Brittany Coles

Next phase of construction for the $190m ‘on-dock’ rail project

The $190 million ‘on-dock’ rail project at Patrick Terminals – Sydney AutoStrad at Port Botany is entering its next progression phase of construction.

The on-dock’ rail project, undertaken in conjunction with NSW Ports, is expected to increase rail capacity at Patrick Terminals – Sydney AutoStrad from 250,000 TEU to 1 million TEU.

The company will shortly commence the installation and commissioning of three new  automated rail mounted gantry (ARMG) cranes and changes to rail windows will take effect from next month.

Patrick Terminals stated that current rail volume will be maintained and rail windows will be optimised by consolidating and removing inefficient services from the schedule.

Michael Jovicic, CEO of Patrick Terminals said he is very pleased with the current progress of the project.

“This decision to minimise disruptions to rail services at Patrick Terminals is supported by NSW Ports and the NSW Government who are committed to a long-term plan of sustainable freight modes,” Jovicic said.

Patrick Terminals’ largest international shipping container terminal is based at Port Botany (PBT) on NSW Ports land at Brotherson Dock.

NSW Ports reports the investment in rail infrastructure will reduce the growth in truck movements around the port. 

Patrick Terminals’ stated in a report last year that when fully operational, this investment will reduce truck-kilometres travelled in Sydney by at least 10 million per year.

Patrick’s agreement with NSW Ports will significantly increase the terminal’s rail capacity and enhance efficiency in container movements at the port that will in turn reduce the number of trucks required to visit the terminal.

Customers impacted by the changes to rail windows will be contacted by the dedicated Patrick Terminals rail team.

The first stage of the project, which includes four 300 metre sidings, is due to be completed by the end of the year.

New milestones for Sydney Light Rail

The L2 Randwick Line, the newest tram route for Sydney Light Rail, has achieved more than two million trips.

The line opened on 14 December 2019 from Circular Quay, down George Street, and onwards to Randwick.

A new timetable was introduced in late January to make L2 Randwick Line to add 215 weekday services and improve journey time between Randwick and Circular Quay.

The next line from Kingsford via Kensington is expected to open next month.

Sydney Light Rail stated that the construction team is busy finishing works for the L3 Kingsford Line.

Pram ramp finishing works, sealing pavements, final landscaping, installing remaining tactile pavers in Kingsford, and cleaning footpaths and stops are being concluded in Kingsford and Kensington.

Tram testing and commissioning, and driver familiarisation of the route is progressing so more trams will be travelling along Anzac Parade to the Juniors Kingsford terminus in the coming weeks.

A Transport for NSW spokesperson said It is expected that the daily trips will increase with the return of university students this week and as we introduce the L3 Kingsford Line in the coming months.

“Services between Kingsford and Circular Quay via Central are expected to commence in March 2020, pending ongoing testing and commissioning, driver training and performance tests,” the spokesperson said.

On average, around 40,000 passenger trips are taken each day, the most popular trip being between Circular Quay and QVB.

The most popular have been Circular Quay, QVB, China Town and Town Hall, followed by Wynyard and Central Chalmers St.

Victorian Intermodal freight hub seeking a developer and operator

Development Victoria (DV) is seeking a developer and operator of the Ballarat intermodal freight hub terminal.

The Victorian Government is requesting expressions of interest to develop the intermodal freight hub on the Ballarat to Ararat railway line which is part of the Ballarat West Employment Zone (BWEZ).

Development Victoria said the BWEZ will allow freight and logistics enterprises to have exceptional access to road, rail, and aviation infrastructure. The freight network will link Melbourne, regional and rural Victoria, Adelaide and the ports of Melbourne, Geelong, and Portland.

It is proposed that the successful respondent will take on design and delivery risk, demand and operational cost risk, manage the commercial return based on these risks and the services provided.

Operational arrangements are likely to be effected through a lease agreement with VicTrack.

Federal government funding of $9.1 million was provided in the 2014 federal Budget for the development of the facility. Potential additional funding from the State via DV will be made available if required.

There is some flexibility around the physical configuration of the Facility to allow for rail siding (either linear or loop), and it is expected that the successful respondent will have operational access to the connected rail stub and associated signalling which will be delivered by the State up to the eastern boundary of the Facility connecting from the main-line.

The civil works for Stages 1 and 1B of BWEZ are complete with a large percentage of land having been sold. 

The head of Rail Freight Alliance has publicly said Victoria will only benefit from the proposed intermodal freight hub once the Murray Basin Rail Project is complete.

The Murray Basin Rail Project (MBRP) is improving key freight centres in Victoria and encouraging competition and private investment in the rail freight network.

MBRP stated that an increased axle loading will allow higher volumes of product to be safely freighted across the network, allowing trains to carry up to 500,000 more tonnes of grain each year.

The first stage was completed in 2016 and freight trains have returned to the Mildura line and to the reopened Maryborough to Ararat line. V/Line crews are working to finalise and bed in the track to complete stage 2 of 3 for the project.

Catherine King, federal member of Ballarat and shadow minister infrastructure, transport and regional development said the BWEZ facility is located alongside existing road and rail infrastructure, enabling the freight hub to connect with more locations.

“A truck will be able to come in straight off the Western Highway and either head in to a manufacturer or connect up with the rail line and deliver products further afield,” she said.

“The prospect of future infrastructure upgrades to the adjoining Ballarat Airport site will open up even more opportunities across the Ballarat region, but this will only come with support from governments at a state and federal level.”

Respondant registration closes on March 3 and EOI submission must be made by March 13, closing at 3pm.

Signalling system repaired following electrical fire

The Auckland Metro network has resumed normal operations following an electrical fire last Monday morning.

Todd Moyle, KiwiRail Group chief operating officer, said repairs have been made to the Auckland signalling system.

Just after 5am last Monday morning, an electrical fire in a signal cabinet damaged passenger train signalling to the south of Newmarket.

KiwiRail staff and contractors worked to replace the electronic equipment damaged in the signal box fire throughout the week.

“The repair was a lengthy process that involved cleaning the smoke-affected site, replacing the damaged components and a comprehensive commissioning process that involved extensive testing to ensure safety,” Moyle said.

“KiwiRail staff and contractors worked around the clock to fix the damage.”

The final work and testing was completed overnight on Wednesday and operations were returned to normal in time for the morning peak last Thursday.

KiwiRail worked with Auckland Transport to minimise the consequences of the fire as much as possible.

Stations between Newmarket and Penrose (Penrose, Ellerslie, Greenlane, Remuera) were affected as trains could not run on that track when the incident first occurred.

During the repairs, TransDev re-routed Southern Line trains via Otahuhu along the Eastern Line to access Britomart.

“We apologise again for the disruption this incident has caused Auckland commuters,” said Moyle.

New rail bridge and station opens part of $3bn investment

Trains are now running over a new rail bridge in Carrum, located in south-east Melbourne.

Carrum station opened on Monday morning following a two-week construction blitz, including laying track and ballast and installing traffic signalling.

Level crossings at Mascot Avenue, Bonbeach, Station Street, and Eel Race Road were removed as part of the project, making the new station boom-gate free.

The new rail bridge now connects to the existing Frankston line. The Victorian Government has invested $3 billion to upgrade the Frankston line on the Metro trains network, including the removal of 18 level crossings and building 12 new stations.

Sonya Kilkenny,  Member for Carrum, said the “dreaded ding” of boom gates will no longer effect the community, making it safer and quieter.

Construction is still continuing on Carrum station. Current access to the new station is through The Station Street level crossing. The main entrance at McLeod Road is set to open later this year.

Carrum station, located in the bayside suburb, has been designed to accommodate coastal weather conditions, with weather protection pods, shelter canopies on the platform and wind screens in entrances.

The station will create a town square at its main entrance, a garden at the southern entrance, and a new foreshore park and beach promenade linking Carrum to the bay.

Jacinta Allan, Victorian minister for Transport infrastructure, said 34 crossings have been removed and 26 new stations have opened part of the level crossing removal project.

“It’s great to see the new Carrum Station bustling with passengers right on schedule,” Allan said.

“We’re not wasting a minute delivering the road and rail projects our city and state needs.”

Industrial action continues to affect PTV performance

Ongoing industrial dispute across the Public Transport Victoria (PTV) network has affected January performance for all three operators.

It was revealed in the public transport performance results for January 2020, published by the Department of Transport on Tuesday, that the monthly reliability of Metro Trains, V/Line, and Yarra Trams has fallen below the threshold.

Jeroen Weimar, department of transport head of transport services said all parties need to come to the table and come to an agreement quickly to prevent further inconvenience.

More protected industrial action is planned across the network this month, with expectations that February performance targets could be affected too.

A PTV spokesperson has stated services are expected to be significantly disrupted on metropolitan trams next week and V/Line Ballarat and Gippsland lines.

“We’re working closely with Yarra Trams to reduce the impact of industrial action as much as we can,” the spokesperson said.

The PTV January report stated that other factors also played a role.

“While the driver resourcing issue was a major factor, Metro’s performance was also impacted by hot weather and storm activity.”

Lighting strikes affected rail equipment throughout the month as well as damage to overhead equipment on the Frankston line on Friday, 10 January.

“We continue to work with Metro Trains on plans to improve performance, through the rollout of initiatives including extra staff on station platforms, new technology on platform displays and ongoing work to prevent people illegally walking on tracks,” Weimar said.

Extreme heat impacted the tram network, with some routes cancelled, replaced or diverted when the temperature went above past 40 degrees in late January.

Yarra Trams ran an extra 3,724 tram trips during the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, which was a 21 per cent increase on the extra trips run for last year’s event.

Despite extreme weather and planned industrial action, between December and January, V/Line improved its punctuality from 85 to 90.6 per cent and reliability from 90.7 to 94.6 per cent.

“V/Line’s three busiest lines, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, experienced sharp rises in punctuality from December, growing from 89.9 to 92.6 per cent, from 91.8 to 93.3 per cent and from 86.1 to 90.2 per cent respectively,” a PTV spokesperson said.

“The January Ballarat punctuality figure was also the line’s best in more than three years and follows significant improvements delivered as part of the Ballarat Line Upgrade late last year.”

Weimar said it’s “encouraging”  to see regional trains improving throughout the month.

January included the excavation and concreting of the final section of the Metro Tunnel’s eastern entrance while adding new sections of track. 

Six new tram stops were also installed on Nicholson Street in the city’s north, making Route 96 Melbourne’s most accessible.

Metro Trains and Yarra Trams will pay compensation to eligible passengers after both operators fell below their reliability thresholds in January.

Aurizon’s revenue rises to $1.53bn

Aurizon Holdings Limited revenue has increased by $73.4 million or five per cent in the 2019/20 first-half earnings before interest and tax.

Australia’s largest rail-based transport business has released a half year report for the period ending 31 December 2019, detailing new growth in the company.

Aurizon stated in the report that the higher revenue is offset by the sale of the rail grinding business.

A spokeswoman from Aurizon said the large sale transaction for the rail grinding business was completed with Loram in October 2019 for $167m with $105m net gain on sale (not included in underlying earnings).

With revenue up five per cent to a total of $1.53 billion, the company’s underlying net profit rose 19 per cent to $268.9m.

The group credited the UT5 Undertaking as a factor that improved revenue. In December last year, Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) approved the agreement that governs access to its rail network. 

Aurizon executives stated that the company’s financial position and performance was partially affected by the closure and sale of Acacia Ridge Intermodal Terminal. 

Two years ago the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) opposed the sale of Acacia Ridge Intermodal Terminal and commenced proceedings against Aurizon and Pacific National in the Federal Court. Aurizon and the proposed new owner of the terminal, Pacific National, both filed notices of cross-appeal that will be heard by the full Federal Court later in February. 

Aurizon executives highlighted its full-year earning guidance to $930 million from $880 million. This figure was noted before assumed impacts from the Australian bushfires and the world health emergency, coronavirus.

The coronavirus has delayed the arrival of 66 rail wagons being made in the epicentre of the disease, Wuhan in China. 

A spokeswoman from Aurizon said an initial order of 66 wagons have already been delivered and the remaining 66 wagons are planned for delivery in February or March.

The first batch of 132 coal wagons have been completed by our supplier. The construction of the second tranche of 132 wagons has been delayed due to a slow down of production in China,” the spokeswoman said.

Operating costs increased $13.9m or 2 per cent, which were identified as due to to increased labour costs.

Aurizon’s network operates the 2,670km CQCN, the largest coal rail network in Australia. 

Aurizon executives stated in the 2019/20 half year report that 58 per cent of the company’s revenue, a total of $887.5m, was from transporting coal from mines in Queensland and NSW to customer ports.

Operational performance across the network  “remained strong” during the first half of the new financial year, according to Aurizon.

Total system availability improved from 81 per cent to 82.2 per cent, and cycle velocity improved 4 per cent.

Aurizon’s executives said the focus has been on the trial and implementation of schedule adherence in the Blackwater system in QLD.

Compared to the previous half, the network delivered an average reduction in turnaround time of 1.2 hours per service and both on-time arrival to mine and to port increased.

Aurizon’s executives said the network is now working with operators to improve the current scheduling process by realigning maintenance constraints to unlock capacity and optimising the weekly Intermediate Train Plan to avoid pathing contests between operators. The report stated that system throughput is expected to increase, in the third quarter of this year.

Making way for a new ticketing system for Canberra’s light rail

The current MyWay ticketing system will be replaced by a new and advanced ticketing system for Canberra’s public transport network.

Transport Minister Chris Steel said Transport Canberra had begun a procurement process for the new system.

“With a modern ticketing system, transport users will be able to pay for their bus or light rail fare using their credit card to tap on and off, as well as other flexible payment options including with their phone, smart device, travel cards and other options,” Steel said.

A spokesperson on behalf of Steel said that the ACT government was yet to select a contractor to provide the system.

A new app will include reliable real-time travel information and updates with GPS data allowing travellers to check details of their connecting services.

Steel said the new system’s high tech features will provide more data than through the current MyWay System to support public transport planners and operations.

He said the new system is likely to be rolled out next year or in 2022 after a lengthy development and transition period.

The cost of the new account based system will be released once the procurement process is finalised towards the middle of the year.

“The Territory continues to undertake further investigations as part of the broader procurement process which is confidential until that process is completed,” Steel said.

The new system will include reliable real time travel information and updates with GPS data and will enable passengers on light rail services to discard MyWay cards as they will no longer need to buy and load money on them.

“We’ve heard from public transport users that they want better real time information to inform their travel plans,” Steele said.

“Many Canberrans have been to other cities around the world where it is much easier to use public transport than it is here because of modern ticketing systems.

“A good ticketing system is really important to improve the transit experience.”

Weather destruction is flooding NSW network with repairs

The Blue Mountains in New South Wales has been hit with catastrophic weather in the past 48 hours, heavily disrupting the Sydney Trains and NSW Trainlink network in the region.

Signal boxes and thousands of kilometres of signal wiring is currently being replaced on the Blue Mountains line.

NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said Sydney Trains had secured the track infrastructure and were now working to stabilise the land.

Sydney Trains stated in a social media post on Monday that heavy rain has led to land-slips, fallen trees, flooding, and damage to infrastructure.

“It’s been a really tough 48 hours.”

The heavy rain resulted in a land-slip that occurred between Leura and Katoomba last Sunday afternoon that forced the closure of the Blue Mountains line between Springwood and Mt Victoria.

“Re-opening the line is a huge job – engineers need to rebuild the embankment and infrastructure, including earthworks, track reconstruction, signalling and overhead wire repairs, however we are confident this work will be completed in a matter of weeks, weather dependent,” said Toole.

Toole stated earlier this month that it would be months before part of the Blue Mountains line would reopen again due to bushfire damage.

On Wednesday, Toole said repair work at Leura wasn’t expected to delay reconstruction works taking place further up the line.

“At the end of last year, 25 kilometres of track was significantly damaged by bushfires between Mount Victoria and Lithgow, with thousands of kilometres of communication, electrical and signal wiring lost,” he said.

Engineers have developed temporary systems to allow limited rail connectivity and safely operate some freight and passenger services on Tuesday.

Transport for NSW said they are working closely with freight operators to provide alternate routes.

Sydney Trains said that its frontline operational staff from the network and NSW TrainLink have been working on the line, but that forecast rain will continue to impact the network in the coming days.

Sydney Metro’s underground tunnels are also suffering from the torrential rain in the CBD.

Over a million litres of rainfall flooding has occurred in the 10-year-old tunnel between North Ryde and Chatswood that relies on pumping methods to eliminate excess water.

The 15 kilometre new metro tunnel features waterproof gaskets to prevent flooding.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the water pumps have not malfunctioned but the volume of water limited their effectiveness due to the rainfall in Sydney last weekend.

Other services in Sydney have been impacted by the flooding, including light rail and infrastructure damage on the Central Coast and Newcastle line.

Additional $2 billion investment to put Melbourne’s airport rail on track

A private consortium involving Melbourne Airport and Metro trains are offering to invest an extra $2 billion to build a dedicated track from the CBD to Melbourne’s West as part of the airport rail project.

IFM Investors, a fund manager owned by 27 superannuation funds, as part of the AirRail consortium are proposing to build a 6km tunnel between Melbourne and Sunshine, 12km west of Melbourne’s CBD.

IFM Investors have written to the Victorian and federal government on Thursday last week to offer a further $2 billion investment on top of the $5bn initially proposed in 2018.

IFM are proposing a market-led solution to the new track, calling for a new rail tunnel in a letter sent to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“A project option that includes a tunnel between the CBD and Sunshine delivers the best airport rail solution particularly when compared with a MARL that utilises the Melbourne Metro Project,” wrote IFM.

The Age reported that federal and Victorian government plans for an airport rail line will involve a route via the Metro Tunnel to Sunshine, with a new track to be built between Tullamarine and Sunshine.

In 2016 a Metro Tunnel business case rejected a 2012 Public Transport Victoria plan to run airport trains through the $11bn metro tunnel, currently under construction until 2025.

The federal and Victorian state governments had previously agreed to a $10bn joint commitment to the Melbourne airport rail link.

A Victorian government spokesperson said in May last year that part of the budget also includes additional tracks between Sunshine and the CBD that would be part of Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

Every airport rail option being assessed would include a stop at Sunshine to connect to Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo services, according to a Victorian government spokeswoman.

The AirRail consortium, that also includes Metro Trains, Southern Cross Station, and Melbourne Airport will request that the State Government is charged a toll every time a Metro or V/LIne train runs through the new rail tunnel for operating and maintenance purposes.

IFM says it wants to operate the tunnel over a 40-year concession period.

According to the letter, the access payment from regional trains that use the tunnel would recoup an appropriate share of the significant capital cost of building the tunnel.

IFM have stated they do not wish to constrain regional or metro services due to frequent airport trains and decisions on service, pricing, and timetabling would remain wholly with the Victorian government.

AirRail Melbourne has been ready to commence construction on the infrastructure project since 2019 and IFM is waiting for the green light to start the build. Australian rail suppliers have also contacted IFM to propose their interest as potential contractors for the project.

In June 2019 the Victorian government announced that Rail Projects Victoria (RPV) will be developing a detailed business case for Melbourne Airport Rail.

The Victorian state Government said the business case will be delivered by 2020 and will assess station and procurement options, value capture and creation opportunities, and economic analysis of the recommended solution.

AirRail Melbourne proposed in a 2018 blueprint that 20-minute travel times will be expected to the city, using dedicated rollingstock.

“Our ambition is to have a train journey to the airport from the city that is fast, affordable and meets the needs of travellers,” a spokesperson for federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge was quoted by The Age last year.