Bruce Thomas

Battle for Glenreagh Mountain Rail

TWENTY months after its trains were pulled off the rails, Glenreagh Mountain Railway is faced with a $1 million bill to get up and running as a tourist railway.

A hard hitting report to members from the board of the heritage steam train group shows GMR faces an uphill battle to return to the track.

John Holland Rail, which has donated its engineers and staff time to inspect and review the group's 2.8km of track at Glenreagh, has given an estimate of $973,658 to put the track back to a standard that would be acceptable to the regulator, the Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator.

This sum includes $271,536 for 4667 timber sleepers and $153,763 for 4500 tonnes of ballast.

GMR has not been able to run steam trains since its accreditation expired in January 31, 2008, and it seems the enthusiasm of the group to get in and get work done has been part of its undoing.

Earlier this year reports emerged that second-grade concrete sleepers used on the rebuilt section of the track were a looming problem.

The board is now facing this problem head-on.

“Much of the track problem can be attributed to consecutive GMR managements not having maintained a paper trail for materials used and not checking whether concrete sleepers were fit for use,” the report said.

“Rocla, the supplier, now says that the concrete sleepers are rejects and not fit for use in the track.

“The other issue is that GMR went beyond restoring the track, i.e. replacing one bad timber sleeper with a new one and undertook a complete reconstruction without any trained people or engineering documents.”

A total of 64 DA conditions of development consent applied by Clarence Valley Council, some of them costly, plus the need to gain accreditation for GMR's infrastructure as well as its operations means GMR, which is currently not legally allowed to work within the rail corridor or even on its own trains and trikes, has a huge task ahead.

Following the July board meeting GMR decided to first focus on the groundwork for an Infrastructure Manager Accreditation application for track machines and trikes to maintain its assets and to only assess the option of applying for Rail Operator Accreditation once the group's skill base improved.

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