Rail workers put out grass fires caused by rail grinding work near the Grafton Bridge.
Rail workers put out grass fires caused by rail grinding work near the Grafton Bridge.

Sparks fly over rail grinding fire

A FIRE started by rail grinding in February this year wiped out 200m of Iven Heldt's galvanised fencing on his Braunstone beef farm.

Though Mr Heldt was compensated for his loss, he believes the Australian Rail Track Corporation's "complete disregard" for its neighbours was a disaster waiting to happen.

He said he was notified for the first time that grinding would occur "in a fortnight" about six weeks ago and he slashed a fire break in response.

"They (the ARTC) still haven't been," he said.

"They consider themselves above the Bushfire Act," he said.

"If I'm going to do any burning I have to give my neighbours' 24-hours notice by law.

"My family has had 3km of rail frontage since the '60s and they are the worst neighbours you could have.

"They shouldn't be letting these fires go but they do ... they need better training."

Mr Heldt called for the ARTC to contact neighbouring landholders via text message or email when grinding was planned.

An ARTC spokesman said the corporation attempted to contact landowners to inform them of rail grinding.

"Rail grinding is an essential part of the strategy to maintain the reliability of the North Coast rail line," he said.

"It involves grinding the face of the rail to ensure that there is a good meeting of the rail and train wheel. It reduces wear on the line and allows for a smooth ride of the rolling stock.

"ARTC takes vegetation control and the issue of fire safety very seriously. We conduct vegetation control on our 10,000km network at scheduled intervals.

"We attempt to keep landowners informed of rail grinding operations as much as practicably possible."

Grafton Fire Brigade attended the grass fire on the rail corridor in Grafton near Clarence and Pound Sts and hosed some smouldering grass.



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