The Australian government, in conjunction with the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), has completed the new passing loop at Hexham, spanning from North Strathfield through Sydney's northern suburbs to Newcastle, as part of the A$1.1bn ($1.1bn) Northern Sydney Freight Corridor Upgrade project.
The freight corridor upgrade includes four main components: North Strathfield Rail Underpass, Epping to Thornleigh Third Track, Gosford Passing Loops and Hexham Passing Loop.
Australian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said construction of this new piece of infrastructure is one of four separate but complimentary projects being undertaken as part of the Northern Sydney Freight Corridor Upgrade.
"Completed on time and within budget, the new 1,500 metre passing loop remedies the lack of space previously available for holding freight trains on Sydney's outskirts so that they could be better coordinated with CityRail passenger services," Albanese said.
"Once fully completed, the planned improvements will take 200,000 trucks a year off the road, cut annual carbon emissions by more than 100,000 tonnes, reduce diesel use by some 40 million litres per annum and increase the corridor's capacity by 50%, from 29 to 44 freight trains a day."
The project is part of the Australian Government's plan to improve rail infrastructure in Sydney, which also includes an upgrade of the Port Botany link, construction of a dedicated freight line from Macarthur to Chullora and a new intermodal facility at Moorebank.
The Northern Sydney Freight Corridor will offer a dedicated line to reduce delays between Sydney and Newcastle, as currently both freight and passenger trains run on the same tracks.
ARTC CEO John Fullerton said the new Hexham passing loop now allows trains to more efficiently position, coordinate and stage freight trains through the RailCorp passenger network.
"We have various windows to schedule freight services on the busy and crowded RailCorp passenger network, and the Hexham Loop will allow us to more effectively do so," Fullerton said.
The Australian government is providing $840m for the project, while the state of New South Wales is providing $214m.