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ARTC bungles track upgrade

Aug 1, 2012News

These are pictures of a track “upgrade” completed less than 6 months ago – awash with irregularities and mud holes.

ARTC replaced the wooden sleepers on the track between Parkes and Broken Hill with concrete sleepers using the ‘side insertion’ method, which involves digging the old sleepers out and shifting the new ones into the space left behind, rather than the more traditional, and as far as we know, expensive but we would argue much higher quality, option of completely rebuilding.

PN Driver and Loco Division rep Dave Mathie says the photos serve to highlight what drivers on the track have been saying for some time – as they warned with the Main South upgrade – that the upgrade has been bungled in what drivers believe is an attempt to cut costs.

“Drivers believe that it was a cheap fix,” Dave Mathie said. “If the ARTC did work like this in the metro area there’d be an uproar from commuters.

“The technique used by ARTC has it would seem destroyed the foundations. The space left by the old sleepers is much smaller than what’s needed for concrete ones, and it looks like they have just dug and dug to create a larger gap, but as a result it’s left holes and the foundations have been shifted.

“When you’ve had a fair bit of rain, like we’ve had lately, the track starts to pound down in to the mud and it just gets worse.

Due to the issues with the track, speed restrictions have had to be introduced along the line – bringing the speed down from 115km/hr to 40km in some areas – which has resulted in some journeys taking double the time they did before the upgrade.

“It’s farcical that they’ve brought in this new track and now they have to introduce speed restrictions along it because it’s of such poor quality.

“The journey from Parkes to Condobolin used to take just under an hour, now it takes about two hours.

“The journey is so bad in parts that I’ve even heard reports of companies apologising to passengers over the loudspeaker for the bumpy ride.”

Dave Mathie said the increased journey times is also causing problems for workers.

“The increased journey times means that you’ve then got issues with shift lengths and availability too.  We’re consistently seeing cases of people working over the maximum 12 hour shift because of the extra time it takes to get from A to B. It then has a knock on effect to other areas of rostering too.

“Drivers are sick of it and I’m sure commuters don’t like it. I’d be surprised if companies that use the line to get goods delivered aren’t complaining about things turning up broken as a result of the dodgy track. It’s ridiculous that they continue to get away with doing these upgrades this way.

“Drivers believe the track is a disaster waiting to happen.”