Case Study C5: Bridge leads to a brighter future for rail freight
The opening of one relatively small bridge-200 metres long, and constructed for $17 million-is a symbol of major AusLink investment to revitalise the railway freight network around Australia.
The new rail bridge, which spans the Murrumbidgee River at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, was opened in January 2007. It replaced a 125-year old bridge that was one of the last vestiges of the steam era on the mainline rail network. Whereas the old bridge creaked under the weight of one train operating at 20 kilometres per hour, the new concrete and steel structure will take 22 trains a day, travelling at 80 kilometres per hour, on a dual track.
The bridge is one of a series of track improvements, minor realignments, longer and more frequent passing loops, better signalling and more efficient communications that are being deployed to lift reliability and efficiency along the Melbourne to Sydney run. This revitalisation will reduce the freight train journey between Melbourne and Sydney by three hours, making it a 10 hour trip on a concrete sleeper track that will be easier and cheaper to maintain.
The Australian Government and the Australian Rail Track Corporation, a company owned by the Australian Government, are funding the investment. Other planned improvements include a dedicated freight line through Sydney's southern suburbs, where freight trains are banned during the day in preference to passenger rail service; and improved links to Port Botany. A rail upgrade to Melbourne's Dynon freight terminal is underway.
The Melbourne to Sydney run serves the largest general freight market in Australia, carrying around 11 million tonnes. When the refurbishment started, rail's share of the total freight task was less than a quarter. Rail's share is now growing, because it is now possible to schedule train times accurately and track freight through the supply chain.
The Melbourne to Sydney upgrade is demonstrating the effectiveness of strategic AusLink investments in improving Australia's land transport options. Plans to reduce rail travel times from Sydney to Brisbane by more than four hours are also underway.
The new rail bridge was constructed in prefabricated sections over a four-day period in January 2007 (Photo DOTARS)