Bringing Rail Up to Speed

3 April 2001

Track upgrading and track straightening on the strategic Sydney to Melbourne rail corridor is essential in order to bring rail up to speed according to the Railway Technical Society of Australasia (RTSA). Improved track alignments on this important rail corridor would allow the introduction of new high-speed tilt trains for passengers.

 It would also mean that faster and longer freight trains can become much more competitive with road transport. This has the potential to reduce traffic congestion and urban pollution levels and significantly reduce the number and cost of serious road accidents.

 RTSA’s Government Relations Spokesman, Dr Philip Laird said, “Track upgrading and track straightening between Australia’s two largest cities is essential for faster and heavier freight trains and it will also create the opportunity for high-speed tilt trains to link Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. This would provide a solution to more costly high-speed rail proposals.”

  “For too long this important rail corridor has been neglected. Steam-age alignments and a lack of investment have meant that freight train transit times are often un-competitive with road transport.”

 The RTSA has produced a brochure, “Sydney Canberra Melbourne - Bringing Rail Up to Speed” that outlines a number of improvements that should be carried out to improve the performance of rail between Sydney and Melbourne. These include:

·        Increased track capacity in metropolitan Sydney to allow better separation of suburban passenger trains and freight trains.

·        Track straightening at a number of locations in New South Wales

·        A new more direct route between Goulburn and Yass, ‘The T-Line’, with a new high-speed link to North Canberra.

·        Improvement of the track formation, sleepers and rails in Victoria to bring XPT services up to speed.

·        Installation of modern signalling to replace antiquated safeworking systems and upgrading of level crossings at various locations in New South Wales and Victoria.

Dr Laird continued, “Billions of dollars have been poured into the adjacent Hume Highway creating more and more heavy loads on roads and creating chronic congestion at each end of the Highway and in regional centres.”

“It is ironic that the Federal Government now needs to spend half a billion dollars, quite possibly more, on the Albury Wodonga road by-pass.”

“With spiralling fuel prices, increased investment in roads can be viewed as a retrograde step especially where sound rail alternatives already exist.”

“For this amount of money, the entire Melbourne to Sydney rail corridor could be upgraded to a standard that would allow fast freight trains to complete the journey in eleven hours. This in turn would remove many of the trucks from the Hume Highway, and alleviate congestion problems at more than just one location.”

“Many industries are already reviewing their transport options with a view to moving more of their freight task to rail. While they are obviously doing this because it makes sound economic sense, many of them also recognise that fast, heavy freight trains are good for the community and good for the environment.”

Numerous studies, including several by the Commonwealth, have advocated urgent track upgrading for the Sydney to Melbourne rail corridor. All have highlighted the need for track straightening to replace sections of old winding track with new rail deviations.

In Queensland, more money is spent on rail infrastructure improvements than in the rest of Australia combined. Upgrades have included straightening out the worst 20 per cent of old winding track for faster and heavier freight trains, at the same time allowing high-speed passenger tilt trains to operate between Brisbane and Rockhampton.

Dr Laird concluded by saying, “Appropriate investment for the Sydney - Melbourne and Sydney - Canberra rail corridors should be a matter of priority for the Federal Government. Investment in rail upgrading can provide transport solutions at a fraction of the cost of the road-based alternatives.”

For further information contact:

Dr Philip Laird on 02 4221 3421 or 0412 060 129

(For copies of the RTSA brochure contact Mark Carter on 08 8261 2292

or e-mail


The Railway Technical Society of Australasia (RTSA) is a technical society of the Institution of Engineers, Australia. RTSA promotes the science and practice of railway engineering and related technology through biennial railway engineering conferences, study tours, the publication of technical papers and the support of research and education within the rail industry.

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