Five-train order buys time for Alstom’s Ballarat Workshops

Alstom will deliver another five of its X’Trapolis trainsets to the Metro Trains Melbourne network under a circa $95 million deal announced on Tuesday.

Alstom on July 24 said it had signed a contract with Transport for Victoria to supply an additional five X’Trapolis sets under an agreement worth approximately €60 million.

The order will grow Melbourne’s fleet of the single-deck, six-car trains to 106 sets, or 636 cars, making them the single largest fleet of single-deck passenger trains in Australia.

Mark Coxon, Alstom’s managing director in Australia and New Zealand, said the deal would secure work for the Ballarat Workshop until December 2019.

“We are pleased to supply the Victorian government a further 5 trains from our industrial base in Ballarat.” Coxon said.

“This contract will provide workload for the site between April and December 2019, while we continue to work with the State to secure the long-term future of the Ballarat Workshops and the local supply chain.”

Alstom says the trains it supplies to Melbourne have been designed to optimise capacity – the 145-metre trains can fit up to 1,238 passengers – while still maximising passenger experience, comfort and safety.

The new trains will also feature enhanced accessibility and improved automated safety features, Alstom said.

Alstom has put more than 4,600 X’Trapolis cars into service around the world in the last 10 years, in countries including Australia, Chile, Spain, South Africa and France.

State launches inquiry into NGR procurement

New Generation Rollingstock manufacturer Bombardier has reiterated it designed and built Queensland’s new trains according to the specifications it was given, as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Monday announced an inquiry into the trains’ procurement process.

Palaszczuk has named retired District Court judge Michael Forde to conduct an inquiry into the procurement of the 75 six-car NGR train sets, and their failure to comply with disability laws.

Queensland Rail and the State of Queensland recently failed in a joint bid for an exemption from the Australian Human Rights Commission for the NGR trains, which do not all currently comply with certain sections of the Transport Standards in the Disability Discrimination Act.

The NGR fleet is undergoing changes at Downer’s facility in Maryborough as a result of the compliance issues. Disability advocates have pushed for the NGR trains already on the network to be pulled until the issues are rectified, but this has not yet occurred, and the state has not indicated it is considering this option.

The disability access concerns were among a number of issues encountered throughout the $4.4 billion NGR rollout. Rectified issues during the rollout relate to driver sightlines, braking, air conditioning and ventilation.

Bombardier, which has a good track record of delivering rollingstock around the world, has indicated many of the design issues encountered were a relatively normal part of the testing process, and par for the course for any new train delivery.

Some commentators have also suggested the NGR’s troubled rollout was a result of a calamitous environment at the state’s passenger operator, Queensland Rail. The NGR rollout, coupled with a staffing crisis, led to a separate state inquiry, and significant turnover at the network operator throughout 2017.

In a statement, Bombardier said it looked forward to the release of a terms of reference for the NGR inquiry.

“Bombardier maintains its original position that the NGR trains have been built to the specifications provided at the time,” the manufacturer said.

“The trains were designed in Queensland by a very dedicated team of industry professionals, and they’ve been built especially for Queensland commuters.”

Palaszczuk said on July 23 Michael Forde would commence his inquiry in August, and report to the government with recommendations late this year. His full terms of reference will be released once they are approved by Executive Council.

“Mr Forde will be able to access relevant documents in the procurement process including technical specifications, design approvals and cabinet documents,” the premier said.

Driverless Metro trains tested on elevated track

Sydney Metro Northwest trains are now being tested on the line’s elevated Skytrain section, including over the 270-metre long cable-stayed railway bridge over Windsor Road at Rouse Hill, with state transport minister applauding what he called an “historic” milestone for the project.

Testing of the driverless, automated trains was initially contained to the Sydney Metro HQ at Rouse Hill, but it is now expanding, with the new vehicles now going over Windsor Road and on to the Skytrain towards the new Kellyville Station.

“How incredible is this? That impressive new bridge over Windsor Road now has our driverless metro train doing test runs across it, meaning Metro is really becoming a reality,” Constance said.

“This is a historic moment that will help change the way we get around our great city for generations to come.”

The Skytrain section takes Sydney Metro Northwest between 10 metres and 13 metres above ground for four kilometres between Kellyville and Rouse Hill, both of which will be elevated stations.

Trains travelling on the Skytrain are being currently tested at 60km/h. Speeds will eventually go up to 100km/h before testing moves on into the new twin 15km railway tunnels between Bella Vista and Epping.

Nine of the 22 trains that will service the Metro Northwest line have now been delivered and are undergoing testing.

Constance said that 10,000 kilometres of train testing had been completed at Rouse Hill prior to the initiation of tests upon the Skytrain.

“Sydney Metro is on track to open in the first half of next year – we’re getting on with the job of testing our new generation trains and finishing our stations to deliver a world class mass transit system to Sydney,” he said.

Platform extensions for HCMTs to disrupt train services in Melbourne

Buses will replace trains on sections of Melbourne’s Cranbourne and Pakenham lines over an 11-day period in August, as work ramps up to extend station platforms in preparation for the introduction of new high capacity trains.

The works to extend platforms and replace aging rail infrastructure – including decades old signalling along the line past Dandenong – will see buses replacing trains in phases between Saturday 4 August and Monday 14 August on sections the lines past Dandenong.

The replacement buses will run on the line between Dandenong and Cranbourne from 4-5 August, between Dandenong and Pakenham from 4-12 August, then between Westall, Cranbourne and Pakenham on 13 and 14 August. Throughout this 11-day period, additional express bus services will run between Westall and Cranbourne and Pakenham.

“These upgrades are urgently needed for us to keep pace with demand on Melbourne’s busiest train lines – unless we act now, the system will eventually run itself into the ground,” acting public transport minister Luke Donnellan said.

“We ask passengers to bear with us through these disruptions as we work towards creating the train service that Victorians expect.”

In addition to the disruptions on the metropolitan lines, all Traralgon and Bairnsdale line V/Line services will also be replaced by coaches for the entire journey from 6 -14 August.

Platforms at four stations are to be extended during this intensive August construction period – at Dandenong, Officer, Cranbourne and Hallam stations. Thirteen stations will eventually be extended along the line to support new High-Capacity Metro Trains (HCMTs), which are 20 per cent longer than the existing fleet.

Eventually, sixty-five of the new trains will run on the network and service passengers between the Cranbourne-Pakenham lines, the CBD and Sunbury via the Metro Tunnel when it opens in 2026. The first HCMT is expected to enter service in 2019.

First new Waratahs enter final testing phase

The first of Sydney’s new Waratah Series 2 trains have entered their final stage of testing, and the State Government says all 24 should be in service early next year.

More than a quarter of the 24 new trains have arrived from China, and three trains are now in testing. All trains are expected to be delivered, and in service, by early next year, as part of the state’s $1.5 billion More Trains, More Services program.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and transport minister Andrew Constance took a ride on a test train on July 12, and said the addition of 24 more trains would mean all services on the Sydney Trains network would now be air conditioned.

“The testing being carried out is to ensure all systems are operational and reliable before our first customers come on board with final checks being carried out on the electronic information systems, such as the internal and external CCTV,” Constance said.

“Most of the testing has taken place at night and across the weekend to minimise the impact on customers, however, they will now start to simulate regular passenger services by making stops at stations.”

Constance said priority would be given to services on the T2 Inner West & Leppington Line, the T3 Bankstown Line, and the T8 Airport & South Line, as the new trains are rolled out.

“We are catering for the growing demand of people relying on public transport and it won’t be long until these trains start carrying customers in the areas where older trains are currently running,” he said.

Melbourne’s trams getting $230m overhaul

The refurbishment programme for Melbourne’s Yarra Trams fleet is underway, with the first completed vehicle to get back on the tracks this week.

Around 450 of Melbourne’s trams – up to 14 vehicles at a time – are to undergo reliability overhauls over the next five years at the recently upgraded East Preston Depot.

The refurbishment programme includes upgrades to the mechanical components, structural repairs to remove corrosion and protect against future damage, and deep cleaning of the trams’ interiors. Other upgrades will include repainting and, for some tram models, glass or window film replacement.

Victoria’s acting premier James Merlino said the programme will create over 100 jobs over a 5-year period.

“We’re supporting local jobs by improving Melbourne’s trams to give passengers a more comfortable and reliable service,” Merlino said.

“These refurbished trams are part of our record investment in Victoria’s transport system to get people where they need to go, sooner.”

The $230 million refurbishment programme is part of the new franchise agreement between the Government and Keolis Downer which came into effect in November last year. The 7-year contract is aimed at improving the reliability of Yarra Trams’ services, with a $30 million increase in annual spending on track and infrastructure maintenance and tougher penalties for missed performance targets (trams must run on time 82 per cent of the time per month, up from 77 per cent in the previous contract).

“Our tougher new contracts are aimed at giving passengers better value for money, better services, bigger penalties and more investment in maintenance,” Merlino said.

The refurbishment programme accompanies the continuing roll-out of new E-Class trams into the fleet. The current Labor Government initially ordered 20 of the trams in 2015, spending $274 million; funding for a further 10 were provided in the 2016/17 budget. These add to the 50 previously ordered by the former Brumby government (and currently in service), and will eventually bring the total number of E-Class trams in operation on the Melbourne network to 80 by the middle of 2019.

Early works press on for upgrade of Gippsland Line

Surveyors have begun work at Traralgon station as part of early works for the Victorian Government’s $530 million Gippsland Line Upgrade, which will upgrade level crossings, add extra platforms, and duplicate sections of track on the busy regional rail line.

Surveying at Traralgon is to assess ground and environment conditions, to help inform the design and construction of a second platform.

The Gippsland Line Upgrade will also deliver second platforms at Morwell, Bunyip and Longwarry stations. The project also includes track duplications between Bunyip and Longwarry, and between Traralgon and Morwell, as well as an extension of duplicated track near Moe, east towards Traralgon.

Level crossings are also set to be upgraded, and the project also includes an upgrade to drainage infrastructure at Morwell River, a crossing loop extension at Morwell, and a signalling upgrade.

The project’s final stage also includes the replacement of the rail bridge over the Avon River.

Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan said the early works at Traralgon were vital to a program designed to give Gippsland passengers the services they deserve.

“We’re boosting services, delivering new carriages and improving mobile coverage to make catching the train quicker, easier and more comfortable in eastern Victoria,” Allan said.

Over 80% of V/Line’s VLocity fleet are now fiited with mobile signal boosters, and new mobile towers are up and running at Pakenham and Traralgon, with more to be added at Longwarry, Garfield, Trafalgar, West Warragul and East Warragul by the end of 2018.

V/Line will begin running VLocity trains on the Gippsland Line from August this year.

The Gippsland Line Upgrade is part of Victoria’s $1.7 billion Regional Rail Revival program, which is being conducted by Transport for Victoria.


Downer’s Maryborough plant to get upgrade

Downer EDI’s rail manufacturing plant at Maryborough will receive $10 million from the Queensland Government to upgrade its infrastructure and to support continued work on contracts for Queensland Rail at the site.

The upgrade is to include improvements to existing facilities to better accommodate six-car trains as well as safeguarding the long-term continuation of manufacturing at the Downer plant.

Upgrades to the overhead power lines will support six-car static testing, while a new section of track will be installed to support weighing, levelling and water egress testing. A new run-around road and an additional spur will also be installed to ease shunting restrictions and improve stabling capacity

State transport minister Mark Bailey indicated that some of the infrastructure upgrades would support rectification work on New Generation Rollingstock trains to they comply with disability standards. The government is currently partnering with disability advocacy groups in developing the designs.

“It is important that we get this design work right, working alongside disability advocates,” Bailey said.

“This investment will mean the rail plant at Maryborough will be set up for the future, and ready to start work on accessibility upgrades for the six car NGR trains, reducing the need for unnecessary work on the rollingstock.”

A series of projects worth approximately $70 million have recently got underway at the site, including $23.5 million mechanical overhaul of its L-Series fleet which carry services to Mount Isa, Spirit of the Outback services that connect through to Longreach, and Westlander train services which travel to Charleville.

A $21 million project was also awarded to Downer in March to overhaul 15 diesel-electric locomotives, which carry Kuranda Scenic Railway, Inlander, Spirit of the Outback and Westlander services.

“Additionally, the awarding of a $14.6 million contract in March to overhaul 18 bogie sets on Queensland Rail’s IMU 160/260 Citytrain fleet will build upon $7.8 million in bogie overhaul works for the IMU 120/SMU200 series, which has been underway since this contract was awarded in 2017,” Bailey said.

“The trains undergoing the bogie overhauls were originally built here in Maryborough by Downer, so it’s exciting to see their servicing and maintenance work will be carried out by them too.”

Other works underway at Maryborough include an overhaul of 32 air conditioning units, the servicing of 33 transformers for train power supply on the South East Queensland network, and a upgrade to the converter cooling on IMU160/260 series.

Labor MP for Maryborough Bruce Saunders said the contracts were ensuring rail manufacturing works remained in the state and continued to support local jobs.

“These projects are part of the Palaszczuk Government’s Buy Queensland policy, which highlights the importance of government contracts going to local businesses and supporting local communities,” he said.

“Downer EDI is an outstanding example of the direct benefits – a steady stream of local work for regional Queenslanders, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to supporting key industries in regional economies.”

PN puts bigger wagons on rail for sugar season haul

Pacific National is utilising new high-capacity wagons to more efficiently transport sugar and molasses, with the major rail freight operator hoping to reap the benefits of this year’s harvest in North Queensland.

Pacific National signed a contract with Wilmar Sugar Australia in mid-2017 for the haulage of sugar to Queensland’s ports, marking the freight operator’s first foray into the state’s sugar sector.

Rail is Wilmar’s preferred method of sugar transportation. Aurizon had previously held the haulage contract with Wilmar, which came to an end in December 2017.

The agreement with Pacific National commenced in June 2018, with the freight operator creating 48 new train driver, operational and administration jobs in the Townsville and Mackay regions to respond to the annual freight task.

The 22-week sugar season, which commenced in June, sees average volumes of 1.4mt produce transported every year.

Pacific National invested $50 million to build new high-capacity wagons to operate along the Burdekin-Townsville line.

“Pacific National has commissioned 88 new custom-designed bulk wagons and 50 new flat-bed wagons to support the haulage of sugar and molasses on the Burdekin – Townsville line from Wilmar Sugar’s five mills in North Queensland,”

Approximately 25 per cent larger than average, Pacific National hopes these larger-capacity wagons will keep rail in front of road for sugar transportation in the region.

Test trains to run on Mernda extension in July

The first test train will arrive in Mernda next month, following the installation of the final section of track in the Plenty Road area.

The train’s arrival in July will mark the first time a train has run to Mernda in sixty years. Trains used to run to the old Mernda station on the Whittlesea line from 1889 to 1959, when the line closed beyond Lalor station.

Work has been underway on the new rail line over a year, having got underway in late April 2017. The project includes the construction of three new stations, three rail bridges and two underpasses, as well as a train stabling yard at the end of the line.

“Reaching this landmark moment is testament to the hard work of our engineers and construction workers. Being 6 months ahead of schedule will delight Mernda and Doreen locals,” Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green said.

Eight thousand commuters a day are expected to use the new stations every day, easing traffic congestion along Plenty Road.

Construction crews are now installing final section of track for the 8-kilometre rail line from South Morang Station to the Mernda Station. Two other new stations are included in the project: Hawkstowe Station and Middle Gorge Station. Two-thousand car parking spaces, along with bicycle storage and bus facilities will be provided across the three stations.

An additional 40 car spaces are currently being built at the new Hawkstowe Station, increasing the number of car parks at this station to 397, while an extra walking and cycling path connection has also been confirmed.

State transport minister Jacinta Allan said that the new line would deliver better transport and facilities and connections for locals.

“This is one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever undertaken here in South Morang and Mernda and we’re getting it done, months ahead of schedule,” Allan said.

“Mernda Rail has created thousands of local jobs and will give people in Melbourne’s north the world-class transport they deserve.”

Over 700 workers are currently working on the line ahead of testing and commissioning the new line.

In preparation for train testing on the line, buses will replace trains between Clifton Hill and South Morang from Friday 29 June to the last service on Sunday 1 July.