A Significant amount of repairs to the Rattler's track and structures is needed to get the heritage train running again.
A Significant amount of repairs to the Rattler's track and structures is needed to get the heritage train running again.

Sinkholes, corrosion: report reveals extent of Rattler work

SINKHOLES, steel corrosion and condemned sleepers are some of the issues which will need to be addressed as work on the Rattler rail line begins.

A track and structures inspection report prepared for the Gympie Regional Council in May highlights a number of concerns which must be corrected to get the Rattler running.

It also suggests the shortened time frame to conduct the work could wind up costing the council more.

The condition of two rail overbridges, across John St and Crescent Rd, were of concern.

According to the report, the John St bridge may need to be totally replaced due to the "extent of timber bridge components that are condemned and require replacement".


REPAIRS: John St Railway overpass.
REPAIRS: John St Railway overpass. Renee Albrecht

Replacement of the Crescent Rd bridge was also suggested as "best value" for the long term, with "significant corrosion" on girders at each end of the bridge.

A geotechnical review of the land around the Deep Creek bridge has been suggested because "a number of sink holes were discovered at the southern bank end and north of the steel bridge spans". All up, the report found more than 50 major timber components of the bridge needed replacement before any operations could commence.

RELATED: Rattler rush could be making things worse

Items identified as condemned in the report were those which were "at risk of high rate of failure" at the start of operations, or would need replacement "within an estimated five year period".


The bridge across Crescent Rd.
The bridge across Crescent Rd. Renee Albrecht

Overall, the report found the "structural integrity of the track and structures infrastructure has deteriorated significantly since previous examinations".

"Many minor components will require attention when exposed as part of the major works," the report said.

Also noted in the report were issues related to the short time to get the Rattler running again.

"The inspections of track and structures was not a detailed inspection due to limited time frames and, in some cases, blocked access or dense vegetation overgrowth," the report said. It also reports that the time constraints could raise the price of the project.

"There is a high risk of limited availability of suitably qualified and experienced contractors to remediate the structures in the time frame", it said, "with associated high costs".


Need for new railway sleepers.
Need for new railway sleepers. Renee Albrecht

More than 70% of the approximately 30,000 sleepers between Gympie and Amamoor were unable to be inspected.

Of those that were, slightly more than half were condemned.

Amamoor run 'unlikely' a long-term solution

RUNNING the Mary Valley Rattler only to Amamoor is "unlikely" to be a sustainable long-term solution, according to a 2013 report on strategies to recommission the heritage icon.

While the shortened trip would reduce track maintenance costs, the report from the Department of State Development and Planning said a "significant change" was needed in the business model and commercial focus of the Rattler to make it sustainable in the long-term.

Ultimately, running the Rattler to Imbil was advised as the "ultimate goal" of the revitalisation effort, with the short route serving as a "useful transition plan".

The report also suggests the high maintenance costs the Rattler would be running under.

According to the report, if the entire trip to Imbil were to be reinstated, the annual cost of sleeper maintenance was estimated in 2013 at $800,000 per year.

The state of the Mary Valley Rattler's financial stability also suggests the new business model must be radically different.

In the 2011-12 financial year, the Rattler made a small net profit of $21,515, with a total income of $993,956.

The major cost in the 2011-12 financial year was employment expenses ($444,288, or 46% of total expenses).

The two largest sources of income were ticket sales at 63%, and grants at 10%, although almost 6% also came from wagon storage on behalf of then QR National.

The future of the Rattler would be up in the air if the Deep Creek Bridge ever needed replacing, however, with a TOD Consulting engineering report from February this year estimating it would cost $9.98 million.

Gympie Times

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