Australian Safety Standards to be Relaxed for Trains Too Wide to Fit Tunnels

The new intercity trains, which are being built in South Korea, will be about 3.1 meters across, making them too wide to travel on the Blue Mountains Line to Katoomba and Lithgow without a rail line upgrade.

Australian transport officials want to relax safety standards for the minimum distance allowed between trains and rail tunnel walls in order to accommodate the width of new intercity trains being built for New South Wales transport, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The new intercity trains, which are being built in South Korea, will be about 3.1 meters across, making them too wide to travel on the Blue Mountains Line to Katoomba and Lithgow without a rail line upgrade. Currently, eight of 10 tunnels between Newnes Junction and Zig Zag station in the Blue Mountains will need to be upgraded so these new trains can pass through them side by side.

Transport for NSW's preferred option is to scrape at the tunnel walls to widen them and to alter the minimum clearance standard so that the new intercity trains can run on both lines and pass each other through the tunnels. The current standards allow a minimum distance of 200 millimeters between the outline of a train in motion and tunnel walls.

There is no confirmed new minimum distance yet, but according to Transport for NSW, "new draft standard to ensure the safe operation of trains is being finalized and reviewed by the train designer and the Assets Standard Authority."

Most of the work on these tunnels will happen during scheduled track possession periods over two years, but some will require shutdowns of up to 15 days at a time. During these periods, trains will not run and passengers will be ferried via replacement buses.

If approved, construction is expected to begin late this year and take about two years.

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