V/Line train. Photo: Victorian Government

11 rail commitments in Victorian Budget

Victorian transport minister Jacinta Allan has described the state’s 2015/16 Budget as “the biggest investment in public transport in Victoria’s history,” with as much as $6.32 billion committed to rail projects.

Allan said the Budget, which was handed down on Tuesday, lays the foundations for a public transport system able to move millions more people as Victoria grows into Australia’s most populous state.

“The Andrews Labor Government is investing in the transport projects that Victoria needs, so people can get to work and get back home to their families safer and sooner,” Allan said.

“This investment is a part of the Labor Government’s plan for a high-capacity, high-frequency train system where you don’t need a timetable – you just turn up and go.”

11 separate commitments directly relevant to rail are included in the 2015/16 Budget:

  1. $2.4 billion is committed to kick-start the Andrews Government’s planned removal of 50 of Victoria’s most dangerous and congested level crossings.The commitment will see the removal of at least 20 level crossings in the Government’s first term. If the Andrews Government lasts beyond that, and all 50 crossings are removed, the scheme will cost a total of between $5 and $6 billion.
  2. $2 billion  will be spent on 83 new trams and trains across the state’s metro and regional rail passenger networks. As announced on Monday, the funding will finance the delivery of:
    • 37 new high capacity metro trains ($1.3 billion)
    • 20 new E-Class trams ($274 million)
    • 21 new VLocity carriages ($257 million)
    • 5 new X’Trapolis trains ($90 million)
    • Maintenance and refurbishment to extend the life of the current Comeng train fleet ($75 million)
    • Extending the life of the B-Class Tram fleet ($21 million)
  3. $1.5 billion will go towards the first works to construct the Melbourne Metro Rail project. Premier Daniel Andrews made headlines in April by announcing the planned spending, which will go towards anticipated planning, design and significant early works for the project, which is expected to commence construction in 2018. The Melbourne Metro is expected to cost $9 to $11 billion to complete.
  4. Up to $220 million could go to the Murray Basin Rail project, once the business case for that project is finalised in coming months. $30 million has already been fast-tracked to this project, Allan said.
  5. $55.6 million is provided for Stage 1 of Victoria’s first trial of High-Capacity Signalling, set to be rolled out on the Sandringham line.
  6. $50.5 million is set aside to upgrade 52 level crossings
  7. $50 million has been committed to trial the Homesafe scheme – a plan for all night public transport on weekends, to begin on January 1, 2016. The Government says the plan is designed to get shift workers and late night travellers home safely.
  8. $18.8 million in funding is assigned to a road and rail minor works fund, intended to be used to pay for critical maintenance and improvements around the transport network.
  9. $13.1 million is committed to upgrade the Frankston Station precinct. $50 million is set to be made available for this project in future budgets, Allan said.
  10. $9 million is for the planning and preparation of the business case for the Mernda Rail Link, with remaining funds for the project to be assigned in future budgets.
  11. $2 million has been committed to the Bendigo Metro Rail Project.

All in all, the 2015/16 Budget commits to just over $6.3 billion in spending for rail or rail-related projects, but almost all of that spending sets the scene for even more state spending down the track. Projects like Melbourne Metro, the Rolling Stock plan, and the level crossing removal scheme will likely all see more money spent in coming years.

The Australasian Railway Association yesterday congratulated the Victorian Government for delivering “a strong, smart transport infrastructure plan that will not only future-proof the efficiency and productivity of the state’s heavy and light rail networks; but also provide greater certainty to local rolling stock manufacturers and suppliers”.

ARA’s new interim chairman, Bob Herbert, said the Budget was a clear sign that the state was listening to the rail industry.

“This announcement supports the ARA’s priority policies that were outlined to all the political parties prior to the Victorian election late last year, which included greater orders of rolling stock for metro and regional train services; acceleration of the renewal of Melbourne’s tram fleet with E-class light rail vehicles to meet growing demand; and a mandated 50 per cent local content in all rolling stock orders – all of which are outlined in this Budget,” Herbert said.

“Support from Government for our local rail manufacturing industry is imperative to its future, having watched the decimation of Australian rail manufacturing and the loss of jobs that goes with that over the past decade.

“This injection of funding in to the local rail manufacturing industry will ease ongoing pressures and enable industry to invest in new innovation and technologies as well as broaden the skill set of workers.”

(Left to Right) R U OK? chairman Mike Connaghan, ARA chief executive Bryan Nye, Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins, TrackSAFE chairman Bob Herbert, Minister for Health Sussan Ley, R U OK? ambassador Phil Waugh, NSW Trains chief executive Rob Mason. Photo: Oliver Probert

Rail’s R U OK? day “a great blueprint for other sectors”

Suicide prevention charity R U OK? has hailed rail’s first R U OK?Day in April as a success, with general manager Brendan Maher saying rail is setting a standard for other sectors to follow.

Rail R U OK?Day was launched on April 16, at a ceremony at Sydney’s Central Station. Across the country, more than 20 industry stakeholders took part in events in over 60 locations.

Reviewing the inaugural event, the R U OK? organisation said, “as an industry affected too often by suicide and other trauma, Rail R U OK?Day was a great campaign to help remind workers about the importance of looking out for one another”.

R U OK? general manager Brendan Maher said an industry-led initiative is a strong way to encourage regular, meaningful conversations 365 days of the year.

“R U OK? is committed to working with industry to ensure that everyone who has the capacity to ask ‘are you okay?’ will do so,” Maher said.

“This campaign was embraced enthusiastically by senior management and provides a great blueprint for other sectors to follow suit.”

Rail R U OK?Day was launched in conjunction with the TrackSafe Foundation.

R U OK? community ambassador Justin Geange helped with the launch, speaking at a number of events in the lead-up to the inaugural day.

Geange, a former Queensland Rail worker, has inspired many with his own experience of surviving a suicide attempt, and his progress through a difficult stage of his life.

Melbourne tram. Photo State Government Victoria

Vic commits $2bn for rail, sets out Rolling Stock Strategy

Victoria’s Labor Government will on Tuesday announce a $2 billion plan to deliver 83 new trams and trains across the state’s metro and regional trains and tram network.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday said the funding will be portioned off to kick start a long-term plan for train and tram manufacturing in Victoria.

The scheme, called Trains, Trams, Jobs 2015-25 – Victorian Rolling Stock Strategy, sets out a ten-year plan for 100 new metro trains, 100 new trams, and “a massive expansion” of Victoria’s regional tram fleet.

The 2015/16 Budget sets out to deliver the first set of these trains and trams, with funding set aside for the following:

  • 37 new high capacity metro trains ($1.3 billion)
  • 20 new E-Class trams ($274 million)
  • 21 new VLocity carriages ($257 million)
  • 5 new X’Trapolis trains ($90 million)
  • Maintenance and refurbishment to extend the life of the current Comeng train fleet ($75 million)
  • Extending the life of the B-Class Tram fleet ($21 million)

Andrews said the multi-billion dollar investment will provide greater certainty to rolling stock manufacturers and suppliers, which employ up to 10,000 people in Victoria.

“Victoria is the only state that makes trams and trains. We want to see these industries grow and employ more people, which is why we’re investing strongly,” Andrews said.

“This $2 billion investment in new trams, trains and jobs is part of our plan to transform Victoria’s public transport system and create local jobs – and we’re getting on with it.”

Beyond the initial investment, Trains, Trams, Jobs 2015-2025 aims to identify a pipeline of train and tram delivery to meet the needs of the public transport network for decades to come.

This has been done to enable companies to invest in facilities, in new technology and in workers, Andrews said, sustaining high-skill manufacturing in Victoria.

State public transport minister Jacinta Allan said the funding, and the forward-plan, were designed to address a significant need in Victoria.

“The number of people using our public transport system is growing twice as fast as our population,” Allan observed.

“Without this critical investment and a long-term plan for rolling stock, our network would grind to a halt.

“Our investment today is a key part of the Andrews Labor Government’s plan for high-frequency public transport and high-skilled manufacturing in Victoria.”

The full report is available here. Rail Express will have analysis on the plan later this week.

VLocity carriage. Photo: Creative Commons / Marcus Wong

Andrews announces $257m for new regional carriages

Bombardier will deliver 21 new VLocity carriages to Victoria’s regional network under a $257 million commitment in the state Budget.

The funding also includes money to build a new maintenance and stabling yard in Waurn Ponds.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews was joined by state transport minister Jacinta Allan at Waurn Ponds on Friday, May 1 to make the announcement.

“The new carriages and stabling yards will create jobs and improve services for the more than 50,000 passengers who use V/Line services every weekday,” Allan said.

The stabling yard is projected to create around 100 jobs during construction and 30 once completed, and the construction of the new carriages should secure 64 jobs at Bombardier’s Dandenong facility, Allan added.

Andrews said the 21 new carriages would expand V/Line’s daily passenger capacity by around 1500.

“This investment of more than $250 million will provide better regional train services, and help create nearly 200 jobs,” the premier asserted.

“Patronage on our regional train network has increased by nearly 100% in the past decade, and this investment means we can deliver high-quality regional public transport for decades to come.”

Andrews and Allan said the new depot in Waurn Ponds will offer local education and training opportunities, with the government committing to work closely with the TAFE sector to develop programs for apprentices in the rolling stock industry, training the next generation of train and tram engineers.

Construction of the 21 carriages is expected to commence in mid-2016, and the first carriages will be in service by late 2017, the premier said. Construction of all new carriages will be complete by the end of 2018.

Whyalla Derailment - Photo: ATSB

Maintenance shortcuts led to derailment: ATSB


An inadequate rail joint likely led to a South Australian derailment last July, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has found.

Genesee & Wyoming Australia (GWA) train 24KW was travelling towards the port of Whyalla on July 7, 2014, when a break in the line occurred, causing seven fully-loaded bottom-dumper wagons to derail.

The incident took place on a railway belonging to ASX-listed miner Arrium, between Iron Branch and 21km Junction.

Arrium’s track is continuous welded rail, meaning rail segments are joined together through flash welding.

But in the months prior to the incident, the section of rail in question had undergone tamping and re-railing. As a result, rail segments in that section were joined with bolted fishplates (welding was planned for a later date).

A fishplate joint features a pair of metal bars (fishplates) which are placed either side of a rail, and fastened together with a number of bolts.

Fishplate joint. Photo: Creative Commons / PixOnTrax
An example of a fishplate joint. Photo: Creative Commons / PixOnTrax


Some rail lines are joined together permanently via the fishplate method. In these cases, Australian standard joints usually feature six total bolts – three on either side of the rail joint – according to the ATSB’s report, released on April 28.

The temporary use of fishplate joints is common practice on a continuous welded line, after maintenance work has taken place. In these cases, just four bolts are typically used – two on either side of the joint – the ATSB said.

But according to the safety bureau, evidence shows that one of the fishplate joints which failed in the South Australian derailment had been secured with just two bolts – one on either side of the joint.

“Examination of the southern rail joint showed that the Iron Baron end of the joint had been fastened with only one bolt,” the ATSB said.

Whyalla derailment -- Iron Baron end of southern fishplate joint with just one bolt. Photo: ATSB
Iron Baron end of southern fishplate joint with just one bolt. Photo: ATSB


“While the Whyalla end of the southern rail joint had completely separated during the derailment sequence, the components were recovered and examined,” the bureau continued.

“The holes through both fractured fishplates and the rail web showed no definitive indication that bolting had been installed through two of the three bolt holes, suggesting that the assembly had also been secured through a single bolt through this end of the joint.”

On top of this, the ATSB found that bolt holes on the southern rail joint had been widened through a flame cutting method, making it hard for the bolts to be sufficiently tightened.

“It was … evident that both the field and gauge-side fishplates had been modified by slotting (elongating) the bolt hole using an oxy/acetylene thermal cutting tool,” the ATSB explained.

According to the safety bureau, flame cutting of joint components “is usually only acceptable for emergency repairs,” and when such repairs are made, a speed restriction of 10km/h is usually applied.

In this instance, however, no such restriction was applied. Train 24KW was travelling at 50km/h when the incident occurred.

Adding to the alleged use of just two bolts and widened holes on the southern joint, several fishplates in both the north and south rail joints showed signs of pre-existing fatigue, the ATSB said.

“The southern fishplated rail joint was assembled using inappropriately-modified fishplates with an inadequate number of through-bolts,” the bureau summarised, “reducing its structural integrity and allowing relative movement within the joint under the load of a train.”

Arrium’s rail line was shut for two days following the incident, while recovery personnel and track and train maintenance crew conducted recovery and restoration works.

Whyalla derailment -- Train 24KW. Photo: ATSB
Train 24KW. Photo: ATSB


The train sustained “serious” damage, according to the bureau’s report.

As a result of the derailment, Genesee & Wyoming Australia replaced all the fishplate joints with mechanical welding.

GWA and the contracted maintenance company, Transfield Services Australia, also completed an audit of maintenance standards and processes, and in November 2014 Transfield disseminated a document Mechanical Joint Rectification to all track maintenance staff.


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.

(Left to Right) R U OK? chairman Mike Connaghan, ARA chief executive Bryan Nye, Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins, TrackSAFE chairman Bob Herbert, Minister for Health Sussan Ley, R U OK? ambassador Phil Waugh, NSW Trains chief executive Rob Mason. Photo: Oliver Probert

Rail boss calls for cultural shift for mental health

Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins says the Australian rail industry needs to undergo a cultural change if it is to get serious about the mental health of its employees.

Speaking at the launch of the inaugural Rail R U OK? Day at Central station on Thursday morning, Collins said the rail industry needs to shift away from its stiff upper lip culture, and also needs to be more aware of the multicultural nature of its workforce.

“We as an industry … face a lot of issues,” Collins said. “We see everything that the public throws at us, and sometimes that is a real, tragic experience.

“As an ex-train driver – someone who’s been on the front line – I think there’s a lot of issues. Culturally, ‘macho blokes’ don’t talk about it.

“Now, not only have we been male-dominated – and that’s changing – but culturally, 50% of my employees are from other places around the world. And different cultures can also find it difficult to talk about things, like saying ‘Are you okay?’ We must support them in this exercise as well.”

Collins was joined at the opening event by his counterpart at NSW Trains, Rob Mason, as well as outgoing ARA chief executive Bryan Nye, federal minister for health Sussan Ley, TrackSAFE chairman Bob Herbert, R U OK? chairman Mike Connaghan and several other key R U OK? figures.

Rail R U OK? Day is a new initiative; the result of a joint effort by the TrackSAFE Foundation and R U OK?.

“We now understand that this day is important to us,” Collins said.

“To our rail employees, to their partners, to our contractors – the whole industry is coming together today.

“It’s all about being safer, being supportive, and doing what managers often fail to do: To use your two ears, and one mouth to communicate, and understand what people have to say.

“We’re all busy people … But you do need to find the time to ask.”

Queensland Rail passenger train - photo QLD Matt

High Court sides with workers in Queensland fracas

The Rail, Tram & Bus Union will push for a pay rise for Queensland Rail workers after unions on Wednesday won a High Court challenge against industrial relations changes made by the former Newman Government.

A number of unions representing Queensland Rail employees brought their case to the High Court after, in 2013, the Newman Government transferred QR employees to the Queensland industrial relations system – moving them out of the federal system.

The move, according to unions, resulted in the “theft of many conditions,” according to RTBU Queensland state secretary Owen Doogan.

“The case boiled down to whether the Newman Government had the right to simply pass laws bringing QR back under its own lousy workplace laws.

“The High Court said that they did not have that right.”

The judgement, which is thought to impact about 6,000 workers, effectively removes restrictions which limited their ability, and the ability of unions, to take industrial action in response to their employer’s actions.

Electrical Trades Union national secretary Allen Hicks believes the decision could impact industrial relations in other states, telling the Australian Financial Review that the High Court had delivered “a clear warning to conservative governments that there are rules and limits, and the union movement will fight tooth and nail to defend workers’ rights”.

“The Newman government, which was spectacularly dumped by voters earlier this year, had attempted to strip entitlements from employees at this government-owned business by moving them to a ‘statutory authority’, which they claimed was outside the coverage of the Fair Work Act,” he was quoted as saying.

“What the High Court has confirmed is that if a ‘statutory authority’ looks and acts like a company, then it is, in fact, a company, and the Fair Work Act applies.”

Unions have resolved to work with Queensland Rail to reach a new deal.

“The unions will now be seeking to negotiate agreements in the federal arena to replace the agreements which have expired over the last few years in the federal system,” RTBU state secretary Doogan said.

“[On Wednesday] I received a commitment form the QR CEO that there would be no reduction in conditions for QR workers as a result of the High Court decision and that discussions will now commence to address the issues flowing from this agreement.”

Pacific National - Credit Asciano

Asciano weighs in on workplace relations

Asciano has voiced support for the Fair Work Amendment (Bargaining Processes) Bill 2014 that would mandate that productivity improvement discussions take place during enterprise bargaining agreements.

The parent company of Pacific National said industrial action is a somewhat Marxist approach to the relationship between employers and employees, in its recently published submission to the Productivity Commission’s Workplace Inquiry.

But Asciano accepted the notion that disputes are a bargaining tool that may reduce power imbalances between parties.

“Asciano recognises that the efficiency and quality of enterprise agreement negotiations to a large extent is in the hands of the parties negotiating agreements,” the company said.

“[But] there are aspects of the bargaining framework as set out in the Fair Work Act which hamper efficient and equitable negotiations.”

The company said it believes legislating productivity gains in enterprise bargaining should be approached with caution. However, the processes in place need to ensure genuine agreement is reached.

That said, Asciano voiced support for the requirement that the Fair Work Commission, when approving enterprise agreements, be satisfied productivity improvements were discussed during bargaining.

Complexities arising from negotiating process − as flagged by Asciano – include multiple stakeholders. Negotiators may have to manage multiple and potentially competing interests; trade-offs (e.g. between rostering, wage increases and other flexibilities); and maintenance of constructive relationships between parties.

Asciano suggests the Fair Work Commission give greater consideration to supporting negotiations beyond an approval and dispute resolution role.

The Productivity Commission is currently carrying out an inquiry into the industrial relations laws.

Initial submissions were due by March 13; however details of submission have only recently been published by the Productivity Commission.

A draft report is due in July.

Lloyd’s List Australia

First of ARA’s national training courses launched

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has launched the National Track Safety Induction (NTSI) courseware, as its first step towards nationally consistent training in the rail industry.

Launched last night at the RISSB Rail Safety Conference in Melbourne, the NTSI courseware is the result of industry collaboration towards a national approach for training.

The courseware is focused on training workers to operate safely within the rail corridor, with common course materials across Australian jurisdictions.

A national approach for this training will create efficiencies, through reduction in the retraining for workers operating across different networks and states, potentially saving millions, the ARA said.

“This harmonisation will create a safer, more productive and cost effective approach to learning and development activities in the rail industry,” ARA chief executive Bryan Nye said.

Nye estimates the development of one common course will save individual organisations around $80,000 on average, and said in the long term, common courseware for all rail-specific training can save the industry more than $39 million.

“With movement in the industry over the last ten years towards a national rail system, it is increasingly common for rail maintenance owners, operators, suppliers and contractors to work across multiple jurisdictions,” Nye said, “creating unnecessary inefficiencies and impacting on productivity.”

The NTSI courseware covers the core competency requirements of level 1 track safety awareness that. The ARA says the material is designed to meet the needs of multiple networks across Australia.

“A great deal of work has been completed to reach this point thanks to the dedication and commitment demonstrated by representatives from 14 accredited rail operators and infrastructure managers who worked in partnership on this initiative,” Nye said.

“However it is only the start of the journey,” he concluded.

“Maintaining this consistency and ensuring the quality of training delivery for the NTSI is a high priority for ARA and its members.”