Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder joined Deputy Premier and Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan today at Appleton Dock to welcome Metro’s $13 million rail grinding machine that will re-profile steel rail on the Traralgon to Bairnsdale line, enabling V/Line’s passenger trains to resume operation.
The Austrian-manufactured milling machine (rail grinder) arrived in Melbourne after an eight week journey on the M/V Otello.
Mr Mulder said Metro’s loan of the rail grinder for urgent works on the Bairnsdale line was a good example of how since the establishment of Public Transport Victoria, Victoria’s rail operators were cooperating to deliver the best outcomes for passengers who made 225 million trips a year on Metro and 13 million trips on V/Line trains.
“More than 10,000 passengers a month in total board at either Rosedale, Sale, Stratford or Bairnsdale, so V/Line’s trains are important for family, leisure and business travellers residing in or visiting East Gippsland,” Mr Mulder said.
“Bairnsdale’s trains do not just serve East Gippsland. V/Line’s connecting coaches from Bairnsdale also convey passengers the scenic way to Cooma, NSW and Canberra, ACT.”
Mr Ryan thanked Andrew Lezala, CEO of Metro for his prompt recognition as to how Metro’s new leased rail grinder would assist Gippslanders in getting back their V/Line trains.
“Safety will always be V/Line’s top priority. Now that the rail grinder is in Victoria, V/Line staff can start grinding the tracks for a kilometre on each side of the 32 level crossings between Traralgon and Bairnsdale,” Mr Ryan said.
Since March 2013, level crossing related safety equipment between Traralgon and Bairnsdale has been unable to consistently detect approaching trains early enough for warning bells, flashing lights and boom barriers to activate for the required 25 seconds before a train reaches the level crossing.
The rail grinder will ‘shave’ back (reprofile) the rail head, creating an improved electrical connection between the rail and train wheel.
V/Line CEO Theo Taifalos said that with no suitable rail grinder readily available in Australia, getting the specialist equipment to Victoria had been a lengthy but necessary process.
“If all goes to plan, I expect to see all Gippsland line passenger trains returned by the end of October,” Mr Taifalos said.
An L. Arthur Pty Ltd heavy haulage truck will transport the grinder to Traralgon where it will start work in two stages:
• Traralgon to Sale works will start at the end of September 2013 and should be finished by mid October.
• Sale to Bairnsdale works will occur from mid to the end of October 2013
Once works are complete, the Victorian Coalition Government and V/Line will invest up to $8 million to install axle counters at all 32 level crossings along the Traralgon to Bairnsdale line as a permanent solution to the safety issue.
Mr Mulder said that once V/Line’s Bairnsdale line works had finished, Metro would use the rail grinder on its 15 line Melbourne metropolitan network to grind out minor rail defects, increasing longevity of the tracks.
Mr Taifalos reminded Gippslanders to be vigilant around level crossings now that works were about to begin.
“From the end of September 2013, residents will see renewed activity between Traralgon and Bairnsdale. I ask all motorists, heavy vehicle drivers and pedestrians to be alert around level crossings – slow down, obey signage and be prepared to stop,” Mr Taifalos said.
“Track machinery and test trains will be operating at any time of day or night so people need to be alert at all times. Risky behavior around level crossings at any time can cost lives.
“I thank the Gippsland community for their patience while V/Line has worked to return passenger trains to Rosedale, Sale, Stratford and Bairnsdale. V/Line looks forward to running trains on the line for decades to come.”