Train Travel between Australia’s biggest cities is getting slower: Days of steam return for train passengers

Slow track: Speed restrictions mean train travel between major Australian cities is getting slower.

WHILE the rest of the world is building high-speed rail, train travel between Australia’s biggest cities is getting slower.

The timetable for train services between Melbourne and Sydney has recently been padded out by up to 85 minutes because operator CountryLink cannot keep to its published schedule. Little more than 10 of its twice-daily services to Sydney have arrived on time this year, although its Melbourne-bound services fared better.

Victorian operator V/Line will also rewrite its timetable in coming weeks to reflect its inability to keep time on the Albury line. Last month, just 2.8 per cent of V/Line trains between Melbourne and Albury ran on time.

More than $600 million was spent in 2009-10 on standardising the 960-kilometre railway line. Since then the track’s condition has deteriorated so badly that trains are being damaged and passengers severely delayed…

V/Line spokeswoman Clare Steele said the track’s poor condition was causing wear and tear on its locomotives. It has replaced 16 springs on trains that run on the Albury line this year. Normally, it replaces about two springs a year in total…

The Australian Rail Track Corporation is fixing the mudholes by replacing muddied track ballast, at a cost of $134 million. The rehabilitation work is expected to be done by mid-next year.  But sources that have worked on the line’s rehabilitation told The Saturday Age under the condition of anonymity that replacing the ballast was a short-term solution. The problem could only be permanently fixed by replacing the track’s foundation. If not, water would one day seep up through the ground again.

”What’s being done is very much a Band-Aid,” one source said. ”They’re spending a lot of money and they’re doing it in a way that is seeking to address the short-term problem of having to impose severe speed restrictions, but it’s not really addressing the fundamental problem.”

Adam Carey, The Age, September 15, 2012

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