Chennai Metro - photo Alstom

326,000 ride Chennai Metro in first week

Residents of South India’s biggest city are enjoying their new metro line, with 326,000 passengers recorded in its first week of operations.

Phase one of the Chennai Metro comprises two lines totalling 54.1km in length, with construction starting in June 2009. Last Monday, June 29, the first 10km section of the Metro was opened to customers.

According to local source The Hindu, the line has been quickly welcomed by residents. 80,000 passengers were recorded on Sunday, July 5, the busiest of the line’s first seven days of operation.

Over the full weekend, 156,000 people travelled on the line, leading some to suggest numbers are being inflated at this stage by curious locals keen to try out the new service. Indeed, with the weekend figure almost matching the 170,000 passengers recorded across the five working days prior, it will likely take some time for a reliable figure to present itself.

Around 10 million Indian Rupee (AUD$212,000) in ticket sales were recorded in the first week.

French multinational Alstom is in charge of delivering 42 of its four-car Metrapolis trainsets for the project, as well as the design of trackworks, as part of a €243 million contract, and says it’s already delivered 25 of 42 trains to the Indian project.

In 2012, the manufacturer set up a plant in Sri-City, 55km north of Chennai, where it is manufacturing the trains for the contract. The first nine trains were produced by Alstom’s factory in Lapa, Brazil.

“The 4-car Metropolis train can carry over 1200 passengers comfortably as it is equipped with air-conditioning, a passenger information system with LED displays (including dynamic route maps in Tamil and English), CCTVs,  luggage racks and special sections for ladies and people with reduced mobility,” Alstom said.

“The metro offers easy and fluid access thanks to its automatic sliding wide doors and wide gangways. The stainless steel trainset is equipped with a regenerative braking system ensuring significant energy savings.”

Trains are powered with 25 kV AC, through an overhead catenary system. Maximum speed is roughly 80 km/h, but average speed during operation is around 30km/h, according to The Hindu.

The opened section of the metro is the first 10km of what is known as the Green Line. When the Green Line is complete, it will be a 22km link (9.7km underground) between Chennai Central and St Thomas Mount, which will include 9 underground and 8 elevated stations.

Phase one of the project also includes the Blue Line, which is designed as a 32.1km (16.6km underground) line between Wimco Nagar and Chennai International Airport. It will include 13 underground, and 12 elevated stations.

E-Class Melbourne tram. Photo: Liam Davies

Another line gets E-Class trams as rollout continues

The rollout of Bombardier’s Flexity Swift trams to the Melbourne network has continued, with the first ‘E-Class’ trams now running between West Preston and Docklands.

Built at Bombardier’s facility in Dandenong, the latest trams added to the Melbourne network are the first E-Class trams to run outside Route 96.

State transport minister Jacinta Allan said the move was “great news” for passengers on Route 11, one of Melbourne’s busiest.

“E-Class trams are made in Melbourne, for Melbourne, and it’s great to see them spreading out across our wonderful city,” Allan said. “They are the biggest, safest and most accessible trams on our network, and more and more people will get to enjoy them over the coming years as they come off the production line in Dandenong and into service.”

Bombardier was initially tasked with building 50 trams for the E-Class order, but this order has increased to 70 since the Andrews Government added 20 more at this year’s state Budget.

There are currently roughly 24 E-Class trams on the Melbourne network.

At 33 metres long, E-Class trams are Melbourne’s biggest, with capacity to carry more than 200 people. They feature a low-floor design, wider doorways and dedicated spaces for wheelchairs, scooters and prams also make them Melbourne’s most accessible, Allan said.

Allan said the government plans to continue to spread the new generation of trams across the whole network, as they are produced. Tram stops along Collins Street are being upgraded in effort to accommodate the new trams, and make them safer and more accessible.

Allan also announced a new automated travel information system on 130 B-Class trams.

The automated system will provide real-time travel updates to passengers, on screens in the tram and through announcements over the speakers, about where they are on the network and the stop they are approaching.

“The new passenger information improvements will help passengers use our tram network, and get where they need to go,” Allan said.

The technology is part of an $8.4 million program to improve information for passengers and help them find their way on Melbourne’s tram network, the minister explained. Other initiatives include the installation of 50 ‘tramTRACKER’ mini screens and 40 remote public address units across the tram network.

The new automated passenger information displays will be introduced from later this month.

“The Andrews Labor Government is investing in new trams and better technology to support Victorian jobs and make our iconic tram network better for the 600,000 passengers who use it each weekday,” Allan concluded.

Bradken boss to retire

Long time Bradken CEO and MD Brian Hodges will step down from the company in a difficult period as it fends off predators and struggles to cope with a moribund mining market.

Hodges spent 18 years at Bradken, taking the company from a modest domestic foundry business to a global consumables and capital products business including locomotive components, transit undercarriages and sub-assemblies.

Bradken rode high in the saddle during the mining boom, with its share price going over $14 in late 2007.

Now, however, the company is struggling, with its share price trading around $1.75.

In April, Bradken rejected a takeover offer for $2.50 per share lobbed by Koch Industries and Pacific Equity Partners, deeming it “not fair value”.

In 2015, Bain Capital and PEP had offered $5.10/share, but the bid fell through.

Bradken chairman, Hon Nick Greiner AC, said “I would like to pay tribute to Brian for his dedication to Bradken.

“Brian has led the business since the time of its IPO in 2004 and during this period he has transitioned Bradken to be a global and low cost manufacturer of differentiated products for a number of industrial sectors. Brian initiated a number of initiatives including our manufacturing footprint in China and India that will enable us to maintain our competitive edge.”

Aurizon Train

Aurizon limits breaking, shunting with new method

Rail operator Aurizon says it’s been trialling a new model of maintenance for its rollingstock, which removes the need to break trains and shunt wagons to depots for maintenance.

The Queensland-based operator’s Rollingstock Maintenance team calls it the On-Train Repair model.

“The process involves keeping the train together as a block and mobilising maintenance crews to the train to conduct repairs such as wheel changes, brake block replacements and minor welding,” Aurizon said.

“New wheel change kits have been trialled which allow wagons to be jacked up on track and wheels placed into positon under the bogies.”

Using this approach, multiple wheels on the same train can be changed out simultaneously, the operator explained.

“This significantly reduces the time that wagons are out of service, from what could be several days in the depot to only a few hours on track.”

Aurizon says the process is underpinned by condition monitoring technology and analysis tools, designed to provide detailed information on wheel and component condition.

This technology allows Aurizon to schedule the right train into the designated track at the right time so that the components, equipment and maintainers are already in place to perform the wheel change as soon as the train arrives.

“This approach reduces the number of yard shunts performed, eases yard congestion, reduces asset downtime and reduces the number of spare wagons required to support rollingstock maintenance activities,” the company said. “Overall this results in improved asset productivity and lower operating costs.”

Aurizon is rolling out the process across maintenance depots in Queensland, with implementation aimed to be completed across Jilalan, Callemondah, Pring and Hexham by the end of 2015.

Mike Baird

Rail reaps billion dollar windfall in NSW state budget

A new CBD station, new trains and improved access were among the many highlights in the Budget handed down by Mike Baird’s NSW Government on Tuesday.

State minister for transport and infrastructure Andrew Constance said in all the Budget includes $9 billion for public transport, including $3.5 billion to get on with major infrastructure projects.

“This year’s transport budget, together with the funds we’ve unlocked through the NSW Government’s $20 billion Rebuilding NSW plan, mean we can continue at rapid pace to modernise transport services and infrastructure across the state,” Constance said.

“We’re delivering game-changing projects that will set NSW up for decades to come, while investing in services that will improve everyday lives.”

More than $1 billion is set aside for the whole of the Sydney Metro project, to build a metro-style, automated rail line from Sydney’s north west, under the harbour and through to Bankstown. This includes $977 million for the Sydney Metro Northwest – the section of the project which is already underway, and was formerly known as the North West Rail Link. The Metro funding also includes $84 million for the Sydney Metro City & Southwest section, to extend the line through the CBD and west to Bankstown.

That funding includes confirmation of a new train station at Barangaroo, as was rumoured in a number of sources on Monday.

Aside from Metro, Constance said light rail continues to be a key focus, with $120 million in the Budget for major construction of the Sydney Light Rail, $19 million to progress planning for Western Sydney Light Rail, and $103 million committed to start construction on light rail in Newcastle.

Rail isn’t the only part of public transport getting some love: the Budget also includes $92 million for new and replacement buses across the state, $12 million towards new ferries for Sydney Harbour and $2 million for four new Parramatta River ferry vessels.

Constance described the $94 million commitment to procuring the next-generation intercity train fleet as “a big win for regional customers”.

The Budget sets aside $1.2 billion on rail maintenance and $74 million towards a rail operations centre to manage delays. There is also $37 million for major upgrades on the T1 Western Line to increase train reliability and capacity, and $43 million to modernise Wynyard Station, Constance added.

Budget highlights for transport

  • $977 million towards delivering the Sydney Metro Northwest, with the line due to open in the first half of 2019
  • $890 million to be invested over the next four years on station upgrades and more commuter car parks
  • $120 million to keep progressing the CBD and South East Light Rail
  • $103 million to progress construction on light rail in Newcastle
  • $209 million for the upgrade and maintenance of Country Rail Network assets, including replacement of old timber sleepers with modern long-life steel sleepers, resurfacing track and replacement of bridges and culverts (includes $56 million for grain rail lines)
  • $124 million (state and federal funding) for the Northern Sydney Freight Corridor to improve freight rail access through the Sydney-Newcastle rail corridor between Strathfield and Broadmeadow
  • As part of a $20 million initiative to deliver upgrades on key sections of the Country Rail Network, $5 million will be invested to expand on the existing program to deliver rail siding extensions to improve train loading rates for grain
  • $94 million to continue procurement of the next-generation intercity train fleet
  • $5 million for the NSW Cargo Movement Coordination Centre, which will improve efficiency and reliability of freight rail operations throughout NSW and increase rail mode share
V/Line train. Photo: Victorian Government

Loco conversion to aid Albury line

Victoria will convert an extra V/Line locomotive to standard gauge to improve the reliability of train services on the Albury line.

The move is being made to boost the fleet of just three standard gauge locomotives currently available to haul trains on the Albury line.

Routine maintenance means one of these locomotives is almost always off-line, leaving only two available to operate the six daily services, the state government explained late last week.

If a second locomotive has to be withdrawn from service due to a fault or damage from an animal strike, there is only one available, meaning services need to be replaced by coaches.

The addition of a fourth locomotive converted to standard gauge will give V/Line the buffer they need to provide more reliable services to Albury line passengers, the government said.

“Right now the Albury line is running on the bare minimum of trains,” transport minister Jacinta Allan explained. “Adding a fourth locomotive will provide the capacity V/Line needs to improve services and make them more reliable.”

The government says the transfer of an additional locomotive from the broad gauge fleet has been made possible by the introduction of a new overnight maintenance regime, which means more trains are available for passenger services.

The Andrews Government is preparing to launch its Regional Network Development Plan – a long-term strategy aimed to boost capacity, reliability and coverage of the regional public transport network.

“Our Regional Network Development Plan offers an opportunity to further improve services to Albury, and I encourage people to put forward their views during consultation over the coming months,” Allan said.

Communities in Northern Victoria will be consulted as part of the development of the plan, starting in June.

The additional locomotive is expected to be ready for service on the Albury line by the end of July this year.

Sydney CBD light rail. Artists Impression: Transport for NSW

Dates set for Sydney light rail construction

NSW minister for transport Andrew Constance and minister for roads Duncan Gay have announced the detailed construction schedule for Sydney Light Rail.

Major CBD works will start on George Street between King and Market Streets on October 23, the ministers said in a joint press release on Thursday.

Light Rail will operate from Circular Quay to both Randwick and Kingsford, with “turn up and go” services arriving every four minutes in the CBD during peak hour and every eight minutes on each branch line, they detailed.

Vehicles on the network will carry 450 passengers, the equivalent of nine standard buses.

The ministers estimate more than 220 buses will be removed from the CBD when the light rail is operational, “as part of a fully integrated transport model”.

Construction of the 12km network will be staggered, in order to best minimise disruption to businesses and residents. The project has been broken up into 31 zones, with no one zone impacted for the full length of construction.

Constance stressed the importance of recognising the challenge ahead, as well as the need for change.

“Today is about providing businesses plenty of time to prepare and plan well ahead of major construction activity,” he said on Thursday.

“Sydney can’t accommodate the 1600 buses that enter during the morning peak now, let alone provide for more in the future.

“We’ve been elected to get on with the job of transforming NSW through major transport projects such as the North West Rail Link, Sydney Rapid Transit, WestConnex and NorthConnex and light rail in the Sydney CBD and Parramatta.”

The state will release a new bus timetable on October 4, in effort to ease congestion during major construction through the city.

The closure of George Street to buses means customers’ stops will move to other bus corridors including Elizabeth Street, Castlereagh Street, Park Street, Druitt Street, Clarence Street and York Street, Transport for NSW said.

The NSW Government will establish a single body headed up by a coordinator general, Marg Prendergast. Pendergast and the body will have powers to manage traffic and transport arrangements in the CBD.

“The central body will be based on the success of the 2000 Olympic Delivery Authority and the Coordinator General will employ delegated powers under the Roads Act 1993 and the Road Transport Act 2013,” Transport for NSW explained.

Some planned works including the construction of Castlereagh Street north cycleway will not be carried out until after light rail construction is completed. The removal of College Street cycleway in the coming months will also help better manage traffic, both cars and public transport, the department added.

Gay said he was determined to help motorists as much as possible during construction.

“We’re throwing everything at this to alleviate pressure,” he said. “We’re appointing a central body, putting work on hold where we can and carrying out supporting road upgrades before construction starts.

“We know this is going to be a difficult period of change but we’re Sydney and we’re used to rising to the challenge – I know light rail will be no exception.”

Key major construction dates include:

  • September 2015, construction access for Moore Park West Corridor
  • October 2015, CBD works start
  • January 2016 start of Randwick branch
  • February 2016, start of Kingsford branch
  • August 2016 start of work in Surry Hills
  • September 2016, completion of the first pedestrian zone block in George Street
  • May 2017 completion of final pedestrian zone block in George Street
  • September 2017, start of the final work zone along the route (Elizabeth St to Chalmers St)
  • September 2017, arrival of light rail vehicles
  • April 2018, completion of major civil construction; ongoing works continue to finalise the installation of electronic systems and construction of platforms
  • June 2018, testing commences
Matengi locomotive. Photo: Creative Comons / Metlink

First of Wellington’s newest trains arrive

The first pair of two-car units from Wellington’s new batch of Matangi trains arrived by boat from Korea on Sunday morning, May 24.

The two-car units are the first of 35 pairs made by Hyundai that will arrive in stages by the middle of next year.

Greater Wellington Regional Council Chair Fran Wilde says Wellingtonians have overwhelmingly showed they prefer the new units to the old Ganz Mavag units, with rail patronage steadily increasing since the first batch began arriving in 2010.

“This is the final step on the way to having the single, modern, electric train fleet the region’s commuters deserve,” Wilde said. “And it can’t come soon enough.

“If you stand on a platform today you can still hear a collective groan when the old units come into view instead of one of our new Matangi.

“It will be a good day for Wellington commuters when we’ve got the new fleet fully in place.

“From that day on every journey will be a smooth and comfortable one and I’m sure Wellingtonians will continue flocking to trains as a result.”

The remaining Ganz Mavag units will be phased out as the new trains arrive and are commissioned, the local authority said.

Photo: Aurizon

Aurizon upgrading Central Queensland fleet

A $180 million investment in 40 high-tech track machines and specialised wagons will underpin ever-increasing coal tonnages for Queensland’s coal miners, Aurizon says.

Aurizon on Thursday, May 22, unveiled one of the new 62 metre, 193 tonne track machines at a ceremony at Sarina attended by 60 local employees.

The machines maintain rail sleepers and rock ballast across 2,670km of rail track, maintaining the infrastructure to handle 25,000 train services per year.

“Track construction and maintenance, like Aurizon, has been transformed in recent times,” Aurizon boss Lance Hockridge said.

“We are now more productive, more innovative, using world leading technology and most importantly we are safer.

“These massive machines operate on the $5 billion asset which is the Central Queensland Coal Network, the supply chain that links more than 40 mines with state’s export ports.”

Aurizon’s Central Queensland Coal Network carried 214 million tonnes in 2013/14, an all-time high.

“This investment in new track machines is fundamental to driving even higher tonnage throughput for our customers, while improving safety and reliability across the network,” Hockridge explained

“The upgrade of our mechanised fleet means the Central Queensland Coal Network, critical to the state’s coal sector, will remain in the best possible condition.”

Hockridge paid tribute to the team of employees who operated the machine.

“Our employees that operate these machines are at the ‘heart of our business’, they are the quiet achievers, day-in and day-out, looking after the Central Queensland Coal Network,” he said.

“These are the people that will use these machines to get the network up and running quicker following natural disasters and will ensure it remains a world class asset carrying out more productive and efficient maintenance practices.”

While thanking those employees, however, Hockridge did hint that the new machines made work on the rail track far more efficient.

“Ultimately the arrival of these new machines mean we will be able to do more quality work in far less time,” Hockridge said, “something that is critical as we continue to transform.”

Level Crossing removal video. Photo: Premier Victoria

Allan talks rolling stock, level crossing EOIs

Victorian transport minister Jacinta Allan has given some insight into the state’s plans in the near future, identifying expressions of interest stages about to begin on a pair of major contracts.

“As part of the Budget, the treasurer outlined the intention of government that high capacity trains will be procured through a public private partnership,” Allan told an industry dinner on Monday, May 25.

The state has committed significant funding to purchase new rolling stock across its transport network.

“We will be looking to the private sector to manufacture, maintain and finance the 37 high capacity trains that will run on the Cranbourne-Pakenham rail corridor,” Allan explained, adding a successful partner would also be tasked with constructing “a new maintenance depot, and to conduct maintenance upgrades”.

“We will very shortly be announcing details of some information sessions – market soundings, if you like – to find out a little bit more about what we can expect to see through the expressions of interest process that is only a few weeks away,” she detailed.

As well as the update on the state’s rolling stock plan, the minister signaled that another major expressions of interest stage could be just weeks away.

Allan and state premier Daniel Andrews last week announced the contracts for the removal of the first four level crossings under the program, which went to a joint venture of John Holland and KBR.

And the government will soon embark on the next batch of level crossings, with Allan saying the nine identified crossings on the Cranbourne-Pakenham line will go to an expressions of interest stage “very, very soon”.

“This will see the removal of every level crossing between Dandenong and the City of Melbourne,” Allan said, “providing such tremendous opportunities for us to increase capacity along Melbourne’s busiest rail corridor.”

Roughly 240 people attended Monday’s event, which was hosted by the Australasian Railway Association.