Melbourne Tram. Photo: RailGallery

On the night train: 24-hour service coming to Melbourne

The Andrews Government will launch its Homesafe trial, with all-night public transport to start on weekends from January 1, 2016.

Metro trains will depart from Flinders Street Station every 60 minutes on all lines except Stony Point and Flemington Racecourse. Trams will operate every 30 minutes on six major routes – the 19, 67, 75,  86, 96 and 109 – “providing services to St Kilda, Coburg, Bundoora, Port Melbourne, Carnegie, Box Hill, Vermont South and Brunswick, as well as within the CBD,” the government said on August 6.

Meanwhile, a “revamped and improved” night bus network will include 20 routes, with a mix of routes operating from the city and others providing suburban connections from train stations and from suburban night-time hubs including Dandenong and Frankston.

V/Line coaches will depart from Southern Cross Station at around 2am, bound for Bendigo, Ballarat, Traralgon, and Geelong. The coaches will provide a mix of express and stopping services.

Public transport minister Jacinta Allan joined police minister Wade Noonan to outline the details of the trial.

“A world-class city deserves 24-hour public transport,” Allan said. “It’s good for our economy, for shift workers and for people who want to get home safe after a night out.

“People who live in the outer suburbs and regional areas shouldn’t have to miss out on Melbourne’s vibrant night life. This trial is about giving them a safe and affordable way to get home.”

To support the Homesafe program, the state has given Victoria Police funding for 171 extra transport security officers: 109 Protective Services Officers and 62 transit police.

The roving transit police will patrol all train lines through the night on weekends and use divisional vans to transport alleged offenders or travel quickly to where they are needed.

“Our PSOs and transit police will work throughout the night to help keep the travelling public safe,” Noonan said. “People should be able to go out and enjoy themselves or end a late-night shift and be able to catch safe and reliable public transport home.”

If successful, 24-hour weekend public transport trial will be continued and expanded where necessary.

Handcuffs, arrest. Photo: Shutterstock

10 arrests made during 7-hour transport crackdown

Officers from NSW Police Transport Command made 10 arrests during an afternoon crackdown on Sydney’s buses, trains and taxi networks on Thursday, August 7.

As part of ‘Operation Colossus’, officers from Police Transport Command South West Sector were deployed en masse to transport hubs, to combat crime and improve community safety on public transport.

“Operation Colossus is a multifaceted deployment of officers from Police Transport Command, Operations Support Group (OSG) staff, Target Action Group (TAG) officers, bike police, supported by the Dog Unit and Sydney Trains, all targeting anti-social behaviour,” NSW Police said.

During a seven-hour operation from 2.30pm to 9.30pm on Thursday, August 7, a total of 48 officers from NSW Police, and 21 officers from Sydney Trains were deployed.

They targeted trains, buses and taxis between Fairfield and Macarthur, including Glenfield, Campbelltown, Cabramatta and Liverpool, patrolling 90 trains, 25 buses and five taxis.

“During the operation numerous people were spoken to by officers and ten people were arrested,” NSW Police said.

“They were charged for offences of drug possession, possession of knives, stealing, outstanding warrants, goods in custody, and traffic/transport crimes.”

Officers issued a total of 170 infringement notices for various transport offences during the seven hour operation, as well.

Police have reminded commuters to report any information relating to potential criminal activity to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or at https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au

Fremantle railway station. Photo: Creative Commons / Greg O'Beirne

New power station, rail crossover for Fremantle line

The installation of a new power supply substation and a train crossover facility near City West Station will increase reliability for passengers on the busy Fremantle line, WA transport minister Dean Nalder has said.

The substation and crossover installations, part of a $23.8 million upgrade, will allow a train to turn back on the line.

Until now, one main substation at East Perth has provided power to the Midland, Armadale/Thornlie and Fremantle lines. The new substation will mean the Fremantle Line has its own source of power to run trains between Fremantle and City West Station if there is an unexpected interruption in the city.

The new crossover means that, in such an event, trains will be able to use both platforms at City West Station, Nalder’s office explained.

“Ensuring public transport remains a reliable, affordable, safe and comfortable way of travelling throughout Perth is well worth this kind of investment,” the minister said. “The benefits generated by this kind of project cannot be overstated.”

Works to install the power station and crossover were completed during night and weekend closures of the Fremantle line, to minimise passenger disruption.

More than eight million passengers travelled on the Fremantle line in 2014/15.

The line runs from Perth Station – the city’s central station – to Fremantle, via 15 stations along 18.7km of railway.

Nalder said more than 30,000 boardings were recorded on the Fremantle line on an average weekday between Perth and the port city, making the addition of greater operational flexibility and resilience all the more important.

Union station rail incident. Photo: Oneida County

How was boy, 13, able to cause train wreck?

VIDEO: US officials have released stunning footage of a rail car ploughing into a station after a 13-year-old boy allegedly set the car in motion while playing in a rail yard.

Footage shows a single, uncontrolled rail car travelling towards Union Station, in Utica, New York, before it slams into the railway station’s building, narrowly avoiding bystanders waiting to board an Amtrak passenger service.

According to reports, nobody was killed in the incident, and just one minor injury was recorded.

The wagon was filled with plastic pellets, and weighed more than 100 tonnes at the time of the collision, according to Utica Police Lieutenant Steve Hauck, who spoke the following day with local radio station WIBX.

Hauck said the wagon travelled downhill for several miles, hitting a car (resulting in the minor injury) on its way to Union Station.

At Union Station, the wagon reached the end of a runoff track which backed onto the station building.

It rammed into an antique locomotive stationed at the end of the track, resulting in damage Oneida County said will be very costly to undo.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bama0f7N23o

 

Police later ascertained a 13-year-old set the car in motion, while playing in a rail yard. According to an AP report, police allege the child accidentally kicked the rail car’s latch while playing on it, setting the wagon in motion.

Oneida County has accepted the judgement of Utica Police Department investigators, that the child had no criminal intent.

But county executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr. says someone else should have to pay to fix the damage.

“Of continued concern is how it was possible for a 13-year-old child to set this train car in motion through the City of Utica,” Picente said on July 31.

“I understand that the Federal Railroad Administration has concluded that proper procedure was followed. That is astounding.

“There was significant danger to our citizens and there is significant damage to our train station and someone is responsible and it isn’t the taxpayers of Oneida County. Oneida County Government has done nothing wrong. Oneida County taxpayers have done nothing wrong.”

Picente said the county was owed a better explanation than ‘proper procedure’ was followed.

“I call on the FRA and the NTSB to give this government and the people of this county a real explanation,” he campaigned.

“If ‘proper procedure’ can result in an accident caused by a 13-year-old playing on a rail car that has sat unattended for 14 days, someone should change the procedure – immediately.”

Eurotunnel Calais site. Photo: Florian Fèvre / Transports Urbains Français

Governments respond to Channel Tunnel’s migrant crisis

UK and French officials have responded to rail manager Eurotunnel’s appeal for help over thousands of migrants trying to cross from France to England via the 50km Channel Tunnel.

Eurotunnel revealed on July 22 it had already spent €13 million in the first six months of 2015 on security measures to prevent migrants from getting into the tunnel at the Coquelles site, in the northern French city of Calais.

“[€13 million is] equivalent to the total expenditure for the whole year of 2014,” Eurotunnel highlighted, adding that it expected funding from French and UK governments to continue security efforts.

Extra security has been needed in Calais as part of Europe’s ongoing migrant crisis.

Thousands of migrants, having travelled north from Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, are camped in Calais, and are reportedly making nightly ‘tunnel runs’ in effort to get across to the UK, perceived to provide more generous treatment of asylum seekers.

Opened in 1994, the Channel Tunnel passes between Calais and Kent, in southeast England. It is well-known for facilitating Eurostar passenger services and the Eurotunnel-operated vehicle shuttle service, but it also facilitates freight trains.

There are no reports of migrants attempting to pass through the tunnel on foot. Instead, migrants are reportedly trying to board passenger or freight vehicles, or on freight trains.

Eight people have died at the Calais site since June, according to BBC figures.

After a death late in July, Eurotunnel renewed its appeal to governments for assistance at Calais.

“Since the arrival of migrants in the region around Calais, Eurotunnel has, beyond its contractual obligations, invested massively in both physical (fences, lighting, cameras, infra-red detectors…) and human resources to protect the tunnel in Coquelles,” the operator said on July 29.

“Since 1 January 2015, Eurotunnel has, using its own resources, discretely intercepted more than 37,000 migrants, who have been handed over to the law enforcement authorities, and has registered thousands of complaints, all of which have been filed with no further action by the Procureur of the Court in Boulogne.

“The continuous pressure exerted every night is above and beyond that which a concessionaire can reasonably handle and requires a constructive and appropriate response from the governments.”

Within two days, both the French and UK governments had responded to Eurotunnel’s appeal.

On July 30, French minister for the interior Bernard Cazaneuve announced the reinforcement of French Police forces at the Coquelles terminal.

Eurotunnel said it had held a high level technical meeting with senior experts at the Interior Ministry, generating practical recommendations it said would be “put into action rapidly”.

A day later, on July 31, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the government would fund a new program of fencing and additional security guards at the Coquelles site.

Eurotunnel boss Jacques Gounon, welcomed the moves from France and the UK.

“This joint and significant effort by the two governments underlines the vital importance of the Channel Tunnel Fixed Link for international cooperation,” Gounon said.

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.

Graffiti on the Rome Metro. Photo: Creative Commons / Levan

Cop a spray: Police slam ‘dangerous’ graffiti suspects

Three men are due to face court after Police Transport Command officers arrested them outside Sydney’s Central Station early on Thursday morning on graffiti charges.

The men – aged 36, 23 and 23 – were approached by officers who were patrolling the western side of Prince Alfred Park, in Surry Hills, at around 1.15am on Thursday, July 30.

As police approached the men, who were allegedly sitting on a bench adjacent to the railway corridor boundary fence, two of the men allegedly removed cans of spray paint from under their clothing and threw them away.

“The men were subsequently stopped and searched and officers allegedly located several items including spray can nozzles, three cans of spray paint and rubber gloves,” NSW Police said.

Police arrested the men at the scene, and issued each with Field Court Attendance Notices for possess graffiti implements with intent.

All are due to appear before the Downing Centre Local Court on Monday, September 14.

Police Transport Command’s north central sector commander, Superintendent Jason Joyce, said not only is it extremely dangerous and illegal to enter the railway corridor, but graffiti-related offences cost transport providers thousands of dollars a year to repair or replace.

“We will continue to use intelligence-based policing to effectively deploy Police Transport Command officers to target these offences,” Joyce said.

NSW TrainLink. Photo: Creative Commons / Abesty

Maitland support centre to track customer safety

NSW Trainlink on Tuesday opened its new state-of-the-art Regional Customer Support Centre at Maitland Station to provide 24 hour, seven day a week support to its customers.

State minister for transport and infrastructure Andrew Constance officially opened the new centre.

He said it is equipped to provide up-to-the-minute travel information to customers from the Central Coast, Hunter and the state’s North and North West, and to deal swiftly with safety or service incidents on the network.

“This is the first ever dedicated centre of its kind for the state’s regional train customers,” Constance said. “The support centre will give real-time service updates to customers using station speaker systems, help points and CCTV to help customers with questions or safety concerns.”

In the past, this service was provided to customers remotely from Sydney with the help of a small team in the Hunter with limited technology, Constance explained.

“This new centre is a smarter and safer way of working and means our train customers know they’re being looked after by a team of regional staff located closer to the action.

“By having this new customer centre based in Maitland, staff will be able draw on their local knowledge and contacts to help customers.”

Constance noted the Maitland centre also means if a safety or security incident does occur, NSW TrainLink can work directly with local police commands and other authorities to speed up the response.

Initially the new centre will be trialled for intercity stations on the Central Coast & Newcastle and Hunter Lines, before being expanded to monitor 13 major regional stations including Armidale, Casino, Coffs Harbour, Gloucester, Grafton, Gunnedah, Kempsey, Moree, Murwillumbah, Narrabri, Tamworth, Taree and Wauchope.

Aurizon, Lance Hockridge - Photo Aurizon

QR safety standards “kept me up at night”: Hockridge

Aurizon boss Lance Hockridge has recalled his struggles with the bureaucracy, lack of customer focus and “appalling” approach to safety he witnessed upon joining the business in 2007, when it was part of state-owned Queensland Rail.

Hockridge spoke last week at a Leadership Series lunch at Bond University, on the Gold Coast.

He has been the chief executive of what is now the ASX-listed rail operator Aurizon since 2007, when he moved from his role as president of Bluescope Steel’s North American operations in Dallas, Texas.

“Multi-national, publicly listed companies had been my comfort zone for 30 years,” Hockridge recalled, “and I found myself the CEO of a state railway owned by the Queensland Government.”

Two years after his arrival, the state government announced it would separate QR’s commercial activities from passenger rail, by floating ‘QR National’ on the ASX, where it later became Aurizon.

And from what Hockridge said last week, that move couldn’t have come soon enough.

“While QR was a respected rail operator with extraordinary potential, on occasions it felt like I had gone back in time,” he said.

“We were buried in bureaucracy, customers took a backseat and safety was appalling. The matter of safety,” he added, “was truly the one thing that kept me up at night.”

Hockridge recalled in his early years with the company, he often found himself “caught in the crossfire” between the social considerations of the government, and the commercial needs of the customers.

“I managed to dodge a few bullets but also took my fair share of ‘robust’ phone calls from George Street,” he said, referring to the major Brisbane street housing State Parliament, the Treasury Building and several other key sites.

“In November 2010, we floated in what would be the largest float on the ASX in over a decade – worth $4.6 billion. While the privatisation backlash for government was huge, it was a true catalyst of change for the company, our leaders and the broader employee base.”

The transition was not an easy one to make, with a company owned for more than 140 years by the government, becoming a top 50 ASX listing in a five-year stretch.

“It sounds simple but, of course, the journey has been complex, nuanced and colourful,” Hockridge said. “It’s been a hard slog at times. Transformational change is not easy. We’ve hit many speed bumps but momentum has been sustained.”

Hockridge is particularly proud of the transition Aurizon has undergone in terms of safety.

“The safety performance when I first began at the company, measured by the standard metric of Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate, was simply unacceptable,” he said.

“From trackside to senior management, I was told that accidents were inevitable, unavoidable, because we worked in the rail industry. Lots of heavy machines and moving parts ‘apparently’.

“I could not accept this. I’d worked for decades in the steel industry; my experience was very different. It had to change.”

Aurizon started a sustained program, he said, with an investment of three to five years at a minimum. “It could be no less,” he said, “and unsurprisingly, it continues today.”

By focusing on behavioural change, and a mandate that safety must prevail over production, Aurizon has been able to reduce its Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate by 97% since 2010, meaning the number of employees seriously injured since 2010 is over 100 less than it might have been at rates prior to the change.

“We’ve turned the dial, in terms of results and in our belief,” the chief executive said. “Most employees now believe all injuries are preventable.

“The cultural shift is well underway; it’s now about continuous improvement and there’s still a way to go. The safety journey is analogous of broader transformation, and increasingly, of a values-based approach by employees.

“This is as much about how we go about our work, not only focusing on what we achieve.”

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.”