Rail maintenance work done in time for grain harvest

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John Holland Rail has completed track upgrades to 15km of the Eastern Railway near Toodyay.
Camera IconJohn Holland Rail has completed track upgrades to 15km of the Eastern Railway near Toodyay. Credit: John Holland Rail

A 15km stretch of rail used to cart grain from the eastern Wheatbelt to Perth has had a $6 million upgrade just in time for harvest — with crews saving both a duckling and turtle in the process.

John Holland put the finishing touches on a nearly two-month upgrade to the Eastern Goldfields Railway at Toodyay late last month, replacing 15km of dual gauge rail.

The company was awarded the $6 million contract by Arc Infrastructure, which operates 5500km of rail between Geraldton and Esperance.

The Eastern Goldfields Railway was built in stages throughout the 1890s and serves as the main interstate line between WA and the Eastern States.

It is used to cart grain, freight and passenger services, including The Prospector passenger service between East Perth and Kalgoorlie.

John Holland Rail has completed track upgrades to 15km of the Eastern Railway near Toodyay.
Camera IconJohn Holland Rail has completed track upgrades to 15km of the Eastern Railway near Toodyay. Credit: John Holland Rail

The 15km track replacement project started in early August and finished late last month, with the teams changing more than 1000m of track each day.

John Holland project manager Darren Claridge said the project was completed on time and on budget, a difficult task because it was still being used.

“It’s quite a technically complex and aggressive project as we replace the line which continue to be used when we are not directly on it,” Mr Claridge said.

“Efficiency and safety are at the core of what we do.

“This line is a crucial link between East and West and if something critical happens, it all shuts down.”

The project involved a team of more than 60 people, including engineers, re-rail specialists, traffic management, signal technicians and safety specialists.

The crew have even played wildlife rescuers, saving a duckling which had become trapped on the tracks and later a long-neck turtle in a similar predicament.

“These works are completed annually to ensure the tracks are maintained to the standard required to safely support rail traffic through the Avon Valley, a critical part of Arc’s network,” he said.

“This section carries grain traffic, interstate freight and passenger services, and there were numerous trains running through daily while the upgrade works were undertaken.

“As the section between Cockburn South and Avon Yard is duplicated track, we were able to have bi-directional trains running on one track to ensure rail traffic could continue to travel through this part of the network.”

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