Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

$6.5 million upgrade for Wolli Creek bridge

A 100-year-old steel bridge over Wolli Creek will be replaced with a new concrete bridge in a $6.5 million project by Sydney Trains.

At 4.6m, the replacement bridge on Guess Avenue will be 500mm higher than the former bridge, in an effort to make passing trains quieter for road users.

“Sydney Trains is working with local residents and Rockdale City Council to limit the impact on our customers, road users and residents during the school holidays,” Sydney Trains maintenance director Stewart Mills said.

“This significant investment reflects our focus on improving infrastructure to make train services more reliable for our customers.”

Workers began the project late on Thursday, and will continue through to Monday, July 6. From 10pm Thursday, June 25 to 2am Monday, June 29, and from the same times the week following, Guess Avenue will be closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

During the road closure a free shuttle bus will be available for pedestrians who would normally use Guess Avenue, Sydney Trains added.

The road will also be partially closed at other times during the construction, with one lane available to pedestrians.

“Sydney Trains thanks customers and residents for their patience and understanding while this work is completed,” Mills concluded.

Moorebank Intermodal Terminal. Graphic: MICL

Community concerns over Moorebank

The deal between the two neighbouring stakeholders at Moorebank leaves many questions unanswered, community spokesperson Allan Corben writes.

The following is a Letter to the Editor of Rail Express sister publication, Lloyd’s List Australia. It appeared in the print edition of Lloyd’s List Australia on June 25, 2015.

Dear Sir,

I write in reference to the recent announcement that the SIMTA & the Federal government have agreed to jointly develop the Moorebank intermodal.

Firstly and foremost, the EIS process should commence again from the start.

For the last five years, members of the community have had to contend with the confusion of having to relate to two different proposals, both relating to their own predicted operations.

Now that the development will be substantially larger than previously proposed, it will have a much larger impact on the infrastructure, noise, air quality and traffic.

To put it simply, it’s a new ball game. One of my major concerns is air quality which as you would be aware, has the ability to devastate the local communities’ health. At the time that PAC approved the SIMTA Concept plan, the number of additional diesel truck movements coming into the site on daily basis was suggested to be in the vicinity of 2600.

In mid 2015 we are now talking a figure more like 10,000. When you consider that the PAC determination released in September 2014 clearly stated that the PM2.5 concentrations are close to or above the advisory criteria, would suggest that at full operation, the joint development will substantially exceed the advisory criteria.

As a result of the above, no further approvals should given until such time that independent, qualified evidence is provided that shows what the predicted PM2.5 levels will be when the terminal is in full operation.

Its fine for the proponents to predict levels at various stages of development, as it gives a false impression of the facilities suitability sited in the midst of residential suburbs.

I, like many others, am not particularly interested in knowing what the levels are at completion of stage 1 or 2, but what the level will be at the completion of the development when nothing can be done to mitigate this very harmful pollutant.

Secondly, the proponents have made little commitment in regards to the required road and intersection upgrades that will be required to cope with the massive increase in traffic, other than Moorebank Avenue (Site access point) which will not be carried out till 2029/2030. It should be noted that Moorebank Avenue is the only suitable access to the site. One upgrade is outrageous, when you consider that the facility will be handling up to 500,000 teu annually before any upgrades to the already, near capacity road network are completed.

A comparison of the vehicle accidents noted in SIMTA Concept plan 2004 – 2009 (Appendix K_Transport and Traffic Assessment_Volume 1.pdf, page 16) and Stage 1 2009 – 2013 (Appendix L_SIMTA Stage 1_Traffic and Accessibility Impact Assessment.pdf, page 18) clearly shows there has been an increase of 20% in heavy vehicle accidents, which is of great concern.

It should be noted that this information is only up to 2009. These people advocate to operate at 500,000 teu annually without virtually any roads upgrades, which questions at what percentage of heavy vehicle accidents will increase by that period.

In a speech on the intermodal proposal made by NSW MP Melanie Gibbons in the Legislative Assembly on June 4, she made the following statement: “I have read through the information provided by the company for the next period of community consultation. It says that, should there be an accident on the M5 or Moorebank Avenue, the facility will need to close while the accident is being cleared”.

I could imagine what the transport companies, warehouse tenants and their customers would think of this strategy. This clearly shows that the surrounding road network cannot handle any additional traffic as it stands.

A quick look at the SIMTA Stage 1 EIS suggest that the noise level created by the facility will be below requirements.

This is regardless of the fact that residents living within three km of the Port Botany container terminal are currently suffering from sleep disturbance, yet many people in the suburbs surrounding the proposed site live as close as 400 metres from the site in modern homes that were never designed to deflect excessive noise.

From Allan Corben, member of Liverpool City’s no intermodal committee and community group and RAID (Residents Against Intermodal Development).

Level Crossing Victoria. Photo: Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources

Preferred bidder named for next four level crossing removals

The Victorian Government has named a consortium as preferred bidder for the removal of four more level crossings as part of its multi-billion dollar crossings removal plan.

An Alliance including Leighton Contractors, Aurecon and Hyder Consulting has been selected as the preferred contractor to design and construct the level crossing removals at Heatherdale Rd in Mitcham, Blackburn Rd in Blackburn, and Main and Furlong Roads in St Albans.

The alliance also includes VicRoads, Public Transport Victoria and Metro Trains Melbourne.

State premier Daniel Andrews joined transport minister Jacinta Allan at Heatherdale Station on Tuesday to announce that the package of works will cost around $480 million, including $151 million from the Australian Government, and will create nearly 200 jobs.

At each location, the rail line will be lowered under the road. St Albans, Ginifer and Heatherdale stations will be re-built with platforms below street level and Blackburn Station will be upgraded.

Works will begin on Main and Furlong Road in the coming months and be completed in 2017. The removal of Heatherdale and Blackburn Road level crossings will start later this year and these crossings will be gone by 2018.

The Heatherdale Rd, Blackburn Rd and Furlong Rd projects have been funded by the Victorian Government, which has partnered with the Australian Government in funding the Main Road level crossing with savings from the Regional Rail Link project.

“These level crossings clog roads, risk lives and stop us running more trains. They’ve got to go – and we’re getting on with removing them,” Andrews said.

“These four level crossings will all be removed by 2018, and are part of our $2-2.4 billion commitment in the 2015-16 Victorian Budget to remove at least 20 of these congested death traps over four years.”

“This package of works will get rid of four of our worst level crossings, rebuild three stations, upgrade another and create nearly 200 jobs,” Allan added.

“The Andrews Labor Government is investing billions of dollars in the transport infrastructure we need to get Victorian’s home safer and sooner.”

And federal assistant minister for infrastructure and regional development, Jamie Briggs added: “The Australian Government is delivering world class infrastructure upgrades across Victoria, with $151 million committed to remove the level crossing at Main Road, St Albans.”

The second four-crossing contract follows the announcement in May that a John Holland and KBR consortium would remove the first four level crossings, at Centre Road in Bentleigh, North Road in Ormond, McKinnon Road in McKinnon and Burke Road in Glen Iris, under a $524 million contract.

Next up will be the Cranbourne-Pakenham package – a bundle of nine level crossing removals that will see every level crossing between Dandenong and Caulfield removed, as part of a multi-billion dollar upgrade of the busy line, which also includes four station rebuilds and the purchase of 37 high capacity trains.

Waikanae location map. Graphic: Google Maps

Lack of communication caused mobility hoist scare

A train which moved with two passengers still aboard its mobility hoist suffered from a lack of communication on several different levels, an investigation has found.

New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) recently completed its investigation into the incident, which concerned a KiwiRail Scenic-operated passenger train Capital Connection, travelling from Palmerston North to Wellington.

No-one was injured during the incident.

The train arrived at Waikanae station at 0730 on June 10, 2013. It was fitted with a mobility hoist in the rear-most luggage van for boarding and alighting passengers in wheelchairs.

After stopping, the train manager was monitoring the passenger exchange from the station platform adjacent to the leading passenger car near the front of the train, TAIC’s report said.

When he thought the passenger exchange was complete, he re-entered the leading passenger car and closed all the passenger car doors from the local train door operating panel.

After receiving an ‘all-doors-closed’ green light, the train manager authorised the train driver to depart.

But further down the train, the train attendant had just deployed the mobility hoist onto the platform, and had begun assisting a pair of passengers – one in a wheelchair – off the train.

“As the train attendant deployed the mobility hoist onto the platform, the train manager was radioing the driver and giving him ‘right of way’ to depart,” TAIC said.

“At 0730:09 the train driver moved the throttle to notch 2 and the train started to move, dragging the mobility hoist along the platform with the wheelchair and two passengers still on it.”

The quick-thinking train attendant raised the hoist off the platform, and pressed the train emergency stop button, which stopped the train, having traveled 1.7 metres down the platform.

TAIC found a number of communication issues contributed to the incident.

First, the operation of the mobility hoist that day at Waikanae had not been written into the departure procedure being followed by the train manager.

Second, TAIC found there was no effective means for the train attendant who was operating the mobility hoist to communicate with the train manager.

And third, the status of the luggage van doors – which feature the mobility hoist – was not interlocked with the train door status and control system, which allowed the train manager to receive a green ‘all-doors-closed’ signal, despite the luggage van door being open and the mobility hoist deployed onto the platform.

In response to the incident, KiwiRail has interfaced the mobility hoist controller to give the train controller a ‘train door open’ signal when it is in use. The operator has ensured the train attendant has radio communications with the train controller. It has fitted the hoist with a high-vis material, and it has added a light above the luggage van door where the wheelchair hoist is located, which will stay illuminated until the door is closed.

Due to KiwiRail’s responsive actions, TAIC had no specific recommendations to the operator following the report. But the Commission did have a number of things to say in terms of key lessons learned through the incident.

“Operational procedures must cover an entire operation if accidents and incidents are to be avoided,” TAIC said.

“Good communication among all persons involved in safety-critical operations is essential if accidents and incidents are to be avoided.”

And, “technical solutions to mitigate human error, such as train door interlocking systems, are only effective if they protect all parts of the system.”

The full report is available on the TAIC website:

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

100 infringements an hour in police blitz

Police and transport officers cracked down on NSW trains and buses last week, resulting in hundreds of rail infringement notices, and almost a dozen arrests.

‘Operation Avoidance’ saw officers attached to the Police Transport Command along with Transport Officers from Sydney Trains conduct a four-hour inspection along the public transport network in metropolitan Sydney, between Newcastle and the Central Coast, and in Wollongong, from 2.30pm to 6.30pm on Thursday, June 18.

The operation targeted fare evasion, anti-social behaviour and criminal activity on trains and buses, according to authorities.

It resulted in the arrest of 11 people, who were charged with 14 offences, including drug supply and possession, and possessing weapons, NSW Police reported.

In addition, police and transport officers issued a total 414 rail infringement notices, conducted 48 person searches and patrolled more than 100 trains. Officers also issued ‘move-on’ directions to 26 people during the operation.

Mark Walton, acting assistant commissioner for NSW Police, said the force will continue to target commuters who choose to do the wrong thing on public transport.

“Everyone has the right to feel safe while using public transport and this high visibility operation was successful in detecting those who engage in anti-social behaviour,” Walton said.

“By identifying those committing crime, we’re able to take action before they try to evade police or impact on other commuters.

“The commuting public can be assured that police will continue to maintain their presence in delivering a safe and secure transport network for the whole community.”

Sydney Trains boss Howard Collins said the safety of customers and staff is the number one priority.

“Sydney Trains has a zero tolerance policy for any anti social behaviour on the network,” Collins said.

“There is a dedicated, 24/7 Rail Security Control Centre, capturing CCTV footage of offenders, which is used to support police prosecutions.

“Emergency help points have video support and will allow you to talk to security staff, 24 hours a day.

“If you are concerned for personal safety on a Sydney Trains platform or train service, you can bring your concerns to the attention of station staff or use an emergency help point, which are clearly marked on platforms or in train carriages.”

Teenager was laying on tracks, say police

A 19 year old Victorian man who died after being hit by a freight train in East Bendigo on Saturday night was apparently laying on the tracks.

Police are investigating the incident and said alcohol may have contributed to the teenager’s death. A report is being prepared for the coroner.

Saturday’s incident comes shortly after Aurizon’s head of safety Neil Backer pleaded with the community to take care around rail corridors.

“Railway tracks are no place for people. Trespassing, taking shortcuts and other unsafe behaviour near railway tracks is serious and can have deadly consequences” said Mr Backer said.

“A fully loaded freight train can take up to two kilometres to stop once the emergency brakes are applied.

“If you are on the train tracks you are playing Russian Roulette with your life,” he added.

SWRL extension. Graphic: Transport for NSW

Residents to SWRL extension: ‘Tell ‘em they’re dreaming!”

“A man’s home is his castle” is a favourite piece of vernacular for many Australians. But for some of Sydney’s south west residents this past week, the phrase has hit closer to home.

Several hundred home and land owners could reportedly be turfed out to make way for an extension to the South West Rail Link extension, south to Narellan, Harrington Park and Oran Park, with a proposed corridor specified by the state government last week.

They would be offered compensation for their properties, of course, but that is understandably not enough to keep them all happy, according to a report by the ABC.

Harrington Park landowner ‘Danny’ said the specific alignment was a surprise to locals, and left his development in a questionable state.

“We’re sitting here, ready to build a house, and we don’t know what to do,” Danny told ABC’s 702 Mornings program.

He said an entire allotment of 99 recently-sold blocks, “will be gone” due to the newly-outlined alignment.

“It said in our contract that there would be a railway line running along The Northern Road, a couple of kilometres away,” he said.

But the plan outlined last week sees a rail line running through Oran Park, with the corridor including Danny’s property and many around it.

“Even [local member] Chris Patterson didn’t know about this,” Danny continued.

“We bought these blocks a year ago and, with the boom that’s going on, all the other land releases have sold out.”

Another local resident, Dennis McLear of Harrington Park, told 702 that a neighbour had moved in just weeks before the letter arrived detailing the new rail proposal.

Another resident, McLear said, “moved in four weeks ago, he paid $800,000 for it and now he’ll have a [railway line] on his back fence”.

State transport minister Andrew Constance said the route for the southern extension to SWRL was still negotiable.

“We’re going to talk to everybody about it,” he reportedly told the ABC, adding that if the NSW government did not protect the proposed route, it would be criticised for not taking a responsible decision in terms of identifying appropriate public transport corridors for future growth and development in the city’s south west.

Paul Larsen, CEO Brookfield Rail. Photo: Oliver Probert

Brookfield “disappointed” with CBH

WA operator Brookfield Rail says it’s committed to a long-term, sustainable solution with major grain handling customer CBH.

But the sides are yet to come to terms on a new rail deal, a week out from the end of a 90-day negotiation period.

Brookfield said on Thursday it was “disappointed” in CBH, with the grain handler reportedly ready to take the matter to arbitration.

“We are of the view both parties could have negotiated a mutually acceptable agreement within the set 90 day negotiation period,” Brookfield said.

The operator claims to have acted in good faith throughout the process, and said it is “ready and willing to continue negotiations right up until the last hour of this current 90 day period”.

While Brookfield committed to abide by the processes of the Railways (Access) Code 2000 (WA), the operator warned CBH an arbitration period “will likely be a costly and time-consuming exercise for both parties”.

The process would also create further uncertainty for growers, Brookfield suggested.

CBH and Brookfield are at odds on terms for a new access agreement, which would allow CBH’s grain wagons to roll on the rails, which Brookfield holds an exclusive contract to operate.

The operator claims it has presented a price which will deliver “a sustainable grain freight rail network at the standard that CBH needs without further ongoing reliance on government funding”.

But CBH, apparently, does not agree that Brookfield is offering it a fair price, and the sides remain at loggerheads.

“Our solution will deliver the performance, safety, reliability and efficiency that CBH has requested for the grain freight rail network, including the Miling line and Tier 3 lines CBH has sought access to, for the 10 year period, and well beyond,” Brookfield continued.

“In order to deliver on these needs, access fees must increase to fund the required maintenance and capital investment.”

Brookfield says the proposed price is “well within” bookends established by the Economic Regulation Authority.

It says the proposed fees represent “a small proportion of commodity value and a small portion of CBH’s overall supply chain charge to farmers”.

“If CBH chooses to pursue arbitration then we look forward to having the matter resolved as expeditiously as possible,” Brookfield concluded.

“We remain ready to do a deal that meets the needs of CBH, their growers and our communities by ensuring continued reinvestment of funds into one of the state’s most important infrastructure assets.”

Robert Sumwalt NTSB press conference

Amtrak engineer wasn’t on phone: Investigators

US safety officials say the engineer of a train which derailed, killing eight and injuring 200, was not on his phone at the time of the accident.

Amtrak Train 188 was operating between Washington, D.C. and New York, N.Y. when it derailed on a curve just after going through Philadelphia.

While the precise reasoning behind the incident is yet to be found, it has been announced the train accelerated to over 105 miles per hour (roughly 160km/h) just prior to rounding a curve where the authorised speed was just 50 miles per hour.

An update from the National Transport Safety Board late last week stated the train engineer’s mobile phone – seized by investigators after the incident – showed he was not on the phone, or the train’s on-board Wi-Fi, in the lead-up to the crash.

“Analysis of the phone records does not indicate that any calls, texts, or data usage occurred during the time the engineer was operating the train,” the NTSB said.

“Amtrak’s records confirm that the engineer did not access the train’s Wi-Fi system while he was operating the locomotive.”

The train engineer, who reportedly suffered a head injury, has complied with investigators to this point. He claims he does not remember anything after passing North Philadelphia Station, roughly 4.5km from the crash site.

“The engineer provided the NTSB with the passcode to the cell phone, which allowed investigators to access the data without having to go through the phone manufacturer,” the Board said on June 10.

Investigators also relied on cooperation with the phone carrier to validate the timestamps in several sets of records, with activity from multiple time zones.

“Last year the NTSB lab processed about 80 personal electronic devices and more than 40 cell phones,” it said.

“The phone records analysis of the Amtrak 188 investigation has been more complicated than anticipated because the phone carrier has multiple systems that log different types of phone activity, some of which are based in different time zones.”

Related: Positive train control could have prevented Amtrak derailment, but it’s not quite on track.