Rail R U OK? Day. Graphic: TrackSAFE Foundation

Thursday marks Rail’s R U OK? Day

April 16, 2015 will be the inaugural industry-wide Rail R U OK? Day, with the TrackSAFE Foundation leading a group of Australian companies to raise awareness of depression and trauma as a result of rail incidents.

A spin-off of the R U OK? not-for-profit, Rail R U OK? Day is designed to focus on engaging rail staff in conversations about their emotional status by promoting them to answer the simple question: Are you okay?

“We believe stations are a place of interaction and engagement within communities that foster people coming together,” TrackSAFE said.

“Let us extend this sentiment into our work environment by showing support for our rail staff.”

Several major Australian rail businesses have signed on for the inaugural Rail R U OK? Day, including ARTC, Aurizon, Bombardier, Downer, John Holland, Genesee & Wyoming, Pacific National, UGL and several others.

Paul Larsen, chief executive of Brookfield Rail, which is also signed up to take part, said the company is committed to helping its employees feel safe and supported at work.

“Looking after ourselves and each other is important for all of us,” Larsen said. “However we are all guilty of getting caught up in the details of our days and failing to realise those around us might not be ok.

“Together the rail industry is making positive steps to increase awareness of the importance of mental health by encouraging rail employees to connect with, and offer support to, one another.

“We realise that regular, meaningful conversations can really help someone who is struggling to feel supported and connected,” he continued.

“That is why we will be actively encouraging employees to start meaningful conversations with their workmates by asking them, are you okay?”

Brookfield will coordinate a series of activities on Thursday aimed at encouraging their employees to take part in these conversations.

TrackSAFE and R U OK? have partnered to deliver the new campaign. Click here for more information.

Redfern Station - Photo: J Bar

Access boost at Redfern Station

Transport for NSW has announced major construction plans to improve access at one of Sydney’s busiest train stations, Redfern.

Being done as part of the NSW Government’s Transport Access Program, the work includes the addition of lift access to the station’s platforms 6 and 7, an improved access point at the station’s northern ‘Lawson Street’ entrance, and the addition of fencing and lighting at various points to improve security.

A Transport for NSW spokesperson said the work was being done following an extensive local public feedback stage.

“When these improvements are completed, the station will be more accessible for customers, making their transport journey easier and more efficient,” the spokesperson said.

“I thank the community for taking the time to provide feedback on the proposal when plans were on public display in December and January.”

Transport for NSW announced on Friday it had received planning approval for the changes, and said early work will begin today (Monday, April 13).

From today through to Thursday, April 16, work will be carried out at night between 6pm and 5am to relocate underground cables and pipes near the lift site.

There will also be some excavating work from 5am on Saturday, April 18 to 1am on Monday, April 20, to prepare footings for the new lift.

Major construction work will take place in coming months.

“We are completing the work at night and on weekends to minimise disruption to rail services and Redfern Station customers,” the spokesperson said.

“The improvements at Redfern Station will include lift access to platforms 6 and 7 as well as improved access from Lawson Street.”

Redfern’s platforms 6 and 7 service the busy T2 inner-west line.

“For the first time for customers in a wheelchair, the elderly, parents with prams, and travellers with luggage will be able to access trains more comfortably,” the spokesperson said.

“I know this upgrade will make a real difference for local residents, and encourage more people to choose public transport.”

The NSW Government says its Transport Access Program is intended to deliver accessible, modern and integrated transport infrastructure.

Tasmania derailment. Photo: Google / West Coast Wilderness Railway

Lubrication lacking in derailment of historic loco

The derailment of a 1953-built Drewry locomotive near Teepookana, Tasmania, was caused by an under-lubricated axle box horn guide, according to a new report.

On December 9, 2014, locomotive 71SG travelled from Regatta Point to Dubbil Barril, to collect an empty passenger carriage for transfer back to Regatta Point.

The train’s operator, West Coast Wilderness Railway, was collecting the empty carriage in preparations for the planned commencement of passenger services along the line on December 15, 2014.

The 27 tonne, 7.6 metre locomotive left Dubbil Barril with the empty carriage in tow at around 11:36am on December 9. Roughly 40 minutes later, the train’s crew radioed in to report the locomotive had derailed all wheels.

Photo: ATSB / West Coast Wilderness Railway
Photo: ATSB / West Coast Wilderness Railway

One member of the three-person crew suffered minor injuries, described by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) as bruising and stiffness. Damage to the locomotive was described as minor, and the empty passenger carriage remained on the track.

An investigation by West Coast Wilderness Railway found the track condition and geometry did not contribute to the incident. Crew interviews and a review of the damage done ruled out the possibility that the train was exceeding the enforced 10km/h speed limit on the historic line.

Instead, mechanical examination of the locomotive found the cause of derailment to be the front-right-hand axle box horn guide, which had jammed due to a lack of lubrication.

“The jammed horn guide had restricted axle articulation while the locomotive was negotiating a slight left-hand curve, causing the leading wheel on the right side to climb the rail head and derail to the right,” the ATSB reported on April 8.

Photo: ATSB / West Coast Wilderness Railway
Photo: ATSB / West Coast Wilderness Railway

West Coast Wilderness Railway operates three diesel locomotives like Train 71SG, and uses them primarily for shunting as well as the occasional freight service.

While the locomotives receive regular maintenance, the ATSB found they can spend long periods idle, often outside, thus exposing them to “the harsh environment of Tasmania’s west coast.”

As a result of the investigation, West Coast Wilderness Railway has advised the ATSB that it will investigate its examination and recording methods, as well as the possibility of improving the lubricating delivery message for its machines.

“This incident highlights to operators and maintainers the importance of continually monitoring and reassessing risks to the safe operation of rolling stock,” the bureau concluded, “particularly with respect to low utilisation operating scenarios.”

Hampton Railway Station in 2014. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / User thebusofdoom

Architect named for Hampton Station precinct

Victoria’s minister for public transport Jacinta Allan has named epc.Pacific as developer for the transformation of the Hampton Station precinct in Melbourne’s south east.

Allan said epc.Pacific will be tasked with making better use of the land around Hampton Station, making it safer, more attractive and more accessible for commuters and the local community.

“This project will make the Hampton Station area safet and easier to get to, with shops, housing and public spaces on the doorstep of public transport,” Allan said.

Part of the proceeds from the development will go towards transport improvements, which could include station upgrades, the creation of a station forecourt and public plaza, an improved bus interchange and a new commuter car parking facility, the minister added.

In collaboration with the local council, VicTrack last year spoke to local residents and commuters about “their vision for the future” of the station and its surrounding area.

The community was keen to have the station better integrated with surrounding shops and housing, and also expressed a desire for a safer precinct around the station.

Community consultation will continue later this year.

“This project is good for commuters and the local community,” minister for housing Martin Foley said.

“The government will work closely with tenants throughout the project to ensure their voices are heard, and any disruption during construction is kept to a minimum.”

Hampton is on Melbourne’s Sandringham line.

Queensland Rail passenger train - photo QLD Matt

High Court sides with workers in Queensland fracas

The Rail, Tram & Bus Union will push for a pay rise for Queensland Rail workers after unions on Wednesday won a High Court challenge against industrial relations changes made by the former Newman Government.

A number of unions representing Queensland Rail employees brought their case to the High Court after, in 2013, the Newman Government transferred QR employees to the Queensland industrial relations system – moving them out of the federal system.

The move, according to unions, resulted in the “theft of many conditions,” according to RTBU Queensland state secretary Owen Doogan.

“The case boiled down to whether the Newman Government had the right to simply pass laws bringing QR back under its own lousy workplace laws.

“The High Court said that they did not have that right.”

The judgement, which is thought to impact about 6,000 workers, effectively removes restrictions which limited their ability, and the ability of unions, to take industrial action in response to their employer’s actions.

Electrical Trades Union national secretary Allen Hicks believes the decision could impact industrial relations in other states, telling the Australian Financial Review that the High Court had delivered “a clear warning to conservative governments that there are rules and limits, and the union movement will fight tooth and nail to defend workers’ rights”.

“The Newman government, which was spectacularly dumped by voters earlier this year, had attempted to strip entitlements from employees at this government-owned business by moving them to a ‘statutory authority’, which they claimed was outside the coverage of the Fair Work Act,” he was quoted as saying.

“What the High Court has confirmed is that if a ‘statutory authority’ looks and acts like a company, then it is, in fact, a company, and the Fair Work Act applies.”

Unions have resolved to work with Queensland Rail to reach a new deal.

“The unions will now be seeking to negotiate agreements in the federal arena to replace the agreements which have expired over the last few years in the federal system,” RTBU state secretary Doogan said.

“[On Wednesday] I received a commitment form the QR CEO that there would be no reduction in conditions for QR workers as a result of the High Court decision and that discussions will now commence to address the issues flowing from this agreement.”

Spit Kits - Photo: spitkit.co.uk

Sydney train workers want ‘spit kits’ to identify offenders

The NSW Branch of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union ‘spit kits’ should be used to collect evidence following spitting assaults on transport workers on the Sydney network.

‘Spit kits’ allow staff members to swab an offender’s saliva to obtain their DNA following spitting incidents. This DNA can then be tested, to see whether a match can be found within the Police database.

“Spit assaults on transport workers are unfortunately on the rise,” the RTBU NSW Branch said on its Facebook page this week.

“We’re calling for portable testing equipment to track down the offenders.

“The ‘spit kits’ work by testing the DNA in saliva against existing databases of people with criminal records. In the UK the kits have been a big success and have led to a decrease in spitting attacks.”

Indeed, Transport for London, which introduced trial kits in early 2003, says they’ve reduced spit attacks on staff by 75%.

“The kits were first introduced on London Underground Zone 1 stations in the summer of 2003 as part of a programme to tackle violent and antisocial behaviour towards staff,” TfL said in July 2013.

Following the successful trial, the kits were distributed to all London Underground stations in October 2003. The use of the kits, coupled with publicity about their use, helped reduce the average number of reported incidences from 12 per reporting period to just three, over the next decade, TfL said.

By all accounts, the ‘spit kit’ deployment in London has been a success.

“From 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013, 91% of all spit kit submissions resulted in a DNA profile being obtained,” British Transport Police detective inspector John Justice said.

“73% of all spit kit submissions resulted in the DNA identification of an offender.”

And the success of the kits in the London Underground, specifically, might expedite their implementation in the Sydney Trains network. Howard Collins, chief executive of Sydney Trains, was the chief operating officer of the London Underground from July 2008 to June 2013.

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.”