New signal system for rail as freight task grows

By: Jason Whittaker

New digital signal technology introduced on the Brisbane to Sydney corridor will cut rail freight times by 45 minutes, according

New digital signal technology introduced on the Brisbane to Sydney corridor will cut rail freight times by 45 minutes, according to the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).

The government-owned corporation has replaced the outdated Electric Train Staff (ETS) mechanism, meaning trains will no longer be required to stop at regular intervals.

Under the former ETS system trains would stop about every 20km at a station to pass trains coming in the opposite direction. They would then receive a token for permission to travel along the next section of track to the next station or crossing loop.

The investment in the Brisbane to Sydney rail corridor is part of an installation of the Centralised Traffic Control (CTC) system between Casino NSW and Acacia Ridge QLD.

The new CTC system will put in place a signal system controlled remotely by a network controller in Newcastle and Brisbane.

"The CTC between Casino and Acacia Ridge will save 45 minutes on the Sydney-Brisbane rail corridor," ARTC Chief Executive David Marchant says.

Marchant says rail capacity will increase as a result of the new technology by allowing for faster cycle times for trains and enable more goods to be carried.

"Rail will be more than competitive again and, as each 1500 metre long train can replace 100 semi trailers, we could see less trucks on our major roads," he says.

His comments come as figures show strong growth in the amount of freight carried on rail on the east-west corridor from Melbourne to Perth and Sydney to Perth.

According to the figures for May 2008, 3.6 billion gross tonnes were transported on the east–west corridor breaking the previous record of 3.53 billion reached in November 2007.

ARTC research also shows the volume of goods transported on the east–west corridor in the first five months of the 2008 calendar year were 3.5 percent higher than the first five months of 2007.

This, Marchant says, is an indication that investment in rail infrastructure is paying off.

"For ARTC 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," he says.

"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."

One project includes a $74-million partnership with Telstra to use its 3G technology to upgrade locomotive communication systems across rail corridors.

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