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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 289

Ballast Rehabilitation Program

(Question No. 663)


Ms McGowan asked the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, in writing, on 24 November 2014:

(1) Is it intended that the Ballast Rehabilitation Program (BRP), when completed, will result in high quality track conditions reflecting the goals of the North East Rail Revitalisation Project (NERRP).

(2) Is it intended that the BRP, upon completion, will (a) enable passenger trains like the New South Wales CountryLink XPT to travel at 130 kilometres per hour to 160 kilometres per hour on the Melbourne to Albury rail line as they are able to do on other parts of the rail network, and (b) reduce typical journey times for passenger and freight train services; if so, is it anticipated that they will be shorter than typical journey times on the line prior to the NERRP.

(3) In the design phase of the NERRP, did the Australian Rail Track Corporation anticipate a reduction in passenger and freight train journey times on the Melbourne to Albury rail line, not including time savings as a result of the Wodonga Rail Bypass.

(4) What contingency plans are in place should, at the completion of the BRP, train service reliability and journey times remain affected by poor track conditions.


Mr Truss: The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Ballast Rehabilitation Program does not relate to the North East Rail Revitalisation Project. The North East Rail Revitalisation Project was a programme of works aimed at improving passenger and freight rail services between Melbourne and Albury-Wodonga by removing the rail line from the centre of Wodonga and converting 200-kilometres of broad gauge track to standard gauge. The North East Rail Revitalisation Project was jointly funded by the Australian and Victorian Governments, and the Australian Rail Track Corporation and completed in 201 l.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation's $134 million Ballast Rehabilitation Program is a five year programme to improve track condition and reduce temporary speed restrictions caused by poor track formation predating the Australian Rail Track Corporation's involvement in the line. This work involves cleaning fouled ballast and improving track drainage and is scheduled to be completed in 2016.

(2) (a). The New South Wales CountryLink XPT currently operates at 130 kilometres per hour in Victoria and freight services operate at 115 kilometres per hour, subject to curves, loading and gradient of the track. Passenger service speeds of 160 kilometres per hour are prevented by conflicts such as level crossings, sighting distances and signalling design. The lease agreement for Victoria does not require services to operate at these speeds nor have tracks been designed with this intention.

(b). The Ballast Rehabilitation Program will improve train transit times as temporary speed restrictions are lifted. Once complete, the Ballast Rehabilitation Program will allow services to operate at the speeds the track is designed for.

(3) No. The Australian Rail Track Corporation did not undertake the design of the North East Rail Revitalisation Project. The North East Rail Revitalisation Project was a programme of works to upgrade track to operating standards agreed with the Victorian Government as a condition of the extension to the Victorian rail lease in 2008. Benefits delivered by the Wodonga bypass were integrated into subsequent timetabling of services.

(4) ARTC is scheduled to complete the Ballast Rehabilitation Program in 201 6. Under the Ballast Rehabilitation Program, track conditions in the North South corridor have been steadily improving. For example, V/Line punctuality performance has been maintained above 93% in recent months, exceeding the Victorian Government target of 92%. It is also much higher than corresponding performance of recent years, i.e. 82.5% in November 2013. Once the Ballast Rehabilitation Program is complete, the Australian Rail Track Corporation's ongoing maintenance programme will ensure track quality is maintained to the standard of any other section of the interstate network. While improved track conditions will allow the Australian Rail Track Corporation to offer V/Line faster transit times, the responsibility for the scheduling, timing and operation of V/Line services resides with Victorian Government.