Staff Writer

Roads and Maritime Services integrated into TfNSW

Transport for NSW this week announced the integration of functions of the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) into the agency.

The changes were first announced in April as part of an administrative overhaul following Gladys Berejiklian’s state election win earlier this year, but the passing of the Transport Administration Amendment (RMS Dissolution) Bill 2019 on Tuesday formalised these changes.

“The passing of this Bill enables a more integrated and strategic approach to transport for everybody in the State, leading to better roads and services,” minister for transport and roads Andrew Constance said.

“With $55.6 billion being invested in transport and roads infrastructure over the next four years, an integrated transport agency that meets the needs of the community is vital.”

“With a single transport agency we will no longer have roads being built in one corner and transport delivered in another, without anybody talking to each other. These changes will better serve our community with a new fit-for-purpose, ready-to-respond transport agency.”

Minister for regional transport and roads Paul Toole added that TfNSW is now better placed to plan and deliver roads, transport, and freight movements across the regions due to the integration.

“This re-organisation is not about cuts, we have given a solid commitment that there will be no job losses in regional NSW,” Toole said.

Earlier this week, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the changes mean a major reshuffle of TfNSW’s senior positions. Based on internal documents it obtained, SMH reports that the roles of many executive-level managers have disappeared and their names are absent from the proposed structures for each of TfNSW’s divisions.

Perth B-series train. Credit: Creative Commons / DBZ2313

WA infrastructure package a win for Metronet

 A $940 million infrastructure package for projects across Western Australia, including Metronet, was jointly announced by the federal and state governments on Wednesday.

The bulk of the funding will go towards eight existing road and rail projects, while a total of more than $200 million, contributed by both governments, will fund six new projects.

Among the new projects, $80 million is slated for the construction of a new Metronet station at Lakelands on the Mandurah rail line. Of this, $64 million is contributed by federal government and $16 million by the state.

The total amount of federal funding for WA’s infrastructure will rise to $5.4 billion from about $4.5 billion over the next four years after a further $868 million federal injection.

“This new agreement with the Commonwealth comes on top of the almost 500 road and Metronet projects currently underway or in the pipeline – when complete it will be an unprecedented transformation of our transport network,” premier of WA Mark McGowan said.

McGowan said the package of works will generate around 1,000 jobs, adding to the thousands of other jobs being created by other WA infrastructure projects that are either under construction or in the pipeline.

“The package of works has something for Perth’s northern, eastern and southern suburbs which are all experiencing significant population growth,” WA minister for transport Rita Saffioti said

“The State Government put forward an ambitious timeframe for the existing projects and we’re working hard to get new contracts underway, as soon as possible, including having to work through Federal environmental processes.”

Metronet’s environmental impact up for assessment

The environmental assessment process has begun for the Morley-Ellenbrook Line, according to WA transport minister Rita Saffioti.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has received the first of two environmental assessment submissions from the Public Transport Authority (PTA) on behalf of the state government.

“Metronet projects like the Morley-Ellenbrook Line limit urban sprawl, reduce reliance on cars and help create more sustainable communities,” Saffioti said.

“We will continue to work with environmental regulators to ensure this legacy project for Perth minimises its impacts and maximises its role in supporting the long-term sustainability of our city as it grows.”

The state government is making its submissions in two parts, because there are different environmental values along the 21km Morley-Ellenbrook line. The first submission covers the Bayswater to Malaga rail works from the Bayswater industrial area to Malaga within the Tonkin Highway median.

“We have used the existing Tonkin Highway corridor as much as possible and much of the alignment follows largely unvegetated land,” Saffioti said.

The Bayswater to Malaga area has largely been cleared during previous projects, and so there are minimal environmentally sensitive values. The PTA’s submission therefore focused on reducing amenity impacts, such as noise and vibration, to nearby residents.

According to a PTA statement, their project team has avoided sensitive sites and will continue to work closely with regulators to identify, avoid, minimise and mitigate any potential impacts.

The second submission, covering rail work from Malaga to Ellenbrook, is scheduled to be delivered to the EPA by early 2020. This proposed section of the future rail line travels through Marshall Road land, across the narrowest part of the Bennett Brook and land parallel to New Lord Street.

“In the meantime, we look forward to starting the first stage of the Morley-Ellenbrook Line very soon by starting early works for the Bayswater Station Upgrade,” Saffioti said.

The Bayswater Station Upgrade is the first stage of the Morley-Ellenbrook Line construction and will commence during December.

Resleepered track on WA's Leonora Branch Line. Photo: Brookfield Rail

Victoria’s $27 million sleeper replacement project underway

Sleeper replacement work has begun along the Shepparton line as part of the Victorian government’s more than $27 million sleeper replacement project.

A crew of 50 V/Line staff is working through the night in 10-night blocks to replace the first of 37,000 sleepers on the 83-kilometre section of track between Seymour and Shepparton.

“Crews are working through the night to get these essential sleeper replacements done while minimising disruptions to passengers,” minister for public transport Melissa Horne announced on Monday.

The government says the work is progressing quickly with workers now on the section of track between Murchison East and Toolamba.

Because of the major work, Shepparton trains will travel over the new sleepers at a slower speed to allow them to bed down.

“As a result, all services have an additional two minutes’ journey time during the works,” according to a government statement.

The major overhaul will reduce the need for future maintenance work, as well as improving the ride quality of the track, and ensuring safer and more reliable service for north east communities.

“We’ve invested more than $27 million on sleeper replacements along the rail corridor in the last 12-months as part of our plan to deliver more reliable services for locals,” member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes said.

Extra funding to get Flinders Link over the line

A $415 million funding package to boost the South Australian economy will accelerate the delivery of some of the federal government’s $100 billion infrastructure pipeline, including the Flinders Link rail project.

An extra $16 million has been allocated towards the Flinders Link project in the funding package announced by prime minister Scott Morrison and SA premier Steven Marshall on Monday.

The total cost of the project has now increased from $125 million to $141 million, with both the federal and state governments providing an extra $8 million to the project which increases each government’s total contribution from $62.5 million to $70.5 million). The funding is immediate and is intended to enable the completion of the project on-time in late-2020.

The project consists of a 650-metre extension of the current Tonsley rail line to the Flinders Medical Centre, “creating new connections to the health, innovation and education precincts,” according to the government.

It includes construction of a new Flinders Station and removal of the existing Tonsley Station, as well as an elevated single track over Sturt Road, Laffers Triangle and Main South Road, and Flinders University to the passenger rail network.

Arc Infrastructure invests $300, 000 in WA’s Oliver Hill Railway

Arc Infrastructure has invested over $300,000 towards repairs for the historic Oliver Hill Railway, on Rottnest Island, which is expected to be complete by December 2019.

The investment has assisted the Rottnest Island Authority (RIA) and the Rottnest Island Rail Administration Committee (RIRAC) in rehabilitating the railway, which forms a significant part of West Australia’s military history.

The historical railway features remnants from World War II which include 9.2 inch guns and a maze of underground tunnels.

“Arc Infrastructure will be providing materials and equipment valued at over $300,000 for the initial works and will also provide ongoing support to undertake any other repairs as identified through future RIRAC inspections,” Arc Infrastructure’s executive director Murray Cook said.

“The major refurbishment will include the supply and installation of 1,200 sleepers and will be carried out by a team of ten,” Arc Infrastructure’s regional lead Wheatbelt Clinton Lobb said in late October. Lobb led the team of Arc employees carrying out the work on the island.

The 6.5 kilometre rail line from Kingstown Barracks to the Oliver Hill gun site was built in 1935, to service the two 9.2 inch artillery guns on the island and transport supplies and munitions from the army jetty at Kingstown.

The Oliver Hill railway has become a successful tourist site. Tourists to Rottnest can ride a train ride from the Settlement Railway Station to Oliver Hill on the Island’s 64-seat Captain Hussey train which is expected to be up and running again in early December.

“Spy tram” stalks Melbourne tram network

Yarra Trams has been using a specially equipped tram, dubbed “spy tram”, to monitor Melbourne’s tram network at night. Data collected by the spy tram will inform maintenance and infrastructure work.

Spy tram collects data on the condition of key tram infrastructure assets, such as tracks, wires and tram stops. It has so far travelled 500 kilometres to survey the network, according to a government statement released this weekend.

Spy tram is a B-Class tram, using the latest data capture technology from Europe, with state-of-the-art 3D lasers, sensors and cameras attached to the top, bottom, front, back, and sides. The data is mapped using GPS.

“Every tiny detail, from the smoothness of the rail, to where foliage like weeds are coming up, is captured and analysed,” according to statement.

With the levels of congestion rising in Melbourne, infrastructure upgrades are being prioritised so to limit disruption and ensure reliable journeys.

“We have the largest tram network in the world and we’re using the latest technology to keep it running safely and get passengers where they need to go,” minister for public transport Melissa Horne said.

“More than $81 million is invested in maintaining and upgrading our iconic tram network every year – the Spy Tram plays an important role in making sure we know what needs to be fixed and upgraded.”

Yarra Trams has been using spy tram since 2010, alongside conducting physical inspections to identify and assist in the prioritisation of maintenance and renewal works for network infrastructure.

Since 2017, these surveys have been conducted twice a year. There have been 25 significant maintenance and renewal works across the network since 2018.

As more data is collected, Yarra Trams will be able to better prioritise works for the next five to 15 years, according to the government’s press release.

“The team at Yarra Trams work around the clock to ensure our network is in the best condition it can be, to keep Melbourne moving,” Yarra Trams CEO Nicolas Gindt said.

“We are using ‘spy tram’ data to help prioritise upcoming works and better plan renewals along every route.”

Let’s Get Wellington Moving, underway

The Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) project, last week, went out to tender for work towards two projects of a $6.4 billion transport overhaul.

Contracts for the engineering, design, and planning work towards the two largest LGWM projects are estimated at $3 billion, in total. The projects include a mass rapid transit and state highway improvements.

While the projects are not due to be completed until after 2029, with work on the mass transit system scheduled to begin in 2024, Wellington’s mayor Andy Foster has said he intends to bring that work forward.

LGWM is a partnership formed to develop a multi-modal transport system. The partnership consists of Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and the NZ Transport Agency.

“At its heart, Let’s Get Wellington Moving seeks to deliver a multi-modal transport system that moves more people with fewer vehicles. Mass rapid transit will transform Wellington’s public transport network and help shape a more compact and sustainable city and region,” LGWM Programme Director Andrew Body said.

The business case for the mass rapid transit will inform decisions about the type of mass rapid transit mode appropriate and the preferred route between Wellington Railway Station and Newtown, according to LGWM.

“We need to determine the most appropriate route and type of mass rapid transit, and how it integrates with the wider transport system, particularly the bus network, and other projects in the programme including the state highways package,” Body said.

The state highways package will investigate which improvements for the Basin Reserve will provide the best outcomes for the transport network and the community. It will also investigate the extra Mt Victoria tunnel, and how the wider transport system will operate with these improvements.

“We need specialists with a strong understanding of what it takes to get things done in Wellington, combined with international expertise in planning, design and implementation of mass rapid transit,” Body said.

“We’re looking for innovation in planning and design, including opportunities to enhance spaces for the community,” he added.

“Our plan is large, complex, and ambitious. With projects as big as these, we need to investigate and plan carefully at the start. We’ll be working closely with our partners, stakeholders, and the community as we design each project,” Body said.

VIDEO: Sydney’s intercity fleet trains revealed

Transport for NSW has provided a first look inside the “state-of-the-art” fleet of intercity trains which are due to arrive later this year.

The new fleet is intended to service long distance, intercity lines from Sydney to the Central Coast, Newcastle, the Blue Mountains and the South Coast line.

Testing of the new trains is underway in the manufacturing facility, as well as a purpose-built test track, in South Korea, though the fleet is not due to begin servicing the line until 2021.

Transport for NSW (TfNSW), on Friday, released animations based on detailed designs of the new trains.

The fleet will “provide a new level of comfort and convenience” according to TfNSW.

Key differences include wider, two-by-two seating with arm rests, tray tables, and high seat backs, charging ports for mobile devices, dedicated space for luggage, prams and bicycles, and dedicated space for wheelchairs and accessible toilets.

TfNSW also says that the new trains will include improvements to customer information, through digital information screens and announcements, CCTV and help points.

Despite the reduction in seating, with around 28 fewer seats in every carriage, the fleet will include a boost of 2 extra carriages on the South Coast Line during peak hour services, after TfNSW purchased an extra 42 carriages to bring up the total to 554 carriages.

In 2018 a life-size model of the train was used to conduct end-user engagement intended to inform and refine train designs. Those involved in the feedback process included vision, mobility, hearing and cognitive impaired groups, as well as elderly users and those travelling with children, luggage and bicycles.

Once the first of the new trains have arrived in Australia later this year, they will undergo network testing.

Infrastructure spending levels across Australia revealed

NSW is leading Australia in public infrastructure investment, according to the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Budget Monitor, released last week by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia.

“For three years running, NSW has stayed ahead on the national league tables with an impressive infrastructure agenda,” Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief executive Adrian Dwyer said.

“Over the next four years, NSW will spend more than $71 billion on projects right across the state, 18.4 per cent of total planned budget expenditure. Victoria is close on the NSW Government’s heels, with more than $53 billion committed to infrastructure over the next four years, a massive $13.4 billion increase from Victoria’s last budget.”

NSW and Victoria dominate Australia’s infrastructure funding in overall spend and share of total expenditure this year, accounting for 68 per cent of total infrastructure funding across Australia.

The Australian Infrastructure Budget Monitor shows that $185 billion in taxpayer money is being invested in Australian infrastructure, a significant increase on the $153 billion total national funding level seen last year. NSW and Victoria this year contributed a combined total of $125 billion in budgeted spending.

“It’s good to see that despite significant revenue pressure, states and territories across Australia have responded to our call to continue pressing the pedal on infrastructure spending,” Dwyer said.

“Australia faces an unprecedented population and productivity growth challenge that must be met with sustained spending on transport, hospital, and school projects right across the country.”

States who embrace asset recycling have been able to tap into a major pool of investment to fund large-scale infrastructure projects, shows the 2019 report.

“The sale of TAB Corp and the partial commercialisation of Landgate will help to bolster infrastructure spending in WA and put the state in a good position for continued economic growth,” Dwyer said.

“While there was no change in Western Australia’s ranking from last year, the McGowan Government is making sensible reforms to sustain higher levels of infrastructure funding in the future.”