Brittany Coles

Major works begin on Parramatta light rail

The first sod has been turned at the former Rydalmere train station for major construction on the Parramatta Light Rail project.

Construction has commenced following the closure of the T6 Carlingford Line. 

Acting Minister for Transport and Roads Paul Toole said it was an exciting time for Greater Parramatta as works ramp up for the new high-frequency light rail.

“Today marks a significant step on a project that will transform transport connectivity in a growing part of Sydney,” Toole said.

“We’ve already hit the ground running with the decommissioning works along the closed Carlingford rail line, in preparation for its conversion to light rail,” Toole said.

“The new 12-kilometre light rail project will connect Westmead to Carlingford via the Parramatta CBD and Camellia, and is set to open in 2023.”

This follows the removal of the last level crossing on Parramatta Road last week.

Parramatta Light Rail Program Director Anand Thomas said the level crossing on Parramatta Road at Granville was one of the last remaining in Sydney.

“With the closure of the 132-year-old T6 Carlingford Line on Sunday 5 January to make way for the Parramatta Light Rail, it was time to decommission this level crossing which regularly stopped traffic to make way for train services,” Thomas said.

There are now less than ten active level crossings in Sydney, including seven on the Richmond line, one in Yennora and another in Fairfield.

The rail corridor from Clyde to Rosehill will not be converted to light rail and will be retained as a future public transport corridor.

David Borger, Executive Director of the Western Sydney Business Chamber said that the start of major works on Stage 1 should not be used as a distraction from the need to roll out the full Parramatta Light Rail network that includes the extension through Ermington, Melrose Park, Wentworth Point, and  Sydney Olympic Park.

“The NSW Government has been reluctant to commit to delivering on its promise of building the full Parramatta Light Rail network. It would be a tremendous shame to risk Stage 1 becoming a white elephant by not connecting it to the growing communities springing up along the shores of the Parramatta River,” Borger said.

Borger said Sydney’s leading peak industry bodies and the City of Parramatta along with 70 large organisations in Western Sydney wrote to the NSW Government last year endorsing the need for Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2.

Member for Parramatta Geoff Lee said the project was a major win for the region.

“This Parramatta Light Rail will bring people living in Greater Parramatta together with a safe and efficient public transport network,” Lee said.

“It will improve connections to popular key destinations across the region, while also linking into Sydney’s greater public transport networks.”

The Parramatta Light Rail will be built by a joint venture of Downer and CPB Contractors, and will be operated by the Great River City Light Rail consortium, which includes Transdev and CAF Rail Australia.

Toole said Transport for NSW was working hard to minimise the impacts of construction on businesses and the local community.

“Some disruption is unavoidable, which is why we will continue working with businesses to ensure they have the information and support they need,” Toole said.

He said Transport for NSW will also pause construction from 1 November until 31 January each year to minimise disruption at Parramatta’s Eat Street until the line is complete.

Track repairs commence following V/Line and freight train crash

Work is now under way to replace more than 1,800 damaged sleepers and more than 180 metres of damaged rail.

Last week an incident involving a freight and passenger train between Chiltern and Barnawartha in south of Wodonga, Victoria caused all services on the line to be suspended until further notice.

A northbound freight train derailed, and a passenger train travelling south on the adjacent track struck a wagon of the derailed freight train.

A spokesperson from the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) provided an update on the investigation following the incident that occurred on Wednesday, January 29. 

“The ARTC is continuing to work with rail safety regulators and operators on the recovery effort,” the spokesperson said.

After safety regulators completed their initial assessments the day after the incident, the recovery operation started involving around 60 workers.

“Work so far has focused on recovering wagons, components, and containers from the track and moving the V/Line train and majority of freight containers,” the spokesperson said.

“While repairs are underway, timing for the line to reopen is not yet confirmed.

“With temperatures reaching more than 44 degrees in the recovery site area, hot works are being extremely carefully managed and crews provided additional rest breaks and hydration measures.

“ARTC will provide further updates to media and our customers as soon as they become available.”

Calls for Gladstone to be part of Inland Rail route

Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett is calling on the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and state and federal governments to review and invest in connecting the Inland Rail to the Port of Gladstone.

Gladstone Regional Council has provided its submission to the Senate Inquiry into the management of the Inland Rail Project by the ARTC and the Commonwealth government. 

Burnett told the senators via teleconference at the hearing in Brisbane on Thursday that extending inland rail to the Port of Gladstone was a “strategic priority”.

Burnett said it doesn’t have to be “Gladstone vs Brisbane,” because the route alignment “can be both, so there is no reason it can’t be both”.

“The Australian rail network is an important network, so why not include central Queensland as well,” he said.

“The Port of Brisbane has issues with capacity, costs, and efficiencies, which I believe strengthens our case for the line to come to the Port of Gladstone. The Toowoomba to Brisbane project is reported at an estimate of $6.7 billion, alternatively the route from Toowoomba to Gladstone is projected at $1.2 to $2.7 billion.”

The Gladstone mayor said “there is no doubt Brisbane is a distribution centre” but it’s “heavily congested”.

“Our port has the capacity to grow to more than 300 million tonnes per annum which is more than double the import and export tonnage currently experienced.”

Burnett said The Gladstone Regional Council is calling on the Australian government to finalise and release the study into the extension of the Inland Rail to the Port of Gladstone. 

“The Australian Government should work to align with regional councils and other key stakeholders to invest in the Inland Rail extension to the Port of Gladstone to advance the case for this important piece of regional enabling infrastructure,” he said. 

$125 million in new rail infrastructure for the Port of Melbourne

The Victorian government has approved a new on-dock rail to be built at the Port of Melbourne.

Port of Melbourne Operations will invest $125 million in new rail infrastructure.

The Port of Melbourne will introduce a $9.75 per twenty-foot equivalent unit charge on imported containers and the funds raised from the charge will directly deliver new sidings and connections for the rail project.

Improving rail access to the Port of Melbourne is a legislated condition of its lease, aiming towards a wider push to expand rail freight across Victoria.

The Labor Government said in a statement they are “also supporting the Port Rail Shuttle Network connecting freight hubs in Melbourne’s north and west to the port, new intermodal terminals planned at Truganina and Beveridge, new automated signalling for faster rail freight to GeelongPort and improvements in the regional rail freight network”.

“On-dock rail will make rail transport more competitive, cut the high cost of the ‘last mile’ and reduce truck congestion at the port gate – a big win for Victorian exporters delivering goods to the Port of Melbourne.”

Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the project will increase the competitiveness of Victorian industry.

“The Port of Melbourne is a vital part of our multi-billion dollar export sector and agriculture supply chain and on-dock rail will make its operations more efficient for Victorian exporters – removing congestion at the port gate.”

Chairman of the Freight on Rail Group, Dean Dalla Valle, highlighted the industry’s support of the measure.

“Port of Melbourne must also be congratulated for working closely with government and freight companies to deliver this game changing initiative.”

The project is set to be completed by 2023.

ARTC to modify reference design for Inland Rail route

John Fullerton, Australian Rail Track Corporation CEO, said “the current route is not locked in,” at a senate inquiry hearing of the management of the Inland Rail project, held on January 30 in Brisbane.

Richard Wankmuller CEO for the Inland Rail Programme said “we understand we need to improve.”

One senator called out “Mr Fullerton, there are pitchforks waiting for you,” as the CEO addressed “white hot anger” concerns of the proposed inland rail route from QLD senators.

Fullerton said the potential “fatal flaw” is floods. 

The ability to construct a public safety model that aligns with the proposed Inland Rail route through the McIntyre floodplain is the main area of concern, Fullerton stated in the hearing.

“There are a number of areas of concern that we’re looking at,” Wankmuller said.

“We’ve finished about 90 per cent of the reference design phase and we’re modifying the reference design.”

Fullerton said ARTC’s main priority is investigating floodplains and “increasing transparency”.

“I get people are scared, and it’s our obligation to [construct] something that is safe,” Wankmuller said.

“This is not just an ARTC program, that is a community program and there is no way we can be successful without community, council, and private sectors.”

Fullerton’s hearing follows criticism that the major freight rail corridor will go through one of Australia’s largest floodplains, raised from the rural Senate Committee meeting in Millmerran on Wednesday evening. 

Goondiwindi Mayor Graeme Scheu said the regional council is an advocate for the project, but object ARTC’s decision-making process.

Scheu stated to the committee that the decision to announce D1 as the preferred design option “came as a major surprise to everyone in our region”.

“From the minute D1 was announced, it has been the opinion of Goondiwindi Regional Council that if the route had to cross the floodplain (primarily to appease the time restraints), then the only acceptable solution would be an elevated bridge from the Queensland side to Wearne on the NSW side,” he said.

“I must reaffirm that Goondiwindi Regional Council is supportive of the Inland Rail Project and have been for many years but the decision making process of ARTC leaves a lot to be desired.”

Goondiwindi Regional Council stated they are advocating to overturn the D1 route design option and “believes the decision should be over turned to the alternative option of A”.

“The route directly crosses the floodplain, minimising the flood potential once the Whalan escape route is fully addressed.

Community consultation results and opinion will support Option A over D1.”

Fullerton said that “this is a complicated project that is important to people,” and recognises that engagement in the past “wasn’t up to speed”.

“We are looking where we have made the right decision or where a different decision should be made.

“There is government procedures in everything we do, we meet with the minister’s department for monthly and quarterly reporting to look at each issue.”

The Inland Rail route will be about 1,700km in length across Queensland, NSW, and Victoria and is scheduled to be completed by 2025.

Services suspended following V/Line and freight train crash

A V/Line train collided with a wagon from a derailed freight train on Wednesday evening south of Wodonga in Victoria.

An Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) spokesperson said ARTC can confirm an incident has occurred on its rail network between Chiltern and Barnawartha at approximately 5.40pm on Wednesday.

The ARTC spokesperson advised that a northbound freight train derailed and a passenger train service travelling south on the adjacent track struck a wagon of the freight train.

The 5.20pm V/Line Albury to Melbourne passenger service was travelling south on the adjacent track when it subsequently struck one of the freight train’s wagons.

The ARTC spokesperson said the train line “currently remains suspended to all services and the site is quarantined for attendance by independent safety regulators and for incident investigations through today,”

“Track opening will be subject to recovery and infrastructure damage assessments following site incident investigations across a roughly 1.7 kilometres long area,”

“A more detailed forecast of reopening will be provided once a full assessment of damage to the track is able to take place.”

ARTC said in a statement that their priority at this stage is to ensure the safety of the persons involved and assisting attending emergency authorities.

A CFA spokesperson said a number of the wagons were alight when emergency services arrived, and the flames sparked a grassfire.

The grassfire was deemed safe at 8.15pm Wednesday evening.

A VicEmergency update stated that the “train incident is still ongoing and is currently being assessed by the relevant agencies.”

There are no reported injuries to passengers or crews of either train service.

The ARTC will provide further updates as they become available. 

NZ announces new $1.1 billion rail investments

The New Zealand Government has announced a programme of new transport investments in six main growth areas across the country.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford said $6.8 billion is being invested across road, rail, and public transport infrastructure across New Zealand.

$1.1 billion is part of targeted rail investments aiming to get trucks off the road in the six main growth areas of Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Canterbury, and Queenstown.

The rail package will include completing the third main rail line will remove a key bottleneck for freight and passenger services, as well as provide additional capacity for the increased services once the City Rail Link is completed.

Two new railway stations in Drury Central and Drury West will be funded, as well as electrifying the railway track between Papakura to Pukekohe to speed up commutes to the CBD.

Twyford said additional Wellington rail upgrades, including in the Wairarapa, will make the lines north of the city more reliable to meet a growing demand for rail services.

“Our decision to fund these projects by taking advantage of historically low long-term interest rates means this programme will free up funding in the National Land Transport Fund and Auckland transport budgets.”

Twyford said this programme brings forward and funds significant projects, allowing them to be built sooner.

“Many of these projects have been talked about for a long time, but we are the first Government to fund them, we have also made important changes,”

The investment announcement follows recent plans to revitalise KiwiRail’s Hillside workshops with demolition of disused and dilapidated buildings on the site currently underway.

Last year the Government announced a $19.97 million investment through the Provincial Growth Fund that has allowed KiwiRail to begin redeveloping the Dunedin site.

Stephanie Campbell KiwiRail group general manager property said Hillside will become a vital part of KiwiRail’s South Island freight and tourism operations.

“Demolishing some of the existing buildings is the first step in doing this, and contractors have begun work on the site, taking down two vacant workshops. 

“The next step is to upgrade the main rail workshops on the site, including overhauling the aging heavy-lift crane and traverser.

 “The planned improvements for the site will allow us to maintain more locomotives and wagons, as well as undertaking new types of work, such as heavy maintenance and upgrades.”

Special rail licence announced for $1.7b Eliwana Mine and Railway Project

The Western Australian Government has approved Stage 2 of the railway component apart of the $1.7 billion Eliwana Mine and Railway Project.

The Premier visited Naval Base to inspect work on major bridges for Fortescue Metals Group’s project last week where he announced the grant of a Special Rail Licence.

The licence allows Fortescue Metal Group to be granted construction and operation for Eliwana iron ore mine and rail project in the Pilbara region.

The Eliwana railway project includes 143 kilometres of single track, standard gauge heavy haul railway, two bridge railway crossings, and an underpass for the Karratha-Tom Price Road.

The 2,600 tonnes of steel fabrication being produced at Naval Base by Pacific Industrial Company includes 16 bridge modules up to 46 metres long.

When the project is completed in December, the railway will have an initial capacity of 30 million tonnes a year.

Premier Mark McGowan said “Eliwana is a huge project not only for Fortescue but for a lot of small to medium enterprises in Western Australia and for the 2,400 workers in total who are expected to get jobs out of it”.

The Eliwana railway project is expected to create 1,120 jobs during construction.

Over three quarters, around $1b, of the investment in the Eliwana project has gone to 290 Western Australian-based businesses, with about nine per cent going to businesses in other parts of Australia.

Three major contractors shortlisted for Sydney Metro upgrade

Sydney Metro has shortlisted three companies to supply customer access technology on the Bankstown line.

The shortlisted contractors will install mechanical gap fillers and platform screen doors as part of the Sydney Metro upgrade of the 10 stations between Marrickville and Bankstown.

The three shortlisted companies are Gilgen Door Systems AG, Hyundai Movex Co. Ltd, and Kyosan Electric Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

The next step of the procurement process will be to test the technology put forward by the three companies for Australian conditions.

Once the customer access technology is installed the stations will be fully accessible when metro rail services start in 2024.

All Sydney Metro stations will have platform screen doors which keep people and objects like prams away from the tracks, and also allow trains to get in and out of stations much faster. 

The new platforms will be level with the updated metro trains, not requiring passengers to step-up into the train.

$1.4 million upgrade of regional stations in WA now complete

The new North Dandalup and Cookernup stations are now open for passengers on Transwa’s Australind route.

The North Dandalup and Cookernup train stations shared in upgrades worth $1.28 million as part of the McGowan Government’s election commitment to improve transport in south-west WA.

The $750,000 upgrade of the North Dandalup station and $650,000 upgrade of the Cookernup station began last year.

Both train stations’ existing low-level platforms are now raised platforms to be fully compliant with Disability Discrimination ACT standards.

The opening of the towns’ new train stations are ahead of the six new diesel railcars to replace the existing Australind service between Perth and Bunbury currently being built and commissioned in Bellevue.

Two car bays and one disability parking bay, line marking and bollards, new kerbing, and bitumen surfaces have also been installed at both stations, as well as better lighting, signage, fencing, and pedestrian paths. 

A number of other regional station upgrades including Yarloop and Carrabin have also been completed in the past 18 months.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the Australind service is a local icon which has operated for more than 70 years.

“These small local stations provide a vital transport link for people in more isolated parts of the South-West – but due to their age, the infrastructure hasn’t kept pace with standards of accessibility,” Saffioti said.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said “The South-West is an important part of our State and it’s vital we provide public transport infrastructure for local residents, which is why we have upgraded four local train stations over the past 18 months.”