David Loneragan

Tram leaving Broadwater Parklands on the Gold Coast Light Rail

Coalition confirms $112 million for Gold Coast light Rail Stage 3A

The federal government has confirmed that it will provide $112 million for the third stage of the Gold Coast light rail project from Broadbeach to Burleigh Heads.

The funding was initially revealed in early September as part of the leaked package of $7.6 billion roads and rail works planned by the Turnbull government.

The 6.4-kilometre extension from Broadbeach to Burleigh Heads is to include eight new light rail stations, upgraded pedestrian and cycling facilities and an upgraded bus interchange facility at Burleigh Heads.

Trams will run in the centre of the Gold Coast Highway with planning for up to eight stations and a journey time of 16 to 17 minutes.

Federal cities and urban infrastructure minister, Alan Tudge, confirmed the funding on Monday.

“Extending the light rail from Broadbeach and Burleigh Heads is a vital step to supporting a growing city like the Gold Coast, connecting communities to the services they need,” Tudge said.

“The project will bring many opportunities for urban revitalisation at the Burleigh Heads and Nobby Beach precincts and will support 2,400 jobs during construction and up to 39 per year during operation.”

Tudge said that, following the Commonwealth’s commitment, the Palaszczuk government should confirm its own funding.

“Our funding is locked in and ready to go from day one. Now it’s time for the Queensland Government to lock in their contribution,” said Tudge.

“The extension will also have an immediate impact on the South East Queensland region, providing better access to jobs and education opportunities.”

Stage 3A is expected to be complete by 2023. The detailed business case is being prepared by the state government in partnership with the City of Gold Coast and will reportedly be completed by the end of 2018.

Melbourne Tram

Plans underway to upgrade St Kilda Junction

Planning is underway to redevelop St Kilda Junction in Melbourne’s inner south, with a study commissioned to determine how best to improve tram stops, deliver safer cycling and pedestrian access at the junction and throughout the broader St Kilda precinct.

It will be the first of three studies by the Victorian government into key city gateways, which will be supported by the Inner Metropolitan Partnership between the cities of Port Phillip, Melbourne and Yarra.

The study will commence in January 2019 and provide a short and long-term plans for the delivery of improvements to the junction, which is a major tram interchange.

“St Kilda Road is one of our busiest corridors and the Metro Tunnel will deliver a dedicated train station right to local’s front doors for the first time,” state transport minister Jacinta Allan said.

“We’ll work with local government and the St Kilda community to understand how we can improve traffic and pedestrian flow to get people where they need to go safer and sooner.”

St Kilda Junction was last re-designed in the late 1960s to improve traffic flow and connectivity. The state government is to work with the local government to monitor current traffic flow and plan the redevelopment of the junction.

“When the junction was re-designed 60 years ago the focus was on improving traffic flow for cars – we want to put the focus back on people, making the junction area an even better place to live an easier place to navigate,” state Labor MP for Albert Park Martin Foley said.

“This work will look at how we can better connect our community, deliver dedicated bike lanes and accessible tram stops and ensure Victorians can move safely through the junction.”

Wyndham Vale stabling works to begin

The construction of a new stabling facility north of Wyndham Vale Station will soon get underway following the signing of the works contract.

As announced in September, the project is being delivered by the Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA) on behalf of Transport for Victoria. It involves the creation of a stabling yard that can house up to six V/Line trains, driver facilities and a bypass track connected to the Geelong rail line.

Together with LXRA, V/Line and Metro Trains Melbourne, the facility will be delivered by the Western Program Alliance comprising McConnell Dowell, Arup and Mott MacDonald.

This project team has already successfully removed level crossings at Kororoit Creek Road in Williamstown North and Abbotts Road in Dandenong South, and is now building a new road bridge to remove the level crossing at Aviation Road in Laverton.

The new facility is being constructed to meet the interpeak stabling needs for V/Line trains operating on the regional rail network, while also ensuring there is capacity to house additional trains in the future.

The new stabling facility will be completed by early 2020 to help replace existing stabling at E-Gate near Footscray which will make way for an extension of Wurundjeri Way as part of the West Gate Tunnel Project.

The CSIRO model shaping future supply chain strategies

Rail Express spoke with the CSIRO about the model aiming to quantify and map out constraints across Australia’s vast supply chains.

Agricultural production in northern NSW and southern Queensland comprises a diverse array of commodity types, including sheep, pigs, grains, cotton, dairy, and horticulture.

Road and rail networks, and the processing and storage facilities along them, form the lifeline of these regional industries, linking farms to foreign markets via the Port of Newcastle and the Port of Brisbane, and various domestic markets across Australia.

Distances of over 1,000 kilometres between production, processing and the marketplace are a regular feature of Australian supply chains, with transport costs often making up approximately 40 per cent of the market price.

For producers trying to get their goods to processing and storage facilities, or directly to market, this complex of transportation networks, and their varying constraints and advantages in different locations, can make logistical decisions difficult.

The Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool, or TraNSIT, was first developed by the CSIRO in 2012 and 2013 under commission from federal and state governments to identify bottlenecks in livestock supply-chains across northern NSW and southern Queensland.

Today, it now covers 98 per cent of all agricultural and horticultural supply chains.

The TraNSIT model serves to map out and quantify the various constraints affecting supply chains. Since 2012, the CSIRO has collaborated with more than a hundred different industry associations and government agencies to gain access to datasets from industry and government.

“In relation to rail transport, TraNSIT has mostly been applied to grain supply chains so far,” said Dr Andrew Higgins, the CSIRO’s lead researcher working with the tool.

“It looks at the potential benefits of upgrading loading facilities and improving load times, and the impacts of future train configurations – how longer trains with more locomotives and higher axle-load limits can improve supply chain efficiency.”

In the rail sector, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has used the tool to support its work on the Hunter Valley rail network, where it has been focussed on leveraging the significant expenditure within its heavy haul network to benefit wider regional supply chains.

Over the past three years, the ARTC has introduced a number of initiatives to encourage modal shift to rail, including the lifting of axles loads and train lengths across the Intrastate network corridors between Dubbo-Gulgong and Narrabri-Moree.

In carrying out these initiatives, the ARTC has worked close with rail operators at the agricultural sector to determine the impediments to the utilisation of rail.  And, using the TraNSIT tool, the ARTC has been able to quantify the total transport costs for these agricultural commodities over their whole journeys, based not only on individual trip costs but across total production and likely end market destination, demonstrating the benefits of these upgrade projects and pointing towards further solutions.

“The tool itself can not only indicate which infrastructure is the limiting factor but will give a transport cost (road or rail) according the route taken and the maximum payload and time taken for a for a specific route,” ARTC’s business development manager Michael Clancy said.

“Individual infrastructure owners can then apply different parameters to test if a particular infrastructure change will provide an economic benefit great enough to proceed with further investigation or project initiation.”

According to Clancy, the key advantage of TraNSIT is its ability to easily test scenarios across transport mode and commodity-type, providing a visual demonstration of cost impacts and outcomes.

“All supply chains will eventually follow the least cost path to market, and while it may not currently include handling costs incurred during modal transfer, the tool can definitely provide insight into how lower payloads or increased transit time impacts on the cost of moving products,” Clancy said.

“For ARTC, it assists on not only what we can directly change on our asset but how we can work with our supply chain partners and governments to provide solutions.  Some of these solutions are not necessarily purely infrastructure related, some are operational and supply chain coordination related that impact time or reliability.”

Overall, TraNSIT is in its early stages regarding its possible applications within the rail industry. Nonetheless there are expectations that further opportunities would arise with the continued accumulation of commodity data.

“I think historically we’ve been limited in our ability to rapidly test scenarios and seek a coordinated response to supply chain issues,” Clancy said.

“The relatively long life of rolling stock, and the intergenerational permanency of rail infrastructure projects mean that we can use the tool to make better informed design and purchase decisions.”

Among the benefits of the tool is its ability to definitely demonstrate the benefits of improving road access to modal transfer locations, including the unit cost for stopping multi-combinational vehicles from transiting through built up areas to rail heads.

“We have situations across the country where truck drivers are required to un-hitch trailers on the outskirts of town and make two trips to a transfer goods,” Clancy explained.

“TraNSIT can not only identify unit costs, but the total cost for all product transported through the area, providing valuable information to both industry and councils as to the additional costs being incurred.”

Indeed, recently the TraNSIT has begun to be used by shire councils in northern NSW and southern Queensland to quantify how transport regulatory change and upgrades to roads, rail and other supply-chain infrastructure can boost the efficiency of the transportation of goods.

“Councils often have particular locations that have been earmarked for potential freight hubs,” Higgins said. “For example, the tool can tell us – with given inputs such as location, particular loading facilities and road linkages – what can be benefits of using a potential freight intermodal hub over a road-only system for supply chains of cotton or gains or other commodities,” Higgins said.

The impacts of possible future improvements to rail networks were among the aspects explored by a TraNSIT study conducted by the CSIRO in collaboration with ARTC. It found that some facilities in the southern Queensland and northern NSW regions are limited by train and wagon size.

The study points to improvements that could be made in the future with longer, faster trains with higher capacity and with upgrades to roads that supply grain to these sites, pointing towards better integration between roads and rail. Savings of up to $10 per tonne could be made, it found, by moving from 42-wagon to 76-wagon bulk freight trains with a faster loading time of five hours.

“The TraNSIT tool is being used to look at the areas in which Inland Rail can be beneficial in terms of the overall supply chain versus purely using road,” Higgins said. “We can use it to find out where the biggest benefits will be for industry and supply chains to use the rail corridor.”

Inland Rail

With construction soon to begin on the 1,700-kilometre Inland Rail freight rail line between Brisbane and Melbourne, collaborative work is now underway between the Department of Infrastructure Regional Development and Cities and the CSIRO to explore the use of the TraNSIT model in building an understanding of regional supply chains, helping industry make the most of the project’s opportunities.

Called the Inland Rail Supply Chain Mapping Pilot Project, it will build on previous TraNSIT studies while expanding its application to the future Parkes to Narromine section of the Inland Rail project.

“The Australian government is committed to working with industry and the regions to realise the benefits from the delivery of Inland Rail as it moves towards construction in 2018. This is another step toward delivering this significant investment in Australia’s freight future,” federal transport minister Michael McCormack said.

“The Inland Rail Supply Chain Mapping Pilot Project will be informed by local community leaders and supply chain participants. The Australian government will work closely with state governments and local councils to ensure the project informs planning and freight network strategies.”

The hope is that this application of TraNSIT will further demonstrate how Inland Rail will reduce transportation costs and become a catalyst for further business investment and a subsequent revival in regional rail transport, not only between Melbourne to Brisbane but throughout regional Australia.

“The project will involve taking information about supply chains as they are and mapping them using the future planned Inland Rail corridor,” the CSIRO’s Andrew Higgins said. “It will focus on movements that will use particular parts of the corridor, and it will also look at what the potential is for different types of commodities that currently are transported via road to be put on the rail corridor.”

It will also test the potentials of surrounding, complementary upgrades – such as road improvements – in heightening the benefits of Inland Rail.

A CSIRO/ARTC study into northern NSW’s cotton industry using TraNSIT indicated the enhanced competitiveness of Inland Rail.

The baseline cost of rail transport was calculated at $8.65 million per year or $234/tonne. With the introduction of Inland rail, the rail transport cost reduces to $5.77 million per year or $156/tonne or a potential 33% transport cost reduction.

The ARTC’s Michael Clancy said that TraNSIT could help illuminate the benefits of Inland Rail and the problems it might be able to address via the development of supply chain strategies, especially in a context of continuing difficult climatic conditions throughout regional NSW and Queensland.

“We are currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in history within NSW and Queensland and seeing grain transported from South Australia to Northern NSW in 3000t payloads,” Clancy said.

“Inland Rail will enable +6000t payloads on 1:100 grades. In a normal season where will feed grain be sourced from? Will high grade, high protein, high value wheat still be trucked from the Golden Triangle between Northstar & Weemalah or will it be railed from Victoria direct to feedlots or distribution hubs?

“These are some of the questions that TraNSIT can assist in providing key understandings and with cooperation across industry drive solutions.”

Outer suburbs left behind by poor access to public transport, IA report finds

Over four million people who live in the outer suburbs of Australia’s capital cities lack adequate access to public transport services, according to a new report by the nation’s independent infrastructure advisory body, Infrastructure Australia (IA).

IA’s report, Outer Urban Public Transport: Improving accessibility in lower-density areas, assesses the frequency and accessibility of public transport services in Australia’s major cities.

Peter Colacino, IA’s executive director of policy research, said that existing transport infrastructure in major cities was outside the reach of many communities living in the outer suburbs, leading to poorer access to job and educational opportunities.

“In Melbourne, more than 1.4 million people fall into this category, with more than 1 million in Sydney and Brisbane, half a million people in Perth and 200,000 people in Adelaide,” Colacino said.

“In the past, it has been very costly to deliver public transport in lower density, outer suburban areas where houses and employment centres are typically spread over large distances. As a result, people prefer to take the most direct route by driving, rather than taking a train or bus – adding to congestion in our growing cities.”

The report calls on state governments to improve the efficiency of existing transport networks and consider new models, such as on-demand buses and share-riding, to complement traditional transport modes such as rail.

Colacino said that this would improve the flexibility and reach of transport networks and enable them to better service communities living in outer suburbs.

“We also want governments and transport operators to do more to encourage people to transfer between public transport services, which helps to increase the flexibility and reach of the network,” Colacino.

“This includes investing in well-designed interchanges, extending integrated ticketing systems to new modes, and introducing fare incentives that actively encourage people to transfer between modes to get to their destination.”

Federal cities and urban infrastructure minister, Alan Tudge, said that he welcomed IA’s report.

“Having effective public transport connections is critical in providing access to jobs and services – maintaining our cities as liveable, thriving and vibrant economic centres – and the Government welcomes IA’s contribution to this important debate,” Tudge said.

“The Coalition are investing significantly in public transport for urban areas across Australia’s major cities as part of our $75 billion commitment to transport infrastructure.”

Construction works to begin on Metro Tunnel entrances

Work is ramping up on the western and eastern entrances to Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel and other upgrades on the wider rail network, with workers currently preparing the sites for construction.

The works to build the tunnel entrances in Kensington and South Yarra, as well as a new platform at West Footscray and associated suburban rail upgrades, form part of the $1 billion Rail Infrastructure Alliance (RIA) works package.

A turnback will be built at West Footscray station to allow services to start and end at the station during timetabled peak periods for the first time, instead of travelling further down the line.

A consortium comprising John Holland, CPB Contractors and AECOM will deliver the RIA, in partnership with Rail Projects Victoria and Metro Trains Melbourne.

Roughly 50 workers are engaged in the preparatory works. Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan said over 150 workers will be onsite by the end of October.

The works will reportedly be completed in 2025. The $11 billion Metro Tunnel Project is to build nine kilometres of twin tunnels beneath the CBD in an effort to ease congestion on the City Circle and surrounding lines.

Snowy Hydro Fund to help build Sydney-Canberra ‘fast train’

The NSW government has revealed that it will use part of the $4.2 billion Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund to build a faster rail link from Sydney to Canberra and other “transformational” transport projects.

Deputy premier and minister for regional NSW John Barilaro said that the some of the fund would be used to improve rail safety and speed by upgrading existing regional rail lines.

One project Barilaro identified was the future development of new corridor for a “very fast train” between Canberra and Sydney.

Barilaro said that the current service, which takes four and a half hours, could be dramatically improved upon.

“Part of the big problem is the alignment of the rail lines, the tracks themselves need realignment, straightening and new technology,” Barlaro was quoted as saying by the ABC.

“We have an opportunity to invest now in the infrastructure.”

The $4.2 billion fund was established following the federal government’s purchase of state’s share of the Snowy Hydro Scheme.

Barilaro said that other rail projects would potentially receive investment to improve the speed of travel between the state’s regional and metropolitan areas.

“We want to identify where we can invest in faster rail,” Barilaro told 2GB radio.

“Long term, it’s got to be the VFT [Very Fast Train].

“It’s not just the Canberra-Sydney corridor – it’s getting up to the Central West, it’s getting up to Newcastle. And we’ve got an opportunity to do it.”

Earlier this year, the NSW Labor Opposition promised to fund a business case into a faster rail link between Sydney and Canberra if it won government. Opposition leader Luke Foley made the pitch in Monaro, the marginal seat held by Barilaro, in August.

First night tests completed for Newcastle light rail vehicle

The first Newcastle wireless light rail vehicle passed its initial test this week, moving along Hunter Street using its own power.

Testing began after the completion of a series of safety checks following the arrival of the vehicle from Spain last month.

Newcastle’s light rail vehicles feature energy storage units that are charged at each stop on the network during the boarding of passengers.

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance said that first powered test was a milestone on the way towards day time testing.

“Powered testing allows us to check things like the brakes, onboard energy storage and charging systems, while at the same time provides valuable training for crews in the new light rail system,” Constance said.

“Last night’s test involved running the vehicle along Hunter Street and checking the brakes and charging points at each stop.”

Testing is to continue at night over the coming weeks and will include simulations such as filling the tram with weights to mimic the load of full passenger capacity and checks to the traffic signal interactions at pedestrian crossings and intersections.

Night tests ensure the system is operating safely and efficiently under controlled conditions. Day time tests commence in the coming weeks and will involve simulated timetables and driver training.

Newcastle light rail services are scheduled to begin in early 2019.

V/Line train. Photo: Victorian Government

Stabling upgrades underway at Shepparton Station

Construction work has begun on train stabling upgrades at Shepparton Station, stage one of a project to enable more services on the Shepparton Line.

The stabling upgrades will allow an additional passenger train to be stabled overnight at the station, making possible the introduction an extra daily return train service between Shepparton and Melbourne early next year.

These works will be accompanied by upgrades to the signalling and tracks, and the building of better access for train crews and lighting improvements to assist train inspections.

Construction is being carried out by V/Line on behalf of Rail Projects Victoria (RPV) and will be completed at the end of 2018.

“We’ve wasted no time getting to work on this upgrade, which will boost service options for passengers travelling between Melbourne and Shepparton from early 2019,” state transport minister Jacinta Allan said.

“Shepparton passengers have more to look forward to, with these works just the first step in a $356 million investment to bring faster and more frequent services to the line.”

The funding $356 million in state government funding for stage one of the Shepparton Line upgrades also provided for an additional 29 coach services per week between Shepparton and Seymour to fill gaps in the timetable.

An additional $313 million for stage two of the Shepparton Corridor Upgrade was provided in the 2018-19 Victorian Budget. These works will include upgrades to level crossings, signalling and track, as well as platform extensions and a new stabling facility enabling faster VLocity trains to run on the line.

The business case for stage three of the project is also being progressed. It will see the provision of nine return services a day between Shepparton and Melbourne. The delivery timelines for both stages two and three will be confirmed over the coming months.

North east Vic locals be consulted for Inland Rail and North East Line Upgrade

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) will be holding six community consultation sessions in north east Victoria this week for the Inland Rail project and the North East Line Upgrade.

ARTC’s general manager of asset management Brian Green said that the community pop-up sessions would allow information regarding the two major projects to be shared with communities in the area, and allow questions from the public to be answered and feedback to be gathered.

“We know the community has a strong interest in these rail projects and will be keen to get an update on where we are at, and what it may mean for them. That’s what these sessions are about,” Green said.

The federal government recently approved $235 million in funding for the North East Rail Line project. The aim of the project is to improve V/Line services more reliable and reduce delays by upgrading the line to achieve Victorian Class 2 performance standard. The project forms part of the $1.7 billion Regional Rail Revival program, which is jointly funded by the Australian and Victorian governments.

The Class 2 performance standard is necessary for the new VLocity fleet to run along the line.

The works are to include replacing and adding ballast, mudhole removal, drainage improvements, relocating signalling wires underground, railway bridge replacement and improvement, rail replacement and rejuvenation, and track improvement works at level crossings.

The Tottenham to Albury section of the Inland Rail project is planned along 305km of existing rail corridor from metropolitan Melbourne to the Victoria-NSW border at Albury-Wodonga.

This project will see enhancements of existing structures to provide increased clearances along the rail corridor. These will accommodate double stack freight trains of 1,800 metres in length to be run on the track.