Barring railway noise in challenging conditions

by FM Media
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How CSR met a demanding brief to cut noise from the Southern Sydney Freight Rail Line (SSFL) – Sefton Park Junction to Macarthur – while considering aesthetics and working around train timetables.


The construction of the Southern Sydney Freight Rail Line was part of a major program of works to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of rail freight services along the vital North-South Rail Corridor. The project provided a third track dedicated to freight transportation between Macarthur and Sefton Park Junction.

The objective was to provide a bi-directional, non-electrified third track dedicated to freight movement for 36km in order to allow passenger and freight services to operate independently. Prior to the completion of this project, freight trains shared rail lines with South-Western Sydney’s metropolitan passenger trains and were not permitted to run during morning and afternoon peak periods.


There was 30,000 sq m of Hebel SoundBarrier, in a horizontal panel formation, specified for this project for three important reasons – its ease and speed of construction, its ability to reduce acoustic transmission and its ability to incorporate the routed icons, patterns and aesthetics specified by the urban design brief.


The SSFL has improved freight rail services by removing the current peak hour curfew and allowed more freight trains to operate between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. However, the new track is located in densely populated residential areas in South Western Sydney, so it was important to reduce the acoustic and visual impact on local residents, in addition to meeting construction challenges and deadlines.

Acoustic requirements – The project called for good acoustic insulation in order to lessen the impact of freight movement on local residents. Made from aerated autoclaved concrete, the barriers provided acoustic performance levels which were rated over and above the requirements for this project.

Aesthetics – After extensive consultation with local councils, schools and businesses, community liaison groups, indigenous and multicultural associations and residents living adjacent to the new track, the walls were manufactured with unique routed patterns that expressed local themes, important cultural emblems such as native flora and a local government logo. This provided a visually pleasing and attractive feature wall in addition to a highly functional noise barrier.

Ease of construction – Restricted access to the line meant fast setup and installation using small, agile equipment was critical. The solid but light weight aerated concrete panels were installed by smaller construction teams without the need for heavy equipment.

Speed of construction – Hebel SoundBarriers met the short lead times the project demanded. Localised crews were readily trained to handle and quickly install the panels, enabling multiple zones to be constructed in a tight work schedule.

Minimal ongoing maintenance – High-performance Dulux coatings were specified to achieve a quality, long-lasting colour fastness with minimal maintenance.


In this project, track access was limited and scheduled around commuter train timetables. Work often took place outside normal working hours to avoid disruptions to the passenger train network. Achieving construction deadlines was critical, not only to ensure work crew safety, but also to minimise the impact on commuters and the local community.

The use of Hebel SoundBarriers allowed the contractors to meet the tight installation schedule, despite line access restrictions and the challenging site. Hebel also met key requirements for high level acoustic insulation and attractive aesthetics. Due to its ability to provide customised factory-routed patterns, a variety of designs such as gum nuts, wheels and cogs, ribbons and logos were easily incorporated in multiple locations.

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