Railway Track Signal photo NSW Police

Sydney police investigating theft of rail signals

NSW Police Force has urged anyone with information to come forward after a box of railway track signals was stolen from Central station over the weekend.

According to a police report, a box of detonators were stolen from a locked security cabinet on a train at Central Railway Station around 2.25pm on Saturday, April 18.

Police were contacted and officers from Police Transport Command – Central attended and commenced an investigation, according to the report.

“Investigators are appealing for anyone with any information about the incident to contact crime stoppers,” NSW Police said on Monday.

“The devices pose a safety risk if used incorrectly.

“Sydney Trains staff place the signal device on tracks to warn railway workers a train is approaching.

“Police are advising members of the public if they locate these devices not to tamper with them, or if you are offered them for sale to contact police immediately.”

rail damage - Transport NSW

Photos show alarming damage to track at Dungog

Transport NSW Info has shared a pair of photos showing significant damage to rail infrastructure north of Dungog as a result of the extreme weather conditions experienced in NSW on Tuesday.

“Today’s severe weather conditions have disrupted many public transport services across the state,” Transport NSW Info wrote on its Facebook page just after noon on Tuesday.

“The Hunter Line remains closed due to flooding at Hexham. These pictures show the damage to the track north of Dungog.”

Andrew Robb - ABC

Trade minister: East-West scrap has done ‘amazing’ damage to Australia

Federal minister for trade and investment Andrew Robb says the Victorian Government’s decision to scrap the East-West Link tollroad in favour of the Melbourne Metro rail project “has done amazing damage” to Australia’s international reputation relating to sovereign risk.

Robb made the comments during a public debate for ABC’s Q&A program, which was aired live from the Melbourne Recital Centre on Monday night.

“[Victorian premier Daniel Andrews] did make the promise that he would scrap the East-West Link but he also said it would not do any damage to the reputation of Victoria or Australia from an investment point of view,” Robb said.

“I spent last week in the Middle East … I’ve seen every sovereign wealth fund across the gulf States last week, [and] not one of them failed to raise this subject with me,” the trade and investment minister continued.

“[Andrews] has done amazing damage to our reputation as a country with no sovereign risk and that is going to increase. There’s going to be a premium put on interest rates for any infrastructure around Australia.

“So all Australians are going to pay for Daniel Andrews, not just the 7,000 people who haven’t got a job as a result.”

Robb is a member of the Federal Coalition, which was prepared to assist in funding the East-West Link, but is not interested in funding the rail project.

Responding to an audience member who justified the cancellation of the East-West with Infrastructure Australia’s cost-benefit score of less than 50c to the dollar, Robb said conditions on the ground suggest otherwise.

“I don’t know who does or doesn’t drive over that bridge to Geelong but, you know, you’re there for hours,” he said. “It’s a parking lot most mornings and most afternoons.”

But federal opposition minister Anna Burke, who represents the suburban Melbourne seat of Chisholm, suggested the cost-benefit analysis was enough evidence to justify abandoning the road project.

“The cost analysis was never there and we’ve got projects that need to be done to assist with freight movement, particularly in the west,” Burke said.

“[East-West was] not going to resolve the traffic problem because the road was always about getting people to the airport,” she continued.

“Most of you aren’t going to the airport, you’re going to town. So if you want to build a road, let’s resolve the bottleneck at Hoddle Street. That design was never going to do it.

“What we need is to get people off the road and into a light rail which should be put down the Eastern Freeway because getting cars off the road is better for all of us…”

Controversial radio host Derryn Hinch presented the panel with his own – unsurprisingly assertive – opinion.

“The problem is you’ve got so many bloody greenies trying to push us all onto public transport that they’re trying to force cars off the road,” Hinch said.

“Yeah, [Andrews won the election], but I think if you do any polls now and ask people they say ‘Yeah, but we do want [East-West] built’.”

Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Extreme weather knocks out ARTC’s Hunter Valley network

No coal trains are running into Newcastle on Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) lines, and extensive repairs are needed before the ARTC can reopen its Hunter Valley coal and North Coast networks, after wild weather forced closures on Tuesday.

“All coal and freight services into Maitland and Newcastle have been suspended due to flooding,” the ARTC reported on Tuesday afternoon.

“The ARTC network in the Hunter Valley and North Coast, NSW, has been impacted significantly by the extreme weather conditions being experienced across northern NSW at the moment.

“High rainfall, severe flooding, strong winds, fallen trees and debris, power failures and fallen power lines and power poles have all contributed to operations being halted in the Hunter Valley coal network and trains travelling via the North Coast of NSW.”

As a result of that damage, the rail manager said extensive repairs will be needed, with no timetable set for the line to be reopened.

“The track will require extensive repairs in order to return services safely,” the ARTC said.

“Given the current weather conditions and forecast further weather events and rising water over track, it is not possible to provide a forecast for when services might return.

“Access to locations is difficult and while the weather continues, staff will continue to monitor the situation, begin initial planning and mobilise resources in readiness for when the repair works can safely begin.

“ARTC is working hard to return services as quickly as possible, however there is currently no forecast for return to operations.

“The track washaways on the North Coast will take some time to repair.”

The weather conditions also halted several passenger services in the region, with NSW TrainLink reporting the closure of its Hunter Line services, and partial closure of its Central Coast & Newcastle Line services.

Luas tram stopped at Abbey Street, Dublin, 2012. Photo William Murphy

How to build light rail in our cities without emptying the public purse

COMMENT: Light rail helps urban development far more than roads to, the challenge is how to pay for it, writes Curtin University professor of sustainability Peter Newman.

In cities all around Australia, light rail is being considered as a solution to a range of urban problems. Perth, Newcastle, Parramatta, Bendigo, Canberra, Cairns and Hobart have all considered trying to do what many European and American cities have done – create new development around light rail.

Often, though, the high costs of these projects mean that the debate can soon become a question of whether buses might do the job just as well. But what if private financing could allow the preferred option of light rail to stay on the table?

Advocates of the cheaper bus mass transit option might ask whether there is truly any fundamental difference between steel wheels and rubber ones. My answer is that it’s not just a question of trams versus buses – it’s really an issue of rail-based versus road-based urban development. The former can attract private financing, while the latter does not.

 

Driving development

Most of the world’s urban development over the past 50 years has been road-based. The assumption has been that most people will drive, with the odd bus laid on to pick up those who don’t.

Yet in recent years there has been a revival of rail-based urban development, which brings reduced traffic, creates more walkable and lively places to live and work, and most of all attracts developers and financiers to enable denser, mixed-use development.

Perth’s beleaguered MAX light rail project – now mothballed in favour of a bus rapid transit service – was designed to deliver precisely these benefits. But when the bus lobby sidles in and whispers “we can do exactly the same for half the price”, they get a sympathetic ear from transport planners who are trained to get people efficiently from A to B, without thinking about whether they are also delivering good urban development.

Rubber-wheeled public transport does not create dense, mixed-use urban centres. Having examined examples around the world, I have found none that can be claimed to have resulted in more focused urbanity apart from already dense third world cities where BRT’s have been successful in attracting patronage as they get people out of traffic. In the United States, the past 20 years of dramatic growth in public transport has seen light rail grow by 190% and heavy rail by 52%, while bus transport has contracted by 3%.

It is no surprise that developers, banks and governments in developed cities have returned to light and heavy rail to help regenerate urban centres, while cities with rubber-wheeled public transport continue to be dominated by cars and urban sprawl. On current trends, Perth itself could conceivably turn into a 240 km sprawl stretching from Myalup to Lancelin, most of it made of nothing but car-dependent housing – more Mad Max than MAX.

Perth’s planners know that they must redevelop and create activity centres, but they do not control the decisions on transport. Transport planners, meanwhile, do not seem to see that their choices have impacts that go beyond simple modes of transport.

 

Enter the private sector

Here is my possible solution, which Infrastructure Australia has previously tried to get state governments to adopt: get the private sector involved in the planning stage, as well as the delivery and operations, of any light rail project. Light rail lends itself to private-sector involvement, but only if the development outcomes being sought are built into the whole project, rather than being an afterthought.

The model for Infrastructure Australia’s approach was the A$1 billion Gold Coast Light Rail, which runs through areas that had lots of potential for redevelopment. Thus the funding was provided by a public-private partnership, with expressions of interest sought from private bidders to design, finance, build, own, operate and develop land as a basis for funding.

Government base funds and a general set of guidelines were delivered and bids were sought. Five consortia from around the world competed on this basis and included most of the world’s main consulting groups with expertise in light rail.

However, the group of transport experts (mostly main roads engineers) set up by the Queensland Government to deliver the light rail argued that they did not have the expertise to manage the land-development part of the exercise, and successfully appealed to avoid this approach. Instead, funding was delivered through an annual transport levy across the whole Gold Coast local government area.

The private sector consortia were well prepared for the land-development option but of course went ahead without it. Keolis won the tender and delivered a first-class light rail. As soon as the route was announced, developers from around the world bought up all the best sites and are now delivering them, albeit for their own interests rather than channelling back to the project.

This is the way to do it if you have tax funds to provide the capital and the operational expenses, and if you can find the initial public funding. But most politicians today say they do not have sufficient government funds for a light rail so they need to consider the cheaper bus option. Do we have to take second best?

The rubber-wheel option is never going to deliver the regeneration that many of Australia’s cities need. We need to be brave enough to go for the better option, the rail system, and that means embracing the public-private partnership financing model.

 

Bringing the private sector on board

To go for a full private-sector approach you must integrate redevelopment into every stage of the project. This is how you do it. Call for expressions of interest for private companies to design, build, finance, own and operate the light rail link and, crucially, make sure this includes land-development options (rather than letting in outside developers). This would help to create funds that can be used to finance and to operate the system.

Government needs to contribute a base grant and an operational fund that could be more specifically focused along the areas where the biggest benefits are felt in the corridor itself, where land values will go up most. Private expertise will ensure that the best sites are chosen for the light rail route. These land-value increases will flow through taxes into treasury and can be set aside in a dedicated light rail fund for ongoing operations and/or for raising finance (rather than instituting a city-wide levy as the Gold Coast did).

The approach, called tax increment financing, allows infrastructure to be built where it can be shown that the taxes would not have been generated without it. A bus instead of a light rail would not generate such land-value increases, and hence the extra tax dollars would not flow. For instance, Perth’s southern rail line raised land values around stations by 42% over 5 years and could have raised 60-80% of the capital cost if tax increment financing had been used.

Across Australia we should accept that there is a real choice over steel or rubber wheeled development. We can choose MAX over Mad Max. But are we brave enough to go one step further than the Gold Coast and involve private financing?

Some might object to our public transport being in private hands, but if we manage it well, this kind of partnership with private expertise can deliver beautiful cities as well as beautiful trains.

Peter Newman is professor of sustainability at the Curtin University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

Bankstown Railway Station Photo Creative Commons J Bar

$10 million for Bankstown accessibility upgrade

Transport for NSW will spend $10 million to upgrade accessibility at Bankstown Station as part of its Transport Access Program.

Transport for NSW said on Monday the changes would include new steps and a ramp at the station’s South Terrace entrance, as well as a new covered walkway to the nearby bus interchange.

Pedestrians will be impacted from April 27, but a Transport for NSW spokesperson encouraged customers and staff to work together in using alternative arrangements.

“From 27 April, pedestrian access will change with the temporary closure of the South Terrace station entrance for about eight weeks,” the spokesperson said.

“During this time, Bankstown Station customers will need to access the station through the North Terrace entrance. Staff and signage will be in place to assist customers.”

Some preparatory work took place last week, between April 11 and 17, at night and outside train operating hours in an effort to minimise customer impact. More work was carried out over the past weekend.

“Over the weekend, more work was carried out to construct the concrete slab at the top of the ramp at the North Terrace entrance and open the booking office for customers,” the spokesperson said.

“We are full steam ahead with this fantastic upgrade and are committed to finishing our work as quickly as possible for customers.”

The upgraded access is expected to be completed and opened later this year.

Les Wielinga Photo Transport Victoria UNSW

Andrews appoints big name to Transport Infrastructure Board

The Victorian Government has named the new chair of its Major Transport Infrastructure Board – the body tasked with the delivery of the state’s $15 billion in planned infrastructure spending.

Les Wielinga, formerly the director general at Transport for NSW, will chair the board.

“The delivery of the Andrews Labor Government’s unprecedented transport infrastructure program will be overseen by an expert board, to ensure all projects are delivered in a coordinated and cost-effective way,” the Victorian Government said last Friday.

Wielinga, who has also in the past been chief executive of the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (what is now Roads and Maritime Services), will be responsible for governing the delivery of the Melbourne Metro Rail Project, the Level Crossing Removal Project, and the Mernda rail extension.

Minister for public transport Jacinta Allan said Wielinga’s appointment was a valuable move by the new government.

“With $15 billion of new transport infrastructure being planned and delivered by the Andrews Labor Government, it is critical that we secure the very best leaders in project delivery,” Allan said.

“Mr Wielinga’s experience will be invaluable in overseeing the governance and delivery of the Andrews Labor Government’s multi-billion dollar transport infrastructure program.”

The announcement of Wielinga’s appointment was made just days after Allan, and premier Daniel Andrews, announced the preferred alignment for the Melbourne Metro rail project.

“The Major Transport Infrastructure Board will work closely with the new project delivery authorities to ensure the projects this state needs are delivered on time and on budget, in partnership with local communities.”

In his time at Transport for NSW, Wielinga oversaw the development and planning of projects including the North West Rail Link and the Sydney Light Rail Project.

The Andrews Government will now work with Wielinga to make additional board appointments, “with a focus on securing highly skilled members with expertise in different project delivery disciplines”.

Wielinga retired from his role at Transport for NSW in September 2013, with sincere thanks from NSW’s then-minister for transport Gladys Berejiklian.

“Few people have ever made such a contribution to transport and infrastructure,” Berejiklian said in June 2013. “Les has left a lasting legacy for the people of this state.”

Wild weather affects Melbourne trains. Photo: Shutterstock

Wild weather forces multiple outages for NSW trains

Gale-force winds and driving rain have forced several NSW rail lines to close, as Transport NSW scrambles to cope with flooding and other adverse weather conditions.

“The weather bureau has forecast another wet and windy day and we’re encouraging you to know if your trip will be affected this morning,” Transport NSW Info posted to its Facebook page this morning.

“Severe weather conditions have caused problems on some NSW TrainLink lines and customers may have to delay travel or make new travel plans.

“Please be patient and listen to advice from Transport staff.”

Transport NSW posted the following information (as at Tuesday 11am):

  • Closure of the Hunter Line between Scone and Dungog due to flooding at Hexam. Passengers were advised to delay their journey and avoid unnecessary travel, or to make alternative travel arrangements. A limited bus service was set up to replace trains.
  • A partial closure is in place on the South Coast Line between Oak Flats and Kiama due to adverse weather conditions; buses are replacing trains between the stations and passengers are advised to allow additional travel time.
  • The Central Coast & Newcastle line is partially closed between Hamilton and Woy Woy due to overhead wiring repairs at Gosford, a tree on the line at Teralba and power supply repairs at Wyong. Limited trains are operating between Woy Woy and Central, and a limited bus service is in place.

Precipitation and wind is expected to continue in NSW and the greater Sydney Metropolitan area through to Thursday, but the wind is expected to be at its heaviest on Tuesday.

Visit TransportNSW.info for more information.

Andrews engages social media to spruik Metro plan

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has looked to engage voters online, taking his campaign for the Melbourne Metro rail project to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Reddit on Thursday.

Andrews, who’s made headlines across the country this week by formalising the cancellation of the East West Link tollroad and announcing the preferred alignment for the alternate Melbourne Metro rail project, took his campaign to social media, telling all who would listen that his government is “getting on with it”.

On Facebook, the premier shared a video detailing the planned route for Melbourne Metro.

 

On Twitter, Andrews engaged with several tweeters who had questions, or criticisms, of his actions during the week.

On popular picture-based social media site Instagram, the premier was at it again, sharing a snippet of  a favourable article in The Age for his followers.

http://instagram.com/p/1jZt98utt6/

But perhaps the most active social media move made by Andrews (and his staff) was an impromtu interview on online community site Reddit. Andrews, posting under his username DanielAndrewsMP, shared an album of photos (see here) detailing the Melbourne Metro plan, and answered questions from other Melbourne-based users.

Some excerpts from the Q&A:

Q: Not sure from those diagrams, but surely the ‘CBD North’ and ‘CBD South’ should be connected interchanges with ‘Melbourne Central’ and ‘Flinders Street’?

A: CBD North will have a direct connection to Melbourne Central and CBD South will have a direct connection to Flinders Street. One of the many benefits of the depth and alignment we’ve chosen.

Q: Yeah, not sure shallow tunnel idea is very smart under the cbd. have they heard of basements ಠ_ಠ

A: Building the tunnel underneath Swanston St is the most convenient location for commuters and the most cost-effective option for construction. Burying the platforms more than 12 storeys underground is impractical for commuters and not as safe in the event of an emergency.

Q: Yeah, so how does this amazing tunnel help the overcrowding on the South Morang line?

A: Melbourne Metro is the relief valve that ends the traffic jam in the City Loop so more trains can run on every line.

The online positioning from Daniel Andrews sends a clear message: that he understands keeping the public onside is crucial to his long term transport plan. Whether it works is yet to be seen.

Bryan Nye photo Informa

National prosperity drives Nye’s passion for reform

Departing ARA chief executive Bryan Nye says the industry needs to continue working together to achieve future prosperity for Australia’s economy, and its people.

Nye doesn’t describe himself as a rail tragic. Instead, he sees himself as being passionate about transport reform.

“We’ve got it wrong in Australia,” Nye told Rail Express, “and we’re lagging behind the rest of the world … We’ve got to change that.

“You think about Australia’s geography, the demographics, the size of the country and where the centres are: Rail is a mode of choice that we have failed to address, and we’re just beginning to address it properly now.”

Nye this week announced his decision to leave the ARA after 12 years of hard work as its chief executive. When he joined the association in 2003, he and his staff had to build from the ground up.

“We had to build a credibility within the industry first, to establish ourselves,” he explained.

“We did that by getting the companies to work together, developing some policies, papers … As soon as the government realised the industry could get itself together, it started to listen.

“I think that’s the importance of it,” he continued. “If everybody says, for example, ‘The number one priority right now is Inland Rail,’ then the government will sit up and listen.

“That’s what excites me. Trying to get governments to pick up good reforms.

“Look at Sydney: it’s getting another harbour crossing, new light rail, the North West Rail Link … all of that comes from the public and the industry getting together to put pressure to make the government respond.

“That’s the benefit of the industry working together.”

Nye, who championed the establishment of the Rail Industry and Safety Standards Board in 2005, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to the rail transport industry in January 2014.

He plans to continue to work with the rail industry, and feels he can be a valuable contributor to industry boards and panels in the future.

“Rail is crucial to Australia’s economy, and it’s whole productivity,” Nye said.

“If we’re going to get greater government involvement and investment in rail, the industry needs to come together and be of one voice. That’s vital.”

 

A full profile of Bryan Nye and his career with the ARA will feature in the AusRAIL edition of Rail Express, which will be released at this year’s AusRAIL PLUS, scheduled for Melbourne from November 24 to 26.