Puffing Billy Rail Corridor Hazard Tree Management

Aja Arboriculture was approached by Puffing Billy in October 2013 to assist in the framing of a hazard tree management plan that aside from identifying and dealing with trees that could potentially impact and disrupt the safe use and enjoyment of the railway, would not detract from the natural beauty of one of Australia’s iconic tourist attractions and respect the needs and aspirations of the local community and associated stakeholders.

Based on accepted principles of reasonableness, duty of care, prevailing tree risk management practices, discussions with Puffing Billy’s administration and the Works and Way Department responsible for the maintenance of the line; a sample program was developed by Aja Arboriculture and an initial field study conducted between Selby and Menzies Creek. Following a review of the preliminary findings and further consultation, a robust framework of tree assessment, data capture, aggregation and dissemination was adopted for the entire 24 kilometres of the rail corridor.

Central to the overall study program was the collection of “need to know” information so that Works and Way could efficiently program and deliver works. Additionally, the data needed to provide a meaningful perspective that included how and why trees may fail. Assessment and data capture of the target assets was guided by a series of feature classes that included descriptive textural and geo-referenced location information that could be easily interrogated, interpreted and identified in the field. Furthermore, the data sets needed to be platform independent and presented in a manner that was accessible to all users regardless of technical proficiency. The hazard tree feature class not only informed the location, type and timeliness of required works but also characterised the faults identified to form the basis of a hazard tree profile for the railway.

Aja Arboriculture undertook the study over November and December 2013 that included the visual assessment of any tree that could impact the line or associated infrastructure within 50 metres either side of the track. The completed data sets and series of recommendations were submitted in late December 2013.

Building on the information captured in the field study and recommendations, the plan will evolve to include a risk management policy that specifies the programs goals and management strategies along with the implementation steps required that looks to the safety and longevity of Puffing Billy’s natural assets.