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Upgrades to a critical piece of rail infrastructure through the South Australian outback has begun with the expectation it will make it easier to transport freight from major mining operations to the coast.
The Adelaide to Tarcoola re-railing project involves removing around 600 kilometres of rail track and replacing it with stronger steel.
The re-railing involves removing 47-kilogram-per-metre rail and replacing it with 60-kilogram-per-metre steel to allow for an extra four tonne axle load.
It will connect the South Australian capital with Tarcoola, home to the Tarcoola gold mine.
"The project will vastly improve rail freight productivity by delivering more goods to markets faster, building local economies," Infrastructure and Transport Minister Michael McCormack said.
Up to 70,000 tonnes of steel will be required to complete the re-railing, with all of it being made at the nearby Whyalla steelworks.
Fully funded by the Federal Government, the $252 million project was brought forward following former steelworks owner Arrium entering voluntary administration and placing the future of the steelworks in doubt.
Grey MP Rowan Ramsey said the project is a significant job generator.
"Putting the heavier rail in, five years ahead of schedule — it was brought forward to make sure that we supported the Whyalla steelworks," he said.
"It's provided a raft of local jobs and there'll be a lot of continuing jobs for some time yet.
"Investment in rail is great, because it gives jobs at the steelworks, at the welder and out here on the line.
"If that then facilitates the opening up of a new mining project, say 500 kilometres to the north, because they can get the extra weight on the wagons and get it to port and make them more competitive in a world-sense. That's ticking the boxes for everyone."
A big projectJohn Holland is the company employed to carry out the works.
The manager of the Adelaide-Tarcoola project, Rob Hennessy, said 165-metre lengths of rail are dropped on-site by ARTC.
"Then John Holland come along with a flash bolt welding program. We put it into longer lengths of 660 metres," he said.
"[Workers] then put those 660-metre lengths into the rail seat, we clip it up and we do all that work in-between normal scheduled services.
"We stand back, let the train through and then we continue as one work front all the way to Tarcoola."
ARTC manager for the Adelaide to Tarcoola project, Matthew Hart, said there is already strong demand for the old steel.
"We've had a number of inquiries since the project was announced," Mr Hart said.
"It will be recycled throughout the rail industry in Australia."
Mr Hart said there is already keen interest from rail companies in both Victoria and Western Australia for the old rail.
All the way to KalgoorlieMr Ramsey wants the re-railing project to continue to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.
"It needs to be done. Eventually all of these projects meet their used-by date," he said.
He said he had already flagged his desire to extend the rail with Minister McCormack.
Mr Hart said a heavy rail extension was plausible.
"The rail is of similar vintage to what's being removed here and definitely it's in our plans to upgrade to 60-kilogram rail in the future," he said.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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