Fixing the NE Line 2020 edition

 
  Transtopic Deputy Commissioner

Location: Sydney

........
Just finished watching the video which appears to have been taken from an XPT cab and does cover the Wallan area.  The track is shocking.

The reason people are referring to the track conditions post this event is simply because the track (main) was out of service by accounts and that was due to the condition of the track.
I don't think this is accurate, the video I saw was in NE Vic at Bowser, which is approx 200km away from Wallan.

Also, from reports the main was not out of service at all, trains had been traversing the section the days leading up to and including the day of the derailment.
Diverge
I agree, that although I can't pinpoint the actual location of where the video from the XPT cab was taken, as a regular traveller on the Hume Freeway which is clearly shown on the left, this is one of the few locations between Barnawartha and Bowser where the Freeway parallels the rail line.  As there are only two tracks shown, with the converted broad gauge on the right, it's way north of Seymour (and Wallan) where the broad gauge to Shepparton diverges from the North East Line corridor.

I also agree with other posts that an unfortunate confluence of events led up to this accident and the track condition in itself wasn't a direct cause as some would like to make out.  However, that doesn't excuse the low priority given to maintaining the track to an acceptable standard allowing passenger trains, few as they might be, to operate at their maximum speeds without undue discomfort, which is obvious from the video at only 80km/h.

What hasn't been mentioned so far, is that the SG track between Melbourne and Albury forms part if the Inland Rail Route between Melbourne and Brisbane.  You would think that it would warrant upgrading to comply with what will hopefully be a higher standard for the Inland Rail infrastructure, allowing higher speeds for heavier freight trains.

From my reading on this and other blogs, it seems that the SG line from Albury to Melbourne was constructed on the cheap and it has been a problem from the very start.  All the ARTC and its contractors have been doing is trying to patch up past mistakes.  Perhaps the only solution to fix it, is to pull it up and start again.

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  skitz Chief Commissioner


........
Just finished watching the video which appears to have been taken from an XPT cab and does cover the Wallan area.  The track is shocking.

The reason people are referring to the track conditions post this event is simply because the track (main) was out of service by accounts and that was due to the condition of the track.
I don't think this is accurate, the video I saw was in NE Vic at Bowser, which is approx 200km away from Wallan.

Also, from reports the main was not out of service at all, trains had been traversing the section the days leading up to and including the day of the derailment.I agree, that although I can't pinpoint the actual location of where the video from the XPT cab was taken, as a regular traveller on the Hume Freeway which is clearly shown on the left, this is one of the few locations between Barnawartha and Bowser where the Freeway parallels the rail line.  As there are only two tracks shown, with the converted broad gauge on the right, it's way north of Seymour (and Wallan) where the broad gauge to Shepparton diverges from the North East Line corridor.

I also agree with other posts that an unfortunate confluence of events led up to this accident and the track condition in itself wasn't a direct cause as some would like to make out.  However, that doesn't excuse the low priority given to maintaining the track to an acceptable standard allowing passenger trains, few as they might be, to operate at their maximum speeds without undue discomfort, which is obvious from the video at only 80km/h.

What hasn't been mentioned so far, is that the SG track between Melbourne and Albury forms part if the Inland Rail Route between Melbourne and Brisbane.  You would think that it would warrant upgrading to comply with what will hopefully be a higher standard for the Inland Rail infrastructure, allowing higher speeds for heavier freight trains.

From my reading on this and other blogs, it seems that the SG line from Albury to Melbourne was constructed on the cheap and it has been a problem from the very start.  All the ARTC and its contractors have been doing is trying to patch up past mistakes.  Perhaps the only solution to fix it, is to pull it up and start again.
Transtopic
I like your post in that it is questioning the reasons behind why there is such a mess despite the money.  Its not one thing that sets something like this off.  Having seen some very poor decisons made at the time of concrete sleepering unfortunately left a very bad legacy in management of what was always a poor formation.  Howevre, the issues are varied and to hypothesize to why can be a wide ranging discussion.

For example, the focus on standards is but one pillar that makes a quality, performing, low cost railway.  Standards for safety are very different from standards for reliability and performance.   Unfortunatley we see safety standards used as maintenance backstops and the gang operate off the back of the track recorder.  The opporunity for a low cost track has gone by this point.

Then there is qulaity apsects.  For new sleepers and new rail, it does not look right.   Even the old rail on the west track, it does not look right.  I know there are rail grinding issues with longitudinal control and gauge managment but would suspect there are issues with destressing and callibration of surfacing equipment.   It looks thrown together and thats not going into drainage and weld quality matters.

The irony is that the delivery of such things has already been paid for, just not done well.  Quality managed properly could have ben delivered for the same cost.   A bad weld costs the same as a good one is a mantra when teaching welders that quality matters!

When one considers why we also see an erosion of expertice and experience through privatisation and changing regimes.  Then throw in a good dose of management ineptness, politics and ego, its how it happens.  I will never forget a reputable senior engineer warning the managers behind the concrete sleeper insert methodology consequences, criminal.  

In the end the track is a direct reflection of the culture and organisation.  No ATSB report is ever going to recognise that as has be proven already.
  M636C Minister for Railways

The irony is that the delivery of such things has already been paid for, just not done well.  Quality managed properly could have been delivered for the same cost.   A bad weld costs the same as a good one is a mantra when teaching welders that quality matters!
While that may be true for welding it is definitely not true for the sleeper replacement or the ballast.

To have done the job properly it would have been necessary to remove all track and the ballast, build the new track and then ballast it and lift it.

The sleeper replacement in NSW was done by side insertion, and there are no more mudholes than there were before the sleeper replacement.
Side insertion allowed the work to be done between trains. To do it from scratch would have involved closing the line to all traffic for months and the cost, not including loss of traffic, would be much higher.

The ARTC were never given enough money by the Federal Government to do the job "properly".
Equally, the contractors had to work within the limits of money and time.

Most of the recent work has been on ballast rectification.
This has been done with funds that were not available, and definitely not used in the initial resleepering.

Peter
  skitz Chief Commissioner

The irony is that the delivery of such things has already been paid for, just not done well.  Quality managed properly could have been delivered for the same cost.   A bad weld costs the same as a good one is a mantra when teaching welders that quality matters!
While that may be true for welding it is definitely not true for the sleeper replacement or the ballast.

To have done the job properly it would have been necessary to remove all track and the ballast, build the new track and then ballast it and lift it.

The sleeper replacement in NSW was done by side insertion, and there are no more mudholes than there were before the sleeper replacement.
Side insertion allowed the work to be done between trains. To do it from scratch would have involved closing the line to all traffic for months and the cost, not including loss of traffic, would be much higher.

The ARTC were never given enough money by the Federal Government to do the job "properly".
Equally, the contractors had to work within the limits of money and time.

Most of the recent work has been on ballast rectification.
This has been done with funds that were not available, and definitely not used in the initial resleepering.

Peter
M636C
I disagree as the scope you describe is very much more excessive and not consider how the method actually used destroyed what little they had in the formation.  They 'bath tubbed' the formation by the method used, a distasterours result for the drainage and consolidation they had.  A simple running lift to pull the track up out of the ballast to cater for the height change in sleepers would have been the difference.  A process change that was included on the Broken Hill, the project after this one I might add, after 'lessons learned'.

The NSW side is not immune from the same issue either.
  Lockspike Deputy Commissioner

The irony is that the delivery of such things has already been paid for, just not done well.  Quality managed properly could have been delivered for the same cost.   A bad weld costs the same as a good one is a mantra when teaching welders that quality matters!
While that may be true for welding it is definitely not true for the sleeper replacement or the ballast.

To have done the job properly it would have been necessary to remove all track and the ballast, build the new track and then ballast it and lift it.

The sleeper replacement in NSW was done by side insertion, and there are no more mudholes than there were before the sleeper replacement.
Side insertion allowed the work to be done between trains. To do it from scratch would have involved closing the line to all traffic for months and the cost, not including loss of traffic, would be much higher.

The ARTC were never given enough money by the Federal Government to do the job "properly".
Equally, the contractors had to work within the limits of money and time.

Most of the recent work has been on ballast rectification.
This has been done with funds that were not available, and definitely not used in the initial resleepering.

Peter
I disagree as the scope you describe is very much more excessive and not consider how the method actually used destroyed what little they had in the formation.  They 'bath tubbed' the formation by the method used, a distasterours result for the drainage and consolidation they had.  A simple running lift to pull the track up out of the ballast to cater for the height change in sleepers would have been the difference.  A process change that was included on the Broken Hill, the project after this one I might add, after 'lessons learned'.

The NSW side is not immune from the same issue either.
skitz
'Side insertion' method of installing concrete sleepers is not bad practice in itself. The DE Wagga was a quite successful experimenter of this method in the early 90s (in the Junee - Harefield section), but they went into track that already had deep bottom ballast with generous shoulders. As has been said ad infinitum, the stuff up on the NE Std gauge was digging the new sleepers through the shallow bottom ballast, into the capping layer, a decision influenced by ARTC not having the funds to buy the extra ballast to fill between the new deeper concrete sleepers.
  Transtopic Deputy Commissioner

Location: Sydney
The irony is that the delivery of such things has already been paid for, just not done well.  Quality managed properly could have been delivered for the same cost.   A bad weld costs the same as a good one is a mantra when teaching welders that quality matters!
While that may be true for welding it is definitely not true for the sleeper replacement or the ballast.

To have done the job properly it would have been necessary to remove all track and the ballast, build the new track and then ballast it and lift it.

The sleeper replacement in NSW was done by side insertion, and there are no more mudholes than there were before the sleeper replacement.
Side insertion allowed the work to be done between trains. To do it from scratch would have involved closing the line to all traffic for months and the cost, not including loss of traffic, would be much higher.

The ARTC were never given enough money by the Federal Government to do the job "properly".
Equally, the contractors had to work within the limits of money and time.

Most of the recent work has been on ballast rectification.
This has been done with funds that were not available, and definitely not used in the initial resleepering.

Peter
I disagree as the scope you describe is very much more excessive and not consider how the method actually used destroyed what little they had in the formation.  They 'bath tubbed' the formation by the method used, a distasterours result for the drainage and consolidation they had.  A simple running lift to pull the track up out of the ballast to cater for the height change in sleepers would have been the difference.  A process change that was included on the Broken Hill, the project after this one I might add, after 'lessons learned'.

The NSW side is not immune from the same issue either.
'Side insertion' method of installing concrete sleepers is not bad practice in itself. The DE Wagga was a quite successful experimenter of this method in the early 90s (in the Junee - Harefield section), but they went into track that already had deep bottom ballast with generous shoulders. As has been said ad infinitum, the stuff up on the NE Std gauge was digging the new sleepers through the shallow bottom ballast, into the capping layer, a decision influenced by ARTC not having the funds to buy the extra ballast to fill between the new deeper concrete sleepers.
Lockspike
Your last sentence is a quite staggering revelation isn't it?  In the light of that, I don't blame ARTC for this as they had to work within the constraints of the funds allocated by the government of the day, rather than having the funding to do the work properly.  I'm assuming that they may have requested greater funding to bring the line up to an acceptable standard which was denied by the politicians, or is it a case of inept management by ARTC?

I acknowledge M363C's concern about closing down the SG line for a very lengthy period to upgrade the track properly.  This includes the single track section between Junee and Albury in NSW.

If we had a more enlightened Federal government, which acknowledged that the upgrading the National rail network is just as important as the upgrading of the road network, which has already had billions spent on it, then we might get somewhere.
  TheMeddlingMonk Deputy Commissioner

Location: The Time Vortex near Melbourne, Australia
Your last sentence is a quite staggering revelation isn't it?  In the light of that, I don't blame ARTC for this as they had to work within the constraints of the funds allocated by the government of the day, rather than having the funding to do the work properly.  I'm assuming that they may have requested greater funding to bring the line up to an acceptable standard which was denied by the politicians, or is it a case of inept management by ARTC?

I acknowledge M363C's concern about closing down the SG line for a very lengthy period to upgrade the track properly.  This includes the single track section between Junee and Albury in NSW.

If we had a more enlightened Federal government, which acknowledged that the upgrading the National rail network is just as important as the upgrading of the road network, which has already had billions spent on it, then we might get somewhere.
Transtopic
I don't think it's a case of poor management by ARTC. My understanding is that they went to Infrastructure Australia (after the report below) seeking additional funding for the repairs to the NE Line and this was denied.

With regards to the current NE Line upgrade, ARTC had Monash University independently assess the scope of works and the budget available (see the two reports at the link below):

https://www.artc.com.au/projects/northeast/publications/

Even the $235 million isn't enough to fix the line properly:

As indicated by ARTC and agreed by IRT, the whole NERL corridor is prone to formation of mud holes and subsequent track condition deterioration; this is partially attributed to drainage problems, substandard ballast quality previously used and a generally fouled track structure.


...


The best long-term solution is full-width ballast cleaning of the entire NERL corridor together with a detailed geotechnical inspection to identify locations requiring formation repair and rectification of drainage problems. However, the cost of full-width ballast cleaning along the whole line alone will likely exceed the funding allocation of $235M. The undercutting, limited ballast cleaning and limited formation and drainage improvement activities indeed become the practical solution given the level of funding commitment.


...


The current upgrade plan aims to achieve V/Line Passenger Class 2 track standards across the NERL. However, the ongoing requirements to maintain the V/Line Passenger Class 2 track geometry post upgrade has not been addressed in this report. A majority of the upgrade cost is targeting the introduction of either 50 mm or 100 mm of clean ballast into the existing track structure. Whilst this is expected to produce some short to medium-term improvement in track maintainability, given the underlying track structures are likely to be heavily fouled, the long term efficacy of this activity is uncertain, particularly in areas where mud holes are likely to develop over the next few years. Targeted ballast cleaning, together with formation and drainage remediation works would be the preferred option, but constraints in the funding commitment preclude such activities being undertaken on a large scale.
Monash University IRT
  Transtopic Deputy Commissioner

Location: Sydney
Your last sentence is a quite staggering revelation isn't it?  In the light of that, I don't blame ARTC for this as they had to work within the constraints of the funds allocated by the government of the day, rather than having the funding to do the work properly.  I'm assuming that they may have requested greater funding to bring the line up to an acceptable standard which was denied by the politicians, or is it a case of inept management by ARTC?

I acknowledge M363C's concern about closing down the SG line for a very lengthy period to upgrade the track properly.  This includes the single track section between Junee and Albury in NSW.

If we had a more enlightened Federal government, which acknowledged that the upgrading the National rail network is just as important as the upgrading of the road network, which has already had billions spent on it, then we might get somewhere.
I don't think it's a case of poor management by ARTC. My understanding is that they went to Infrastructure Australia (after the report below) seeking additional funding for the repairs to the NE Line and this was denied.

With regards to the current NE Line upgrade, ARTC had Monash University independently assess the scope of works and the budget available (see the two reports at the link below):

https://www.artc.com.au/projects/northeast/publications/

Even the $235 million isn't enough to fix the line properly:

As indicated by ARTC and agreed by IRT, the whole NERL corridor is prone to formation of mud holes and subsequent track condition deterioration; this is partially attributed to drainage problems, substandard ballast quality previously used and a generally fouled track structure.


...


The best long-term solution is full-width ballast cleaning of the entire NERL corridor together with a detailed geotechnical inspection to identify locations requiring formation repair and rectification of drainage problems. However, the cost of full-width ballast cleaning along the whole line alone will likely exceed the funding allocation of $235M. The undercutting, limited ballast cleaning and limited formation and drainage improvement activities indeed become the practical solution given the level of funding commitment.


...


The current upgrade plan aims to achieve V/Line Passenger Class 2 track standards across the NERL. However, the ongoing requirements to maintain the V/Line Passenger Class 2 track geometry post upgrade has not been addressed in this report. A majority of the upgrade cost is targeting the introduction of either 50 mm or 100 mm of clean ballast into the existing track structure. Whilst this is expected to produce some short to medium-term improvement in track maintainability, given the underlying track structures are likely to be heavily fouled, the long term efficacy of this activity is uncertain, particularly in areas where mud holes are likely to develop over the next few years. Targeted ballast cleaning, together with formation and drainage remediation works would be the preferred option, but constraints in the funding commitment preclude such activities being undertaken on a large scale.
TheMeddlingMonk
Thanks MM, that's a very informative narrative of the degree of works and funding which will be necessary to fix the line properly.

I'm of the view that rather than the focus being on HSR, particularly by Labor, a more pragmatic approach should be on Medium Speed Rail (MSR), to bring the East Coast Interstate lines up to that standard allowing up to 200km/h for fast passenger trains. It could be done at a fraction of the cost of a new HSR network and in a much shorter time-frame.  Push HSR back to the never never, because it's going to be a long time before it becomes viable.  This has already been discussed at length on other threads, so I won't go into it further.

In the meantime, at the very least, the existing SG line from Junee to Melbourne should be fully duplicated and upgraded to MSR standard in the short to medium term.  

To avoid lengthy shutdowns and disruption to existing passenger and freight services, the new duplicate lines could be constructed first to the higher standard, followed by upgrading of the loop lines on the existing duplicated sections.  This could be followed by upgrading of the remaining sections of track, with services being transferred to the newly upgraded sections of duplicated track until the whole duplication and upgrading program is completed.  It still may involve some disruptions to services in the process, but it would avoid a complete shutdown.

There's an analogy with National Highway upgrades, where newer duplicated sections are constructed first, then traffic temporarily diverted to the new section of road to allow the existing road corridor to be upgraded.  Where there are major diversions from the existing road corridor, it's a lot simpler though obviously more expensive, when the existing road corridor is connected with the new diverted route.  The same principle would apply with rail upgrading.
  Duncs Chief Commissioner

Transtopic

That is a very sensible and effective approach you have outlined. I needs to start immediately. Especially as there are planned upgrades to bridges and other infrastructure on the NESG to cater for the arrival of double stacked container trains, as part of the inland rail network.
The track will have to be able to cope with: Larger/longer trains, faster trains, and more frequent trains. So these line upgrades to MSR standard are now essential.

Not acting on this is no longer an option.


Duncs
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Your last sentence is a quite staggering revelation isn't it?  In the light of that, I don't blame ARTC for this as they had to work within the constraints of the funds allocated by the government of the day, rather than having the funding to do the work properly.  I'm assuming that they may have requested greater funding to bring the line up to an acceptable standard which was denied by the politicians, or is it a case of inept management by ARTC?

I acknowledge M363C's concern about closing down the SG line for a very lengthy period to upgrade the track properly.  This includes the single track section between Junee and Albury in NSW.

If we had a more enlightened Federal government, which acknowledged that the upgrading the National rail network is just as important as the upgrading of the road network, which has already had billions spent on it, then we might get somewhere.
I don't think it's a case of poor management by ARTC. My understanding is that they went to Infrastructure Australia (after the report below) seeking additional funding for the repairs to the NE Line and this was denied.

With regards to the current NE Line upgrade, ARTC had Monash University independently assess the scope of works and the budget available (see the two reports at the link below):

https://www.artc.com.au/projects/northeast/publications/

Even the $235 million isn't enough to fix the line properly:

As indicated by ARTC and agreed by IRT, the whole NERL corridor is prone to formation of mud holes and subsequent track condition deterioration; this is partially attributed to drainage problems, substandard ballast quality previously used and a generally fouled track structure.


...


The best long-term solution is full-width ballast cleaning of the entire NERL corridor together with a detailed geotechnical inspection to identify locations requiring formation repair and rectification of drainage problems. However, the cost of full-width ballast cleaning along the whole line alone will likely exceed the funding allocation of $235M. The undercutting, limited ballast cleaning and limited formation and drainage improvement activities indeed become the practical solution given the level of funding commitment.


...


The current upgrade plan aims to achieve V/Line Passenger Class 2 track standards across the NERL. However, the ongoing requirements to maintain the V/Line Passenger Class 2 track geometry post upgrade has not been addressed in this report. A majority of the upgrade cost is targeting the introduction of either 50 mm or 100 mm of clean ballast into the existing track structure. Whilst this is expected to produce some short to medium-term improvement in track maintainability, given the underlying track structures are likely to be heavily fouled, the long term efficacy of this activity is uncertain, particularly in areas where mud holes are likely to develop over the next few years. Targeted ballast cleaning, together with formation and drainage remediation works would be the preferred option, but constraints in the funding commitment preclude such activities being undertaken on a large scale.
Thanks MM, that's a very informative narrative of the degree of works and funding which will be necessary to fix the line properly.

I'm of the view that rather than the focus being on HSR, particularly by Labor, a more pragmatic approach should be on Medium Speed Rail (MSR), to bring the East Coast Interstate lines up to that standard allowing up to 200km/h for fast passenger trains. It could be done at a fraction of the cost of a new HSR network and in a much shorter time-frame.  Push HSR back to the never never, because it's going to be a long time before it becomes viable.  This has already been discussed at length on other threads, so I won't go into it further.

In the meantime, at the very least, the existing SG line from Junee to Melbourne should be fully duplicated and upgraded to MSR standard in the short to medium term.  

To avoid lengthy shutdowns and disruption to existing passenger and freight services, the new duplicate lines could be constructed first to the higher standard, followed by upgrading of the loop lines on the existing duplicated sections.  This could be followed by upgrading of the remaining sections of track, with services being transferred to the newly upgraded sections of duplicated track until the whole duplication and upgrading program is completed.  It still may involve some disruptions to services in the process, but it would avoid a complete shutdown.

There's an analogy with National Highway upgrades, where newer duplicated sections are constructed first, then traffic temporarily diverted to the new section of road to allow the existing road corridor to be upgraded.  Where there are major diversions from the existing road corridor, it's a lot simpler though obviously more expensive, when the existing road corridor is connected with the new diverted route.  The same principle would apply with rail upgrading.
Transtopic

Duplicating any line carrying less than twenty trains per day is excessive and a gross waste of available capital. In the case of Junee to Melbourne, duplication would result in either doubling maintenance costs, or, more likely, dividing the meagre maintenace budget already in place. It would be far better to upgrade the existing single line track to the highest possible operating standard, and upgrade the signalling and crossing loops/passing lanes to acheive maximum capacity. With sufficient passing options, the existing corridor could easily handle forty or more trains without duplication.

Single track mainlines in Queensland are operating with similar axle loads and 160km/h tilt trains with train counts in excess of fifty trains per day on some sections. The 1341km section of the Queensland North Coast Line between Brisbane and Townsville was relaid with concrete sleepers, 53kg and 60kg rail, under traffic, with track laying machines in eight years. If a single state government can acheive such things on "toy gauge" without external Federal funding, then two state governments and a Federal organisation should be able to match the outcome and maintain it with the appropriate undercutters and ballast cleaners.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: North Haverbrook; where the monorail is king!
With one major deviation around the Kilmore East area and some more minor curve easing works elsewhere, the entire route geometry of the Melbourne-Sydney Rail Corridor from Melbourne to Junee - nearly 50% of the route's length - would be capable of 200kph+ running. Now, that's also the easy part in comparison to the Cullerin Ranges and the rest of the mucking about in the Southern Highlands that would be required to get the route up to Medium Speed Rail standards, but it shows how fundamentally good much of the actual route is.

I also disagree with the pessimistic assertion that a mere single track line with "good" passing loops would be prudent and sufficient for the corridor. Passenger and intermodal freight running times need to be substantially lowered along the corridor to make rail competitive with overnight trucking, and waiting in passing loops doesn't do anything to fix that. Reliability has also been a major concern, and single tracks are single points of failure. Trucks can take a detour - in Australia on most routes, trains can't. Duplication along the same route doesn't fully ameliorate this, but it's a bloody good start.

Really, the entire Melbourne-Sydney rail corridor deserves to be upgraded to electrified, fully-duplicated, double-stack 200+ kph standards. Yes, those things are all possible to be done together - in stages over a couple of decades, but you start with the vision. That's what the Feds and State Governments did with the Hume Highway/Freeway/Motorway. It took them decades but they got it all done and it's now a fully dual-carriage highway with substantial grade separation and town bypassing. Electrified fast freight on a modernised route would murder overnight trucking along the Hume. That's a massive growth opportunity for rail and an excellent prospect for nationwide greenhouse gas emissions reduction. 200-250kph passenger rail isn't going to totally kill off domestic aviation between Melbourne and Sydney either, but it would capture most of the Capital-Regional pair traffic (including Sydney-Canberra with additional works) and make substantial inroads with growing green travel and less travel-time-conscious market segments.

And yes, money does grow on trees. Government financing is literally that weird.
  Transtopic Deputy Commissioner

Location: Sydney
Thanks MM, that's a very informative narrative of the degree of works and funding which will be necessary to fix the line properly.

I'm of the view that rather than the focus being on HSR, particularly by Labor, a more pragmatic approach should be on Medium Speed Rail (MSR), to bring the East Coast Interstate lines up to that standard allowing up to 200km/h for fast passenger trains. It could be done at a fraction of the cost of a new HSR network and in a much shorter time-frame.  Push HSR back to the never never, because it's going to be a long time before it becomes viable.  This has already been discussed at length on other threads, so I won't go into it further.

In the meantime, at the very least, the existing SG line from Junee to Melbourne should be fully duplicated and upgraded to MSR standard in the short to medium term.  

To avoid lengthy shutdowns and disruption to existing passenger and freight services, the new duplicate lines could be constructed first to the higher standard, followed by upgrading of the loop lines on the existing duplicated sections.  This could be followed by upgrading of the remaining sections of track, with services being transferred to the newly upgraded sections of duplicated track until the whole duplication and upgrading program is completed.  It still may involve some disruptions to services in the process, but it would avoid a complete shutdown.

There's an analogy with National Highway upgrades, where newer duplicated sections are constructed first, then traffic temporarily diverted to the new section of road to allow the existing road corridor to be upgraded.  Where there are major diversions from the existing road corridor, it's a lot simpler though obviously more expensive, when the existing road corridor is connected with the new diverted route.  The same principle would apply with rail upgrading.

Duplicating any line carrying less than twenty trains per day is excessive and a gross waste of available capital. In the case of Junee to Melbourne, duplication would result in either doubling maintenance costs, or, more likely, dividing the meagre maintenace budget already in place. It would be far better to upgrade the existing single line track to the highest possible operating standard, and upgrade the signalling and crossing loops/passing lanes to acheive maximum capacity. With sufficient passing options, the existing corridor could easily handle forty or more trains without duplication.

Single track mainlines in Queensland are operating with similar axle loads and 160km/h tilt trains with train counts in excess of fifty trains per day on some sections. The 1341km section of the Queensland North Coast Line between Brisbane and Townsville was relaid with concrete sleepers, 53kg and 60kg rail, under traffic, with track laying machines in eight years. If a single state government can acheive such things on "toy gauge" without external Federal funding, then two state governments and a Federal organisation should be able to match the outcome and maintain it with the appropriate undercutters and ballast cleaners.
Sulla1
With respect, I disagree.  Upgrading the existing single line sections of the SG between Junee and Melbourne to MSR standard would require major shutdowns and disruption to existing services, except on the existing duplicated sections, where one line could be upgraded and out of service while the other continues to operate.  There would still be some delays caused with the reduction in the number of passing loops during this transitional phase, but it would still be better than completely shutting down the line.  

If the line is fully duplicated, then the new duplicate sections to MSR standard could be constructed first, without disrupting existing services, and services temporarily diverted to the new duplicated tracks when completed to allow the existing sections to be upgraded, as I alluded to in my earlier analogy with the upgrading of the National Highway network to dual carriageway motorway standard.  I wouldn't think that it would be acceptable to upgrade the National Highway network on the main trunk route from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney with minimal carriageway duplications on the busiest sectors and reverting to single lane on the lower traffic sections. In fact, the whole route will be fully duplicated to a minimum of 4 lanes when the final section of the Pacific Highway upgrade between Grafton and Ballina is completed later this year.

I agree with LD, that the Junee to Melbourne SG track, let alone from Sydney to Junee,  DESERVES to be duplicated and upgraded to MSR standard.  This is after all the major rail line between Australia's two largest cities, so you would expect that there would be the potential to significantly increase rail traffic, both passenger and freight, with an upgraded rail link.  Whether it warrants electrification on the whole route is open to debate, but it could be progressively extended over the longer term.  The new NSW Regional train fleet will allow bi-mode operation with both diesel-electric and O/H electric capability, which will improve its operational cost as electrification is extended.  Similarly, freight costs could be reduced with the introduction of bi-mode locomotives.

Basing the viability of the cost of an upgrade and future maintenance on the existing limited frequency of train services, both passenger and freight, is a false premise.  What you ignore is that with significantly improved travel times and reliability with a fully duplicated and upgraded track, it would potentially increase rail traffic exponentially.  It should also be bi-directional with frequent crossovers outside of the metropolitan rail networks to allow for greater flexibility in bypassing breakdowns and other disruptions to services.

The Queensland North Coast Line between Brisbane and Townsville with passing loops is hardly a valid comparison with the potential passenger and freight rail traffic between our two largest cities if the corridor is upgraded.  That also includes the additional freight traffic via the Inland Rail route from Brisbane to Melbourne.
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

I agree with Transtopic and believe this needs to be duplicated. Those who say that the ARTC never had enough money are fooling themselves as we have talked about this before on the older vic ne thread. The ARTC had $285 million for track re-mediation in 2008. It was during this period where instead of fixing the existing formation they just hammered in concrete sleepers making things even worse. No re-mediation work was never done and mudholes formed everywhere.


The state of the track is nothing new and has been really bad for a really long time. It is also correct that the main south is also in poor quality. In fact it could be said that wherever the ARTC goes you are bound to find extremely poor track quality. Until the government gets some competent people in charge this will continue to be the case.
  Dangersdan707 Chief Commissioner

Location: On a Thing with Internet
Does this 'New' North East Line involve Conversion to the Gauge bestowed upon Victoria by Allah Himself? or is it a just leaving it in this dust.
  M636C Minister for Railways

Those who say that the ARTC never had enough money are fooling themselves as we have talked about this before on the older vic ne thread. The ARTC had $285 million for track re-mediation in 2008. It was during this period where instead of fixing the existing formation they just hammered in concrete sleepers making things even worse. No re-mediation work was never done and mudholes formed everywhere.
simstrain

My clear recollection is that the ARTC obtained funding from the Federal Government specifically for the installation of concrete sleepers. They did not have the option of spending this money on other aspects of track maintenance.

At the time, particularly on the NSW Main South, which was also completely converted to concrete sleepers, there had been a number of derailments due to deteriorating track quality and there were numerous areas with speed restrictions.

About this time there was a derailment on the down main at Bethungra quite close to the spiral and the wagons fell down the embankment blocking the up main just south of the spiral. The report on this derailment was scathing on the condition of the track and the ballast and led to the concrete sleeper program.

When the concrete sleepers were installed in NSW, the poor state of the ballast was revealed and an extensive program of ballast cleaning was instituted. However this did not result in additional mud holes, although the existing mud holes remained.

Clearly the state of the ballast in Victoria on both gauges was considerably worse than the same track north of the border. It is not clear that either the PTC Victoria or the ARTC knew this since it wasn't visible externally.

One reason for this was that the rails were not attached to the sleepers as securely as they are to the concrete sleepers, which is necessary to prevent rail buckling in high temperatures. As a result, the wooden sleepers did not move vertically to the same extent as the replacement concrete sleepers. This meant that while the conditions for mudholes already existed, the lack of movement of the sleepers meant that the problem was not visible.

I spent some time watching the replacement of the existing sleepers by concrete sleepers in Southern NSW and the side insertion was very quick and efficient. It did make the existing contamination of the ballast much more obvious. However, in most of NSW there were different types of sleeper, wood with dogspikes, wood with pandrol clips, steel with tracklock clips and low profile concrete with pandrol clips. Much of the track had all four types in repeating sets of four. This meant that the rail was restrained as much as with the final concrete sleepers and the mud holes already existed.

I did look at the conversion of the broad gauge, if not to the extent I did in NSW. The broad gauge was in very poor condition and services had been suspended due to safety reasons. The sleepers in most cases crumbled into dust on removal. Only about one in five could be reused. There was no option but to use new concrete sleepers on the converted line.

Given the extent of contamination in the ballast in NSW, and assuming the same was the case in Victoria on the former standard gauge, I don't believe the size of sleeper had any effect. I do not believe that using low profile concrete sleepers would have helped.

The poor quality of the converted Mildura line shows that leaving most of the existing track in place does not result in better track quality resulting in lower train speeds and does not save money either.

I have worked as a professional engineer for both a state railway and in the Pilbara and I have had to investigate many derailments.

Peter
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

$501 million in total was spent on the Victorian north east in that 2008-2010 upgrade. $285 million for the sleeper replacement was solely for the NE line and not for the main south which had another amount given to the ARTC to fix those issues. The rest of that $501 million was for the bypass of Wodonga and other station and signalling upgrades in addition to some extra loops. In that time nobody in the ARTC even thought to think that maybe while doing the sleepers it might be nice to fix the base. Instead they just went ahead and shoved those sleepers in without giving a thought as to what might happen in the future.

You can see how poor the ARTC are at track maintenance in Sydney. Stand anywhere along the metropolitan freight line alongside the ST network or the SSFL and you can see the difference in quality. The ARTC are inept and there needs to be a huge clean out of management for the failed track maintenance policies.
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

Does this 'New' North East Line involve Conversion to the Gauge bestowed upon Victoria by Allah Himself? or is it a just leaving it in this dust.
Dangersdan707
The NE is already converted. What it isn't is a good quality railway even when it was Broad Gauge. The only thing worse then the ARTC is Vline. Rail express just had a news item that the BG is operating manually with a signalling system from the 1890's that is broken. Seriously who else would do that aside from Vline.
  M636C Minister for Railways

$501 million in total was spent on the Victorian north east in that 2008-2010 upgrade. $285 million for the sleeper replacement was solely for the NE line and not for the main south which had another amount given to the ARTC to fix those issues. The rest of that $501 million was for the bypass of Wodonga and other station and signalling upgrades in addition to some extra loops. In that time nobody in the ARTC even thought to think that maybe while doing the sleepers it might be nice to fix the base. Instead they just went ahead and shoved those sleepers in without giving a thought as to what might happen in the future.
simstrain
I'm not sure what point you are trying to make here:

The $285 million was funds from the Federal Government specifically for concrete sleeper replacement.
I think it is fairly clear that had that sleeper replacement not been carried out, the track would now be in significantly worse condition. There would have been even more significant speed restrictions and more funds being spent on continuing maintenance, quite apart from ballast rectification.

The ARTC did not have any funds for ballast rectification at that time apart from the sleeper replacement.
They did not have the ability to move the funds around for different purposes.

The same situation occurred in NSW on the Main South. After the sleeper replacement, everyone realised that the ballast was far more contaminated than it had  been thought. But in NSW, since the track had been in better condition the net effect of resleepering was a significant improvement in running times, even though the ballast remained poor. It is possible that the much hillier terrain than on the North East meant that mud holes were confined to a few familiar locations, notably on level sections near Oolong and near Bredalbane.

But there was nothing to suggest before the sleeper replacement that more ballast rectification would be needed south of the Murray River, rather than north of it.

The Federal Government could provide the funds for ballast rectification but so far they have avoided doing so. The present government wants to sell the ARTC as a profit making concern to a large Chinese owned company, such as John Holland. While this will almost certainly never happen, they are minimising expenditure on rail maintenance as in most other areas.

Peter
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
Not technically track work but connected question re the theft of copper wire.

Is this wire supporting outdated technology?  Will this be replaced by ATMS whenever it comes online?
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

The $285 million was from the ARTC raising funds and not from the Federal Government. The Vic government and Feds funded the remaining $216 million ($501 million total) for the wadonga bypass, extra loops, station upgrades and signalling.

The track would be in much worse condition is a big lie also told by ARTC staff and supporters. The only difference between if there was still timber or concrete is exactly that the material used for sleepers. The base is in worse condition now then before thanks to the concrete sleeper insertion method chosen in addition to extra time for the base to deform even further.

It also shows how incompetent the management at the ARTC is when clearly there was a need to fix the base as well as the sleepers and yet they chose to ignore that purely to save some money. The ARTC are always doing things on the cheap and nasty and heads need to roll.
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

Shony747 does great job of showing the ineptitude of the ARTC track maintainence. Here is metropolitan good rail line. 8:50 is the perfect place to start watching.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkf48PB98Qg
  Carnot Chief Commissioner

It gets worse.  Possible washouts near Euroa?

  grime Locomotive Fireman

It gets worse.  Possible washouts near Euroa?

Carnot
Live Disruptions

 Service Change - Seymour line  The 12.45 Albury - Southern Cross will originate from Seymour due to inclement weather. Customers are advised to board coach replacements to complete their journey. [11:30 05/03]
  Service update - Seymour line  The 12.05 Southern Cross - Albury will not run due to inclement weather. Customers are advised to board coach replacements to complete their journey. [11:00 05/03]
  Service Reduction - Seymour line  The 12.13 Seymour - Southern Cross will run with a reduced capacity [10:03 05/03]
  Service Reduction - Seymour line  The 10.32 Southern Cross - Seymour will run with a reduced capacity this morning. [09:59 05/03]
  Service update - Seymour line  The 10.46 Seymour - Southern Cross will not run due to an earlier trespasser. Customers are advised to board coach replacements. [08:43 05/03]
  Service update - Seymour line  Th 09:35 Shepparton ? Southern Cross will be originating at Seymour. Customers travelling from Shepparton are advised to board coach replacements to complete their journey. [08:30 05/03]
  Lad_Porter Chief Commissioner

Location: Yarra Glen
What does "inclement weather" mean, and what does it affect such that trains can not run?  Defective windscreen wipers, perhaps?
  Contrillion Junior Train Controller

Location: Benalla, VIC
It gets worse.  Possible washouts near Euroa?

Carnot
Just about everything else (barring XPTs) were running on the line. Looks to be an imagined issue rather than a real one.

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