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The North East rail line upgrade project will enhance the rail line from Melbourne to Albury/Wodonga in Victoria, Australia.
The A$235m ($160m) project, which is being delivered by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) on behalf of the Australian and Victorian governments, will transform the North East line into a ‘Victorian Class 2’ track performance grade. It is supported by the state transport agencies of V/Line, Public Transport Victoria, Transport for Victoria and Rail Projects Victoria.
The rail upgrade is part of the A$1.75bn ($1.13bn) Regional Rail Revival Program, a joint programme between the Victorian Government and the federal government to upgrade all regional railway lines in the state.
Early project works began in 2019, followed by main works in early 2020. The project is expected to be completed by mid-2021.
North East rail line details
The North East rail line is a 316km-long rail line between Melbourne and Albury and forms part of the Sydney-Melbourne rail corridor. It serves approximately 1,800 people daily via ten scheduled trains, with five in each direction.
The rail route does not have a track standard equivalent to that of other regional passenger lines in Victoria. It witnessed a steady decline in passenger demand due to delayed trains, as well as a lack of reliability and comfort.
The line faces competition from the more-improved Hume Highway, which is being preferred for its reduced travel time and convenience.
North East rail line upgrade details
The North East rail line upgrade will improve the track quality, thus reducing delays and improving train punctuality and the ride quality.
The project involves the removal of mud holes, improvement of tracks and signalling, and enhanced drainage. Work will enable faster travel speeds while allowing the introduction of new and improved rolling stock.
Work includes track resurfacing for smoother track surface, new underground wires, implementation of backup and solar power supplies, ballast depth improvements. Upgrade of around 100 level crossings and rail bridges is also being undertaken as part of the project.
The project will also reduce the number of temporary speed restrictions imposed by ARTC due to track condition issues, and the V/Line speed restrictions for passenger service, which affect 62% of the line.
The route will incorporate new modern and faster VLocity trains on the standard gauge line.
Early works included site investigations, tamping, full renewal of both the tracks at Summers Road level crossing, removal of over 2km of mud-holes, and distribution of 6,500t of fresh ballast until the end of 2019.
Major works started at Wodonga in February 2020. The project reached a construction milestone by completing the first 100km of track upgrades in June 2020. More than 150,000t of ballast was dropped, 105km of tamping was delivered, and approximately 100km of drainage was reinstated by June 2020. The renewal of 17 level crossings and replacement of six bridge decks, and improvement of four pedestrian crossings were also completed.
A A$14m ($9.1m) signalling improvement project is also being undertaken in metropolitan Melbourne as part of the upgrade.
Rolling stock for North East rail line upgrade
VLocity trains will feature a design that will support long-distance journeys with improvements, including comfortable seating, and extra storage space for luggage and bikes.
The new trains are part of the Victorian Government’s budget investment to meet increasing demand. The new model will be the first VLocity train to operate on standard gauge tracks of the state’s regional network.
Each three-car set of the VLocity train will feature built-in USB chargers and mobile boosting technology, catering facility, and four shared tables. It will have three bike racks with a capacity to accommodate up to nine bikes, and six wheelchair spaces with nearby companion seats.
Trains can be coupled together for a total of six carriages. The vehicle fleet will be delivered on time to align with the completion of the North East rail line upgrade.
John Holland was appointed to deliver major works for the project in December 2019.
The trains will be manufactured by Bombardier at its facility in Dandenong, Australia, supporting 500 local jobs.
The project directly engaged ten subcontractors and 32 North East Victorian suppliers. Railroad contractor TENEX Rail is also part of the project.
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