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THE first train on Wodonga’s $181 million rail bypass made its belated journey across the Lincoln Causeway yesterday afternoon but not before what was believed to be a driver protest threatened to derail the celebrations. A mercy dash to North Albury by rail executives prevented a public relations disaster.
The Pacific National train had been expected about 3pm, the same time phones started ringing at the new Wodonga Rail Station celebration.
The train had stopped at North Albury but it is not clear whether there was confusion over signals or a driver protest at the state of the tracks.
Almost half an hour later the throng of rail executives and council heavyweights cheered as the lights on the freighter appeared in the distance.
The Perth-bound train crawled past the still-to-be-finished station about 3.40pm, with five people in the driver’s cabin.
Its wagons of steel took almost 10 minutes to pass the station at the speed limits while the bypass is still being commissioned.
Last night, union officials said they weren’t sure of what caused the delay but confirmed there was ongoing discussions about signals.
Earlier, Australian Rail Track Corporation chief executive David Marchant said the project had been delivered on time and under budget.
“It is no small feat for a task that was duplicated — we started with one line and single rail bridge crossing and ended up with two lines and dual bridge crossings and yet we still will deliver the project on time,” he said.
“The great railway divide has ended and with that presents new opportunities.”
Wodonga Mayor Mark Byatt paid tribute to the mayors and chief executives that brought the project to fruition.
“This is a pretty special day and a celebration for Wodonga and the North East,” he said.
“The ARTC and the contractors have done a terrific job.
“The good thing is that they get what this means to the community they understand its significance.”
Earlier, Mr Marchant said the bypass and replacement of sleepers and duplication of standard gauge track between Wodonga and Seymour would lead to faster, safer trains for the North East.
The 5.2km rail bypass announced in 2008 removes 11 rail crossings from the city and opens up 20 hectares of land for development in the heart of the city.
The Border Mail
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