Queensland Rail passenger train - photo QLD Matt

Queensland assembles 8-expert panel to review transport fares

The Palaszczuk Government has appointed a taskforce of eight public transport experts to conduct a comprehensive review of TransLink’s fare structure in South East Queensland.

Queensland deputy premier and transport minister Jackie Trad said the move delivers on the Labor Party’s commitment to review the public transport fare system to improve affordability and boost patronage.

“The Fare Review will form the basis of a new fare strategy in South East Queensland to increase the rate of public transport patronage while also ensuring a sustainable fare revenue stream to allow the network to grow,” Trad said.

The transport minister says public transport patronage in South East Queensland declined by two-million trips under the former LNP Government.

“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to restoring confidence in our public transport system and encouraging more people to choose to travel by bus, rail, ferry or light rail to get to their destination.

“We recognise that affordability is perceived to be a barrier to growing patronage on the public transport network, and the Fare Review will work to address this ongoing challenge to create a fairer system.”

Members of the fare review taskforce are as follows:


Neil Cagney, managing director, MRCagney (Chair)

Cagney has more than 40 years’ experience in transport management and engineering expertise. He leads transport consultancy MRCagney and has been the head of Brisbane Transport.

Neil Scales, director-general, Department of Transport and Main Roads

Scales has almost 43 years’ transport experience. Prior to joining the Queensland public service, he led the transport authority for Merseyside in the north of England. He has received an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to public transport.

Trent Zimmerman, deputy chief executive, Tourism and Transport Forum

Zimmerman has 20 years’ experience in local, state and federal government. He is deputy CEO of TTF and has led much of TTF’s transport policy development, the peak industry group for Australian tourism, transport and aviation sectors.

Mark Tucker-Evans, chief executive, COTA Queensland

Tucker-Evans has held CEO roles with research, media, industry and professional associations in New South Wales and Queensland. He represents COTA Queensland on a number of roundtables and forums in the State. COTA Australia is a national organisation representing the rights, needs and interests of older Australians.

Jarrett Walker, consultant, Jarrett Walker and Associates

Walker is an international consultant in public transit network design and policy, based in Portland, Oregon. He has 20 years’ experience working with government on major planning projects in cities and towns across North America, Australia, and New Zealand. He is the author of Human Transit: How clearer thinking about public transit can enrich our communities and our lives.

Dr Matthew Burke, associate professor, Griffith University

Burke is deputy director and an Australian Research Council future fellow at Griffith University’s Urban Research Program. He coordinates most of Griffith’s transport research and currently leads large research grants exploring light rail, transport and land use relationships, and the funding and financing of urban transport. He has previous experience as a transport planner at Commonwealth and state government level.

Robert Dow, administrator, Rail Back on Track

Dow is the Spokesman and Administrator for Rail Back on Track, an organisation who provides a forum to promote and lobby Australian Governments to use railway transportation and public and active transport for the benefit of all Australians.

Sharon Boyce, chair, Queensland Disability Advisory Council, and regional chair, South West Regional Disability Advisory Council

Boyce runs an experiential educational consultancy practice ‘Discovering Disability & Diversity’ and won the Australian Human Rights Award for Individuals 2008 for this initiative. She is a professional member on a number of boards and councils in Queensland.


Minister Trad said the eight representatives on the taskforce included industry-leading public transport experts and representatives from key local user groups.

“The members of the taskforce who will lead the review of fares in South East Queensland bring a wealth of global and local transport knowledge and experience to the table,” Trad said.

“Members of the taskforce are eminently qualified to drive the review and come from varied backgrounds in public transport management and research, ticketing systems, tourism, and advocacy group representation, with many experienced in leading global transport organisations working across public and private sectors.

“Key local advocacy and user groups are also represented on the taskforce, to ensure it is equipped with a solid understanding of our local context and needs of transport users in South East Queensland, including seniors and those living with disabilities.”

Revitalising Newcastle. Photo: Revitalising Newcastle

Newcastle Light Rail tender released

Transport for NSW is seeking a technical advisor for the Newcastle Light Rail project.

An open request for tenders was published to NSW eTendering on August 11, seeking “experienced and suitably qualified organisations for the provision  of engineering, urban design and light rail systems advice for the Newcastle Light Rail project”.

The Newcastle Light Rail line is proposed to run from the Wickham Transport Interchange – currently under construction – through to the Newcastle CBD, at Pacific Park.

To make way for the development, the state government shut down the heavy rail line into Newcastle at Hamilton station on Boxing Day last year. When Wickham Transport Interchange is completed, the line will re-open as far as Wickham.

The long term plan to destroy the heavy rail line beyond Wickham has drawn heavy criticism – and a lawsuit – from community group Save Our Rail.

With the state of that case currently in limbo in the Court of Appeal, the government is moving on with its plan to deliver a light rail network to Newcastle. A fortnight after it revealed the design for the new interchange, TfNSW announced the technical advisor tender.

“Make no mistake, we are getting on with the job of delivering these key revitalisation projects for the people of Newcastle,” state transport minister Andrew Constance said. “This tender represents the next step towards delivering light rail and follows geotechnical investigations that took place earlier this year.”

The tender calls for suitably qualified organisations to fulfil the role of technical advisor. Tenderers must be able to demonstrate specialist experience in engineering, urban design and light rail systems.

Specifically, TfNSW says it will only consider tenderers who have undertaken the design of a light rail “or other relevant rail infrastructure” development project worth more than $50 million, within the last five years.

“We are committed to getting light rail in Newcastle right,” Constance continued.

“To do this, we need the right people to advise us on a range of technical studies that will feed into the planning process.

“The delivery of a well-planned light rail network in Newcastle will help reignite confidence in the region, boosting jobs and visitor numbers.”

Further consultation and the release of planning documents for Newcastle Light Rail are expected in late 2015.

Airport. Photo: Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development

ARA blasts airport plan for ignoring rail

Plans to build Sydney’s second airport without a direct rail link got mixed reviews from the aviation industry earlier this week. But the Australasian Railway Association made its views very clear.

Acting ARA chief operating officer Phil Allan called the omission of a direct rail plan a “blunder,” and called on the Federal Government to ensure the supposed “world class” airport at Badgerys Creek had a rail link from day one.

“The ARA is pleased that the NSW Government is looking ahead by starting to secure a rail corridor, but we need the Federal Government to step up on this in order for it to happen,” he said.

“The rail option needs to be there from the start.

“We are very supportive of the construction of a second airport for Sydney to not only cater for its population, which is expected to grow by almost six million by 2031, but also for the millions of tourists visiting the city every year.

“What we cannot support is the construction of such an important transport hub without the necessary public transport infrastructure links required that will enable people to move in and out of the airport efficiently, safely and sustainably.”

Allan warned the airport could become “another frustrating bottleneck adding to Sydney’s congestion woes,” should it go ahead without rail.

His sentiments were similar to those expressed by Paul Bredereck, managing director of regional airline Jetgo, to Fairfax earlier this week.

Bredereck, speaking at the CAPA 2015 Airport Innovation Day on Monday, reportedly labelled plans to build an airport with no rail link “small league”.

“For God’s sake, it is a major international airport and no express rail service to the CBD?” Brederick was quoted. “In the last few weeks I have driven from Bankstown to Sydney Airport. It is not a pleasant experience. Buses from Badgerys Creek to the CBD? Who are you kidding?”

One of the Australian aviation industry’s most influential figures – Qantas boss Alan Joyce – however, was not as alarmed at the plans.

“The last thing we want to do is to add cost burdens on these things that are not justified,” Joyce was quoted as saying on Tuesday. The Qantas chief executive reportedly believes low passenger figures in the early years of the airport’s operation mean a train line won’t be needed, adding it was important for a major infrastructure project not to be “overdeveloped from day one”.

“You don’t want to build an infrastructure facility that can carry 100 million people from day one but … have only 2 or 3 million people using the facility and you’re paying for that,” Joyce was quoted by Fairfax.

“It’s not good for the airlines, it’s not good for the taxpayer, it’s not good for anybody developing it.”

Allan, however, believes the opposite is true.

“To not have a rail line connect this airport to Sydney’s CBD from the get-go would be an unforgivable infrastructure blunder, that would take decades and cost millions to reverse,” the acting ARA chief said.

Hyperloop. Artist's impression: SpaceX

The future of rail travel, and why it doesn’t look like Hyperloop

As the world’s population becomes increasingly urbanised, it is estimated that the number of journeys measured in passenger-kilometres will triple by 2050. Roads simply can’t absorb this increase, but what can? Roberto Palacin investigates.


Railways, with their greater capacity for carrying more people, quickly and with greater energy efficiency, are the best bet to become our mobility backbone. Of course, engineers’ imaginations have created many alternatives to the original steel-on-steel approach to the railway. Maglev and the much-publicised but so far theoretical Hyperloop are often regarded as the ones to watch – but do they really represent the future of rail travel?

 

Maglev

Magnetic levitation (maglev) uses powerful magnets to propel the train along dedicated lines that are as straight as possible. The attractive forces between electronically controlled electromagnets in the vehicle and the ferromagnetic guide rails pull the vehicle up, while additional guidance magnets keep it laterally on track. This version of the technology was developed in Germany and is currently used to link Shanghai airport with the city centre at speeds of 430kph (267mph).

However it’s perhaps Japan that is most associated with maglev. The nation that established the modern era of high-speed trains is also attempting to define the next chapter. Superconducting magnetic levitation (SCMaglev) has been in development for decades but was recently approved to run from Tokyo to Osaka from 2027, when it will complete the 500km (311 mile) journey in just over an hour. Unlike the Transrapid system in Shanghai, the Japanese maglev principle uses more powerful “superconducting” magnets and a guideway design based on repulsive rather than attractive forces.

But while maglev is technically possible, its commercial viability is questionable. There is an extremely high initial infrastructure cost – Japan’s SCMaglev line is expected to cost ¥9 trillion (US$72 billion). It also cannot be integrated with existing rail networks and has a phenomenal energy demand, during both construction and operation. This casts serious doubts about maglev’s true potential as an alternative to conventional high-speed technology.

 

Hyperloop

Hyperloop is an elegant idea: travelling seamlessly at 1,220kph (that’s right, 760mph – just under the speed of sound) in gracefully designed pods that arrive as often as every 30 seconds is very appealing. The concept is based around very straight tubes with a partial vacuum applied under the pods. These pods have an electric compressor fan on their nose which actively transfers high-pressure air from the front to the rear, creating an air cushion once a linear electric motor has launched the pod. All this would be battery and solar powered.

Technically it’s a challenging design, although if someone can make it happen it’s the man who proposed the idea, Elon Musk, the man behind SpaceX and Tesla. However, Hyperloop is not rail travel. It is, as Musk puts it, a fifth mode of transport (after trains, cars, boats and planes). It’s designed to link Los Angeles to San Francisco; cities hundreds of miles apart that can be connected in an almost straight line over a relative flat landscape. This simply isn’t an option in much of the world.

Ultimately, if Hyperloop happens at all it will be a stand-alone system. It’s no substitute for rail.

 

What else?

In practice, the vast majority of us will continue to travel on trains that are not dissimilar to those that are around today. The UK is about to take delivery of 122 trains that will be the workhorses of most intercity travel for decades to come. They could still be in service come 2050, albeit following several refurbishments.

Greater automation are expected to dominate not just rail but all types of travel. Automatic train operation is already used in some urban railways which allows for shorter distances between trains on the same line. It is anticipated that in the future all mainline trains will be able to communicate with each other, meaning significantly more trains on the track, increasing capacity and service levels.

This in turn will make physical line-side signalling equipment redundant, leading to more simple layouts for new lines. Better use of energy on electrically powered intercity rail travel will likely play a significant role. For instance, energy storage systems and advanced substations will allow a shift to smarter rail systems.

Future predictions are to be treated with caution. But state-of-the-art railway investment around the globe is still largely based on the steel-on-steel principle of trains on tracks. And there’s no reason to doubt that this will be the define future of rail travel in coming decades – just as it has done since the birth of rail nearly 200 years ago.


Roberto Palacin is senior research associate, Railway Systems Research Group at Newcastle University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

TasRail Wagons. Photo: TasRail

Rail bests road in Tasmania, study shows

A major TasRail study has suggested moving freight by rail rather than road will deliver an estimated $159 million in savings to the Tasmanian economy over the five years to 2019.

Freight rail saved the state $26 million in 2013/14 alone, through savings over road, the TasRail study found.

The study, commissioned by the Tasmanian rail freight business and undertaken by infrastructure consultant Pitt&Sherry, found savings were generated by reducing costs related to road accidents, pollution and road maintenance, as well as the operating costs of industry and commerce.

TasRail boss Damien White said the purpose of the study was to quantify the underlying benefits of the state’s rail freight system at a time when it was enjoying significant growth.

White said the essence of the study findings was that on major freight corridors, such as between Brighton and Burnie, rail was the most efficient freight mode.

“While there is an investment cost in rail – as there is with roads and shipping – it delivers statewide benefits that are significantly greater than the investment costs,” White said.

“The study highlights one of TasRail’s important competitive advantages, which is to help industries strengthen their social licences by moving freight by rail rather than by road, is providing vital social, environmental and economic benefits,” White said last week.

“Over the past five years, the Tasmanian and Australian Governments have provided the funds to rejuvenate the state’s rail system, which they clearly recognise as a critical part of Tasmania’s transport infrastructure.”

Statistical data was drawn from a range of official government studies and reports.

In 2013/14 the use of rail freight in Tasmania rather than road freight saved around $7 million in road accident costs; $1 million in environmental costs; $9 million in road maintenance costs; and up to $9 million in the operating costs of business and industry, a Pitt&Sherry spokespan said.

The Spokesman said the savings were forecast to rise over the five year period to June 30, 2019 and continue well into the future

“The report shows freight transport efficiency is maximised when freight can be moved at the lowest possible cost to customers (senders and receivers) and the community at large,” White added.

“It explains that a single train can move hundreds of tonnes of freight and the rolling resistance faced by a steel wheel on a steel track is small compared to that of a rubber tyre on a road.

“These physical and economy-of-scale advantages translate to very low overall costs on a per tonne kilometre basis.”

White said the study justified investment in TasRail’s infrastructure.

“Track upgrades improve the performance of Tasmania’s rail network to an acceptable level that enable rail to compete with road for certain freight tasks,” he said.

“The result is an overall increase in Tasmania’s transport system efficiency, delivering lower costs in two major ways. The most obvious effect is lower costs to freight customers, which in turn reduce the drag of freight costs on the whole economy.”

The study concludes over the next five years, the total government investment in TasRail will be approximately equal to the total benefits to the Tasmanian community in dollar terms.

From that point on, it suggests, savings will far exceed investment.

Melbourne traffic. Photo: Creative Commons / Michael Coghlan

Don’t panic! Traffic congestion is not coming for our cities

COMMENT: There is a new fear on the block. Not just ISIS, home invasions, wind turbines and the budget deficit, but now we must fear … traffic congestion, Peter Newman writes.

The Infrastructure Australia report on the future needs of our cities emphasises the growing problem of urban traffic congestion all over the country. It is echoed by the State of Australian Cities report.

Congestion, it warns, will overwhelm our futures, making them unlivable, uneconomic and ungovernable as we fight for every piece of road space.

But do we have to accept that congestion trends will overwhelm us? Is it really right to fear congestion?

 

The fear

According to the IA report travel times are going to increase by at least 20%. The total cost of such congestion will increase from A$13.7 billion a year to A$53.3 billion by 2031, an increase of nearly three times. The loss of time will apparently cripple us.

The public policy reaction to fear is to jettison economic analysis and throw money at it. No benefit-cost ratio is needed as we need to act now or it will overwhelm us. Kneejerk reactions like this are usually regretted in hindsight but at the time we have no choice, it must be done.

In this climate of congestion-fear big roads are not being assessed, just announced. The congestion peril is coming. We must honour the Abbott government’s election commitments to around A$40 billion of high-capacity roads such as the East-West Link in Melbourne (now discredited and dropped by the Victorian Government), the Connex West system in Sydney (causing similar pain with communities subject to its impact) and most recently the Perth Freight Link (which looms as the biggest election issue facing the Barnett government that never actually wanted it). All of these roads have benefit cost ratios that make them very questionable.

Long-term plans are being drawn out of old cupboards for road projects dreamed up in the 1960s – like a plan to build a 10-km tunnel under Perth’s Swan river to link the city’s leafy western suburbs with the similarly well-heeled area around Applecross. Good luck with that one.

 

Peak car

The congestion trends being used to scare us are not based on actual data but on projections. They come from a model that is now discredited. In reality Australian cities peaked in car use per person in 2004, like all developed cities across the globe.

The chart below shows that peak car occurred in all Australian cities, regardless of their level of congestion as Canberra, Hobart and Darwin also peaked.

Peak car use in Australian cities. Credit: Newmand and Kenworthy, 2015
Peak car use in Australian cities. Credit: Newmand and Kenworthy, 2015

 

Around the world there is a new dynamic in our cities as the young and wealthy are moving back into cities where they do not need to use a car and they are preferring fast trains and buses over traffic wherever they can.

Rail patronage is booming way beyond predictions as the speed of rail leaves traffic behind. The table below shows the relative speed of public transport (bus and rail) which is gaining but still loses to traffic, and rail to traffic which is now beating the traffic in all cities in our global sample.

 

Comparative speeds of public transport (bus and rail) to traffic and also rail to traffic in global cities. Credit: Newman and Kenworthy, 2015
Comparative speeds of public transport (bus and rail) to traffic and also rail to traffic in global cities. Credit: Newman and Kenworthy, 2015

 

Predicting the traffic

For decades the transport planning profession has used what is known as the Four Step model to predict traffic and hence provide road capacity. It does not suggest any other options than increasing road capacity such as public transport or land use changes that reduce the need to travel.

It has been put aside by most European cities who quickly saw what it did to rip the heart out of American cities. Despite its obvious simplicity it remains one of the modernist tools that are used to explain the future of cities. Most of all it is a tool to create congestion-fear.

But the Four Step model now has revealed one major failing: it assumes that as wealth rises then car ownership and car use will also rise. As the data above suggest if we look to the future we can confidently predict that wealth will rise but we cannot predict that this will automatically mean more car use. They are now decoupling.

The young and the wealthy are buying locations where car dependence is minimised and where sustainable transport options are easily available. Freedom and connection is now based on smart phones and social media and these are easier to use where you can walk, cycle or use a bus and train.

In the US the cities that are decoupling GDP from car use the most are the cities which have invested in rail, such as Washington DC and Portland, as you can see in the chart below. In cities that are emphasising sustainable transport modes the economic benefits are increasingly being demonstrated (see also the book and this article by urban theorist and professor at University of Toronto Richard Florida) as the knowledge economy requires dense centres and spatially efficient modes – walking, cycling and rail transit.

Decoupling wealth from car use in Washington DC and Portland, Oregon. Credit: Newman and Kenworthy, 2015
Decoupling wealth from car use in Washington DC and Portland, Oregon. Credit: Newman and Kenworthy, 2015

 

This global trend is also not just a phenomenon of wealthy cities. Rail projects are dominating the transport agenda of Chinese cities (building metros in 82 cities) and Indian cities (51 cities are building metros now since Prime Minister Modi declared any city over a million needs quality transit).

Even if we were faced with a mountain of traffic congestion we should not be building high capacity roads as they are no longer working to deliver the transport outcomes once expected. The Texas Transportation Institute has compared miles of freeway against delay in the top 20 American cities and found no correlation, as you can see in the chart below.

Freeways and delay in American cities. Credit: Texas Transportation Institute, Urban Mobility Information
Freeways and delay in American cities. Credit: Texas Transportation Institute, Urban Mobility Information

 

The latest data on American cities shows that the top six most walkable cities have 38% higher walkability. Australian cities have been showing this in their city centres as well (Gehl, 2011). This is now the real competitive edge attracting capital for the knowledge economy and to retain the young talent. This is how we should be facing the future not quivering in fear about congestion.

It’s time to change our traffic prediction models.

It’s time to support global trends towards transit, walkability and urban regeneration.

It’s time to drop the big road fetish.

It’s time to stop fear of congestion as the core issue facing the future of our cities.


Peter Newman is Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University.

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

Campbelltown station future. Graphic: Department of Planning and Environment

Baird Government targets south west stations for urban growth

Areas surrounding seven railway stations in Sydney’s south west will be redeveloped for high rise, urban development.

NSW minister for planning Rob Stokes on Sunday announced plans for the rail corridor between Glenfield and Macarthur stations on the Main South Line, which he said provide a vision for new opportunities to renew areas around the seven stations with new homes, shops and businesses.

The plans, released now for public comment, include improved access for pedestrians and bicycles, better access to buses and upgrades to surrounding community centres including schools and libraries.

Click here to view the Glenfield to Macarthur Urban Renewal Corridor Strategy

Stations included in the scheme are Macarthur, Campbelltown, Leumeah, Minto, Ingleburn, Macquarie Fields and Glenfield.

“We know that one in every five additional Sydneysiders will be living in the south west by 2036,” Stokes said, “so it’s crucial we get the planning right.

“The community has already responded to a survey and told us what they love about their neighbourhood and what improvements they’d like to see.

“We’ve used this feedback to provide a roadmap for revitalisation which will facilitate more than 20,000 additional jobs and 15,000 new homes by 2036.”

Member for Holsworthy Melanie Gibbons and member for Camden Chris Patterson welcomed the plans to revitalise the station precincts.

“Our community relies heavily on the rail line, so improving these stations and the areas around them will provide benefits for residents and commuters,” Gibbons said.

“I am excited that this plan identifies how we can revamp and improve these areas,” Patterson added.

The draft corridor strategy, released on Monday by the Department of Planning and Environment, outlines the future vision for each area along the train line. It is now open to community feedback. Once that is received, the strategy will go back to the Department of Planning and Environment for further refinement, Stokes explained.

Subway station. Public Domain

$280m contracts continue New York’s CBTC rollout

VIDEO: The installation of Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) in one of the world’s most-used rail networks will continue, with a pair of contracts handed out in New York this month.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced on July 20 that 67-month contracts had been awarded to Siemens Industry Incorporated, and Thales Transport & Security Incorporated, currently the only two MTA-qualified vendors for CBTC projects.

The Siemens contract is for approximately US$156.2 million, and Thales contract is for US$49.6 million. Together they are worth US$205.8 million, or roughly A$280 million.

The contracts cover the installation of a CBTC signalling system on the Queens Boulevard Line.

Known around the world as the Subway, New York City’s rapid transit system is one of the world’s largest, with 1,355km of track along 373km of defined routes, and 468 stations in operation.

The New York Subway served 1.75 billion passengers in 2014, making it the seventh-busiest metro system globally, behind only the Beijing Subway, the Shanghai Metro, the Seoul Subway, the Moscow Metro, the Tokyo Metro and the Guangzhou Metro.

The Queens Boulevard Line is one of the Subway’s busiest, with a daily ridership of more than 250,000 in 2014.

CBTC signalling, which is replacing the existing interlocking system, is currently in operation on the Canarsie Line (567,000 daily ridership in 2014), and is being installed on the Flushing Line (818,000 daily ridership in 2014).

“The CBTC signalling system is a vital part of our plan to address issues of overcrowding, record ridership and service delays,” MTA boss Thomas F. Prendergast said.

“CBTC represents the MTA’s efforts to bring advanced technology to a century-old subway system that, in some parts, has not been updated in decades.

“On the L Line [the Canarsie Line] where CBTC has been installed for several years now, we have seen improved service and we have been able to increase capacity significantly.

“Once we’re done installing CBTC on the 7 Line [the Flushing Line], those customers will also benefit from similarly improved and increased service, and the Queens Boulevard project is a continuation of our efforts to make those improvements system-wide.”

As well as awarding the two CBTC contracts to Thales and Siemens, MTA also approved a separate US$1.2 million contract for Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Incorporated, to develop and test CBTC software and systems, with the goal of qualifying an additional supplier for future CBTC projects.

“This process widens the pool of vendors to compete for such projects and increases the potential for cost savings for the MTA,” the authority said.

Politics reportedly delaying Metro timetable

Melbourne newspaper the Age has claimed the new Metro timetable is being delayed by the Andrews Government’s hesitation to remove peak-hour services from the politically-critical Frankston line.

The government opened the 47.5km Regional Rail Link in June, separating regional Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong services from suburban services. To take advantage of the new capacity, it planned to release a new timetable.

So far no timetable has been released. And according to a Wednesday report in the Age, the delay is due to the government’s desire to maintain current peak services to the Frankston line.

Four election seats – Bentleigh, Carrum, Mordialloc and Frankston – are situated along the Frankston line. Known as the ‘sand-belt’ seats, all four changed hands to the Coalition at the 2010 state election, and all four changed hands again, to Labor, at the 2014 election[note]Frankston was won by Geoff Shaw in 2010, when he was part of the Coalition. He resigned from the Liberal Party in March 2013, becoming an Independent. Labor won the seat in 2014.[/note].

Public transport minister Jacinta Allan said in February the timetable would be delayed in line with a delay to the opening of the Regional Rail Link, saying the previous Coalition Government delayed the project when it failed to order V/Line rolling stock in its first two years in power.

“The Liberals and Nationals were going to open Regional Rail Link knowing there was a massive risk of service cancellations and commuter chaos,” Allan claimed.

“The Regional Rail Link was planned and funded under the previous Labor Government,” she said. “All the Coalition had to do was order enough trains but apparently that was too hard.”

At the time, Allan said the delay to the opening of the Regional Rail Link also meant a delay to the implementation of metropolitan train, tram and bus timetable changes.

But according to the Age report, the only thing holding the new timetables back is the Andrews Government “baulking” at changes that would remove some Frankston line trains from the City Loop during peak times.

Changes stalled by the government would also see Glen Waverley line trains, which use the loop in the afternoon, instead terminating at Flinders Street. And like the Frankston line, some peak-hour trains on the Craigieburn line would also miss the City Loop.

It’s all part of the former Coalition Government’s five year plan, which was scheduled to run to 2017, had the Andrews Government not intervened this year.

“The secret Liberal timetable would have come at the expense of thousands of commuters on Frankston, Glen Waverley and Craigieburn lines,” acting public transport minister Luke Donnellan was quoted by the Fairfax paper.

On his personal blog, Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen wrote that he was disappointed the changes were being delayed, but said he hoped they went ahead eventually.

“The Loop changes would be painful for some, but the pay-off (as usual) is more frequent services, roughly a 20% peak boost on some lines, up to 50% in the evenings (from two trains per hour to three) and further moves towards ten minute services all-day everyday,” Bowen wrote.

“You can’t have all the lines converging on the four track City Loop,” he said. “Those tracks are pretty much full. To make better use of the substantial track capacity in the CBD, some lines have to go direct into Flinders Street and Southern Cross.”

Bombardier DAS - Photo Bombardier Transport

Bombardier anti-collision system gets tick of approval

The first trams equipped with Bombardier Transportation’s new Drivers Assistance System (DAS) will enter service in Frankfurt in August, after the system was approved by German authorities.

BT announced this week its DAS had received homologation for passenger service in Germany, after successful trials with the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) and Frankfurt’s transport authority, the Verkehrsgesellschaft Frankfurt am Main (VFG).

BT describes DAS as “a highly-innovative, anti-collision system that gives tram drivers advanced warning of a potential impact with pedestrians, bikers, other vehicles, or objects obstructing the tram tracks”.

The DAS uses a network of stereovision cameras to identify and track the movement of objects on or near a tram’s path, the company explained.

“Should a potential collision be identified, the system issues an audio alert for the tram driver and can even perform and automatic braking function.”

BT says its DAS is designed to complement its BodyGuard system, a sort of external airbag for trams designed to prevent pedestrians from being trapped under a moving tram – typically the cause for the most serious injuries in collision incidents.

Following approval by the technical supervisory authority, VFG’s vehicle no. 272 recently became the world’s first tram to operate with DAS.

Currently using vehicle 272 for training, VGF will soon equip its other 73 “S” tramcars with DAS, making the Frankfurt fleet the first to be completely equipped with the technology, by December 2016.