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V/LINE has bowed to industry pressure and will no longer stop freight trains on most of its tracks because of hot weather.
New operating requirements, released by V/Line today, will ensure freight trains can operate, at reduced speeds, on days when the temperature hits 33C.
Just two parts of its network will close if the temperature reaches 33C, the tracks between Toolamba and Echuca (about 65km), and between Dimboola and Rainbow (about 70km).
The remainder of V/Line’s heat restrictions will see trains forced to slow to 30km/h when the temperature hits 33C, while others will be forced to travel at 65km/h when the temperature hits 36C.
.Last year’s heat restrictions were widely criticised by farm and freight industries after they stopped trains carting Victoria’s record harvest to port and forced more grain trucks on to roads.
At the time, the Victorian Farmers Federation said the restrictions were akin to “effectively shutting down rail freight for the northwest of the state for two months during the most critical time of the year”.
Announcing the new rules today, V/Line chief executive James Pinder said this year’s restrictions were an “improvement for freight operators”.
“We put the restrictions in place last summer as a safety precaution because safety is our number one consideration,” Mr Pinder said.
“Our track team has been hard at work completing maintenance and upgrades on the freight network ahead of the warmer months, and we’ve been able to make the changes to the allowable train speed in some sections of the network.”
Mr Pinder said V/Line had not experienced a train derailment in almost two years because of the way it managed the rail system in warm conditions.
The new restrictions come less than a week after the first meeting of the Ministerial Freight Advisory Council.
Its chairman, former Victorian Farmers Federation president Peter Tuohey, welcomed the revised heat restrictions.
“These changes mean farmers and industry can transport more produce this summer, as freight trains will still be able to run, even during the hottest part of the day,” Mr Tuohey said.
In April, V/Line commissioned an independent inquiry into the heat restrictions. The report is expected to be made public in coming weeks.
This article first appeared on www.weeklytimesnow.com.au
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