David Loneragan

Albanese attacks government for infrastructure ‘delivery crisis’

Federal Labor’s shadow transport and infrastructure minister, Anthony Albanese, has criticised the Coalition government for what he described as its “failure” to deliver on its infrastructure commitments since coming to power five years ago.

Albanese claimed that the government has not delivered its promised infrastructure spend in each of its four Budgets since its first in 2014, leaving a gap of $4.9 billion.

“This is nothing short of a crisis in project delivery,” Albanese said in a statement.

“It is clear the Government’s revolving-door parade of infrastructure ministers, including Warren Truss, Jamie Briggs, Darren Chester, Barnaby Joyce, Paul Fletcher, Michael McCormack and Alan Tudge, have all lacked the competence to deliver their own promises.”

Albanese’s comments come hot on the heels of the release of the Final Budget Outcome documents for the government’s 2017-18 Budget. The documents, the shadow minister contended, indicate that the government invested only $6.9 billion in infrastructure spending, after having committed to a spend of $7.9 billion.

“Projects promised but not delivered include general rail and road investment as well as literally hundreds of road safety projects under the Black Spot Program,” Albanese said.

“The Bridges Renewal Program, created by this government, is underspent by more than half, with $290 million promised but $135 million delivered.”

Albanese also poured scorn on the recent revelations that the government had secret plans for $7.6 billion in road and rail spending in marginal seats ahead of the next federal election.

“Instead of cynically holding back announcements for its political purposes, Mr Morrison must get on with the job of providing Australians with the railways and roads that he has promised and that they have paid for through their taxes,” he said.

“Investing in the right infrastructure projects creates jobs and economic activity in the short-term, while boosting productivity and economic growth over the long-term.”

New train stabling yard to be built in Melbourne’s west

A new train stabling yard will be built in Melbourne’s west, replacing an existing facility and making way for an extension of Wurundjeri Way as part of the West Gate Tunnel Project.

The new stabling yard will be located to the north of Wyndham Vale Station, replacing the existing stabling at the E-Gate facility near Footscray. The project is expected to start later this year and be completed by 2020.

It will involve the construction of a stabling yard, driver facilities and a bypass track connected to the Geelong line, which will allow trains to access the facility without delaying passenger services.

The stabling yard will have the capacity to house up to six V/Line VLocity trains and has been designed to cater for a further stabling expansion and a maintenance facility if required in the future.

“We’re investing in rail for regional Victoria. We’ve ordered 87 new VLocity carriages, we’re putting on more services and we’re continuing to build the infrastructure Victorians need,” state transport minister Jacinta Allan said.

“This stabling facility was planned for as part of the Regional Rail Link, which has improved capacity on the metropolitan network and reduced bottlenecks that once plagued regional lines.”

Once completed, it will enable V/Line to meet its interpeak stabling needs and increase capacity on the regional network.

State and Commonwealth planning approvals have been obtained for the project, which will be carried out by the Level Crossing Removal Authority.

The state government has conducted consultation with the local council and the community on the Wyndham Vale development.

“The presence of this infrastructure in our City means that much-needed, additional train services will be provided for commuters using the Wyndham Vale and Tarneit stations,” said the acting mayor of Wyndham, Walter Villagonzalo.

“The priority for Council will be to work with the State Government to ensure the visual amenity of the site is given due consideration whilst prioritising the new services.”

Aurizon worker. Photo: RailGallery.com.au

Aurizon offering drought relief funding for regional communities

Australian freight rail operator, Aurizon, is offering drought relief funding in addition to its regular Community Giving Fund grants, the latest round of which is now open.

Aurizon’s managing director and CEO, Andrew Harding, said that the additional funding was a way of supporting communities experiencing difficulty during the current drought crisis.

“It’s our way of supporting the impacted farming communities in Queensland and New South Wales where our trains travel and many of our employees live and work,” Harding said.

“Families and businesses are experiencing some of the toughest conditions in a very long time, and through these additional cash grants, we hope charities can continue their very important work of providing much needed assistance in local communities.”

Aurizon’s Community Giving Fund provides grants of up to $20,000 for eligible charities and not-for-profit groups that contribute to community safety, health, education or the environment in areas where the company operates.

“If you are a charity or community group seeking financial support in these categories, I encourage you to visit our website to find out more information,” Harding said.

“Our Community Giving Fund has been giving back since 2011, supporting numerous very worthwhile projects in the communities where we operate.

“This funding all goes towards local community projects, and we look forward to continuing our support in this round, and in particular, helping our communities impacted by the drought.”

Applications for the latest round of the Community Giving Fund will be open until Friday 26 October.

Tunnel leak causes TBM work to stop on Forrestfield-Airport project

A leak in one of the tunnels being dug for Perth’s Forrestfield-Airport link has caused the temporary cessation of work with the project’s tunnel boring machines.

The small leak occurred on Saturday during works aimed at creating a tunnel cross passage, a throughway to connect the two tunnels and which will be used as an emergency exit once the rail line is operational.

The incident reportedly occurred in tunnel one of the project around a cross passage adjacent to Dundas Road, 200 metres north of Forrestfield Station, which led to the formation of a sinkhole early on Sunday morning and closure of the road.

The tunnel boring machines have now stopped as a precautionary measure and work is continuing to stop ground water from leaking into tunnel one.

While that work is ongoing, a survey of the ground along Dundas Road and tunnel connecting to the cross passage is also underway.

Western Australian transport minister, Rita Saffioti, said that the state government was working with the Salini-Impregilo-NRW joint venture in finding a safe resolution to the situation.

“I have asked the Public Transport Authority to review the timeline of the project, to ensure worker safety is paramount,” Saffioti said.

“In addition, there will be a review into the method used to create future cross passages and surveys are now being undertaken of the ground and the two tunnels in the vicinity of this particular cross passage.”

Due to the leak there has been some movement of approximately 10 tunnel rings near the point of the cross passage. Additional internal bracing is now in place as work continues to stop the leak and resolve the sinkhole damage.

TBM Grace is currently about 3km ahead of this cross passage site and TBM Sandy is located about 2.5km ahead of the site.

Pacific National class 92 locomotives hauling a coal train over a rail bridge crossing the Hunter River at Singleton, NSW. Photo: Creative Commons / Bluedawe

NSW government releases new freight plan

The NSW government has released a new freight and ports plan, which will guide the investment of over $5 billion across the sector to support the state’s growing freight task.

The government’s report NSW Freight and Ports Plan 2018-2023 calls for government and industry to work together to make the state’s freight system more efficient, accessible, safer and sustainable over the next five years.

State roads, maritime and freight minister Melinda Pavey said that the plan set firm targets to achieve faster, more efficient and higher capacity freight networks.

“With freight and logistics contributing more than $180 million to the NSW economy every day, an increasing population and consumer preferences changing, the freight network will face increased future demand,” Pavey said.

“This, compounded by a desire to have same day delivery for online goods, requires government and industry to have the freight network capable of working at full throttle.”

With the NSW freight task to grow by 28 per cent by 2036, the plan provides over 70 initiatives to increase network capacity, including through investing $5 billion in new and existing infrastructure.

Other efforts will include supporting reforms that harmonise national laws and regulations and remove impediments to productivity for operators across the network, engaging in data sharing with industry, and facilitating the use of new technologies for improve network coordination.

The plan also aims at increasing in the share of freight transport via rail to the Port of Botany to 28 per cent by 2021, protecting land for future corridors, and making investments – including targeted improvements to the NSW rail network – that will expand the capacity of east-west freight rail movements.

Alongside the plan, the NSW government will report its efforts in achieving its objectives via a new online Freight Performance Dashboard and other data platforms that mark and measure targets across a number of categories, including the number of rail freight paths and overall percentages of freight usage across the state.

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne. Photo: Creative Commons / Adam J.W.C.

Helicopters with thermal cameras flying over Melbourne’s train network

Helicopters and drones fitted with thermal imaging cameras have been flying over Melbourne’s rail network in an effort to improve safety and security during large events.

The helicopters and drones will deliver real-time information and intelligence to the train control centre where Metro Trains works alongside police to improve responses to serious network disruptions and incidents.

Victoria’s transport minister Jacinta Allan on Monday joined representatives from Victoria Police, PTV and Metro Trains Melbourne to give an update about joint security arrangements on the public transport network.

“The use of drones is another tool to better respond to disruptions and catch the criminals who seek to deface our network,” Allan said.

“This is all about making sure our passengers can get to and from Melbourne’s major events quickly and safely.”

In using this information Metro Trains makes assessments about the kind of response that is required to an incident, and confirm when tracks are clear to get trains moving and passengers on their way.

The information is also used as a tool to detect trespassing on the network – as well as incidents of graffiti and criminal damage to rail equipment which all cause disruptions to services.

Intelligence sourced from the cameras is provided to Victoria Police to support on-going investigations.

New report commissioned on infrastructure procurement

The federal government has commissioned a report into infrastructure procurement policies and practices, which it will take to the COAG Transport and Infrastructure Council later in the year.

The report will be developed in consultation with industry and will examine how policy can deliver better value on investments and help develop expertise and experience in the construction sector working on infrastructure projects.

Deputy prime minister and Federal infrastructure and transport minister, Michael McCormack, said that as Australia’s infrastructure programme grows, Commonwealth and state payment arrangements have to be organised in a way that does not hamper market competition.

“Around the country our investment is focused on improving safety and driving economic growth, creating around 50,000 additional direct and indirect jobs, and we want to maximise that benefit,” McCormack said.

“The community should have confidence the size of the government’s infrastructure investment provides opportunities across the construction supply chain. We know the benefits which can come from fair and reasonable opportunity for Australian businesses to compete for work.”

Andrew Broad, assistant minister to the deputy prime minister, said that discussions with industry would help develop policy for major procurement and also identify the best ways to delivery support for local construction contractors to engage on federally-funded infrastructure projects.

“It is important that we show the leadership and work with state and territory governments to refine the settings for major infrastructure projects to support local content and grow the experience and capability of the Australian construction industry,” Broad said.


Gawler Line and Ballarat Line projects get Infrastructure Australia approval

Adelaide’s Gawler Line electrification project and upgrades to Victoria’s Ballarat Line have been approved by the nation’s independent infrastructure advisory authority, Infrastructure Australia, which has now placed both projects on its Infrastructure Priority List.

The Gawler Line project involves electrifying the Gawler rail line, replacing the diesel fleet with electric train cars, replacing signalling equipment and systems, and upgrading 20 stations on the line.

IA’s acting chief executive Anna Chau said that upgrades proposed as part of the Gawler Rail Line Electrification and Modernisation Project would improve journey times for commuters and enable more train services between the CBD and Adelaide’s fast-growing northern suburbs.

“The majority of the population growth projected for Greater Metropolitan Adelaide to 2061 will occur in Adelaide’s northern suburbs along the Gawler rail line, which is also a critical link between the CBD and regional centres of Mawson Lakes, Salisbury, Elizabeth and Gawler,” Chau said.

Chau said that IA’s 2015 Australian Infrastructure Audit found that the number of commuters travelling on the Gawler line would almost double by 2031, with the rail line reaching capacity within five to ten years.

“The current diesel fleet limits opportunities to increase train frequencies or improve performance, which is why we consider modernising the Gawler rail line to be an issue of national significance that should be addressed in the near-term,” she said.

“By providing convenient and efficient access to jobs and services, the project could help deliver a more sustainable increase in residential densities along the corridor.”

The Ballarat Line upgrade project aims to increase capacity on the line by duplicating tracks, adding passing loops and upgrading stations.

With the population of Melbourne’s outer west continuing to expand, the Ballarat Line consistently runs at capacity during peak times, with passenger crowding a normal occurrence. Further, constrained track configuration the line makes punctual and reliable scheduling of services difficult, and has hampered the provision of extra services.

Chau said that as Melbourne’s population expands in the coming decades, links to outer urban areas and satellite cities such as Ballarat would become even more vital.

“Infrastructure Australia is confident that the proposed upgrade would allow additional services to run on the Ballarat Line, providing passengers with more reliable and less crowded trips,” she said.

“It would also reduce congestion on the road network by encouraging some travellers to use public transport instead of driving.”


Business community meets to discuss Parramatta light rail

The Parramatta Light Rail business advisory committee has met with representatives from several small businesses from the area to collect feedback and advice on the development of the project.

According to Parramatta Light Rail program director, Tim Poole, the Parramatta Light Rail Business Reference Group will give the local business community and key stakeholder representatives a strong voice in the light rail project.

“When Stage 1 of the Parramatta Light Rail opens in 2023, it will be incredible for businesses along the alignment – but we need to get the planning right and we are asking for their help to do this,” Poole said.

“Members of our Business Reference Group will be invaluable in providing ideas and feedback to government on initiatives that will support businesses during the construction of the Stage 1 alignment.

“We are delighted there is such strong support for light rail and for local businesses while we deliver this major piece of public transport infrastructure.”

Expected to open in 2023, Stage 1 of the Parramatta light rail will run 12-kilometres between Westmead and Carlingford via Parramatta CBD and Camellia.

Recently, in an effort to quell some of the swelling community concerns about the potential disruptiveness of the planned Parramatta light rail project, the NSW Government gave a guarantee that construction will not commence until at least 2020.

Businesses on Parramatta’s premier shopping and eatery strip on Church Street have been looking upon the disruptions and delays that have beleaguered Sydney’s CBD and South East light rail project with concern, keen to avoid the situation currently facing their counterparts on George Street, where foot-traffic has diminished considerably.

The guarantee to not start construction until 2020 follows a period of community consultation, including surveys of local businesses and over 125 community information events.

Members of the Parramatta Light Rail Business Reference Group responded to a public Expression of Interest process, and include the Transport Coordination Division, City of Parramatta Council, Parramatta Chamber of Commerce and local businesses along the Stage 1 alignment including retail outlets.

Transport for NSW is reportedly investigating the possibility of a flexible construction schedule on Church Street that would work around the street’s busiest trading times, weekends, early evenings and holidays.

Tram leaving Broadwater Parklands on the Gold Coast Light Rail

Majority support Gold Coast 3A extension, survey says

Over 75 per cent of Gold Coast residents support the construction of a further stage to the city’s light rail network, according to the results of an independent survey.

Stage 3A is the proposed extension of the Gold Coast’s light rail system from Broadbeach South light rail station to 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.

An online survey, a phone survey and four group discussions, conducted by independent market research specialists on behalf of the Queensland government, found that 86 per cent of support Stage 3A and 72 per cent of Stage 3A corridor residents and 80 per cent of corridor businesses support future light rail extensions.

“If there was ever proof needed of how out of touch those LNP Gold Coast MPs who don’t support Light Rail Stage 3A are, like Michael Hart and Ray Stevens, this is it,” state transport minister Mark Bailey said.

“There is no doubt that Light Rail Stage 2 is one of the greatest Labor public transport legacies here in Queensland, with the 7.3 kilometre G:Link delivered in record time and under budget, and catering for more than 1 million trips during the Commonwealth Games.

“Since Stage 2 opened, light rail patronage has increased by 33 per cent, and I’m confident Stage 3A, once built, will mirror that success.”

Community drop-in sessions have also been conducted the register community opinions.

“At the drop-in sessions, 169 written responses were submitted, and feedback generally focused on localised issues and how the project may impact communities along the 6.7-kilometre alignment,” Bailey said.

Feedback is being documented by the Stage 3A project team to inform the detailed business case for Stage 3A. The reference design maps used at the drop-in sessions provided new information and 3D animated visuals to inform the community about the proposed light rail line along the Gold Coast Highway.

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.