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News & Views from the RTBU NSW Locomotive Division

The southern rail line — a tragedy waiting to happen

Jul 29, 2011Uncategorized

Divisional Secretary Robert Hayden has written to the Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese calling on him to instigate a genuinely independent enquiry to investigate the current resleepering practices before a tragedy happens.

Despite the more than $500 million spent by the government-owned Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) the Sydney – Melbourne rail corridor is still in a dangerously neglected state

Self-regulation by the ARTC has failed and the RTBU warns that without direct immediate intervention, drivers may be forced to refuse to operate the rail corridor due to health and safety concerns.

The continued denial of the problem by ARTC has forced the union to demand that the minister intervene directly.

The union has been campaigning for more than 12 months for Federal Government action to fix the southern track and ensure that future resleepering projects on the national network are carried out to the highest possible standard.

The lack of action has far-reaching consequences not just for safety, but also in productivity losses for businesses that rely on the rail link and the taxpayer funds that are wasted on continuously patching problem spots rather than fixing them for the long term.

The money-saving ‘side-insertion’ method of resleepering has left the track riddled with mudholes as the poor-quality ballast is crushed by the weight of the concrete sleepers and washed away by rain. At some times, more than 70% of the track has speed restrictions imposed – causing costly delays for commuters and freight.

The bouncing and swaying of the train over the mudholes, combined with temperature variations that expand and contract the metal, are causing the rails to split – and drivers warn it’s only a matter of time before a train meets a break in the track at speed and a serious derailment occurs.

Letter to Albanese

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