Rail R U OK?Day updated with COVID-19 resources

The importance of looking out for friends, colleagues, and mates in the rail industry has only been further highlighted this year with the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

As routines are upended and social distancing is adhered to, loneliness and isolation can be further compounded, while obligations to look out for family members, partners and, friends outside of work can increase.

With these factors in mind, the TrackSAFE Foundation has reaffirmed that Rail R U OK?Day will continue as scheduled on Thursday, April 30. In addition, TrackSAFE has released additional materials relevant to the current working environment.

Resources that TrackSAFE have collated include updates to the RailRes App, as well as support and counselling services provided by Lifeline, Beyond Blue, and the National Mental Health Commission.

Additionally, R U OK? CEO, Katherine Newton has released a special message to encourage people to stay connected and give practical tips to stay in contact despite physical distancing laws. This messages has been supplemented by Connection Cards, which can be distributed without contact.

Materials to encourage electronic communication and online events have also been uploaded to the TrackSAFE website.

Ahead of this year’s Rail R U OK?Day organisations and participants can draw on the five years of successful R U OK?Days since 2015, with 55,000 rail employees participating in 2019. Over 70 rail companies are registered for the initiative and 105 Champions will facilitate the day.

This year, the two interactive question marks, Quentin and Quinn, departed from Canberra, with Major Projects Canberra, Canberra Metre Operations and Transport Canberra and City Services hosting the beginning of the seven week journey. This year was the first time that organisations in Canberra had participated in the Rail R U OK?Day.

Final stage of Sydney’s CBD light rail opens

The 12-kilometre Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail network is now complete and operational.

Passenger services are now running on the new L3 Kingsford Line between Circular Quay and Kingsford.

The first passenger tram departed Juniors Kingsford at 5am Friday, April 3 and services on the line will run until 1am on Saturday morning.

This is the second part of the $2.9 billion CBD and South East Light Rail project, which began operating between Circular Quay and Randwick four months ago.

Sydney Light Rail stated that operations will be fine-tuned over a period of time as the L3 Kingsford Line is integrated with the L2 Randwick Line and while services are bedded down.

“With light rail running down Anzac Parade through Kensington and Kingsford, it is vital all road users follow traffic signals and for pedestrians in particular to be aware that there are two-stage crossings to connect to the light rail stops,” Sydney Light Rail said in a statement.

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance didn’t attend the opening due to travel restrictions and opened the line remotely via video message.

“Opening the Kingsford leg is an important completion of the project,” Constance said in his virtual message.

“It’s not a time to get on the light rail for fun.”

Transport for NSW stated that the opening of the new line is focused on benefiting passengers who need to undertake essential travel, giving them another option.

The opening of the new line provides public transport for workers and the community in the south east as it services the important health precinct and the city.

From 4 April 2020, trams on both the L2 Randwick Line and L3 Kingsford Line will operate between 5am and 1am, with weekday services between 7am and 7pm running every 4-8 minutes in the CBD and every 8-12 minutes in the South East.

In Parramatta, work is continuing on the construction of the light rail line there. As construction of public transport is deemed an essential service, the project is progressing as planned.

Plan identifies most suitable route for Newcastle light rail extension

The NSW government has released a summary report of the strategic business case for the extension of the Newcastle Light Rail.

The summary concludes that the most suitable route for an extension would be from Newcastle Interchange to the John Hunter Hospital via Broadmeadow, however there is “no urgent need” to extend stage one, following from economic assessments of an extension.

In preparing the strategic business case for the extension of Newcastle Light Rail, Transport for NSW identified 17 corridors, with four priority corridors chosen for further investigation. The four priority corridors all lead from Newcastle Interchange and radiate out to Wallsend, Mayfield, Charlestown, and John Hunter Hospital, via Broadmeadow.

The route to John Hunter Hospital was preferred due to a series of factors: the development of the Broadmeadow Urban Renewal and Entertainment Precinct, as well as the John Hunter Hospital redevelopment; the 1.15 per cent per annum growth in employment, the highest of any of the corridors; the need for public transport connectivity to John Hunter Hospital; the economic potential of the corridor; and the potential to fast track the development of new housing along the corridor.

“The preferred corridor has the potential for better employment growth, more housing and higher public transport usage than other potential routes,” said a Transport for NSW (TfNSW) spokesperson.

“It would also support the future Broadmeadow Urban Renewal and Entertainment Precinct and the redeveloped John Hunter Health and Innovation Precinct; important strategic centres for lifestyle and specialist employment opportunities in Newcastle.”

Despite these advantages, the strategic business case found that due to the pace of transformation in the Newcastle City Centre, dedicated bus corridors could be implemented in the shorter term, and then upgraded to light rail in the future.

“Transport will also investigate the initiatives identified in the 2018 Greater Newcastle Future Transport Plan, such as rapid bus and bus headstart initiatives, to deliver improved transport services in the area,” the spokesperson said.

The summary report identifies a number of reasons to continue to invest in public transport in Newcastle. In particular, Newcastle has a lower share of public transport usage than Sydney and Wollongong, the lack of visible connections between the city and employment clusters such as the John Hunter Hospital, and the need to manage population growth in Newcastle, which is forecasted to increase by 20 per cent in the next 20 years.

When conducting the economic analysis of the options, the report found that the route to John Hunter Hospital had a positive benefit cost ratio, however there were constructibility issues, particularly the steep gradient up Russel Street.

“Further investigations are needed to determine an alignment that is safe and technically feasible, particularly given the steep gradient between New Lambton and the John Hunter Hospital,” said the TfNSW spokesperson.

The existing Newcastle Light Rail has been credited as reshaping the city centre in Newcastle and driving urban renewal along its route.

Operated by Keolis Downer as part of the Newcastle Transport integrated transport provider, since its installation in early 2019, the Newcastle Light Rail has carried over a million passengers and public use across the entire network in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie in 2019 was 23 per cent higher than in 2018.

Sydney business community want more funding for Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2

David Borger, executive director of the Western Sydney Business Chamber said Stage 1 of Parramatta Light Rail is at risk of being a “white elephant” due to funding concerns for future stages of the line.

The Western Sydney Business Chamber is urging the NSW government to allocate funding in the NSW budget to get the next stage of the Parramatta Light Rail ready for construction.

Borger said the NSW government committed to building a Parramatta Light Rail network and the business community don’t want to see Stage 1 put at risk of being a “white elephant because the NSW Government has shelved the next stages”.

“We understand that Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 is awaiting an ‘investment decision’ by the NSW cabinet. My message to government ministers is give the project the green light and let’s get on with connecting Sydney’s central city with its surrounding suburbs,” he said.

Borger said stage 2 of Parramatta Light Rail ticks so many boxes when it comes to a good public transport project and it builds on the taxpayer investment in Stage 1.

In a Business NSW’s NSW Budget Priorities report, released as a pre-budget submission this month, Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 is listed an infrastructure priority.

Business NSW executives stated in the report that Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 has reached the point in its development where further meaningful work needs to be sustained by a government commitment to move forward with the project.

“This budget should allocate funding to allow the next stage of project development to be completed, with an eye to moving towards construction as Stage 1 is completed,” Business NSW executives said.

Infrastructure Australia has also noted the importance of public transport to Parramatta CBD, but Business NSW executives said the next major deliverable that can improve matters has been stuck in a holding pattern since the completion of early business case development.

Connecting hubs of major activity at Parramatta and the Sydney Olympic Park, and joining up the heavy rail, Metro and ferry transport networks, Light Rail Stage 2 serves a fast-growing part of the city. 

Borger said the true value of light rail is when it is a network.

“The NSW Government may very well be needing some economic stimulus projects towards the end of the year. Getting Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 shovel ready would be a common sense decision,” he said.

A spokesperson for Parramatta Light Rail said a final Business Case for the second stage of Parramatta Light Rail is currently being considered by the NSW Government, with an investment decision to follow.

Planning work is currently being further developed and informed by consultation with the community, stakeholders, other NSW Government agencies and transport projects including Sydney Metro West.

In October 2017, the NSW Government announced the preferred route for the second stage of the Parramatta Light Rail, which will connect Stage 1 and Parramatta CBD to Ermington, Melrose Park, Wentworth Point, and Sydney Olympic Park.

It will have 10-12 stops over a ten-kilometre two-way track, with travel times of around 25 minutes from Sydney Olympic Park to Camellia, and a further eight minutes to Parramatta CBD.

Hopes for improved punctuality on Victorian public transport

With an in-principle agreement signed between the Rail Tram and Bus Union and Yarra Trams, there are hopes that tram punctuality in Melbourne will improve, following a below target result in February.

Yarra Trams recorded a punctuality rate of 81.5 per cent, with major disruptions due to industrial action occurring on February 17 and 20. This met the punctuality target of 79 per cent, however a reliability figure of 96.2 per cent fell below the 98 per cent target.

Other factors impacting on the result included a derailment of a Route 12 tram on Saturday, February 1, and a truck bringing down overhead wires on Swan Street on Friday, February 28, which impacted Route 70 trams.

The in-principle agreement between Yarra Trams and the RTBU will contribute towards improvements in punctuality in the coming months, highlighted Victorian Department of Transport head of transport services Jeroen Weimar.

“It’s pleasing the parties have come to an agreement that will end any further disruptions for our tram passengers.”

Other transport operators also had lower than targeted results. V/Line services had a punctuality result of 86.8 per cent and a reliability result of 88.8 per cent. V/Line has a target of 96 per cent reliability and 92 per cent punctuality.

Events affecting this result included the train derailment at Wallan on Thursday, February 20. This led to trains on the Seymour, Shepparton, and Albury lines being suspended while investigation and repair works were underway.

“All parties worked together in the wake of the tragedy to support the recovery and investigation and ensure the line could reopen once certified for passenger services to return,” said Weimar.

Bright spots for the regional operator included the Gippsland and Warrnambool lines, which experienced a boost to punctuality and reliability of roughly six per cent, the largest improvement on the regional network.

Metro Trains had a positive month, by delivering 98.6 per cent of scheduled services, above its 98.5 per cent target. Punctuality just fell short of the 92 per cent target at 90.3 per cent.

During February, heavy rain, track and signal faults and police operations disrupted the network.

“We continue to work with Metro Trains to ensure punctuality improves in line with what passengers expect from our metropolitan network,” said Weimar.

trams

One kilometre of track to be replaced on Melbourne’s Route 86

The Victorian government will replace over a kilometre of tram track in Melbourne from Saturday, March 21 until Monday, March 30.

The track on Plenty Road will be replaced to improve services on Route 86, said Minister for Public Transport, Melissa Horne.

“We’re getting on with these works so we can deliver better services for passengers to get them where they need to go.”

The $3 million worth of work will also involve the installation of 15 new power poles, in addition to underground cables and overhead wires.

To avoid extensive disruption, work will be carried out around the clock during the period, however buses will replace trams during this period between Miller/High Streets in Thornbury and the Bundoora terminus.

According to data released in 2018, Route 86 is the third busiest route in Melbourne’s tram network, and the work will improve the route for those who travel upon it, said Member for Bundoora, Colin Brooks.

“Route 86 is one of our busiest tram routes – these works will help deliver a safer and more reliable ride.”

Specifically, the track replacement work will take place on Plenty Road between the Metropolitan Ring Road, Bundoora, and Bell Street, Preston.

Trams will still run between Docklands and Miller/High Street.

While work is underway, Plenty Road between Pender Street and Bell Street will be closed to traffic in both directions from Saturday, March 21 until Monday, March 30. One lane will be closed between the Metropolitan Ring Road and Kingsbury Drive from Saturday, March 28 until Monday, March 30. Minister for Preston, Robin Scott, said that this should not stop locals from patronising businesses along the route.

“Businesses along Plenty Road will stay open while these vital works take place and we should all continue to support them as these vital works are delivered.”

Consortium for Adelaide tram network announced

Contracts for the operation of light rail services in Adelaide have been awarded to Torrens Connect.

Announced today, March 10, along with a suite of bus contracts, Torrens Connect will operate Adelaide’s tram network from July.

Torrens Connect is a joint venture between Torrens Transit, UGL Rail Services, and John Holland.

The contract for the North South network combines bus and tram services, and according to SeaLink Travel Group – owner of Torrens Transport – CEO, Clint Feuerherdt, the integration will allow for better services.

“Between high frequency services, and integrated bus and tram outcomes, we will open up new destinations on the public transport network for customers,” he said.

According to Feuerherdt, bringing the modes together will allow for innovation in service delivery.

“The new tender has allowed us to bring in our global best practice experience, matched with our local market knowledge and history, to truly create a tailored series of network improvements for Adelaide.”

Partnered in the contract is UGL Rail Services, which in addition to its work in heavy rail and metro services, has contributed to light rail in Hong Kong.

“This contract extends our light rail operations and maintenance capability alongside our Adelaide heavy rail presence. We look forward to providing a safe and quality operation for the people of Adelaide,” said UGL managing director, Jason Spears.

For partner John Holland, the contract is the first multimodal contract in the company’s history, highlighted CEO Joe Barr.

“From operating the country’s first metro train in Sydney, to Canberra’s new light rail, John Holland has a proven record of putting the customer at the centre of everything we do.”

As a result of this contract, John Holland will be one of only a few private organisations to operate trains, trams, and buses in Australia.

“The South Australian Public Transport Authority (SAPTA) has recognised our commitment to South Australians and we look forward to working with them over the coming years to deliver improvements across the network,” said John Holland’s executive general manager – rail, Steve Butcher.

The SA government and the successful contractors will deliver network improvements by the end of 2020. Consultation on the improvements will begin in April.

“In the coming weeks we will be releasing details about the bus service improvements that will benefit South Australians ahead of a consultation period we will undertake,” said SA Transport Minister, Stephan Knoll.

“Now the contracts have been signed, we can begin working with the providers to deliver the best possible bus and tram network for South Australians.”