PANDEMIC restrictions will give workers a chance to carry out a major maintenance shutdown of the Hunter's rail network later this month.
Australian Rail Track Corporation crews will work under rigorous controls from May 19 as part of a three-day blitz spanning from Kooragang Island to Narrabri and Ulan.
Roughly 1000 workers will tackle more than 120 separate maintenance jobs. They include removing and replaced almost 19 kilometres of track, cleaning a further four kilometres and reconditioning another two.
A new Loram grinder will be used as part of the shutdown after it was acquired in February to help improve rail performance.
Group executive Hunter Valley Wayne Johnson said the equipment was impressive.
"It is an amazing piece of machinery, one of the largest and most efficient in the world in fact, certainly the largest rail grinder in the Southern Hemisphere," Mr Johnson said.
"On a heavy haul network such as the Hunter Valley, over time the top of the rail wears down over time due to the forces of the trains.
"The grinder keeps the rail infrastructure in the best shape possible, removing the fatigued metal layer, extending the life of the rail and the train wheels whilst reducing noise for our nearby neighbours and saving fuel in the train running".
The shutdown follows a smaller one in April.
"The shutdown in April saw a reduction in the scope of work of the maintenance program due to the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak and with the practices controls we're back to running at our usual capacity," Mr Johnson said.
Work is due for completion on the morning of Friday, May 22.
Alternative bus services will be provided for passenger services during the closure. The next maintenance closure is slated to begin on August 4.