Brittany Coles

Opal ticketing tech network hits 30 million journeys

Millions of commuters have been using contactless payments when taking trains, trams, buses, and ferries across the Opal network.

Acting Minister for Transport and Roads Paul Toole said a major milestone had been reached with more than 30 million journeys taken using debit or credit cards, or linked devices, since the first trial on the Manly Ferry in 2017.

1.5 million journeys are paid without an Opal card on average in a week.

“Rolling out contactless payments is an Australian-first innovation and is one of the biggest advancements in ticketing technology in generations,” Toole said.

Toole said the NSW Government is providing more innovative payment options for those using the Opal network as people continue to move away from cash, and, more recently, cards.

He said while new payment options were growing in popularity among commuters, there was still demand for pre-loaded Opal cards.

“It’s easier than ever to pay for public transport and through our innovative payment platforms we’re aiming to create more digital products including the digital Opal card which we plan to roll out in a trial phase in 2020,” Toole said.

“This follows the activation of contactless payments on all public transport modes on the Opal network, and introducing the same fare and travel benefits of an Adult Opal card last year. Transport for NSW continues to offer Opal cards.”

Australind railcar design and action plan revealed

Designs for new Western Australian made Australind railcar have been revealed.

WA Premier Mark McGowan and Transport Minister Rita Saffioti visited Bunbury Station on Thursday to unveil the designs of the brand new $54 million Australind railcar sets, which will be built by Alstom.

The two new Australind trains are apart of the McGowan Government’s $1.25 billion railcar program.

The state government also announced an Australind Action Plan, promising to deliver additional public transport for South-West commuters ahead of completion of new railcars.

The existing Australind train was originally planned to have an operational life of up to 30 years, however factors such as corrosion that built up over time has been a leading cause of cancelled services.

The McGowan Government in a statement said while extensive maintenance has been undertaken to keep the rolling stock operating, “ageing and obsolescence resulting from this neglect has led to a number of delays and cancelled services”.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said, “as we transition from the old Australind to the new Australind railcars, we are committed to ensuring that the current train continues to provide a reliable service”.

“We have also introduced a raft of measures to provide more certainty for passengers as we await the delivery of the new train.”

As part of this, the McGowan Government is introducing a trial non-stop road coach service departing from Bunbury Station at 6am every weekday and returning to Bunbury in the evening, enabling passengers who need to commute the opportunity to travel on a fast-tracked, non-stop luxury road coach service.

The road coach will drop passengers at Mandurah Station, where they can continue their journey free of charge on the metropolitan rail system by presenting their Transwa ticket.

The McGowan Government has also introduced a credit program for Australind rail passengers so if their train journey is delayed by more than an hour due to maintenance issues or failure of rolling stock, they will be given a credit to take their next journey free of charge.

The new Australind trains will be a three-car set, and will have a modernised interior, with USB connection points, Wi-Fi, an improved kiosk, upright storage for 16 bicycles, and three toilets.

The railcar sets, being built by Western Australian workers in Bellevue, are expected to be delivered in 2022-23.

QLD Government still deciding on next route for Gold Coast Light Rail

The Queensland Government has confirmed the Department of Transport and Main Roads have not decided on a route for Stage 3B of the Gold Coast light rail that could potentially pass through Palm Beach.

The QLD Government’s current focus is Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A project which is listed as a priority project on the National Infrastructure Priority List.

A spokesperson from QLD Government ministerial office said the Gold Coast City Council are currently undertaking community consultation relating to the next stage of light rail that could potentially pass through Palm Beach to Coolangatta airport, known as Stage 3B of the project.

Land resumptions are currently not occurring in the proposed locations the spokesperson said.

“Some residents in Palm Beach believe a future decision to build light rail through their community would give council the impetus to support high rise buildings, like further north on the Gold Coast, however this decision won’t be made for some time,” he said.

“The next stage is to announce the construction contract in the first half of 2020 and start work at some stage this year.”

GoldlinQ, who currently operates the light rail, have started conducting the expressions of interest process and an industry briefing in December.

GoldlinQ Chairman John Witheriff said the competitive tender process for design and construction would start with interest being sought from leading national and international companies.

“A shortlist of selected contractors will be determined early this year with a detailed tender process to follow, allowing a construction partner to be appointed and major works to start in the second half of 2020,” Witheriff said.

$709 million in funding was locked in by the federal government in late November last year.

This follows the Morrison Government’s increased investment by $157 million, and the state government’s $351 million and council’s $92 million spend on the project.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the additional commitment brought the federal contribution to the project to $269 million.

Stage 3A will extend light rail 6.7 kilometres south from Broadbeach South to Burleigh Heads, with eight new light rail stops.

The Gold Coast City Council stated in a preliminary business case report that Stage 3A will bring $1.2 billion economic benefits to the region.

Mayor of the City of Gold Coast Tom Tate said he looked forward to Stage 3A now progressing toward construction – supporting approximately 760 jobs during construction.

“We hope to get shovels in the ground in the near future on this crucial project for residents and visitors to the Gold Coast alike, with construction likely to take about two years to complete once underway in 2020,” Tate said.

The Australian Government partnered with the Queensland Government and the City of Gold Coast to jointly fund and deliver Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the Gold Coast Light Rail project.

Construction of Stage 3A is likely to run until 2023.

The entire transport sector is undergoing a technology revolution: GS1 senior manager

The Australasian railway industry continues to undergo significant change and businesses are being encouraged to maximise the opportunities from new and emerging technologies. The industry is preparing changes to digitalise management of rail assets, efficiency around the network and moving customers and freight in cities that are becoming more congested.

In 2018, Smart Rail Route Map was introduced as an industry driven initiative by the Australasian Railway Association to promote standardisation, integration and harmonisation over the next 30 years. During a panel discussion at AusRail last year, Professor Douglas Creighton from Deakin’s Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation said there has been tremendous feedback since the release of the final version.

“This is the bridge between vision and action and it’s time to connect the dots,” Creighton said.

Bonnie Ryan, senior manager of freight, logistics and industrial sectors at GS1 Australia, in the AusRail panel discussion, spoke about the industry having a drive to digitalise.

“The entire transport sector is undergoing a technology revolution,” she said. “GS1 Australia works with over 20 sectors, and they’re all at various stages of the shift to digitalisation.” She stresses the importance on the first step which is to “digitise data”.

Ryan adds not all data is equal, people can be sceptical about where it comes from and if it’s accurate so the only way to trust data is to have good governance and framework so that you can measure data quality. Ryan expresses the crucial role that the accuracy/validity of the data plays in the process of driving technology innovation.

“In the GS1 world we talk about data that is generated from the source, so if you’re providing traceability data, for example, it must come directly from the manufacturer.

“That’s the only way you can truly trust it.”

Project i-TRACE was named i-Trace for the purpose and context of traceability.

“The word ‘enable’ gets used over and over again, but i-Trace is implemented as an enabler for our systems and is a very important part of the future of the business.” said Ryan.

“Project i-TRACE is an initiative of the industry gradually coming together,” she said.

Furthermore, Stephen Baker, Head Product Innovation at Siemens said Project i-Trace has been an enabler for enhancing more than just supply chain management. Additionally, Ryan suggests that “having good governance and knowing where the data is coming from before allowing it to flow into your organisation is really important and the major focus is on visibility and traceability”.

Moreover, “there are hurdles to overcome for the industry to move forward, not just the technical skills but the way and approach to new technology,” Ryan said.

Ryan proceeds to explain that; although there are some fantastic data management tools in the front end for organisations to utilise in their day to day systems, there are still too many manual processes in the back end. As result, “we are constantly working with the industry to deliver efficiencies and deliver those benefits that will ultimately roll out better network performance and asset management practices”.

TAA to deliver Safeworking training in Victoria

Training Ahead Australia (TAA) will begin delivering safeworking training in Victoria next month on approved networks from Handsignaller through to Track Force Protection Coordinator Level 3.

Different courses will be on offer based on the level of seniority required by the candidate.

The course progresses through the levels of a further view on the current ARO Rail standards of paperwork and the importance of documentation along with hazard assessments. 

Dannielle Walz, Director of Operations at TAA said the current facility in Maribyrnong Victoria has a 20m track with a variety of concrete, composite, and wood sleepers with a half set of points, which allows trainers to go through more practical demonstrations. 

“Training Ahead Australia is an approved ARTC safeworking training provider and is looking to go above and beyond in the methods of teaching the courseware, through continuing to develop its current facility which includes day and night time training and its ability to show day and night time scenarios with train running at the Victorian distances based on the Victorian line speeds,” Walz said.

Walz said a great Track Force Protection Coordinator (TFPC) has the potential to add hours of productivity and to almost eliminate hazards from rail traffic based on their management strategies.

“Safeworking has the capacity to ensure that all supervisors and machine operators – along with all other roles required comprehend the job at hand and the timelines that allow them to conduct their works through the safeworking brief conducted by the TFPC for the shift.

“Since October we have been assisting over 22 individuals enter the initiative and it is something we are very proud to be leading,” Walz said.

“In the future we  would like the opportunity for companies or ARO’s to see the value of Trainers to facilitate and shadow Trainees in live environments once they are signed off to add value in the craft of Safeworking.”

Reduced dwell times to cut Sydney CBD light rail travel time

Sydney’s light rail has become 10 percent faster due to reduced journey times.

The 12-kilometre service between Randwick and Circular Quay had previously been running at around 45-50 minutes and this week the journey time will be improved to 40-45 minutes end to end.

Instead of adjusting speed limits, the journey will be quicker due to reduced dwell times at scheduled stops.

A Transport for NSW spokeswoman said more services will be added to the network to increase passenger journey times too. 

“The new timetable introduced yesterday (20 January) will boost the number of weekday services on the L2 Line by an additional 215 services per week, as well as improving the journey time between Randwick and Circular Quay,” the Transport for NSW spokesperson said. 

“Transport for NSW is continuing to work with ALTRAC to improve service reliability on the new light rail.”

The 19 stop service will become more frequent from the current foundation stage of running every 4-8 minutes between Circular Quay and Central, and every 8-12 minutes between Central and Randwick during peak times on weekdays.

Service operator Transdev told the NSW Parliament last year that projected travel times were 38-40 minutes.

Transport for NSW said they anticipated that there may be operational challenges and issues during the opening period of the L2 line, and there have been some unplanned disruptions to services.

“More than 1 million trips have been taken on the new L2 Randwick light rail line since opening on 14 Dec. On average, there are around 44,000 trips each day,” The Transport for NSW spokesperson said.

“Transport for NSW is continuing to work with the light rail operator to improve service reliability and journey time, especially in the lead up to the start of passenger services on the L3 Kingsford Line in March this year, funded through the existing project budget.”

Investment in infrastructure to place constraints on rail projects: ANZ report

With several states rolling out record transport infrastructure programs at the same time, reports of capacity constraints are on the rise.

Allens international commercial law firm reported in a 2019 survey that infrastructure leaders in Australia are 77 per cent more concerned with the risks facing the sector than they were five years ago.

Over 43 per cent of respondents said their top concern is being unable to deliver the immediate project pipeline.

The Allens survey stated that this is contributing to two major issues: an acute skills shortage that’s reaching crisis point, and escalating material costs that are putting unsustainable pressure on company performance.

They survey also reported that tunnels and rail are considered to be the highest risk projects, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. 

Constraints are predicted to continue to spread, with the Cross River Rail in Brisbane and Stage 2 of Canberra Light Rail both expected to commence shortly.

ANZ Research’s Australian Major Projects report said rail construction is expected to be lower this year.

“Capacity constraints will only worsen with several more multi-billion-dollar projects set to commence over the medium-term,” ANZ researchers said.

“The Victorian Government has almost doubled the funding for level crossing removals, while there is significant upside risk to the $20bn estimate for Sydney Metro West.”

The Australian Major Projects report predicts public investment will detract from economic growth during the year, however small-scale projects or maintenance works will stimulate the economy during the short-term.

ANZ Research does not expect governments, at either the federal or state level, to commit to bringing forward major infrastructure projects or significant additional infrastructure spending in the near term.

Catherine Birch, ANZ Senior Economist said there are timing lags between the completion of rail and road projects and the substantive phase of new ones.

“Debt is cheap and will likely stay cheap for a long time but asset recycling offers a means to fund projects while limiting increases to government debt,” she said.

“NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has flagged the possibility of selling the remaining half of WestConnex to help fund projects including Sydney Metro West.”

Currently costed at $A20 billion, The Sydney Metro City & Southwest is the largest new public project that will drive high activity within the sector and is not expected to be operational until 2030.

“Ultimately, without effective policy action, capacity constraints pose a material risk to both public and private delivery of necessary infrastructure,” ANZ researchers said.

Contractors wanted for Metronet Morley-Ellenbrook Line build

The Government of Western Australia has begun the search for a company to deliver the main contract for Metronet Morley-Ellenbrook Line on the Transperth network in Perth.

The McGowan Government has released a Request for Proposal (RFP) to the market, calling on companies to design, construct, and commission the new Metronet rail line in Perth’s north-eastern corridor. 

The main works contract is the biggest of four works packages that will cover the Bayswater Station upgrade and Tonkin Gap projects.

The main works contract will include the design, construction and commissioning of rail track, systems, and five stations. This will include bulk earthworks and retaining, structures, grade separations, roads, and drainage.

The two best submissions for the main works will be shortlisted, and contractors will have to provide a detailed bid indicating how they plan to deliver the project.

This RFP process will lead to the main contract being awarded later this year, adding to the construction that will already be underway as part of Bayswater Station and Tonkin Gap.

The Morley-Ellenbrook Line is a 21km long rail line that will run off the Midland Line at Bayswater, down Tonkin Highway, north of Marshall Road. The line will continue along the western side of Drumpellier Drive and finish in Ellenbrook town centre.

Early works for the Morley-Ellenbrook Line started at Bayswater Station in late-2019, while construction of the rail tie-in will be part of the Tonkin Gap project.

Five stations at Ellenbrook, Whiteman, Malaga, Noranda, and Morley will be built as part of the project, with a sixth station at Bennett Springs East in provision for the future. 

Premier Mark McGowan said major Metronet infrastructure projects like the Morley-Ellenbrook Line will create thousands of local opportunities as well as improving public transport across Perth.

“This year alone we will have an unprecedented six Metronet projects underway, creating thousands of local jobs and opportunities for local businesses,” McGowan said.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the RFP  for the Morley-Ellenbrook Line marks another significant milestone for this major Metronet project.

“The McGowan Government started from scratch to get this project funded, planned and ready to approach the market,” Saffioti said.

“I would urge local companies to put their best foot forward and bid for the chance to deliver this key rail line.”

V/Line driver’s near-miss with a train after failing to stop at signals

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) rail safety investigation found a V/Line driver ran through a level crossing before the boom gates were down at Marshall, Victoria.

On January 2nd 2018 at around 2pm, V/Line train 7750 travelling to Geelong and 1305 V/Line travelling to Warrnambool were heading towards each other on a single track in suburban Geelong.

The two trains were 940m apart from colliding when a control room worker in Melbourne issued an emergency call instructing the drivers to stop.

The ATSB found that the driver of train 7750 did not respond to the Stop indications of signals MSL10 and MSL8 at Marshall.

The driver of train 7750 entered the single line section between Marshall and South Geelong and then into the Marshalltown level crossing before the crossing booms had lowered.

At approximately the same time, The 1305 V/Line Melbourne to Warrnambool service with two crew and 166 passengers on board had departed Geelong and was headed towards Marshall on the same single line section.

The trains were scheduled to cross using the loop track at Marshall.

The investigation report stated that in preparation for the cross of the two trains at Marshall, the train controller “was observing the signalling control and CCTV VDU when he saw train 7750 go through Marshall platform travelling too fast to stop at MSL10,”

“Realising that train 7750 would not be able to stop, the train controller made a fleet radio transmission to all trains in the area to ‘Red Light’ (Stop), the CCTV also allowed the train controller to confirm that train 7750 had stopped beyond the Marshalltown Road level crossing.”

The investigation concluded that the driver of V/Line train 7750 was most likely influenced by symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal, having not applied a nicotine patch on that day.

“Following this incident, the driver of train 7750 tested positive for an inactive metabolite of cannabis, with levels suggesting use within the previous 7 days,” the report stated.

It could not be determined whether that had affected the driver’s performance at the time of the incident.

Report authors say attempts by V/Line safety critical workers to stop smoking should be managed under medical supervision.

As a result of the incident, V/Line has installed a train protection system at Marshalltown Road level crossing to stop a train that has passed a signal at Danger, which has over-speed sensors to prevent a train entering the crossing when unprotected.

V/Line has continued with planning for the provision of three-position signalling for this section as part of other infrastructure projects.

The driver of train 7750 no longer works for V/Line.

Monadelphous purchases a major rail infrastructure provider

Monadelphous has announced they’ve purchased a rail infrastructure maintenance service provider based in New South Wales.

The Australian engineering group have acquired the business and assets of Harbinger Infrastructure.

Monadelphous will also takeover the engagement of their operational team and NSW-based rail maintenance contracts.   

Through this acquisition, Monadelphous will expand their rail maintenance support and service offering into NSW, and other east coast regions. 

The Perth based organisation provides large-scale multidisciplinary project management and construction services, sustaining capital works, and services for public sector infrastructure and facilities.

Monadelphous secured new contracts and additional work valued at approximately $1.35 billion since the beginning of the 2019 financial year.

Harbinger Infrastructure stated in a social media post on January 9 that they’re pleased with the acquisition.

“Monadelphous, which has more than 45 years’ experience in the mining and oil and gas sectors, commenced providing rail infrastructure and rolling stock maintenance support services in the Pilbara region of Western Australia in 2017,” they said.

Monadelphous Managing Director Rob Velletri said in the company’s 2019 annual report that there will be ongoing growth and diversification of the business into the infrastructure sector.

“Maintenance activity in the resources market is expected to be strong as production levels in Australia remain at record levels,” he said.

“Customer focus on optimising production and increasing productivity levels will continue to drive demand for ongoing maintenance support and sustaining capital work.”