Transport agency looks to improve public transport at night for women

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) has joined with the Greater Sydney Commission and Committee for Sydney to address women’s safety concerns when travelling at night.

The agencies launched the Greater Sydney Women’s Safety Charter as well as an Innovation Challenge to improve perceptions and experiences of travelling, said TfNSW deputy secretary greater Sydney, Elizabeth Mildwater.

“We know we can do more to make women feel and be safer when travelling through the city at night, which is why we’ve partnered with the Greater Sydney Commission and Committee for Sydney to co-design the new Women’s Safety Charter,” said Mildwater.

The Charter encourages organisations to look at the whole of their response to the issue of women’s safety, including how incidents are reported, how data is collected and shared, gender equality in design roles, and exhorts organisations to elect leaders to reinforce values around women’s safety.

The Innovation Challenge portion of the announcement hopes to accelerate technologies which can improve women’s safety when travelling at night. Pitched to start ups as well as established companies, the program will be delivered through TfNSW’s Digital Accelerator.

“Over the past few months we have met youth advocates, young women, start-ups, safety experts and our partners to create a defined problem statement to take into the challenge,” said Mildwater.

Launching the charter, chief commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission, Lucy Turnbull, said that a safe city for women is a safe city for all.

“Although Greater Sydney is one of the safest cities in the world, more needs to be done to ensure everyone feels safe, confident and included so they can fully participate in city life. This brings wider social, cultural and productivity benefits,” she said.

“I’ve long said that a city that works for women, works for everyone. The Women’s Safety Charter is designed to help participants promote, plan for, design and operate places where people of all ages feel safer.”

In the Committee for Sydney’s 2019 Safety After Dark report, the second most likely location for bad incidents or places was public transport, with buses considered safer than trains, and ferries considered the most safe. The report recommended that the varying experiences of different groups of night city users be factored into the planning and design of cities.

Tests of hydrogen-powered train underway in Netherlands

The Netherlands has become the second country in Europe to run a hydrogen fuel cell train from rollingstock manufacturer Alstom.

The Coradia iLint will travel on 65km of track between Groningen and Leeuwarden, and will be the next location, after the Buxtehude–Bremervörde–Bremerhaven–Cuxhaven line in Germany, where hydrogen-powered trains will operate.

Ten days of testing have already been conducted in the Netherlands, and the trial follows the agreement signed last October between Alstom, the Province of Groningen, operator Arrive, Dutch railway infrastructure manager ProRail, and energy company Engie.

Hydrogen-powered trains are currently travelling at night without passengers at speeds of up to 140km/h.

The hydrogen supplied to the trains is ‘green’ hydrogen, produced with renewable energy supplied by Engie.

“The tests in the Netherlands demonstrate how our hydrogen train is mature in terms of availability and reliability, providing the same performance as traditional regional trains, but with the benefit of low noise and zero emissions. It is also easy to integrate in an existing fleet and is compliant with all safety regulations,” said Bernard Belvaux, managing director, Alstom Benelux.

Running on hydrogen means that the trains’ only emissions are water. The fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen into electricity to drive the train and the Coradia iLint is designed for sections of track that, lacking electrification, have had to be operated by diesel-powered trains. With equivalent performance as a traditionally-powered train set, the vehicle has a range of roughly 1,000km.

“The Coradia iLint hydrogen train is a reliable emission-free train ready to help transport us to a carbon-neutral Europe,” said Belvaux.

EC proposes 2021 to be European Year of Rail

The European Commission (EC) has proposed that 2021 be the European Year of Rail.

The EC is the executive branch of the European Union, and proposes legislation, implements decisions and manages the day-to-day business of the EU.

If implemented, a number of events, campaigns, and initiatives in 2021 would promote the rail industry in the EU.

According to Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean the initiative would bring member states closer together.

“There’s no doubt that railway transport means huge benefits in most areas: sustainability, safety, even speed, once it’s organised and engineered according to 21st century principles. But there’s also something more profound about railways: they connect the EU together not only in physical terms.”

The proposal is part of the European Green Deal, a series of policies which aim to make Europe climate neutral in 2050. Promoting rail as the transport method of choice would alleviate greenhouse gas emissions from transport, of which railways make up only 0.5 per cent in the EU in 2017. In contrast, road transportation made up 72 per cent of transport emissions, and civil aviation made up 13.9 per cent.

Another aspect of the proposal is to highlight the way that rail brings people together socially. The EU has 217,000km of rail, higher than the US and China, and Vălean highlighted how this is significant for the bloc.

“Setting up a coherent and functional [rail] network across all Europe is an exercise in political cohesion. The European Year of Rail is not a random event. It comes at an appropriate time, when the EU needs this kind of collective undertaking.”

The third pillar of the proposal highlights how rail is safe, with 0.1 fatalities per billion passengers/km between 2011 and 2015. In the same period there were 2.7 fatalities of car occupants per billion passengers/km in the EU.

Bumper year for ARA

Danny Broad shared some parting thoughts to the rail industry about the importance of smart rail technology and the need for young blood.

Outgoing Australasian Railway Association CEO Danny Broad hosted his last AusRAIL as CEO before handing over the reins to incoming CEO Caroline Wilkie.

Broad was elected ARA chair at the 2019 ARA Annual General Meeting (AGM), taking over from Bob Herbert – who will continue his contribution to the rail industry as Chairman of the ARA’s harm prevention charity, TrackSAFE Foundation.

“I thank Bob for his strategic leadership and achievements as chairman of the ARA, specifically the development of a new constitution, leading to improved governance and democracy within the ARA,” Broad said.

As part of his outgoing address, Herbert addressed some of the issues he considered significant to the rail industry.

“Rail is a victim of our federation. There is no one sovereign government calling all the shots for rail like there is for industries like defence or shipbuilding. Make no mistake, this holds rail back, with nine governments to deal with on key national issues,” Herbert said.

“It has stopped rail throughout its history, from the time the first rail tracks were carried. The cause lies in the way our political imperatives play out, it brings a natural cautiousness in decision making. Governments are always in different stages of the election process and rail is disadvantaged as a consequence.”

As an example, Herbert cites the operation of the Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC).

“This is the forum where transport ministers across the jurisdictions come together twice a year and are supported by a body of senior bureaucrats. Unfortunately, outcomes from this process can only be described as last common denominator.”

As such, he explained how trying to achieve a National Rail Plan is “still illusory”.

“The bureaucrats so often have differing priorities to industry, and they become entrenched within government departments. In some cases, meeting with industry seems to be anathema to them, so progress is at a snail’s pace and this is extremely frustrating for industry.”

In August 2018, members of the ARA met with the council so that companies could present their challenges to the council.

“These were telling representations from our members on challenges relating to skills, resources, and standards,” Herbert said. As a result, the council decided to develop the Rail Action Plan through the National Transport Commission.

“We’ve seen the first cut of this plan and so far, I regret to say, it falls a short of what we would like. So, there’s a lot more argy bargy to be doing with the National Transport Commission.”

However, he warned industry against relying on government to deliver “what we can deliver ourselves”.

As part of his own AusRAIL address, Broad recapped some of the ARA’s activities in what he called “an exciting and demanding year in all sectors of rail”.

The ARA, Broad said, spent 2019 advocating to governments about some of the biggest issues facing the industry.

“We have focused on advocating to governments on how best to address the skills shortage, resulting in the development in the National Rail Action Plan, by the National Transport Commission.”

The ARA has been calling on state, territory and federal governments to commit to a unified pipeline for major rail projects, to allow the private sector to better prepare itself with adequate skills and equipment to ensure contracts are executed as efficiently as possible.

As part of this, the organisation recommended the federal government resource the Australia & New Zealand Infrastructure Pipeline in its 2019-20 Budget Submission.

The ARA lodged seventeen submissions to parliamentary and government inquiries on behalf of the sector over the last year.

One of the key issues for a number of its submissions to government in 2019 included advocating for fairer rules for freight rail operators.

“As far as possible, domestic rail freight markets should operate on an even footing with other modal choices. This requires an environment with equitable regulatory settings to enable competitive neutrality between competing modes of transport,” says the ARA’s annual report 2019.

The ARA also called for an extension of the Inland Rail line, the largest freight rail project in Australia.

“The current project has the Inland Rail line ceasing at Acacia Ridge. The ARA calls for a commensurate project to ensure a freight rail line continues all the way to the Port of Brisbane. Research undertaken by Deloitte shows that building a dedicated freight rail connection to the Port of Brisbane could achieve a 30 per cent rail modal share, which would remove 2.4 million truck movements from the local road network,” according to the annual report.

Among other issues, the ARA also calls for a “pragmatic approach to fast rail that recognises the need to plan for an invest in elements such as modernised signalling systems, passing loops, track duplication, and other critical requirements to increase infrastructure capacity and speed of passenger services”.

“We have been progressing the smart rail and technology agendas, working with industry and governments on improving accessibility, advocating for rail and supporting rail careers through programs such as the women in rail pilot mentoring program and the formation of the young leaders advisory board, a potential attraction and retention campaign and the future leaders program to name just a few,” Broad said.

“I’m very proud of where the ARA is now, and feel it is the right time to pass on the reigns to our new CEO,” Broad concluded.

Victorian rail projects required to use recycled materials

Recycled materials will soon comprise a greater part of Victorian transport projects, as part of the Victorian government’s Recycled First policy.

The program will require future projects delivered by the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority to incorporate recycled materials, in an effort to create markets for recycled materials, divert resources from landfill, create local jobs, and make major infrastructure projects more sustainable.

“We’re paving a greener future for Victoria’s infrastructure, turning waste into vital materials for our huge transport agenda and getting rubbish out of landfills,” said Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan.

Although recycled materials are already being widely used in road projects in Victoria, including on the M80 Ring Road, Monash Freeway, and South Gippsland Highway, the project will also apply to rail projects.

Examples of materials that could be reused and meet current standards for road and rail projects include recycled aggregates, glass, plastic, timber, steel, ballast, crushed concrete, crushed brick, crumb rubber, reclaimed asphalt pavement and organics.

According to a statement from the Victorian government, those companies that wish to deliver major transport infrastructure projects will be demonstrate how they will prioritise recycled and reused materials while maintaining compliance and quality standards.

Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, highlighted the benefits that such a policy would have.

“This is an important investment in the recycling industry. It ensures we recycle and re-use items on government projects, and keep waste out of landfill.”

Current transport projects will also be encouraged to look for uses for their own waste and discarded materials. For example, soil excavated from the Metro Tunnel site in Parkville is now being used for pavement layers on roads in point Cook. The 14,00 tonnes of soil would have otherwise gone to landfill.

Allan noted that the project could lead to a mindset shift in the construction industry.

“Recycled First will boost the demand for reused materials right across our construction sector – driving innovation in sustainable materials and changing the way we think about waste products.”

Current projects that are being delivered by the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority include the Level Crossing Removal Project, and Rail Projects Victoria also sits under the authority, which covers the Regional Rail Revival, Metro Tunnel, Melbourne Airport rail link and Western Rail Plan projects.

Inland Rail to meet with community in regional NSW

Members of the community have the chance to learn more about the progress of planning for Inland Rail between Narromine to Narrabri (N2N).

Local community members, landowners, and businesses will be able to engage with the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) throughout five community sessions being hosted by Inland Rail across the alignment between March 9 and 13.

Inland Rail will share more about the work conducted to date to refine the proposed N2N route.

Rebecca Pickering, ARTC Inland Rail director community and environment said work is happening to help inform the build for the 300KM of new track.

“Our work to date to progress the future alignment between Narromine to Narrabri has included more than 12 months of engagement with the community, environmental and hydrology studies, and early engineering design work,” she said.

“Through these methods we have been able to refine the alignment study area from between 2-5 kilometres wide to around 150 metres to 400 metres wide.”

Pickering said the aim of the community drop-in sessions are to understand more about the environmental planning and consultation work and learn about the future opportunities for the community.

“Community consultation and engagement is vital to the success of Inland Rail. We are committed to leaving a positive legacy by ensuring the community benefits from the project through initiatives like jobs and local spend during the construction phase, the Community Sponsorships and Donations program and training and support of local businesses,” she said.

“Large-scale infrastructure projects such as Inland Rail are a catalyst for growth — they boost economic development and investment, bring jobs and opportunities to local businesses and communities, a hopefully welcome boost in challenging times of drought.”

Afternoon and evening sessions will be held between March 9 and 13 in Narrabri, Barradine, Gilganda, Curban and Narromine.

“This will provide an opportunity for everyone to stay informed and updated on the progress of the alignment to date. No registration is required for these sessions,” Pickering said.

Doha Metro nears completion

Doha, the capital city of Qatar, is closing in on opening its automated metro network in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The network is designed to do the heavy lifting for the expected one million visitors who will attend the World Cup, as well as increasing the share of journeys via public transport in Qatar from 0.5 per cent to 21 per cent.

Electrical systems provider Thales is supplying both major elements of the metro system and providing project management services as the interface between civil works providers and electromechanical suppliers.

Thales will supply the train control system – in this case Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) driverless signalling – as well as the Operational Control Centre, passenger information and announcement systems, CCTV, and automatic fare collection.

Sustainability is a core component of the project, both in shifting commuters from cars to metros, and by reducing the network’s consumption of energy.

“The Doha Metro will be a real solution to traffic congestion, and the Metro’s efficient operations will save energy. Furthermore, Thales signalling systems will enable operators to adjust operations depending on consumption of electricity,” said Arnaud Besse, marketing and communications director for Urban Rail Signalling at Thales.

When complete, the metro network will cover 85km via 37 stations. A fleet of 110 fully automated trains will traverse the network, connecting Hamad International Airport, the Old City, and the inner suburbs of Doha.

“The Red Line has already started operating. It will be the longest line, with 18 stations over more than 40 kilometres. The Gold Line, made up of 11 stations, is also in service. Both lines have already enabled the operator to serve commuters and tourists,” said Jean Saupin, general project manager for the Doha Metro.

The last metro station, Legtalifiya Station is expected to open later in 2020, to connect the Metro with the to be finished Lusail Tram.

Concern over toxic soil to be dumped at a V/Line rail yard

$172.9 million V/Line stabling yard development could potentially be used as a temporary holding site for contaminated soil with possible carcinogens PFAS and asbestos.

The Wyndham Vale rail yard is set to be occupied by V/Line as a maintenance and storage space to replace the Footscray train stabling site which is being removed as part of the West Gate Tunnel works.

The $6.7 billion project requires 2.3 million tonnes of soil to be relocated offsite. The 82-hectare government-owned site in Melbourne’s west is being considered by officials following a meeting with Wyndham Council this week.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) are raising concerns for the health and safety of rail workers if the soil was dumped next to the V/Line rail yard.

Luba Grigorovitch, Victorian Secretary of RTBU wrote in a letter to state Government officials on Monday that she is “deeply concerned” the toxic soil would pose a huge risk to workers and residents.

Grigorovitch told Rail Express that she is demanding confirmation from the government whether soil would contaminate the air conditioning systems of the Geelong-Melbourne trains, which run directly alongside the site.

The state secretary for the union said they’ve been inundated with calls from concerned V/line workers. 

“Our members don’t want to be operating alongside contaminated soil,” she said.

“This government seems to be infamous for passing the buck. We’ll be  undergoing full safety audits and testing before giving the ok for our members to be working at the site.”

The new facility is designed to meet 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 project will involve 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.

38 new VLocity carriages are arriving to the V/Line network early this year and there are concerns that there isn’t enough facilities for the growing network.

V/Line stated in 2018 that stabling capacity would be exceeded by March 2019.

The Age obtained an internal V/Line document under freedom of information laws, reporting that “the rail yard was needed to run a greater number of services on the network and to operate new trains reliably”.

According to the internal document, the lack of maintenance infrastructure will continue to impact on performance and shortages will impact V/Line’s reliability.

A government spokeswoman told the Hearld Sun that if Wyndham Vale was a temporary site it would not disrupt rail operations.

“Transurban and its builder are working with project parties to find a long-term solution to manage the rock and soil from tunnelling – no decision has been made,” she said.

Department of Transport spokeswoman said operations of the stabling facility will not be compromised.

“While a decision on where to temporarily hold soil from tunnelling for the West Gate Tunnel is yet to be made, the land in question is outside the Wyndham Vale stabling facility so if the site was ever used it would not impact the timing or operations of the new stabling facility,” she said to The Age.

The Wyndham Vale rail yard is metres away from proposed housing estates and four planned schools.

Treasurer Tim Pallas and member for Werribee said on air during a 3AW interview that it won’t be a long-term containment.

“Any suggestion that there is going to be long-term containment or toxic facility is just nonsense,” Mr Pallas told 3AW.

“What is proposed at Wyndham Vale is essentially a short-term place where it is isolated from the environment and if it is ever used – it may well not ever be used – it’s only if you can’t get access to the long-term facility.”

The stabling project is funded by the state government and is still under construction and set to open in the coming months.

Rooty Hill station upgrades increase accessibility

Station upgrades have been completed at Rooty Hill Station, in Western Sydney.

The station, located on the Main Western Line, now has four new lifts to make each platform accessible. Family accessible toilets have also been installed on each platform, said a transport for NSW spokesperson.

“The upgrade also includes a new pedestrian footbridge with new stairs to each platform, larger platform canopies for better weather protection and upgrades to CCTV and lighting to improve customer safety and security,” said the spokesperson.

In addition to the work on the station, a new commuter car park, with 750 car spaces, 16 accessible spaces, 10 motorcycle spaces, and 10 electric vehicle charging spaces, opened in early January.

Power for the vehicle charging ports will be locally sourced.

“The power requirements for these facilities are supplemented by sustainable features built into the car park design, including a rooftop solar system with 1140 solar panels. These also efficiently operate the car park lights and lift,’ said the TfNSW spokesperson.

Included in the upgrades are artworks produced by the local Aboriginal community, and pavers have been installed with the handprints of 450 school children from the local area.

The station’s heritage as the original terminus of the Western line’s extension to Blacktown, and its subsequent role in Sydney and NSW’s rail heritage is acknowledged in the station’s footbridge.

The upgrades to Rooty Hill station are part of TfNSW’s wider Transport Access Program, which is making stations more accessible around the state.

Wire-free, grassed track in Stage 2A of Canberra light rail

The extension of Canberra’s light rail will be wire free, under preliminary environmental approval from the Commonwealth government, and onboard energy storage will be fitted to existing light rail vehicles.

The ACT government announced today that the Commonwealth government has decided that Stage 2A of the Canberra light rail project could be assessed using preliminary documentation. This covers the route from the city to Commonwealth Park.

Features of the 1.7km route include wire-free track from Alinga Street station, progressive on the western side of London Circuit and then Commonwealth Avenue, before terminating at Commonwealth Park.

The ACT government is also proposing grassed tracks as the route travels along the Commonwealth Avenue median, said ACT Minister for Transport Chris Steel.

“Running wire-free through London Circuit will mean a narrower track built in the middle of the road, taking up less space as Light Rail will be running in the road median.”

The use of wire-free track preserves heritage vistas along Commonwealth avenue.

“This decision from the Federal Government reinforces our choice to deliver light rail to Woden in two stages. The process of assessment for Stage 2A means we can get on with the job of extending light rail to Woden sooner,” said Steel.

With approvals gained for the section to Commonwealth Park, the next stage of the light rail project will progress the line to Woden, in Canberra’s south. This section will require more extensive approvals from the Commonwealth government as it passes through the capital.

“We always expected that an extensive EIS process would be required for the more complex stage 2B extension through the Parliamentary Triangle under the Commonwealth environmental approval process,” said Steel.

Wire-free tram track is currently operational in the Sydney CBD’s light rail and in Newcastle on Hunter Street. In Parramatta, grassed track will also be installed, for up to one kilometre.