The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has awarded head design contract to engineering consultants Lycopodium under its Southern Highlands Overtaking Opportunities project.

This is the first contract under the $26.69m (A$41.6m) project funded by the Australian Government.

The project seeks to provide overtaking options for trains at Werai in Southern Highlands, and Joppa Junction near Goulburn.

Two assessments to review the environmental impacts of the project at the Werai and Joppa Junction sites are on public exhibition.  

Works on the project, pending approvals, are scheduled to commence in early 2023 and complete by 2024.

The ARTC is expected to award two more construction contracts related to early works and main construction in 2023.

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Once completed, the project is expected to reduce delays and congestion, enabling smooth movement of both freight and passenger rail services on ARTC network including Sydney to Melbourne rail line.

ARTC Group Major Construction Projects executive Mike Zambelli said: “We are pleased to award the head design contract on this project, which will improve efficiency freight and passenger rail services on our network.

“Site investigations have taken place and detailed design is underway. ARTC will continue to consult with councils and local communities to keep them up to date on the project’s progress.

“The two locations will each provide two ‘double crossovers’ approximately 2km apart, to allow trains of up to 1800m in length to be overtaken by faster services.”

Meanwhile, in March 2021, the ARTC and its contracting partner John Holland concluded the $235m North East Rail Line overhaul, meant to cut down rail journey delays for passengers travelling between Melbourne and Albury-Wodonga.