Jun 25, 2008

Nation’s Rail Network enters “Digital Age”

Nation’s Rail Network enters "Digital Age"


The Hon Anthony Albanese

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

June 25 2008

A significant bottleneck on the main Brisbane to Sydney rail line caused by long outdated technology has been fixed, while new figures confirm the east–west rail corridor is going from strength to strength.

As part of its investment in the north-south rail corridor (Melbourne to Sydney), the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has installed the latest digital signalling technology between Brisbane and Sydney. The last section – Casino in NSW to Brisbane’s Acacia Ridge – has now been completed.

Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the new digital signals, or Centralised Traffic Control (CTC) system, replaces the old Electric Train Staff (ETS) mechanism, technology first developed in 1890.

“The new digital signals will cut transit times between Sydney and Brisbane by 45 minutes,” said Mr Albanese.

“Under the old ETS, trains would have to stop approximately every 20km at a station to pass trains coming in the opposite direction and receive the ‘token’ for permission to travel along the track to the next station or crossing loop.”

By contrast, the new digital system signals are controlled remotely by the Network Controller in either Newcastle or Brisbane.

“Although the old staff and token system was top-of-the-line technology for the 1890s, more than a century later it has been responsible for significant delays on our rail network and will make an ideal museum piece,” said Mr Albanese.

ARTC CEO David Marchant said the new signalling system is just one part of a $2.1 billion modernisation of the north-south rail corridor – cutting transit times and increasing capacity.

“The CTC signal system will eliminate a longstanding infrastructure bottleneck from the network and help achieve our target of cutting transit times between Sydney and Brisbane from more than 19 hours to just 15 hours,” said Mr Marchant.

“This multi-billion dollar upgrade of the north-south rail corridor – which includes new digital signalling, the laying of concrete sleepers and construction of extra passing lanes – is perhaps the biggest rail project to be undertaken since the north-south track was originally laid.

“In addition, the ARTC is partnering with Telstra on a $74 million project that will see the 3G Network used to improve locomotive communication systems across all our rail corridors.

“For ARTC these projects mark rail’s resurgence as a realistic freight option.”


Nowhere has the resurgence in rail been more evident than along the east–west corridor between Melbourne and Perth; and between Sydney and Perth.

In May this year, 3.6 billion Gross Tonnes per Kilometre (GTK) were transported on the east–west corridor, breaking the previous record of 3.53 billion GTK reached in November 2007.

In addition, ARTC research shows the volume of goods transported on the east–west corridor in the first five months of 2008 was 3.5 per cent higher than the first five months of 2007.

Mr Albanese said this record breaking boost in freight volume was a clear indication that investment in rail infrastructure is paying off.

“These latest figures vindicate the Rudd Labor Government’s commitment of $1 billion to support the continued growth and modernisation of the nation’s rail network,” said Mr Albanese.

“In less than six months, we have made clear our determination to promote rail as a viable and essential transport option.

“With a growing demand for reliable freight transport and rising fuel prices impacting on the trucking industry, rail’s resurgence is good news for the Australian economy.”

Mr Marchant said the record amount of freight being moved on the east–west corridor marks rail as a realistic freight option; however there is more to be done.

“ARTC is continuing to drive rail forward by investing in projects to deliver an interstate rail network that meets the needs of the Australian market and has the capacity to meet future demand,” said Mr Marchant.

"As rail becomes more competitive we could also see fewer trucks on our roads as each 1,500 metre long train can replace 100 semi trailers.

“We’re quite proud of what has been achieved so far – there’s more to come.”

The ARTC is a wholly-owned Federal government corporation responsible for over 10,000kms of the rail network incorporating the interstate standard gauge from Queensland to Newcastle; Sydney to Melbourne; Melbourne to Kalgoorlie; and the Hunter valley coal network.