David Loneragan

Federal funding for North East Line approved

The federal government will provide $235 million in funding for Victoria’s North East Rail Line project, following formal approvals.

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.

“Today’s announcement is a key step in confirming the Australian Government’s commitment to getting this project delivered,” federal infrastructure and transport minister Michael McCormack said.

“This follows detailed review of the scope of works by the Institute of Railway Technology at Monash University, which has confirmed that it will deliver the track quality the community expect.”

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

Train manufacturer Bombardier has agreed to complete the design of bogies for the new standard gauge VLocity trains for Victoria’s North East Line, as part of the state’s efforts to get trains ready for the upgraded line when it opens.

Multiple review and endorsement processes for the North East Line upgrades were undertaken by agencies including Transport for Victoria, Rail Projects Victoria, Public Transport Victoria, V/Line, the Federal Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities as well as the Australian Rail Track Corporation.

“This project is an extremely important investment in better-connecting the region and directly tackles the various causes of cancellations and delays such as track condition, signalling faults, passenger delays and rolling stock maintenance,” McCormack said.

“These works will be delivered by the ARTC in a coordinated way with the upgrades needed for the Inland Rail, which are scheduled for delivery over a similar time frame.

The project is expected is begin in early 2019 and be completed by the middle of 2021.

Surveying contract awarded, major construction shortlisted for Avon River rail bridge

Planning works for the new Avon River rail bridge have entered into their next phase, with the Victorian government this week awarding a contract for surveying work.

OnePlan Land Development Group, which has offices in Bairnsdale and Beaconsfield, will begin carrying out cadastral surveying the Avon River site on Monday and over the next two weeks.

An important part of the planning process for the bridge, the surveying work will determine where the existing property boundaries are around the bridge site.

“We’re working hard to deliver this long-awaited transformation of train services to communities along the Gippsland line,” said Labor’s MP for Eastern Victoria, Harriet Shing.

“As these works continue we are seeing local businesses and companies getting involved, and which is another important part of supporting our growing local economy.”

The Gippsland Line Upgrade is a program participant with GROW Gippsland, which aims to maximise local and social employment and procurement opportunities.

“We want to see this bridge for locals be built by locals,” state transport minister Jacinta Allan.

The Request For Proposal (RFP) phase for shortlisted companies for major construction work has also opened today. Rail Projects Victoria has shortlisted three contractors – Downer EDI Works, CPB Contractors and a joint venture between Coleman Rail and Decmil Southern – who are to provide detailed proposals on their plans for the construction of the bridge.

The proposals will be due in early 2019 and, following an evaluation period, Rail Projects Victoria will award the design and construct contract in the middle of that year. Construction on the bridge planned to begin in late 2019, with a target completion date of early 2021, subject to planning and environmental approvals.

Aurizon freight train. Photo: Aurizon

Freight supply chain strategy central to congestion-busting: Logistics Council

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has said that freight and supply chain planning needs to be addressed in the development of strategies to reduce road congestion.

The ALC said it considered this week’s speech by cities and urban infrastructure minister Alan Tudge as a good step forward for infrastructure planning.

In a speech to the Menzies Research Centre in Melbourne on October 10, Tudge asserted it was “a fact of life that as cities become larger they get more congested”.

The government’s plan to address growing congestion includes a $75 billion, ten-year spending program on road and rail projects in major cities.

ALC chair Philip Davies said that the minister’s statements were consistent with ALC’s long-held view that the Commonwealth government needs to be more active in long-term planning for infrastructure as Australia’s population grows.

“It is evident that road congestion is having an increasingly detrimental impact on the quality of life in Australia’s cities,” Davies said.
“It is just as important that policy makers recognise the impact that congestion has on the efficiency and safe movement of freight through our supply chains. Ultimately, the rising costs incurred as a result of congestion are paid by Australian consumers.”
Davies encouraged the government to implement a comprehensive supply chain strategy to foster greater national consistency in planning outcomes, particularly around corridor protection and land-use planning.
“Only by improving Australia’s approach on these key issues can we be confident of creating truly liveable cities into the future, while also ensuring freight logistics operators have the 24/7 operational flexibility they need to meet consumer expectations, and support continued export growth,” he said.
“The minister’s remarks today are an encouraging start, and ALC looks forward to seeing further details of the government’s population policy in the coming weeks.”
Metro train. Photo: RailGallery.com.au

Vic public transport performs well in busy month

Public Transport Victoria (PTV) has published performance data for September, which saw improvements across rail and tram services.

PTV CEO Jeroen Weimar said September saw performance improvements across the network during a busy month, with 2,000 additional services delivered to transport thousands of passengers to the AFL and NRL finals and to the Royal Melbourne Show.

“We put on hundreds of extra train and tram services, transporting almost half a million passengers from across metropolitan and regional Victoria, to the footy finals and the Royal Melbourne Show,” Weimar said.

Metro Trains Melbourne delivered 92.4 per cent of services on time in September, clearing the monthly target. The operator’s MR4 contract – which came into effect on last November – requires the operator to meet a new punctuality rate of 92 per cent of trains running within 4 mins and 59 secs of their scheduled arrival time, and a new delivery target for timetable services of 98.5 per cent.

The Glen Waverly Line was the best performer, with 97 per cent of trains arriving on time. The worst was the Cranbourne line, where 83.8 per cent of services ran to their scheduled times. The newly extended Mernda Line did well, with 94.9 per cent.

“The first full month of the newly extended Mernda line and the new timetable changes, also demonstrates our capacity to introduce more stations, carry more passengers, run more services and still deliver punctuality improvements,” Weimar said.

V/Line continued to experience improvements, which has seen punctuality rise by almost nine per cent since May to 88.2 per cent.

The Geelong (91.5 per cent) and Ballarat (89.6 per cent) lines were among the best performers, with Ballarat recording its highest punctuality result since December 2016. Ten of the 11 regional lines returned reliability results higher than, or equal to, the 12-month average.

“We’ve been putting a lot of work into improving regional services for our passengers, and that effort is starting to pay off,” said Weimar.

Yarra Trams exceeded its punctuality and reliability targets with 86.3 per cent of trams arriving on time and 99.2 per cent reliability.

“This is the ninth successive month the reliability target has been exceeded on our tram network which reflects the added investment going into maintaining and upgrading our fleet,” Weimar said.

Construction to begin on Metro Tunnel Town Hall Station entrance

Construction work is soon to begin on the entrance to the Metro Tunnel’s underground Town Hall Station at Melbourne’s Federation Square, leading to the closure of one Flinders Street lane for four years.

To prepare for works, from 10pm last night, Flinders Street westbound between Russell and Swanston streets was fully shut, with detours via Russell, Collins, Queen and Flinders streets, and Kings Way to St Kilda Road.

Traffic flow will be reduced along Flinders Street, with one westbound lane between Russell and Swanston streets will be closed to traffic for up to four years.

“We know this is going to cause lots of disruption for commuters and we thank them for their patience as we get on with delivering this vital project,” state transport minister Jacinta Allan.

“We said we would build a Metro Tunnel station entrance on the doorstep of Federation Square and we’re getting on with it.”

To prepare for construction of the Federation Square entrance, night works will be carried out throughout October and in November between 10pm to 5am, with changes to the Flinders Street westbound traffic lanes between Russell and Swanston streets and other lane reductions and closures on Swanston Street and St Kilda Road. Traffic management will be in place during these periods, with detours available.

Following the granting of a permit by Heritage Australia for major construction at Federation Square, the former Melbourne Visitor Centre will be dismantled and demolished this week.

Concrete support columns are being drilled into the ground at the City Square construction site on the corner of Swanston and Collins streets. These will allow the new station to be built 35 metres below the CBD.

The Town Hall Station will have seven entrances: at City Square, Federation Square, the Degraves Street subway, Flinders Street, Swanston Street, Cocker Alley and Scott Alley.

Level crossing in Melbourne. Photo: RailGallery.com.au

More automatic gates planned for Auckland’s pedestrian rail crossings

The New Zealand government has confirmed a further $7.6 million for automatic pedestrian crossing gates for 11 Auckland rail crossings as part of its program to improve safety along the network.

Auckland Transport (AT) is planning safety improvements for all 51 pedestrian rail crossings in Auckland, with automatic gates, grade separations or crossing closures to be delivered over the next five years.

“There have been too many stories of people getting hurt or killed by trains in Auckland. Improving the safety at rail crossings is one of the ways that we can help prevent harm to our kids and families when they’re getting around the city,” Twyford said.

“We know that installing automatic gates at rail crossings saves lives. Since the introduction of automatic pedestrian gates at Glenview Road in Glen Eden and at Metcalfe Road in Ranui, there have been no further records of near misses at these locations.”

Automatic pedestrian gates are activated by a sensor on the tracks and have a safety zone with a locked emergency exit gate. When a train approaches these pedestrian level crossings, the bells sound, red alarm lights flash on and off and the crossing gates close automatically.

Pedestrians caught on the crossing by the closing gates are able to take refuge in the safe zone and exit it by pushing a button that releases the locked exit gate. Locking the emergency gate is to minimise the misuse of the emergency exit gates.

Seven crossings received automatic gate safety upgrades last year along the Western Line, at Metcalfe Road, Glenview Road, Rossgrove Terrace, Asquith Ave and Fruitvale Road, Lloyd Ave and Woodward Road.

Twyford said that the works that have been carried out and are planned were especially important with newer, quieter trains running along the Auckland network making accidents more likely.

“In the 12 months to 31 August, there have been 52 pedestrian near misses at level crossings on AT’s network, with a further 51 near misses recorded in the rail corridor,” the minister said.

The project team will now work towards installing gates at St Georges Road, Chalmers Street, St Judes, Portage Road – projects due to be completed by June, in the current financial year.

A further phase is expected to be completed in the 2019/2020 financial year, and includes Te Mahia, Spartan Road, Takanini, Manuroa, Walters Road, Taka Street and Tirnoui Road.

The funding for the safety upgrades is jointly provided by AT and NZTA. The work to improve level crossing safety within the Auckland area is being carried out jointly by AT and KiwiRail.

Daytime freight trains return between Blenheim and Christchurch

Daytime freight trains will run for the first time in two years between Blenheim and Christchurch on New Zealand’s Main North Line next week, marking a milestone in the rebuilding effort after the Kaikoura earthquake in late 2016.

Intense repair works allowed an initial restricted re-opening of the line in September 2017 for low-frequency freight services running five nights a week to allow repair and rebuilding work to continue.

While freight trains have only run at night over the last 13 months, KiwiRail’s acting chief executive Todd Moyle said that strong support from customers meant that more than 480,000 tonnes of freight have been moved since September 2017.

“That has meant at least 34,000 fewer trucks travelling on the earthquake-damaged roads or smaller inland roads during that time,” Moyle said.

“KiwiRail teams and our partners at the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) agency have been making fantastic progress on repairs to the Main North Line over the past few months.”

The Main North Line, which runs between Picton and Christchurch, is a major link in New Zealand’s transport supply network, with over 1 million tonnes of freight travelling between the North and South islands every year before the earthquake left over 150 kilometres of its length damaged.

KiwiRail is also planning to bring back its Great Journeys of New Zealand Coastal Pacific service from Christchurch to Picton in December, which has not operated since the quake.

“We’ve been getting a lot of interest and strong bookings for this award-winning scenic rail journey and already have days completely sold out months before we begin,” said Moyle.

With trains soon to run again during the day, KiwiRail is warning the community to expect a lot more activity at level crossings alone the Main North Line.

“While there have been some work trains and other rail vehicles using the line during the day, we are conscious that many people who regularly use level crossings along the line may have become used to the lighter levels of rail activity and need to be aware of this change,” Moyle said.

“As the rail line will now be busier during the day, we urge everyone to always obey the signs and signals and look both ways before crossing railway tracks.”

Metro Trains Australia awarded contract for ARA online skills program

The Australasian Rail Assocation (ARA) has awarded a new five-year contract to Metro Trains Australia (MTA) for the delivery of its national competency system, the Rail Industry Worker Program (RIW).

The RIW Program enables the management of rail worker skills across Australia, providing a single online platform accessible to workers across different state networks.

The program is owned and endorsed by the ARA on behalf of ARA Members and RIW participants.

ARA CEO, Danny Broad, said that MTA and its partners would now become the new service provider of the program following a competitive tender process.

“The RIW Program has grown considerably since it started, both in terms of participation and the breadth of requirements for participants,” Broad said.

“The RIW Program will continue to support organisations in meeting legal and regulatory obligations, as well as maximising safety.”

The system will use the latest smartcard technology and a secure database compatible with multiple platforms, including smartphones and real-time business intelligence reporting.

MTA’s acting managing director, Leah Waymark, said that the RIW Program played a key role in enabling national rail safety by offering a seamless system for workers to manage their competencies online.

“The competency management system is world class and our technology partner, Reference Point Limited, is the proven force behind the systems which keep rail, road and other key industry and infrastructure workers safe right across the UK,” Waymark said.

“The RIW solution will be Australian based and supported by multiple Australian companies to deliver locally where possible.”

Information sessions on the RIW Program will be held prior to the system going live on 30 March 2019.

Major Sydney light rail works initiated over long-weekend

Construction crews took advantage of the long-weekend to progress works on Sydney’s light rail line at important George Street intersections, while tram testing is soon to be extended in the South East.

Bathurst Street was completely closed over the long weekend for the commencement of rail installation, while Market Street closed for finishing works, including the installation of waterproofing and paving.

A Transport for NSW (TfNSW) spokesperson said that, following the completion of these works, barriers will able to be removed altogether.

“Around 97 percent of track has been installed across the alignment with track installed at every intersection outside the CBD,” the spokesperson said.

Light rail vehicle testing will also soon be extended along the alignment, with the overhead wires that power the trams scheduled to start being installed this month along Wansey Road and on High Street. When the works are complete, night testing will run to Wansey Road.

Work on the Wansey Road and Royal Randwick stops has also advanced, with the steel structure and windbreaks now installed.

Landscaping work has been completed along the Australian Turf Club fence line, while further work will include upgrades to traffic signals, relocation of a major Ausgrid power main, and reinstatement of High Cross Park.

Construction complete on Newcastle light rail

Major construction work on Newcastle’s light rail line has come to end, with the remainder of Hunter and Scott streets to open on Saturday for the launch event for the restored Newcastle Station.

The city’s light rail line, set to open in early 2019, will run between Wickham and Newcastle East via six stations.

Construction on the project started on Hunter Street in September last year and, over the past 12 months, has included the installation of 5.5 kilometres of light rail track, the replacement of century-old sewerage infrastructure and upgrades to approximately 3.5 kilometres of footpaths in partnership with the City of Newcastle.

Revitalising Newcastle program director, Michael Cassel, said that the past year had seen the delivery of the largest infrastructure programme in decades.

“This is a watershed moment for Newcastle,” Cassel said.

“The fences are coming down to reveal a new and improved Hunter Street, 6,000 square metres of former rail corridor has been delivered as community greenspace, and the restored Newcastle Station will hold its grand public opening with a free event tomorrow night.”

Cassel applauded the effort that had been put into the project from the thousands who have worked on the site over the past year.

“More than 3,000 individuals have worked on the Newcastle Light Rail site, ranging from engineers to excavator drivers, and each person has contributed to this project being kept on time, and on budget,” he said.

In October, a public event will be held on Market Street Lawn, featuring free entertainment, food stalls, and opportunities to walk through a new light rail vehicle.

The first light rail vehicle arrived earlier this month. Testing will begin on the line next month.

This weekend, the restored Newcastle Station will be launched. From Saturday until Christmas, it will host monthly night markets.

“With light rail construction complete, the streets clear, and new public spaces open to the community, the conditions are right for the city to come alive,” Cassel said.

“Over the coming months, Novocastrians will see more light rail movements up and down the track as everything from brakes to bells are meticulously checked for safety and performance prior to the service opening early next year.”