The Morwell wetlands have once again become a curse for Gippsland V/Line commuters, with corrosion of track infrastructure forcing the line’s closure this afternoon.
Train services between Traralgon and Moe will be replaced by road coaches for the coming three weeks, as a team of engineers moves to replace a section of track with a bridge over the Morwell River as part of a $4 million upgrade.
Initially scheduled for December, the upgrade was brought forward this week after a routine engineering inspection on Tuesday found concerning levels of corrosion in four large culverts, which feed the Morwell River under the track west of Morwell.
Long term speed restrictions on the track, in place since similar culvert repairs were made nearby in 2012, were subsequently tightened, before the decision was made to bring forward the repairs.
City-bound replacement coaches will depart Traralgon and Morwell 15 minutes before normal train times to connect with trains at Moe.
However Bairnsdale travellers, who will commute via train to Traralgon before transferring to road coach, have been asked to allow an extra 45 minutes travel time.
All V/Line commuters travelling on the Gippsland line will receive free travel during the repair period.
“Work crews will be on site from this weekend to prepare the site for construction, including making space for a 600 tonne mobile crane to lift 23 metre bridge spans into place,” V/Line chief executive Theo Taifalos said.
The new section will be supported by 32-metre concrete piles on either side of the culverts, with reinforced abutments and spans to ensure a sturdy independent structure.
The repair comes two years after the same stretch of line was closed for six weeks, after heavy rains caused track subsidence in a nearby stretch of floodplain.
Plagued by inclement weather, the 2012 repair project experienced numerous delays, as engineers worked in boggy conditions to reinforce floodplain culverts with concrete.
However V/Line Gippsland regional manager Tim Pianta said he was confident the bridge replacement project would stick to schedule to the project’s relative simplicity.
Mr Taifalos said engineers would be working 24/7 throughout the project to ensure services were returned as soon as possible.
He apologised for the inconvenience and short notice to customers.
“We will do everything possible to minimise inconvenience to our customers, including placing extra customer service staff at stations to assist those customers who need it,” Mr Taifalos said.
For travel updates or more information phone 1800 800 007 (6am-midnight), visit vline.com.au/gippslandline or follow Twitter account @vline_gippsland
The first service from Melbourne to terminate at Moe will be the 15:19 train from Southern Cross Station.
The 17:15 service from Traralgon will be the first service to operate as a coach to Moe.