A RAILWAY upgrade to provide two new 7km passing loops on the Melbourne-to Sydney-line has begun at Yerong Creek and Uranquinty, but doubt remains about timing of the Wodonga rail bypass.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation is funding a $560 million upgrade to provide 17 new passing loops on the 472km south of Junee in 2007 and 2008.
Last year, the ARTC scheduled the $125 million Wodonga bypass to be finished in March, 2008, but its proposed starting time passed three months ago and there is still no firm date for it.
Passing loops will make it easier for rail operators to run 1.5km-long freight trains and eventually 1.8km-long trains.
Other 7km passing loops are planned at Henty-Culcairn and another at Gerogery-Table Top.
Others are planned at Albury-Wodonga, Chiltern, Glenrowan and Benalla, suggesting the rail corporation does not intend using the broad-gauge line if and when it is converted to standard gauge.
Each passing loop will take several months to build and the work includes signalling changes.
South Improvement Alliance, a consortium of the rail corporation, John Holland Rail and others is undertaking the work and a separate job to “re-sleeper” the line with concrete sleepers.
A $16 million bridge was installed over the Murrumbidgee this month, removing another impediment.
The intercity line is dual track north of Junee but single track to Albury.
Victoria plans to convert broad-gauge main lines to standard gauge but it still unclear if the North East route will get a dual standard-gauge track from Albury to Seymour from that move.
Transport Minister Peter Batchelor last year pledged the Wodonga bypass would be dual track, but again it is unclear if this will be standard and broad gauges, or a dual standard line.
The new passing loops mean providing double track sections of 7km lengths and will eliminate a restriction caused by irregularly-spaced crossing loops with their maximum lengths of 1.5km.