Narrabri to North Star Phase 1 is now fully operational

Delivering improvements that benefit farmers, operators and local communities

The Narrabri to North Star Phase 1 section was completed on 27 October 2023. It is the second of 12 Inland Rail sections to be fully operational.

Kicking off in April 2021, construction involved installing 176km of new track within an existing rail corridor, replacing bridges and culverts, upgrading level crossings, and installing new crossing loops.

Our principal contractor Trans4m Rail completed major construction on 27 October 2023, just in time for harvest. Grain trains can service handling facilities all the way to North Star.

The region got a major boost, with 678 local people employed during construction, and local tradies and small businesses contributing to the project.

Take a tour of the rail corridor below and learn about all the upgrades and improvements delivered by Inland Rail.

Map showing the Inland Rail route from Melbourne to Brisbane
Libby Carter, Commercial Lead, Inland Rail
Libby Carter, Commercial Lead, Inland Rail

Transforming people

The 1,600km Inland Rail Program will change how goods are moved across Australia. But, as each section of Inland Rail is delivered, it’s improving the lives of the people who build it and benefitting their communities now and into the future.

“I have realised how transformative big infrastructure projects can be. I have grown immensely and am on a different career path. I never thought I’d end up working in construction. Now I want to stay.”
Libby Carter, Commercial Lead, Inland Rail

Thank you to our suppliers, contractors, agency partners and the 2,153 individuals whose hard work, resilience and commitment helped to deliver the Narrabri to North Star Phase 1 section.

We could not have done it without you.

Improving the hardware

To deliver the 176km rail line, we used an impressive 352,131 lineal metres or 21,128 tonnes of steel, supplied by Whyalla Steelworks in South Australia.

This rail line is supported by nearly 291,000 sleepers and fastened by more than 1.1 million rail clips from Rocla and Austrak in Queensland, which all sit on 970,000 tonnes of quarry material (used for ballast and capping) sourced from regional quarries.

Boosting flood resilience

A key upgrade for the project involved replacing all of the old drainage structures. A total of 4,776 precast concrete culvert units supplied by Humes in Tamworth were installed below the rail line. The new, mostly larger structures are safely letting large volumes of water flow under the track and protecting it from flooding.

Rebuilding track embankments

To enable double-stacked trains to travel safely at speeds up to 115km per hour, we had to build from the bottom up.

We removed and recycled old rail and sleepers and completed thousands of cubic metres of earthworks to reconstruct the track foundation.

Improving level crossing safety

We upgraded 57 level crossings to make them safer. Most importantly for local communities, 10 public level crossings were upgraded from passive (controlled by stop or give way signs) to active, meaning they now have flashing lights, bells and boom barriers.

With more larger trucks using the road network, our level crossing modelling:

  • used year 2040 road and rail traffic volumes to determine level crossing treatments
  • ensured there was sufficient space between the level crossing and a neighbouring intersection - this is especially visible along the Newell Highway, where the rail line runs parallel to the highway
  • provided sufficient stacking distance for 36.5m road trains
    (b-triples). In some cases, this involved shifting the rail line further away from the Newell Highway.

Withstanding the 2022 floods

In October 2022, following record rainfalls, a huge wave of water descended on the region, flooding Narrabri, Moree and surrounding river systems.

Locally based project crews shored up offices, moved equipment to higher ground and helped their teammates and neighbours prepare to navigate the unknown. The flood peaked at 10.5m on 22 October 2022, the highest level in 10 years.

As the waters subsided and everyone was accounted for and safe, the nail-biting task of site inspections began. Would the new infrastructure perform as designed and stand up to the ferocious test of nature?

In early November, the team breathed a sigh of relief. Upgraded sections of track were well above the highest water levels and no major damage was sustained to areas still under construction. The line between Narrabri and Moree re-opened on 25 November 2022.

Improving operational capacity

Five new crossing loops were installed along the Phase 1 section. Crossing loops are like overtaking lanes for trains, allowing one train to move off the main track so another can pass by safely without slowing or stopping. This means more services can run on the track now and into the future to support Australia’s increasing freight demand.

Robots helped install the final sections of the Tycannah crossing loop in April 2022.

What about Narrabri to North Star Phase 2?

Between Alice Street in Moree and Camurra sits the 16km Narrabri to North Star Phase 2 section.

Why is there a Phase 2? This section includes about 1.6km of new rail corridor that will replace the existing tight curved corridor known as the Camurra bend.

Because Phase 2 involves complex engineering and is still progressing through environmental approvals, we decided to separate it from Phase 1. This means we could build the Phase 1 section sooner and enable community and business benefits to flow faster.

Map showing the Narrabri to North Star Phase 2 section

Delivering sustainable infrastructure

During 2022, our signalling team trialled an innovative solar powered signalling hut that will one day control the Coolleearllee crossing loop. This trial was so successful it has now been adopted at 82 signalling sites along the Inland Rail alignment between Albury in New South Wales and Gowrie in Queensland.

Solar power is more environmentally friendly and sustainable than mains electricity. It reliably powers the signalling system reducing local community and environment impacts associated with maintenance. It also makes it cheaper to operate Inland Rail.

Unlocking service benefits

Upgrading the old 80km section of track north of Moree has unlocked plenty of benefits for grain growers and industry.

This section is now much safer and freight trains can run faster after servicing the silos at Milguy, Croppa Creek and North Star.

Rebuilding bridges

Seven new bridges now stand at:

  1. Ten Mile Creek
  2. Bobbiwaa Creek
  3. Gurley Creek
  4. Gil Gil Creek
  5. Croppa Creek Tributary
  6. Croppa Creek and
  7. Yallaroi Creek.

Ranging in length from 35.5m at Gil Gil Creek to 116.5m over Gurley Creek, the bridges were constructed with precast concrete sections supplied by Humes in Tamworth.

For the first time, the bridges can accommodate double-stacked, 1,800m-long trains with a 21-tonne axle load.

To make way for these new structures, we dismantled the old bridges into individual components so they could be recycled.

That’s right, 100% of the old bridge components have been re-purposed which means nothing ended up in landfill.

Here are some examples of where old materials ended up:

  • a 2.6 tonne concrete slab from the Croppa Creek bridge was donated to the local community to allow them to mount stationary engines for display
  • timber sleepers and transoms were sent to another contractor to remake as floorboards
  • five spans of the Croppa Creek tributary bridge are being re-purposed by ARTC for other bridge projects in Newcastle
  • old steel is being recycled or used as access platforms for bridge construction projects on the Nerang River, Gold Coast and other projects in Brisbane
  • concrete peers were crushed on site and re-used as part of new bridge structures.

Enhancing telecommunications

Locals in North Star are getting improved and more reliable mobile phone coverage thanks to a new 50m reception tower that was activated in mid-2022.

The infrastructure is needed to facilitate train system connectivity once the full Inland Rail program is operational, but it’s already delivering improved local mobile reception.

Telecommunications enhancements were also rolled out in Croppa Creek, Milguy and Gurley.

Major construction completed 27 October 2023