A NEW milestone in the progress of the Wodonga rail bypass was marked yesterday with the first train travelling the $181 million project’s freshly-laid tracks.
A freight train carrying about 3000 concrete sleepers for the new railway used the first section of the bypass, which had been laid on the weekend.
The occasion was not without a minor hiccup — the train ran late.
It had been due to arrive from Wagga between 6.30am and 7am.
But the rail workers and media representatives gathered on what will become the platform of the new railway station in West Wodonga waited until just after 7.20am to see the Pacific National train round the bend south of the Melrose Drive freeway overpass.
That small delay aside, Australian Rail Track Corporation spokesman Brian Dale said the 5?km bypass remained on track to be finished in the second half of this year.
Yesterday’s train was the first of four to be used to deliver bypass sleepers.
It backed along the track, wagons first, with a railway worker walking ahead of the train to guide it in the absence of signals.
Specialist machinery lifted the sleepers six at a time from the wagons to be installed on the track.
Fifteen thousand sleepers will be laid along the length of the bypass in total; the remaining freight trains will arrive from Wagga tomorrow, Friday and Sunday.
Mr Dale said the milestone made it a “beautiful morning”.
“The track was laid over the weekend to the first waterway bridge and ... this morning we’re bringing in the sleepers,” he said.
“They’ll come in on the old main line then go down and turn around and come up the bypass track.”
Mr Dale said laying the remainder of the northbound and southbound tracks’ sleepers would take between four and six weeks.
Once that was complete, the next major task would be installing the signalling system and having the track accredited for safety.
Mr Dale said work on the new station was also progressing well.
“The steel structure for the walls and the roof has gone up — it’s no longer just a pad of dirt,” he said.
“That’ll then be fitted out over the next couple of months.”