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.

Melbourne Tram. Photo: RailGallery

Yarra Trams vehicles to be upgraded and refurbished

Over 90% of Melbourne’s trams will be refurbished as part of a Yarra Trams programme to overhaul the reliability and amenity of its services.

Older trams using the city network will receive a mechanical and electrical maintenance overhaul, as well as upgrades to the driver cabin and passenger saloon. Trams will be cleaned, windows will be replaced with tinted glass, panels will be repaired and new saloon lights installed.

C and D-Class trams and 150 low-floor trams will be included in the maintenance and refurbishment programme.

“This project is the centrepiece of Yarra Trams’ tram reliability program, as we work with the Victorian government to improve Melbourne’s tram network,” Yarra Trams’ executive director of asset performance and projects Anthea Antonio said.

“Melbourne’s trams range in age from brand new E-Class to heritage W-Class, and maintaining such diverse vehicles is a unique challenge.”

The 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.

Transport Safety Victoria data from last year showed that the average number of serious injuries per quarter on the Melbourne tram network rose from 7 to 13 over the previous 2 years, while the average number of slips, trips and falls rose in the same period from 44 to 60.

The state government indicated last year that better safety features for the E-Class design were added in response to a review that looked into passenger injuries on trams, including more grab rails, more stop request buttons, slip-resistant floors, and dedicated spaces for passengers with prams and mobility aids.

The most recent data indicates that tram collisions with people and collisions with road vehicles are at their highest in 5 years, while the number of reported slips, trips or falls on trams have risen by 140% over the same period.

In late May this year, The Age reported that E-Class tram manufacturer Bombardier had been in talks with the Victorian government to potentially introduce stereo camera systems to reduce collisions on new and existing vehicles.

The technology provides tram drivers with acoustic signal warnings when there is a risk of a collision.

“This technology has been in operation in more than four cities, we’re already getting feedback, and I would say that it’s not brand new technology. It’s been around for two years,” Bombardier’s president Laurent Troger told The Age.

“We are working with cities which are doing an outstanding job at improving the flow [of the tram service] and achieving an average speed that is much higher than other cities.”

New high capacity trains being assembled in Melbourne

The assembly process is underway on Melbourne’s new high capacity metro trains (HCMTs) in Newport in the city’s west, with the first train expected to start servicing the network next year.

Sixty-five of the 160-metre, 7-carriage trains (with a capacity of 1100 per train) are being assembled in Downer’s Newport manufacturing facility, following the delivery of components – including carriage shells – from Changchun, China, where they have been constructed by the Evolution Rail joint-venture between Downer, Plenary Group, and Changchun Railway Vehicles (CRRC).

“The delivery of the HCMT contract continues Newport’s proud train building history, creating hundreds of jobs and opportunities in our local community,” Labor’s member for Williamstown Wade Noonan said.

The $2.3 billion train construction project will see 60 per cent of the total content provided from Victorian companies, with bogie frames being built in Bendigo, traction and electrical systems made in Morwell and key electrical components and pantographs from Hallam.

“They arrive as a shell, and we will now move through and we’ll put bogies underneath,” Evolution Rail CEO Phillip Walker told Channel Nine.

“The bogies are manufactured in Bendigo, the traction motors are manufactured in Morwell, and then we’ll start to put air conditioning packs on top.”

175 workers are currently working on the trains in the Newport facility, and it is expected that, overall 1100 jobs across Victoria will be created throughout the delivery process.

At least 15 per cent of hours to be worked on the HCMT project will be carried out by apprentices, trainees or cadets, while 7 per cent will be undertaken by individuals deemed to face barriers in achieving employment, including workers transitioning from the auto-manufacturing sector.

The HCMTs, the first of which are expected to arrive Cranbourne and Pakenham lines in mid-2019, will become the primary fleet for the Metro Tunnel when it opens in 2025. The first train is to undergo testing in November 2018.

“By the middle of next year, we will see bigger and better trains on our busiest lines, carrying more passengers and delivering a more comfortable ride,” state transport minister Jacinta Allan said.

“This project helps set up Victoria for a long-term future in the rolling stock industry, creating more jobs and opportunities for local businesses.”

Parramatta light rail approved; construction to start late 2018

The first stage of the Parramatta light rail project has now received planning approval and construction is due to start by the end of this year, the NSW Government has announced.

Expected to open in 2023, Stage 1 of the Parramatta light rail will run 12-kilometres between Westmead and Carlingford via Parramatta CBD and Camellia.

Following the announcement in Parramatta on Wednesday, state planning minister Anthony Roberts told the media that the approval came after an extensive consultation process with the community, local businesses and major stakeholders.

“People across the region have taken the time to share their feedback and we have listened, with a number of significant design changes made in response to further investigation and issues raised by stakeholders and the community,” Roberts said.

The environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project was released for public display between 23 August and 23 October last year, during which government agencies, stakeholders, and members of the community were able to make submissions to NSW’s Department of Planning and Environment.

A total of 156 submissions were received during the EIS display period – 15 from government agencies and other key stakeholders, and 141 from the community (including businesses and special interest groups).

A Transport for NSW report released in March indicated that among the issues most frequently raised were around traffic transport and access, project design (including project alternatives), and concerns about socio-economic and business impacts, and the project’s heritage, environmental impacts, including concerns about noise, vibration and dust during construction. Eleven design changes were made to the Parramatta light rail project in response to the submissions and further design investigations have been carried out.

Yesterday, State transport minister Andrew Constance ruled out the involvement of Spanish subcontractor Acciona – the subcontractor overseeing the Sydney light rail project and which is currently in a legal battle with the government – in the construction of the Parramatta line, but said two companies had been shortlisted to carry out the build.

“George Street was delayed because of the action of Acciona,” Constance said. “We will not have this problem here because we will get on with the job.”

While businesses in the CBD have complained of shrinking sales and lost revenues due to the protracted construction of the Sydney light rail project, Constance claimed that the Parramatta version would be delivered “on time and on budget”, with disruptions to businesses limited to “months not years”.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that the construction of the first stage of the light rail project would be an “exciting time for the people of Parramatta”, as the completed line would better connect western Sydney suburbs and allow people to “turn up and go” to their desired destinations.

“Parramatta Light Rail will create close to 5000 jobs, connect communities along the route and transform the way that people explore all the attractions that Western Sydney has to offer, with a light rail service every 7.5 minutes in peak periods,” the premier said.

“Major projects such as Parramatta Light Rail are only possible thanks to the strong economic management of the NSW Liberals and Nationals government.”

Labour’s Opposition Leader Luke Foley said the government ought not “boast” about its ability to deliver the Parramatta project on-time when the Sydney project had been so delayed and beset by problems.

“[The premier] can’t tell us when the Sydney light rail project of hers will ever be finished, it is running about two years behind schedule, and yet she has got the gall to get up and boast that she is going to deliver one in Parramatta,” Foley said.

While the premier has said that she expects the light rail project to increase foot traffic for businesses along its route upon completion 2023, several businesses owners on Parramatta’s Church Street have told the ABC and The Sydney Morning Herald that this might be too long a wait if the disruptions are as protracted as those on the Sydney project.

The government has not said whether it will consider providing compensation for businesses affected by the construction process.

“We expect the project to remain on time and on budget,” the premier said.

“If during any time of the project there are challenges that we didn’t anticipate, of course we will deal with those as empathetic as we can.”

Bombardier snags manufacturing gong

Rail technology manufacturer Bombardier Transportation has been recognised at the Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame Awards for its role as a key player in the state’s rail transport ecosystem.

Bombardier won the High Growth Sector: Transport Technologies Award at the ceremony on May 28, which is hosted each year by the Victorian minister for industry and employment.

“Bombardier is extremely honoured to have received such a prestigious award,” managing director of Bombardier Transportation Australia, Andrew Dudgeon said.

Dudgeons said the award reflects Bombardier’s commitment to the local construction and continued delivery of the trains and trams Victoria needs.

“These awards confirm the strength of our local manufacturing in Australia,” he added, “as well as our team’s commitment to providing seamless rail transportation for both customers and passengers.”

Bombardier continues to deliver its Flexity E-Class trams to Melbourne’s Yarra Trams network, as well as its VLocity diesel train for the state’s regional V/Line network. The company is also involved in the supply of signalling, rail equipment, asset management and maintenance.

Federal budget, tenders update, R&D highlight May-June issue

The latest edition of Rail Express magazine is now available to read in its digital, true-to-print format.

Highlights of this issue include a full review of the federal budget, including a $5 billion splash for Melbourne Airport rail, funding for Queensland’s north-south rail corridor and controversy over a new import levy.

There’s also a feature on tendering, which looks at some big wins in recent months for key firms like Arup, Mott Macdonald and Aecom.

And don’t miss our supplement on Below Rail Infrastructure & Network, where we hear from Siemens on how signalling can help Australia’s struggling passenger networks cope with rapid demand growth.

Click here to read the May-June edition of  Rail Express

$7.3m training centre opened at UoW

Federal education and training minister Simon Birmingham has officially launched the University of Wollongong’s new rail training centre.

ITTC Rail is the shorthand for the new Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Advanced Technologies in Rail Track Infrastructure.

Set up to train the next generation of rail engineers, it is the first ever rail training centre to be funded by the Australian Government, with a $3.9 million ARC grant supported by an additional $3.4 million in contributions from the NSW Government and industry and university partners.

Headquartered at the University of Wollongong, ITTC Rail is designed to bring together rail track infrastructure expertise from all sectors of the industry, with eight universities and 11 national and international industry partners taking part.

“Given the dependency of the Australian economy on efficient heavy haul, there is a pressing need to upgrade ageing rail infrastructure by rejuvenating higher degree training with a new generation of engineers with advanced knowledge and practice skills,” ITTC Rail director Buddhima Indraratna said.

Professor Indraratna said improvements in the efficiency, reliability and cost-effectiveness of freight haulage can have significant flow-on benefits to the rest of the economy, increasing productivity in industries including agriculture, mining and manufacturing.

Commuter transport will also be included in ITTC Rail’s work, with a focus on how new materials, advanced manufacturing and innovative design and construction can benefit that sector.

“Australia also has some of the world’s heaviest as well as longest heavy-haul trains, exceeding four kilometres at times, with considerable challenges offered to railway engineers along problematic soil terrains,” Indraratna continued.

“Through specialist training of industry-focused researchers, ITTC Rail will meet the challenge of designing, constructing and maintaining the rail network.

“This will involve close collaboration with companies in the rail supply chain, programs to promote novel design approaches, and innovative fabrication of products using advanced manufacturing techniques.”

Minister Birmingham opened the training centre officially on May 23.

“Our commitment to rail infrastructure investment will generate jobs, ease congestion in our cities, increase the capacity of our freight routes and better connect regional areas,” the minister said.

“The Turnbull Government’s investment in the new training centre at the University of Wollongong will ensure Australia’s future workforce has the specialised skills and expertise to deliver on projects such as the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail, the Port Botany Rail Upgrade and the Melbourne Airport Rail Link.”

Universities contributing to ITTC Rail are University of Wollongong, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Sydney, Queensland University of Technology, Curtin University, University of Queensland, Western Sydney University and University of Newcastle.

Industry partners are the Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation, Metro Trains Melbourne, Bridgestone Corporation, Snowy Mountains Engineering Corp, Innovative Technology Beijing, China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group, Ecoflex International, Geofrontiers, Polyfabrics Australasia, Nu-rock Technology and Elasto-Plastic Concrete.

Talgo to pitch for Aussie fast trains: Report

A cadre of executives from Spanish train manufacturer Talgo will reportedly visit Australia in June to pitch to state governments 200km/h train services between Australian cities.

According to the Australian Financial Review, the executives will pitch Talgo’s technology which allows trains to switch between different track gauges, and between electrified and diesel operation, without stopping – a feature which should appeal to Australian governments looking to boost regional rail operations.

The report, which cites Talgo Asia Pacific regional director Alejandro Gomez Perez, was conducted during a press tour facilitated by the Spain Australia Council Foundation.

Perez reportedly said, “We don’t know the market in Australia so we need to be cautious,” but indicated Talgo planned to meet with state governments in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth next month.

Talgo wanted to take part in the New South Wales Regional Rail contract, but didn’t qualify, Perez reportedly believes because the company is not well known by Australian governments.

The company is yet to establish a permanent footprint or workforce in Australia, but sees Australia’s desire to put fast trains on complex and diverse networks as an opportunity.

The Federal Government is spending $20 million to develop fast rail business cases for fast rail between Sydney and Canberra, Melbourne and Greater Shepparton, and Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.

Melbourne to host UITP 2021

The International Association of Public Transport has selected Melbourne as the host city for its massive Global Public Transport Summit in 2021, the first time the event has made its way south of the equator in over 25 years.

The association, known as UITP (Union Internatinoale des Transports Publics), announced Melbourne as the winning bidder for UITP 2021 on May 16, after it was shortlisted alongside Moscow and Hamburg late last year.

UITP said Public Transport Victoria would serve as the local host for the event.

“With the biggest tram network in the world and major projects expected to be well underway during 2021, it will be the perfect time to showcase what our city has to offer,” PTV chief executive Jeroen Weimar said.

Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan said the state was home to some of Australia’s biggest infrastructure projects.

“With our massive program of major transport projects like the Metro Tunnel and level crossing removals, it makes sense that the world’s biggest public transport conference wants to come to Victoria,” Allan said.

134 retired trams up for grabs

Schools, community groups, not-for-profits and other public institutions are being encouraged to acquire a retired tram from the Victorian Government under an expression of interest process starting May 28.

Melbourne’s iconic W-Class trams will be included in the Retired Trams Strategy, which will see an expressions of interest process run until July 6.

Under the new strategy potential bidders will be asked how they would restore, repurpose and maintain an old tram, with the goal of preserving the retired vehicles for future generations.

This follows what the state describes as a “careful examination” of the 237 retired trams by an expert Stakeholder Reference Group, which in turn developed the strategy to bring the trams out of storage at the Newport Railway Workshops.

134 of the retired trams will be made available to the public as part of the expression of interest.

Other retired trams including the Art Trams, Advertising Trams, and a small number of other trams will be preserved for potential re-purposing in the future.

Many retired Melbourne trams have been repurposed in the past, with some now used as cafes and classrooms, among other purposes.

The state said anyone is welcome to express their interest but said community groups and educational institutions were particularly encouraged to apply.

“Over the years trams have transported millions of Victorians, connected our communities and are an integral part of our rich heritage,” Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan said.

“If they’re not going to be used on the network, we want to keep these trams accessible to the community. These Victorian icons will now be available to come to life once again and preserved for future generations to enjoy.”

Allan said expressions of interest will be assessed by an independent panel against a weighting system, which gives priority to those trams that will remain accessible to the public and provide a demonstrable community benefit.

More information is available at victrack.com.au/trams.