion has been spent upgrading the line since 2004, including a $500 million project that converted the line from broad gauge to standard gauge, and the installation of concrete sleepers.
But the ARTC-managed route has been plagued with problems largely due to mudholes — potholes forming under the track in wet weather, distorting the line — regularly causing speed restrictions.
New mudholes reportedly formed late last year, despite 2011’s five-year, $134 million track rehabilitation program aimed at fixing the problem.
ARTC chief executive John Fullerton told a Senate estimates hearing last week he did not think there would be much more spent on the line aside from clearance work to allow double-stacking for inland rail.
“We are confident about the condition of the track to support inland rail operation as it is today, as we are confident about how it supports business on the corridor now,” he said.
But Mr Mrdak later told the hearing that “most people recognise there will be further work required”. “If we are going to meet the loads and particularly to provide the productivity efficiency we seek in rail, we will need to come back and look at the condition of that existing standard gauge line,” he said.
“They will need to go back and have a look at more of that type of work, basically rebuilding the subgrade in some sections,”
Mr Mrdak said those costs would be part of ARTC’s ongoing capital investment program, not inland rail.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau warned in 2015 that the track’s problems would continue unless the foundations were addressed.
The estimates hearing was told passengers reported 23 temporary speed restrictions on the track. ARTC denied this, with Mr Fullerton saying there were only six or seven restrictions at the moment.
This article first appeared on www.weeklytimesnow.com.au
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