Thu 24 Mar 2016

The east-west national rail network is set to receive a huge face lift. 

Works on the east-west national rail network are likely to begin sooner than initially expected. A 1200km stretch in Central Australia has been fast-tracked by the Australian Rail Track Corporation for rail upgrades.

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The stretch of track, between Tarcoola and Adelaide, is long overdue for upgrades. The changes will mean that heavier freight can use the railway, at a faster speed.

The new rails are produced by Arrium Steel out of their facility in Whyalla, the only rail track manufacturer in Australia. At 60kg per metre, the new rail will be significantly stronger than that previously used, which weighed in at 47kg per metre.

As a result of the increased strength, the 1200km stretch of the east-west national rail network will be capable of supporting speeds of up to 80km per hour, at an axle weight of 25 tonne (compared to the previous 23 tonne).

A statement from the ARTC said, “Development of the methodology of delivery and appropriate assessments must be undertaken before we go to the market.” So it looks like there’s some planning to be carried out, however the fast-track program will ensure that this rapidly gets underway.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the works would be fast-tracked during a tour of South Australia. In response, Senator Penny Wong claimed that the announcement essentially obfuscated the government’s inaction on keeping shipbuilding projects on home soil. “The steel industry will need more than … one decision,” stated Senator Wong.

Low steel prices, driven in part by cheap Chinese imports, have had a detrimental effect on the bottom lines of Australia’s steelworks.

In his announcement, Turnbull said that this large order would definitely help improve the efficiency of the east-west national rail network.

“This is old infrastructure that has had its day. It is between 50 and 60 years old. Our future is bound up in overseas markets. What we’re doing here is bringing forward investment by a number of years, which will bring forward orders for Arrium… This is investment that has to be done. It’s a very welcome opportunity for Arrium. What Arrium needs is better steel prices and more customers. We are here helping with that.

“This is vitally important national infrastructure.”

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