Train delay grinds on

THE return of trains on the Gippsland line east of Traralgon has again been delayed, by an inability to promptly source rail grinding machinery.

V/Line now hopes to obtain a rail grinder from Europe.

It had forecast a return of rail services east of Traralgon in September, but with the rail grinding machine not expected to arrive until mid-September, late-October has been set as the new target date.

V/Line had earlier made efforts to source a grinder from interstate, first Western Australia then New South Wales.

The grinder will re-profile about 60 kilometres of rail, with works taking place in shifts of 10 hours per day, mainly at night.

By mid-October, all going well with the rail grinding, V/Line plans to run test trains to determine that the level crossing safety equipment is activating.

Provided the safe operation of the 32 level crossings is confirmed, V/Line will reintroduce the full train timetable between Traralgon and Bairnsdale.

V/Line chief executive Theo Taifalos said the promise to bring trains back to Bairnsdale was a commitment that remained firm.

“However, we will not compromise on safety and we must ensure that the level crossings are operating correctly before the trains return to service,” he said.

“V/Line will be further stepping up the maintenance and track upgrade program on the line between Traralgon and Bairnsdale in coming weeks.”

“Extensive work to upgrade bridges, replace sleepers and renew gravel level crossings have already been completed.”

In major works starting next month, V/Line crews will install some 20,000 concrete sleepers to replace wooden sleepers to further improve the quality of the line.

The sleeper renewal program will focus on areas close the 32 level crossings.

“V/Line plans to complete the sleeper installation works between Traralgon and Sale before the grinding machine starts re-profiling the rail surface,” Mr Taifalos said.

“Sleeper replacement will then continue between Sale and Bairnsdale before the rail grinding process in that section.”

Trains were suspended in March because of level crossing safety concerns, and coach services continue to operate east of Traralgon.

V/Line has announced plans to install axle counter technology at the 32 level crossings in a move to permanently fix the level crossing safety issue on the line.

The tender process closes July 19 and the contract is expected to be awarded in August. The installation of the system will take about 12 months.