Leader Street Crossing. Photo: Google

‘Substantial’ damage to Aurizon train in Mile End collision

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will investigate last week’s collision between two trains at Mile End, South Australia.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) reported the collision last week, announcing that an intermodal train had collided with another freight train just before 8am on Tuesday, March 31, at Mile End, in Adelaide’s inner west.

Rail Express reported the incident last week, with details sourced from the ARTC’s initial announcements.

An investigation was launched by the ATSB soon afterwards, with more details released.

“At about 0730 (CDT) on 31 March 2015, intermodal freight train 2MP9, operated by SCT Logistics, passed signal No. 1 displaying a ‘Proceed at low speed, prepare to stop indication’ at the southern end of the Mile End Loop,” the bureau reported.

“Train 2MP9 proceeded past the signal No.1, at low speed, but subsequently collided with the rear end of intermodal freight train 2MP1, operated by Aurizon, that was at stop on the Main Line waiting to depart.

“There were no injuries to the train crew of either train and while there was only minor damage to train 2MP9, train 2MP1 incurred substantial impact damage to wagons along the length of the train, with three wagons fully derailed.”

Both trains were on their way to Perth, having left Melbourne.

The ATSB is expecting to complete its investigation by October this year.

iron ore derailment - Photo ATSB

‘Lateral harmonic wagon oscillation’ caused 2014 derailment, ATSB says

The derailment of an Aurizon iron ore train in WA last year was initiated by “lateral harmonic vehicle oscillation,” the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said late last week.

On May 14, 2014, train 4413 – a bulk iron ore train – derailed on the Defined Interstate Rail Network (DIRN) between Stewart and Bonnie Vale, in WA.

Wagons and track were severely damaged during the incident.

A final report handed down on March 27 by the ATSB reported the believed cause of the derailment, and it’s a rather complex one.

The ATSB found:

…the derailment of train 4413 was most likely initiated by lateral harmonic vehicle oscillation induced by a combination of minor cyclic cross-level and lateral track irregularities just in advance of the point of derailment.

As a result of these irregularities, it was likely that the roll of wagon WOE33548K caused the left hand wheels to unload at a time when the leading left wheel came into contact with the left rail face – resulting in flange climb and derailment.

The wagon type that derailed, WOE class, had passed prescribed dynamic performance testing, and the track and wagons complied with mandated requirements, the bureau said.

But computer simulation undertaken after the derailment showed the lateral harmonic wagon oscillation was of sufficient magnitude to increase the likelihood of derailment at the site.

Simulations showed that iron ore wagons, with their short length, react more severely to 22m wavelength cyclic irregularities (as evident at this site) than do the typically longer intermodal wagons.

The ATSB said the area of track where the derailment took place is “known (to train drivers) as an area of rough ride.” But the bureau found that the system in place to report such track irregularities was “ineffective, and hence the opportunity was lost to check for uncharacteristic track qualities through the derailment site, before such qualities contributed to a derailment”.

As a result of the investigation, Brookfield Rail and Aurizon have developed enhanced procedures for reporting track irregularities, the bureau explained.

The pair have also jointly committed, through RISSB, to ongoing industry support and research into the cause of this type of derailment.

Central station tram stop. Photo: Gareth Edwards

NSW Election: Breaking down parties’ promises to rail

NSW voters will go to the polls just 24 hours from now, and all the major transport promises have now been put on the table.

A list compiled by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) this week comprises promises made by the NSW Liberals, NSW Labor and The Greens over the past month.

It reveals that while few promises have been made by any party on freight rail and rolling stock, there are true battle grounds established on passenger rail, and services and administration.

“The rail industry has released its key election platforms for rail and now we hope to work with the government elect in ensuring our concerns are registered, priorities pursued and action is taken,” ARA chief Bryan Nye said.

The full list, available here (PDF link), shows the only promise made to freight rail is the Baird Government’s $1 million commitment towards upgrading the Dubbo rail triangle – a drop in the bucket compared to other commitments.

The platforms of light and heavy passenger rail, however, give voters more to sink their teeth into.

“I applaud the strong commitment from all parties, in particular the Baird Government, regarding passenger rail funding for projects such as the second Sydney Harbour crossing and the Western Sydney light rail project, both of which were outlined as priorities in our key platforms document,” Nye said.

“I am, however, disappointed to not see a greater commitment across the board for rail freight, in particular infrastructure investment for long and short haul rail in the state’s mining and agriculture industries, through key policies such as duplicating the Port Botany rail line upgrading existing regional freight lines and connections to the planned Inland Rail network.”

Nye did credit the incumbent Baird Government for its 2013 Freight and Ports Strategy, and said the rail industry “would like to see more of the recommendations implemented,” with one example being the continued separation of passenger and rail.

“With new projects come new trains and new technologies, therefore we would also hope to see benefit brought to the local manufacturing industry with a strong focus on stimulating the local economy and in turn creating jobs and a stronger future for rail manufacturing in Australia,” Nye added.

First of ARA’s national training courses launched

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has launched the National Track Safety Induction (NTSI) courseware, as its first step towards nationally consistent training in the rail industry.

Launched last night at the RISSB Rail Safety Conference in Melbourne, the NTSI courseware is the result of industry collaboration towards a national approach for training.

The courseware is focused on training workers to operate safely within the rail corridor, with common course materials across Australian jurisdictions.

A national approach for this training will create efficiencies, through reduction in the retraining for workers operating across different networks and states, potentially saving millions, the ARA said.

“This harmonisation will create a safer, more productive and cost effective approach to learning and development activities in the rail industry,” ARA chief executive Bryan Nye said.

Nye estimates the development of one common course will save individual organisations around $80,000 on average, and said in the long term, common courseware for all rail-specific training can save the industry more than $39 million.

“With movement in the industry over the last ten years towards a national rail system, it is increasingly common for rail maintenance owners, operators, suppliers and contractors to work across multiple jurisdictions,” Nye said, “creating unnecessary inefficiencies and impacting on productivity.”

The NTSI courseware covers the core competency requirements of level 1 track safety awareness that. The ARA says the material is designed to meet the needs of multiple networks across Australia.

“A great deal of work has been completed to reach this point thanks to the dedication and commitment demonstrated by representatives from 14 accredited rail operators and infrastructure managers who worked in partnership on this initiative,” Nye said.

“However it is only the start of the journey,” he concluded.

“Maintaining this consistency and ensuring the quality of training delivery for the NTSI is a high priority for ARA and its members.”

The global push to improve rail safety | Interview with Carolyn Griffiths, RAIB

Investigating a derailment is a complex, multi-faceted task. No one knows that better than Carolyn Griffiths, who is is Chief Inspector with the Rail Accident and Investigation Branch (RAIB) in the United Kingdom.

Carolyn is a Fellow and elected trustee of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineers and a trustee of the Engineering Council. She will be travelling to Australia in April to speak at the Major Rail Occurrences Forum, a key event for the industry.

We sat down with Carolyn in the lead up to the event to talk about her experience and major challenges in her current position.

Carolyn, can you give us some background on your professional path to date?
I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering and joined British Rail’s graduate engineer training program in 1979. I decided to work on the shop floor as a technician and shift supervisor before embarking on junior management positions. By the mid 80’s I was in charge of a rail maintenance depot but left to set up the maintenance activities for the then new Singapore Mass Rapid Transit.  This was the first of a number of jobs where I had the privilege of creating a new organisation. Four years later I again set up a new organisation on my return to the UK when I became the Engineering Director in the development and running or a new light rail system.  Here I broadened my experience to other rail engineering disciplines (signalling, electrification, structures and track) and operations. My next job was working for the government in privatising the railway. This was a completely different type of role involving strategy, policy and legislation. I moved from there in the late 90’s to  join an international rail manufacturer working in both Sweden and Berlin as Senior Vice President before returning again to the UK to my current role , establishing and leading the Rail Accident Investigation Branch an independent organisation, reporting to the Secretary of State for Transport.

What are your major concerns in your current role?
The RAIB has been successful in driving significant changes in the industry to improve safety. My ‘concerns’ are that we continue to identify the investigations and recommendations that will best reduce risks to workers, passengers and the public; and that we maintain and continue to develop the professional skills of my team.  At the Major Rail Occurrences Forum, I will be talking about derailment mechanisms and what we have learned from our investigations (and with reference to those investigations) that is likely to have a broader relevance to those attending the forum.

Where do you think the industry is heading in the future?
The rail industry is expanding throughout the world; there has been huge new developments in the Far East and now in the Middle East. Even in countries which have a longstanding rail industry such as the UK there are enormous investments in the extension and improvement of the railways. In my own particular sector. With specific reference to my current role the number of organisations who have visited us and with whom we work is evidence that more and more railways wish to develop and further professionalise their investigation of accidents.

See Carolyn speak at the Major Rail Occurrences Forum, 28th – 29th April. Other key speakers include:

  • Laurie Wilson, Manager Infrastructure & Engineering, RISSB
  • Alan Gardner Bsc.Eng.Mech, CEO, ESPEE Railroad & ARHS
  • Vernon Hoey, Rail Investigator, Transport Accident Investigation Commission
  • Andrew Matthews, Principal Engineer – Rail, GHD
SA train derailmend April 2014. Photo: ATSB

SA derailment: ATSB says ARTC risk control ‘ineffective’

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has found that the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s risk control processes were ineffective in the lead-up to a derailment in South Australia midway through last year.

Early in the morning of April 10, 2014, SCT Logistics train 3MP9 derailed after travelling over track that had been undercut by floodwaters near a culvert between Tarcoola and Malbooma, SA.

Around 300 metres behind the lead loco, 18 wagons derailed, with eight rolling onto their sides.

SA derailment. Photo - ATSB
Photo: ATSB


There were no injuries to the crew or bystanders, but there was significant damage to the track, rolling stock and freight goods, according to the bureau.

What the ATSB found during its investigation launched shortly after the incident, was that floodwaters caused scouring of the track formation, compromising its capacity to support the train.

The ATSB determined that runoff from the heavy rain that had fallen in the catchment area adjacent to Malbooma on April 9, 2014, caused a flash flood event.

“The volume of floodwater exceeded the capacity of a double drainage culvert designed for a 1:50 year average flood recurrence interval,” the ATSB said in its report, released yesterday.

“This resulted in water overtopping the track formation with ballast and sub-grade scouring on the south side of the track.”

As a result of the scouring, the track couldn’t support the train in certain areas. The resulting deformation caused the derailment, according to the bureau.


Role of the ARTC

According to the report, Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) risk control processes were ineffective in developing and implementing changes to operational procedures from the findings of previous incident investigations.

“The ARTC did not have a comprehensive system in place to identify and actively manage the risks to their network from severe weather events, and had not established a register for recording ‘special locations’ for the management of track infrastructure prone to flooding,” the bureau found.

There were no anomalies found with the operation of the train or the condition of rolling stock before the derailment.

SA derailment. Photo: ATSB
Photo: ATSB


As a result of the investigation, the ARTC has implemented Operational Procedure OPP-01-05 ‘Monitoring and Responding to Extreme Weather Events in the East-West Corridor’ and has purchased and installed remote weather monitoring and recording stations at Barton, Cook, Rawlinna and Zanthus, according to the ATSB.

Automated alerts will be provided by the weather stations, which will be linked to the Early Warning Network.

The ARTC has also installed four water flow monitors at culverts identified through a hydrology study of the Trans Australia Railway. Field evaluation of this equipment is currently being undertaken.

The ARTC is also optimising its inspection and maintenance activities with upgrades to its electronic asset management system underway. This process will include the recording of ‘special locations’ affected by severe weather events.

“To ensure that the safety of rail operations is not compromised during severe weather events, it is essential that rail transport operators have robust and responsive systems in place to actively monitor and manage the foreseeable risks,” the safety bureau concluded.

Click to view the full ATSB report.

Badgerys Creek May 2014 - Advanstra

Parties butt heads on second airport rail line

Labor’s plan to build a rail line to the proposed second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek has sparked a debate between the major parties at both state and federal levels.

NSW Labor leader Luke Foley announced on Friday that Labor will build a rail line to the proposed Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek before the airport is operational.

But Foley said Labor can only follow through on that promise if it wins the NSW election at the end of the month, and if Labor comes into power at the next Federal election, which must occur within the next 22 months.

“Unlike Mike Baird and Tony Abbott, State and Federal Labor will ensure there’s a train line servicing the airport when it opens – not years down the track,” Foley said.

“The rail link to Badgerys Creek is just another example of Mike Baird failing to take the fight up to his mate Tony Abbott on behalf of the people of NSW.”

Federal shadow minister for transport and infrastructure, Labor’s Anthony Albanese, was with Foley to announce Labor’s commitment to the project.

“Tony Abbott’s support for an airport to be built in Western Sydney without a link to the rail network is absurd,” Albanese said.

“It’s no shock that Mike [Baird] hasn’t come out against his mate Tony.

“Badgerys Creek is a greenfield site, providing the perfect opportunity for state and federal Governments to work together and build the airport and associated infrastructure properly.”

Albanese said the funding for the rail line would be factored into the lease to whichever private company or consortium constructs and operates the airport.

Albanese’s direct opponent, federal minister for infrastructure and regional development Warren Truss, called the joint press conference a “brain snap,” and questioned the funding plan.

“Really?” Truss asked.

“The lessee is going to have to build an airport that will not break-even for years and not process sufficient passengers to justify a rail line for a decade or more.”

Truss pointed out that Albanese was “the same guy who wanted to put the airport at Wilton” during his tenure as transport and infrastructure minister, and “the same guy who failed to fund the South West Rail Link when he was minister”.

Truss also criticised the NSW Labor party, which he said during its last tenure “announced 12 rail line projects, but only built half a line at twice the cost and double the timeframe for delivery (Parramatta to Epping).”

Gladys Berejiklian, NSW Liberal’s minister for transport and infrastructure, echoed Truss’s criticisms.

“Labor’s announcement today is that they will build a new train line if two Labor governments are elected and all the stars align,” Berejiklian said, “or maybe when pigs fly.”

Berejiklian said the latest Transport for NSW estimate costed a 24km line from the South West Rail Link to the Western Line via Badgerys Creek at close to $2.5 billion, significantly more, she said, than Labor thinks it will cost.

“Let’s be clear,” she added, “Labor have not made a clear commitment of a single dollar to this project today.

“Typical Labor, transport planning on the back of an envelope two weeks before an election with no funding to back it up.”

Albanese responded to the criticisms on Friday evening.

“The [Liberal] Government would say [the funding was unachievable] because they don’t have a plan to build a rail line to a new airport,” the shadow minister told Patricia Karvelas on ABC’s Radio National.

“It’s quite extraordinary that in all the discussions that have gone one around a need for a second Sydney Airport, all of them had as one of the obvious things to [build] was a rail link, as well as improved road links.

“The road links are happening, but the rail links aren’t happening, because the Abbott Government has this bizarre view of the world, which is that the Commonwealth should have nothing to do with rail, just roads only. And Mike Baird … has just gone along with that.”

As for the $2.5 billion price tag referenced by Berejiklian, Albanese asked: “Have you seen the figures, Patricia? Because none of the other journalists that have raised those figures have seen them.

“We found that the cost of the rail line, just from Leppington just being extended to Badgerys Creek, which is half the distance, would be around $300 to $400 million.”

The Department of Infrastructure expects transport operations to commence at Badgerys Creek in the mid-2020s.

Road projects - Ingram Publishing

Albanese grills Government on road choices

Shadow minister for transport and infrastructure Anthony Albanese has again called out the Government for its propensity to fund major road projects, suggesting that Infrastructure Australia is being ignored in Federal decision making.

Speaking at an Australian Logistics Council forum in Melbourne on March 12, the former deputy prime minister said the Labor Government, when it was in power, used Infrastructure Australia to its advantage to make wise planning decisions.

“When Labor Government took power, Australia was 20th in the OECD for infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP,” Albanese recalled. “When we left, Australia was 1st.”

While the budget for roads was doubled under Rudd/Gillard/Rudd, that government also rebuilt more than a third of the national freight rail network, Albanese said, with $3.4 billion spent on 4000km of track.

“One outcome of our investments is that by 2016, the average trip from Brisbane to Melbourne will have been shortened by seven hours,” he said. “The journey from the nation’s east to west coasts will have been reduced by nine hours.”

Albanese praised recent decisions by Woolworths and Australia Post to move some of their freight to rail.

“That’s highly significant,” he said. “There will always be a role for moving freight by road. But when we move freight on to efficient, properly maintained rail systems, we make the roads safer and we reduce carbon emissions.”

Albanese said the former Labor Government’s propensity towards rail projects was triggered by analysis from Infrastructure Australia; analysis which – Albanese believes – the Abbott Government doesn’t follow closely enough.

“I am deeply concerned that the current government is drifting away from the Infrastructure Australia model,” Albanese said.

“Despite pre-election promises that it would adhere to, and indeed strengthen, the model, the current government appears to have succumbed to political temptation and is drifting away from transparency and evidence-based policy making.”

He said the worst example of this is the Government’s $3 billon commitment to the (now shelved) East-West Link in Melbourne, to which it committed $1.5 billion in advanced funding in its 2014 Budget.

“It did this without Infrastructure Australia having seen a cost-benefit analysis, let alone having approved the project,” Albanese said.

“As those of you who live in Melbourne know, the project was at the very centre of November’s state election campaign.

“After the election, documents released by the incoming Andrews Government showed that the project had a benefit-cost ratio of only 0.45. That’s a paltry return of only 45 cents in the dollar.”

Albanese said the government’s decision to fund East-West Link over other projects – including the Melbourne Metro Rail Project – was therefore not a good one.

“In this case, proper process went out the window along with common sense and respect for taxpayers,” he said.

“The last thing this nation needs is political parties fighting election campaigns on the basis of the delivery of major infrastructure projects that have not undergone independent scrutiny.

“Only the facts can empower voters to make informed judgements about what politicians say in the heat of electoral battle.”

Albanese also questioned the Government’s decision to fund Sydney’s WestConnex road project, which he said had also been questioned in recent months.

Fare evasion - PTV

PTV cracking down on fare evasion

Fare evasion on Victoria’s public transport network is at its lowest in at least a decade. New policies, a new ad campaign, and an increased number officers checking tickets, are being credited with the result.

Since the introduction of on-the-spot penalty fares and a ramp-up in the number of officers checking tickets in late 2014, the number of tickets being checked across Victoria’s network has increased by 61%, according to Public Transport Victoria (PTV) chief executive officer Mark Wild.

Authorised officers have caught 140,000 fare evaders in the last six months. Of the 140,000 people caught evading fares, 28% have opted to pay their fine on the spot, according to Wild.

“The introduction of on-the-spot penalty fares allows offences to be processed quickly and efficiently,” Wild said on Friday, March 13.

Under a program launched in August 2014, fare evaders have the option to pay a $75 fine on the spot, to avoid having their name and address recorded for a heftier fine to be issued at a later date.

Helping to enforce the fines are the 70 multi-modal authorised officers PTV recently added to its roster, bringing to total to more than 600.

“Authorised officers are now checking more than one million tickets per month, Wild said. “Authorised officers also assist customers with information and provide a visible security and safety presence.”

The new fining policy, and added officer presence, is having a clear positive result, according to Wild. PTV estimates network-wide fare evasion to be just 5.9%, the lowest rate since surveys began in 2005.

“The latest fare compliance data is extremely encouraging,” he said. “Victorians value public transport and understand that fares are essential to a sustainable system.

“More than 94% of customers are paying the right fare but there are still some that don’t.”

To tackle the remaining fare evaders, PTV is launching the next phase of its ‘Freeloaders’ ad campaign, aimed at highlighting the risks of fare evasion. The first phase of the campaign was launched in August last year.

“Our research shows that this campaign has resonated with our target audience, with 49% of those surveyed responding they would be less likely to fare evade after seeing the campaign,” Wild said.

“The actions we are taking on all fronts are building momentum.

“Fare evasion still costs us around $51m per year and that’s money we could use to improve the system for everyone.”

Mike Baird

Rail funding key to NSW election debate

A significant portion of the $20 billion Labor plans to spend on infrastructure if it wins the upcoming election in NSW is for rail projects, and the source of that infrastructure funding has caused the most heated debate so far in the parties’ respective campaigns.

Funding for the proposed second rail crossing for Sydney Harbour could be on the line at the polling booths in 17 days’ time.

The NSW Liberal Party is proposing a $20 billion infrastructure spending plan, while Labor is proposing a much more modest $10 billion plan.

Both proposals include roughly $600 million in funding for the Parramatta light rail network.

But only the Liberal Party has promised to contribute $7 billion for the construction of Sydney Rapid Transit – the project which will see the extension of the work being done for the North West Rail Link, to build an underground Sydney Harbour crossing, thus doubling the existing infrastructure between Chatswood and the CBD.

The odd thing is that that massive project is receiving little attention throughout the debate.

The aspect of this story that’s causing the biggest stir is just where the Liberals propose they earn the extra $10 billion in funding that Labor hasn’t budgeted.

Liberal leader and NSW premier Mike Baird announced on Monday that the party, if re-elected, will sell off 49% of the remaining state-owned electricity assets (the ‘poles and wires’).

Evidence in Victoria and South Australia has suggested that electricity privatisation can reduce prices, and Baird says the sale will raise billions for a state-wide infrastructure plan.

The premier is guaranteeing cheaper prices, saying on March 8 that bidders for the lease will have to guarantee cheaper supply. Former ACCC chair Allan Fels would take on the role of electricity price commissioner in the scheme, to ensure that price gouging did not occur, Baird said.

“I make this pledge – unless the bidders guarantee lower prices, and Allan Fels signs off on it, these transactions will not go ahead,” Baird said.

“We’ve got power prices back under control, after they rose by about 60 per cent over five years under NSW Labor.

“This price guarantee, and the appointment of Professor Fels to oversee it, is our contract with the people of NSW that network prices will not rise as a result of our plan.”

The move by Baird is a bold one. Privatisation plans were blamed for a shock election loss in Queensland recently, and NSW Labor is looking to see the same happen south of the border.

Labor, which is promising a much more modest infrastructure spending plan, is against privatisation. Shadow treasurer Michael Daley has been a key opponent of Baird’s plan, warning retailers will be allowed to charge “whatever they want” once they own the assets.

His colleague, opposition leader Luke Foley, has said a newly-elected NSW Labor would provide for the people of NSW without “blackmailing” them with electricity privatisation.

Launching his campaign for hospital and other spending on the Central Coast on March 9, Foley responded to Baird’s plan, saying “we will never make hospital upgrades contingent on privatising electricity.”

Labor is taking advantage of public sentiment: A recent ABC poll found the majority of voters are against electricity privatisation.

Labor said in its infrastructure plan: “Once our electricity network is sold and the money is spent – it is gone forever. This means that the profits from our state-owned companies, generated through dividends and tax equivalent payments, will also be lost.”