A switch will be flicked at 11.59pm in Orange this Saturday on a major transition for the Country Rail Network.
After winning a $1.5 billion contract with Transport NSW early last year, UGL Regional Linx will begin its ten-year tenure as the custodians of around 5500 kilometres of railway infrastructure, 2400km of which is operational.
The firm, a branch of asset management company UGL which is owned by international firm Cimic Group, takes over from John Holland, which held to the rail maintenance contract for the previous 10 years.
The CRN covers 27,000 hectares of land and infrastructure including 1200 property assets and almost 1000 bridges.
UGL Regional Linx infrastructure and maintenance manager Mitch Scealy said the company is ready to get to work.
"We're ready, I've been ready for two years," he said.
"It will be an exciting weekend."
Since announcing it was taking over the CRN maintenance in February 2021, UGLRL has set up its headquarters in Orange at the former Department of Primary Industries building Kite Street where around 100 staff will be employed.
That building will also house the network control centre, which will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week from a purpose-built installation.
The company will have depots in Bathurst, Dubbo and West Wyalong while to help cover an area which includes Lithgow in the east, Cobar in the west, Werris Creek in the north and Griffith in the south, it will run satelite depots from Queanbeyan, Tamworth, Orange and Narrabri,
"That's just to reduce the response time." Mr Scealy said.
"For example out at Walgett, if a level crossing was to activate in the middle of the night we've got teams that could rapidly respond to fixing that rather than mobilise all the way from Dubbo.
"That's the advantage of small satellite teams and having them operate from railway compounds that have been there for 60 years."
Mr Scealy said the country rail network was regularly used by about 30 trains daily.
"All the XPT passenger trains, the Indian Pacific, the steel trains, the Cadia gold train out of Orange, Fletcher's meat train out of Dubbo. They are significant services," he said.
Added to the workload were seasonal harvest trains like grain trains which travelled on the network from September into the new year.
Part of UGLRL's tender for the contract was a commitment to base its operations in Orange while Mr Scealy said spending regionally when possible was also part of its policy.
"We've got to put sleepers in, change rails over, put ballast material into the tracks, we'll spend about $60 million a year [on materials] for doing that.
"For example you build a track asset, it might last 100 years, the CRN's been around for nearly 100 years now so things are starting to degrade so we've got to renew them and keep them going to keep the trains going."
While the operational tracks are the focus, the maintenance of around 3200 kilometres of decommissioned rail corridors are also part of the UGLRL package.
That also includes 100s of heritage buildings like railway stations and installations like Orange's East Fork, a large part of which will be managed by UGLRL sister company Ventia.
"The stuff that's in use is our priority," Mr Scealy said.
"We've got XPTs that are travelling at over 100km/h out near Wellington, freight trains, grain trains on branch lines that are 100 years old so that's our focus.
"But obviously the non-operation lines are things we still have to look after.
"Controlling things like weed vegetation is a big thing in non-operational lines, especially for things like bushfire control."
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