Freight wait for 400 trains

HALTED: The freight train fire near Cardiff that partially closed the Newcastle line on April 4. The lengthy delays, including an evacuated passenger train, reignited debate over a dedicated Hunter freight line. Photo: Marina NeilFREIGHT trains running between Newcastle and Sydney have delayed passenger trains 400 times since July last year, TrainLink NSW has revealed.
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The state rail authority, which handles the network south of Hamilton, revealed the figure after a fire in a goods train locomotive derailed commuter services between Hamilton and Fassifern in early April.

The figureequates to 1.6 delays each day over the 244 days between July 2015 andApril this year.

Those figures exclude services on the Hunter line, which links Newcastle and Maitland.

“Despite this NSW TrainLink has recorded 89.5 per cent punctuality on the Newcastle and Central Coast Line for both peak and off peak services,” a TrainLink spokesman said.

A further 159 services were delayed on the Hunter line during the same period.

A spokesman for the Australian Rail Track Corporation, who operate the mixed-use Hunter rail network, said weather, signal faults, trespass and crewing could cause delays.

“Passenger rail operations receive preferential, priority train paths on our network, and we work hard to ensure these services run to schedule, safely and reliably,” the spokesman said.

The April fire, which occurred nearCardiff station, is not part of the network the ARTC manages.

The spokesman said rail transport’s importance was paramount.

“Freight rail is a far more efficient mode of transport, critical to improving road safety, reducing traffic congestion, reducing supply chain costs and is a far more environmentally sustainable land transport alternative,” he said.

“It is important that as a community we encourage more freight onto rail to realise these benefits.”

A route for a dedicatedfreight-only corridor in the Hunter, which is also aimed atalleviatingtraffic pressure at Adamstown rail gates,is expected to be chosen in the next one to two years.

TrainLink NSW said rail workers were also required to regularly check the Newcastle line after any incident involving the infrastructure itself.

“NSW TrainLink has contingency plans in place across the network to avoid minimum disruption to our customers,” the spokesman said.

Contingency plans when the freight fire cut the Newcastle to Sydney rail link in April included buses replacing trains for roughly 10 hours as the damaged locomotive was moved to a rail siding.

Firefighters were called to the scene about 5.15am and normal service was reinstated about 3pm.More than 90 people were evacuated from the freight train and an oncoming passenger service.

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