Metro Trains Parliament station in Melbourne City Loop. Photo: Creative Commons / Teknorat

City Loop riders connected to new mobile coverage

The Andrews Government has announced mobile phone coverage is now available in Melbourne’s city loop.

Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan was joined by transport operators and mobile phone carriers at Parliament Station to confirm last week that, after days of testing, passengers now have access to high-quality 3G voice and 4G data coverage throughout Melbourne’s 12 kilometres of rail tunnels and underground stations.

Allan said the new mobile phone service emulates mobile carrier coverage in the Hong Kong, Singapore and Montreal underground rail systems, and exceeds the quality of coverage found in many other capital cities around the world.

“The Andrews Labor Government has achieved what the Liberals promised but never delivered,” she said. “Mobile coverage in the city loop.”

The coverage is being delivered by Victorian rail asset owner VicTrack.

“This ends years of frustration for passengers, who would be in the middle of a conversation only for their phone to cut out when they entered the loop,” Allan continued.

“Passengers can now text, talk and stream from their phones or tablets anywhere in the city loop.”

The minister said further work was scheduled for the next 12 to 18 months, intended to enhance 4G data services, increase capacity and improve data speeds even further.

Rural NSW level crossing, Photo: Creative Commons

Level crossing warning as harvest begins

Transport for NSW has reminded regional road users to be alert around level crossings over the coming months, as harvest seasons gets officially underway.

“It’s around this time of year when grain trains will be operating on lines that see little or no traffic for much of the year, so motorists will have to be extra cautious,” Centre for Road Safety acting executive director Bernard Carlon said.

At least one driver has already been killed in a collision with a grain train in the state so far this season, with a fatality reported by NSW Police after a collision on September 23 near Tullamore, in central NSW.

“Heavy and long vehicles require longer distances to slow down,” Carlon continued.

“Some trains can take up to 14 rugby fields to stop and can’t swerve to avoid a pedestrian or a motorist who has ignored the level crossing controls, so we need all road users to pay attention and obey the rules.”

Between 2001/02 and 2014/15 there were 122 collisions involving trains and road vehicles at level crossings throughout NSW.

Longer working hour during harvest season – which starts in the state’s north in October and extends south until early 2016 – increase the chance of fatigue, one of the biggest killers on Australian roads, Carlon added.

“Fatigue is a common factor in rural crashes, so drivers need to plan their rest and be aware of any signs that they might be tired.”

GrainCorp spokesperson Angus Trigg stressed the importance of community awareness during an unusually busy time on grain railways, noting some rail lines in farming areas are used only to transport harvested crops and will be busy with trains heading in both directions during the harvest months.

“In the harvest rush, we all have somewhere to get to and it’s easy for us to forget the need to stop and look before moving machinery and other vehicles when level crossings are on your farm,” Trigg said.

“The harvest period is a very active time for farmers and many have their tractors and harvesters running almost 24 hours a day. This is not a time for us to be complacent – patience and understanding will ensure that we all get there safely. Don’t rush to the other side.

“Farmers are normally very cautious about driving on roads and we make sure we maximise visibility with lights and signs on our vehicles.

“However, we urge everyone in rural communities to exercise extra caution during the season to help make it a trouble-free harvest.”

Transport for NSW has allocated $29.2 million – $7.3 million a year – to its Level Crossing Improvement Program over the four years from 2014/15 to 2017/18.

The program aims to accelerate engineering safety improvements to level crossings at priority sites.

Transport for NSW says the program will also raise community awareness of level crossing safety issues, support police enforcement initiatives, and promote new technology to improve level crossing safety.

Sydney buses. Photo: Creative Commons / Hpeterswald

Not quite busmageddon

See how Sydney commuters responded on social media to the bus route overhaul in preparation for the construction of the city’s new light rail network.

With a raft of new routes installed on Sunday, and a public holiday on Monday, Tuesday morning was the first peak period Sydney’s new bus setup was truly put to the test.

With the city’s busiest street for buses abandoned, many predicted chaos. NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley predicted a “nightmare” morning for commuters.

On Elizabeth – one street taking more of the traffic burden – Foley said: “We’ll see long tailbacks of buses and, of course, traffic for other motor vehicles confined to one lane in each direction.”


Related story: Media hammering light rail is short-term view of long-term benefit


We will have to wait for formal statistics to come in to truly know the impact of the changes.

But the reaction – at least across social media – was far from chaotic.

In fact, tweets and other commentary ranged from pleasantly surprised, to mildly annoyed; rarely venturing into ‘total meltdown’ territory.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted one “forlorn-looking” customer who was prepared for the changes, but said the timetable was “annoying,” because “it’s going to take me about 20 minutes longer to get to work”.

But those heading to Twitter to revel in the chaos were not rewarded:

 

 

 

 

 

The transition wasn’t entirely smooth for everyone, however.

One commenter on the popular social sharing site Reddit said the removal of his bus stop had left him “lost on how to get to work”. Later in the morning, he updated: “I arrive, with Uber. 6.5x the cost of bus.”

Others on Twitter encountered some issues:

 

 

 

Sydney CBD transport coordinator general Marg Prendergast urged commuters to plan their journey from scratch under the new conditions, as many bus routes are impacted by the changes.

“We have been pleading with bus customers for weeks to plan for this change, but despite handing out more than 300,000 flyers and brochures, there will be some customers who still need to get across the changes,” Prendergast said on the eve of the overhaul.

“With any major change, it will take some time to bed-in, so we expect some issues will present themselves in the first days and weeks, but we will overcome that, improve the network where we can and support customers and staff.”

 

A big thank you to everyone who planned their trip ahead of the #SydneyCBD bus changes. This image shows the Joint…

Posted by Transport NSW Info on Monday, October 5, 2015

 

“Habits are hard to break,” Prendergast continued, “and there’s every chance a bus might take a wrong turn at some point – that’s why these changes are happening now, before we begin to close sections of George Street for light rail construction.

“If you’re frustrated with the changes, don’t take that out on the bus drivers – they are doing a great job learning new routes to ensure they keep delivering great service.”

Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Hunter Valley to shut down for maintenance

The Australian Rail Track Corporation will close the Hunter Valley coal rail network for three days next week as part of scheduled maintenance work.

The network-wide maintenance shutdown will kick in at 6am on Wednesday, October 7, is timed to finish late on Friday, October 9.

ARTC said the shutdown will mean limited train operations to allow maintenance to be delivered in a safe and efficient way; nearly 1000 ARTC and contract staff will be on the rail corridor during the works.

“By ‘closing down’ the network and with fewer trains running we can ensure we get the maximum amount of rail maintenance done efficiently in the safest possible environment for our people,” ARTC executive general manager for the Hunter Valley Jonathan Vandervoort said.

Typical rail maintenance tasks like replacing sleepers, cleaning and compacting ballast, improving the condition of level crossings as well as technical jobs like signalling work are scheduled to take place throughout the Valley.

“Unfortunately, with work of this scale there will be some disruption and we would like to ask motorists and members of the community to be aware of changed traffic conditions and heavy work vehicles entering and exiting sections of the corridor,” Vandervoort added.

“We would like to thank the community for the patience and understanding while the works take place as we appreciate it does cause inconvenience.”

Maintenance work will take place throughout the Hunter from Newcastle to Narrabri and from Muswellbrook to Ulan, ARTC said.

The next network-wide shutdown is scheduled between November 10 and 13.

Wooden railway sleepers. Photo: Creative Commons / LooiNL

KiwiRail to pay $110,000 for contractor struck by train

New Zealand rail operator KiwiRail has accepted the judgement of the Auckland District Court, which ordered it pay $110,000 to the family of a Downer contractor who was severely injured when the digger he was operating was struck by a train in the central North Island region in June 2014.

KiwiRail group general manager Todd Moyle said the state-owned business, which is responsible for rail operations in New Zealand, would willingly pay reparations to the family of Paul Anderson, who has spent more than 12 months in hospital after the incident.

“KiwiRail completed a thorough investigation of what happened and found that we had not taken all practical steps to ensure that everyone working at the site was off the track before a train came through,” Moyle said.

“As a result, this terrible accident occurred.”

According to WorkSafe New Zealand, the incident occurred on June 17, 2014, when Anderson – a Downer contractor – was carrying out work for KiwiRail in a digger on the Raurimu Spiral, National Park.

Worksafe says KiwiRail track workers gave a north-bound goods train permission to drive through the site, and the train did not have time to stop once the digger came into view.

Anderson sustained severe traumatic brain injury and severe chest and lung trauma, according to WorkSafe.

“Multiple failings by KiwiRail have had a devastating impact on the victim’s life,” WorkSafe chief inspector Keith Steward said, adding that the incident was entirely preventable.

“[Anderson] continues to live with these tragic consequences to this very day.

“Every worker has a right to trust that their employer is looking out for their safety and that the necessary safey precautions and systems for managing potential risks are in place.”

Moyle says KiwiRail has made changes following reviews into the safety procedures across its rail network.

“We recognised that we needed to do more to protect our teams when they are working on the network and make sure that no trains enter worksites unless all workers and all equipment is off the track.

“As a result of these changes, all worksites across the country now have a register to record all personnel and vehicles operating near the tracks.”

Additionally, KiwiRail has introduced a ‘lock-on lock-off’ procedure.

Moyle explains: “Before going on to the track everyone at a site, whether working or visiting, is issued with a padlock which has to be attached to a board held by the site protector. When the person comes off the track, they remove their padlock. A train will be allowed to pass through the site only when all padlocks are removed.”

Moyle offered his sincere apologies to Anderson’s family.

“They live every day with the consequences of this accident and while we make the reparations willingly, we understand no amount of money can change what happened.

“The safety of everyone who works for us and who travels with us is our primary concern, and we will continue to work to prevent an accident like this from happening again.”

Sydney Metro Video Help Point. Graphic: Sydney Metro Northwest

Customer info deal awarded for Sydney Metro

Sydney Metro Northwest operator Northwest Rapid Transit has awarded a $75 million contract for hi-tech customer information and communications systems along the network.

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance said on Friday the consortium in charge of Sydney Metro Northwest had awarded the contract to electrical systems business Thales Australia.

Currently under construction, Sydney Metro Northwest will connect several growth suburbs in the north-west of Sydney to the main rail network at Epping.

The project involves the construction of twin 15.5km tunnels and several kilometres of skytrain, along with eight new railway stations, and the conversion of the existing Epping to Chatswood rail link to the new metro style railway, to create one contiguous line between Rouse Hill and Chatswood.

“Sydney’s new metro line will use advanced passenger information technology, including Video Help Points at all metro stations,” Constance said.

“The latest communications and surveillance systems will monitor the new metro network, taking customer experience to a new level with direct video links to staff at the metro control centre via these Video Help Points.”

Constance said seeing a face instead of simply hearing a voice at a help point is an added customer safety benefit.

He said traditional customer service assistants would still be at every station and will move throughout the network.

But the Thales system will provide a new level of customer focus, he explained.

“Customers will have access to real-time service information using technology like smartphone apps, digital information screens on the trains and electronic signage in and around stations,” Constance said. “A modern video technology system will be used to monitor and analyse the hundreds of CCTV cameras on the network to deliver fast, safe and reliable services.”

Thales Australia vice president of ground transportation systems Mick Spiers said the company could provide a world class solution to the Sydney Metro Northwest line.

“We’re looking forward to delivering technology that will contribute to fast, safe and reliable journeys for Sydney commuters,” Spiers said.

Constance said the deal would bring to Sydney expertise from other major transport projects in cities like London, Paris, Dubai and Hong Kong.

“This is another important step forward that again puts our customers at the centre of this exciting Australian-first metro rail project,” the minister added.

Bendigo line communications. Photo: 4Tel

Bendigo line getting passenger display system

Victorian minister for public transport Jacinta Allan has announced the roll out of the Regional Passenger Information and Display System along the Bendigo rail line with Clarkefield Station to be the first system to be operational on Tuesday, September 15.

Real-time travel information will soon be available to passengers on the Bendigo line, with new technology being rolled out at 10 stations.

Allan said electronic displays, public address announcement messages and customer information points will be installed at Clarkefield, Riddells Creek, Gisborne, Macedon, Woodend, Kyneton, Malmsbury, Castlemaine, Kangaroo Flat and Bendigo.

The minister said the initiative would give passengers automated, accurate and timely information about train times, service changes and platform alterations.

“Real-time technology is great news for Bendigo-line passengers, who now have access to timely metropolitan-style travel updates,” Allan explained.

“It means passengers know exactly when their train is going to arrive, even if something unexpected happens that affects services.”

The new displays, which are expected to be operational by October, will also aid customers with hearing and visual impairments, with the improved audio and visual information making it easier to access real-time train information.

Local members for Bendigo and Macedon, Maree Edwards and Mary-Anne Thomas respectively, welcomed the news.

“Real-time travel information makes it easier for locals to plan their journey by giving them up-to-date information about their train,” Edwards said.

“This is great news for everyone in Macedon, but particularly those with hearing and visual impairments, who will soon have access to better audio and visual technology at their local station,” Thomas added.

The technology will also progressively being installed at 33 V/Line stations on the Geelong, Ballarat and Gippsland lines, with all works set to be complete before the end of the year.

V-set train at Central station. Photo: Creative Commons / Alexanderino

NSW to pay $1.5m to 8-year-old train fall victim

The State of NSW has been ordered to pay more than $1.5 million in damages to a man who fell from a moving train when he was eight years old.

Corey Fuller-Lyons, now 23, sustained severe injuries when he fell from an intercity train as it rounded a bend between Morisset and Dora Creek railway stations on the Main North Line near Lake Macquarie on January 29, 2001.

The train was travelling at around 100km/h when Corey fell through the front left door of the front carriage at around 12.09pm.

According to police, the boy missed a power line, before sliding roughly 20 metres down a 3 metre embankment, sustaining severe injuries.

Despite this, Corey – described as average sized for an eight-year-old – was able to climb the embankment, walk across both tracks and climb a safety fence before being noticed by passing motorists, who alerted police and ambulance officers.

He was airlifted to Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital where he stayed for four days.

Corey was diagnosed with a compound frontal skull fracture with missing bone and exposed dura – the membrane surrounding the brain – as well as a fractured bone in his right arm, splintered teeth, swelling around his face and multiple abrasions and lacerations over the rest of his body.

Twelve years later, in 2013, Corey sued the State of New South Wales for negligence.

It was submitted to the Supreme Court of NSW that he must have become wedged in the door of the train prior to its departure from Morisset, and that station or train staff should have discovered this before the train departed.

It was also submitted the State was negligent in failing to commission a traction interlock, which was fitted on the train but not in operation. Corey’s representatives contended the system would have prevented the train from departing Morisset while its doors were impeded from closing.

The State denied negligence.

The State contended Corey had deliberately interfered with the doors with the assistance of his brothers: he was travelling that day with Dominic, 11, and Nathan, 15.

Corey’s mother Nita Lyons said the boys, who had travelled to Central station from Sydenham, were supposed to be meeting friends at St Peters, four stations south of Central on the Bankstown line. Instead they had boarded a train from Central to Newcastle – a fact not explained in any of the court cases.

Corey’s brothers told the court they had been seated in the main saloon of the carriage while Corey “got up to wander around”. Both brothers denied being in the vestibule – the carriage’s entry way, where the doors are – when Corey fell.

The seating area in the carriage, a DJM V-set model, is separated from the vestibule by an internal door.

Supreme Court Justice Robert Beech-Jones found in Corey’s favour in the 2013 case, saying the State owed a duty to “exercise due care for the safety of passengers from dangers likely to arise out of the ordinary use of the [train and] which might reasonably be expected.”

Justice Beech-Jones considered the most likely explanation for the accident that Corey became caught between the doors as they closed at Morisset station, leaving part of his torso and at least one of his arms and legs outside the train – enough for him to be thrown from the train as it rounded the bend.

Morisset is a curved station, making it hard for the train guard, in the back carriage, to see the front of the train, which in this case was four carriages – or roughly 100 metres – long.

A customer service attendant was often stationed on the platform to assist the guard. While the train guard could not recall whether an attendant was on the platform at that day, records show there was one rostered on. He was identified in the 2013 trial, but it was found he had passed away in 2008.

In summary, Justice Beech-Jones held the state vicariously liable for the negligent failure of a railway employee to keep a proper lookout before signalling for the train to depart.

This initial judgement resulted in Corey being awarded $1,536,954.55 in damages; an amount made up of general damages, past and future economic loss, cost of past and future care, and medical expenses.

The State successfully appealed that decision in December 2014.

The State initially challenged the finding that Nathan and Dominic had not been involved in interfering with the doors, but this challenge was rejected.

However, the Court of Appeal accepted an alternate hypothesis posited by the State: that Corey wedged the door open with his shoulder, arm or leg at Morisset, but not with enough of his body to attract the staff’s attention.

Then, once the train was moving, Corey could have wedged more of his body between the doors, until he was thrown from the train, according to the hypothesis.

Satisfied that this alternative explanation was just as likely as Justice Beech-Jones’ initial explanation, the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling.

On Wednesday, September 2, the Court of Appeal’s ruling was itself overturned, this time by the High Court of Australia.

“The Court of Appeal erred in overturning the primary judge’s ultimate factual finding,” the High Court said in a statement on Wednesday.

“[Justice Beech Jones’ finding] was a correct finding notwithstanding that other possible explanations could not be excluded … it was an error to reject the primary judge’s finding on the basis that [Corey’s representatives] had failed to exclude one alternative hypothesis that had not been explored in evidence.”

The High Court returned the full $1.54 million damages order to Corey and his representatives.

Nathan Fuller-Lyons, the eldest of the three brothers on the train in 2001, is now a train driver for Transport for NSW.

Wooden railway sleepers. Photo: Creative Commons / LooiNL

Trad puts Brisbane rail capacity among ‘top priorities’

Queensland will move to re-establish the ready-to-proceed status of the former Cross River Rail project, and has formally ruled out a combined bus and train option for the route.

State transport minister Jackie Trad says the government is “moving ahead” with planning to deliver extra capacity to the Brisbane rail network, an issue she says is one of the state’s top priorities.

Trad said last week the Palaszczuk Government is committed to transforming and revitalising the rail network in South East Queensland, with the view of providing a more efficient public transport system “that can cope with forecast demand”.

“Increasing the capacity of our rail network is one of our top priorities, we are working to identify solutions,” Trad, who is also deputy premier, said.

“Our assessment will include an investigation of elements of the Cross River Rail and Bus and Train projects to identify a preferred solution to address these capacity issues.

“It will also include a detailed assessment of the feasibility of introducing New Generation Signalling to the inner city rail network.

“Improved signalling would allow for a higher frequency of services on our most constrained part of the network, unlocking additional capacity that would benefit the entire region.”

Trad said “considerable” cost and time savings could be achieved during the evaluation phase, “by using planning prepared as part of the previous projects”.

“However, there will be no combination of buses and trains in the Cross River Rail design going forward,” she said.

“Buses and trains play different roles in our transport network and combining them in the same corridor does not make sense.”

The minister said the project team would deliver an updated business case of a preferred project to be considered by Government.

“The Queensland Government will include a complete business case as part of a funding submission to Infrastructure Australia and the Federal Government for this urgently needed project,” she said.

“We will also seek to re-establish the ready-to-proceed status previously applied to the Cross River Rail project.”

Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Telstra, ARTC sign ten-year NTCS deal

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has announced a multi-million dollar, ten-year deal with Telstra, for the ASX-listed telecoms business to provide ongoing telecommunications to the national rail freight network.

Announced on Tuesday, August 25, the deal comprises the security of supply, maintenance and enhancement to the Telstra-powered National Train Communications System (NTCS).

ARTC boss John Fullerton said securing the NTCS was essential to ensuring future rail freight success, with a solid digital platform in place to exploit for safety, efficiency and capacity benefits.

“NTCS will provide a platform for many of the new and exciting innovations being developed by ARTC,” Fullerton said.

“Using the Telstra NextG network, applications such as safe travelling distance technology (proximity alerting), real-time locomotive tracking, sophisticated track and wayside monitoring technology, situational awareness system and the next generation of train management – the Advanced Train Management System – all become possible.”

Fullerton said the deal demonstrated the strong relationship between the two businesses.

The ARTC manages 8500km of the national rail freight network.

The ARTC switched off its old, analogue telecommunications network in December 2014, moving to a single, nationwide, digital platform, which includes freight trains operating on other rail networks that aren’t managed by ARTC – a factor the company says makes it easier for different operators to do business across the country.

The move to the NextG network is the first time a rail access provider has moved from a private to a public telecommunications network for railway operations in Australia, the ARTC says.

70 base stations have been built specifically for the ARTC to make up the NTCS communications infrastructure.

Telstra Global Enterprise and Services chief customer officer Martijn Blanken said the company was helping the ARTC develop the rail industry.

“Together, with the ARTC’s vision for rail innovation and Telstra’s agile communications network, we have co-created a mobile and cloud-based solution that will help move the national freight sector forward,” Blanken said.

“The communication network is built on our world class Telstra NextG network and supported by our satellite offering, so ARTC has the peace of mind that we can provide redundancy for any black spots along the rail corridor.

“We have also transitioned ARTC into a private cloud environment, built on VCE Vblock, which will significantly reduce the resources it needs to host the applications the NTCS runs on,” he added.