NSW TrainLink. Photo: Creative Commons / Abesty

Maitland support centre to track customer safety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subway station. Public Domain

$280m contracts continue New York’s CBTC rollout

VIDEO: The installation of Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) in one of the world’s most-used rail networks will continue, with a pair of contracts handed out in New York this month.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced on July 20 that 67-month contracts had been awarded to Siemens Industry Incorporated, and Thales Transport & Security Incorporated, currently the only two MTA-qualified vendors for CBTC projects.

The Siemens contract is for approximately US$156.2 million, and Thales contract is for US$49.6 million. Together they are worth US$205.8 million, or roughly A$280 million.

The contracts cover the installation of a CBTC signalling system on the Queens Boulevard Line.

Known around the world as the Subway, New York City’s rapid transit system is one of the world’s largest, with 1,355km of track along 373km of defined routes, and 468 stations in operation.

The New York Subway served 1.75 billion passengers in 2014, making it the seventh-busiest metro system globally, behind only the Beijing Subway, the Shanghai Metro, the Seoul Subway, the Moscow Metro, the Tokyo Metro and the Guangzhou Metro.

The Queens Boulevard Line is one of the Subway’s busiest, with a daily ridership of more than 250,000 in 2014.

CBTC signalling, which is replacing the existing interlocking system, is currently in operation on the Canarsie Line (567,000 daily ridership in 2014), and is being installed on the Flushing Line (818,000 daily ridership in 2014).

“The CBTC signalling system is a vital part of our plan to address issues of overcrowding, record ridership and service delays,” MTA boss Thomas F. Prendergast said.

“CBTC represents the MTA’s efforts to bring advanced technology to a century-old subway system that, in some parts, has not been updated in decades.

“On the L Line [the Canarsie Line] where CBTC has been installed for several years now, we have seen improved service and we have been able to increase capacity significantly.

“Once we’re done installing CBTC on the 7 Line [the Flushing Line], those customers will also benefit from similarly improved and increased service, and the Queens Boulevard project is a continuation of our efforts to make those improvements system-wide.”

As well as awarding the two CBTC contracts to Thales and Siemens, MTA also approved a separate US$1.2 million contract for Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Incorporated, to develop and test CBTC software and systems, with the goal of qualifying an additional supplier for future CBTC projects.

“This process widens the pool of vendors to compete for such projects and increases the potential for cost savings for the MTA,” the authority said.

Politics reportedly delaying Metro timetable

Melbourne newspaper the Age has claimed the new Metro timetable is being delayed by the Andrews Government’s hesitation to remove peak-hour services from the politically-critical Frankston line.

The government opened the 47.5km Regional Rail Link in June, separating regional Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong services from suburban services. To take advantage of the new capacity, it planned to release a new timetable.

So far no timetable has been released. And according to a Wednesday report in the Age, the delay is due to the government’s desire to maintain current peak services to the Frankston line.

Four election seats – Bentleigh, Carrum, Mordialloc and Frankston – are situated along the Frankston line. Known as the ‘sand-belt’ seats, all four changed hands to the Coalition at the 2010 state election, and all four changed hands again, to Labor, at the 2014 election[note]Frankston was won by Geoff Shaw in 2010, when he was part of the Coalition. He resigned from the Liberal Party in March 2013, becoming an Independent. Labor won the seat in 2014.[/note].

Public transport minister Jacinta Allan said in February the timetable would be delayed in line with a delay to the opening of the Regional Rail Link, saying the previous Coalition Government delayed the project when it failed to order V/Line rolling stock in its first two years in power.

“The Liberals and Nationals were going to open Regional Rail Link knowing there was a massive risk of service cancellations and commuter chaos,” Allan claimed.

“The Regional Rail Link was planned and funded under the previous Labor Government,” she said. “All the Coalition had to do was order enough trains but apparently that was too hard.”

At the time, Allan said the delay to the opening of the Regional Rail Link also meant a delay to the implementation of metropolitan train, tram and bus timetable changes.

But according to the Age report, the only thing holding the new timetables back is the Andrews Government “baulking” at changes that would remove some Frankston line trains from the City Loop during peak times.

Changes stalled by the government would also see Glen Waverley line trains, which use the loop in the afternoon, instead terminating at Flinders Street. And like the Frankston line, some peak-hour trains on the Craigieburn line would also miss the City Loop.

It’s all part of the former Coalition Government’s five year plan, which was scheduled to run to 2017, had the Andrews Government not intervened this year.

“The secret Liberal timetable would have come at the expense of thousands of commuters on Frankston, Glen Waverley and Craigieburn lines,” acting public transport minister Luke Donnellan was quoted by the Fairfax paper.

On his personal blog, Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen wrote that he was disappointed the changes were being delayed, but said he hoped they went ahead eventually.

“The Loop changes would be painful for some, but the pay-off (as usual) is more frequent services, roughly a 20% peak boost on some lines, up to 50% in the evenings (from two trains per hour to three) and further moves towards ten minute services all-day everyday,” Bowen wrote.

“You can’t have all the lines converging on the four track City Loop,” he said. “Those tracks are pretty much full. To make better use of the substantial track capacity in the CBD, some lines have to go direct into Flinders Street and Southern Cross.”

CAF AM class train Auckland. Photo: Creative Commons / Dc4444

After tough transition, electric takes over in Auckland

CAF-built electric trains will be operating on all of Auckland’s lines from next Monday, July 20, with a tough transition from diesel rollingstock now nearly complete, local authority Auckland Transport has said.

Auckland Transport rail services manager Craig Inger said the rollout has been completed a few weeks ahead of schedule. “We started running the first electric trains in April last year and here we are 15 months later going all electric,” he said. “That’s great.”

The new trains are the New Zealand Auckland Metro (AM) class EMU, manufactured in Spain by CAF, under a contract signed in 2011. In total CAF will deliver 57 trains to Auckland, and Auckland Transport said the last trains are currently being shipped from Spain, with the full fleet set to be in service by the end of the year.

CAF AM class train Auckland. - Photo: Auckland Transport
Photo: Auckland Transport

Inger said the trains have so far been very popular with customers. With each 3-car, 72m train able to carry 380 passengers – roughly 230 seated – the new trains mean extra capacity as well as improved comfort for passengers, he said.

At peak times, the trains can be coupled into 6-car sets to provide even more capacity. They also have wider doors than the old trains, are much quieter, and accelerate faster, according to Inger.

By the time the new timetable comes into effect, Aucklanders will have taken more than 14 million trips across the Auckland rail network in the past year, a 21% increase, Auckland Transport estimates.

But the transition to electric trains has not been without issue. Ongoing issues caused by the ageing diesel fleet have for “a tough few months”.

“Running both electric and diesel trains has caused a few problems,” Inger explained. “We are working hard with KiwiRail, CAF and [operator] Transdev to improve performance and reliability.

“We will continue to make improvements when the all-electric fleet is operational.”

CAF AM class train Auckland. Photo: Creative Commons / Auckland Transport Blog
Photo: Creative Commons / Auckland Transport Blog

With the increased number of services now operating on the network, schedules are very tight, and work is continuing to make sure trains meet their spot at the busy Newmarket and Britomart stations.

Customers will see an improvement in punctuality as drivers become more familiar with the new trains, Inger added.

“We hope we can keep any disruption to a minimum but overseas experience shows that we have to be prepared for the possibility.”

From 20 July, buses will shuttle passengers between Swanson and the former Waitakere station. On the Southern Line, the electric trains end at Papakura and there will be a shuttle service using diesel trains to and from Pukekohe.

Perth B-series train. Credit: Creative Commons / DBZ2313

WA consulting market on Perth transport Wi-Fi

WA’s Public Transport Authority has launched a market consultation tender on behalf of the WA Government, to investigate providing free Wi-Fi to public transport customers.

The Free to Public Wi-Fi Access on WA Public Transport Market Consultation was issued to Tenders WA by the Public Transport Authority on July 7, and state transport minister Dean Nalder on Sunday said the government planned a trial involving trains and buses, as well as central Perth stations and bus stops.

“We live in a highly connected community,” Nalder said. “We use online services to shop, bank and chat with our friends and families.

“Governments need to respond to the community’s preference for greater flexibility, quick access to information and easier transactions.

“This is part of our strategy to deliver a better customer service for passengers.”

A number of companies have approached the government in recent times, with some offering to install Wi-Fi for free, in exchange for advertising revenue, Nalder said.

“I am confident we already have the best public transport system in the country,” he said, “but it is important we stay ahead of the curve and look at ways we can improve.”

The planned trial would run on 10 trains, on all lines. The length of the trial is still to be determined. The market consultation tender closes on September 1.

PTA said on the WA Tenders site: “Respondents are invited to provide details of supplying a completely separate and managed carrier grade solution which satisfies free public Wi-Fi access at PTA Public Transport stations or terminals and on-board Transperth transport services.

“Details on whether the carrier service is a public or controlled private network, network security methodologies and issues such as reliability, guaranteed throughputs, bandwidth capacity and flexibility should all be addressed. The specific requirements for respondents to address can be found in Book 2(a) of this document.”

Click here for the full tender information.

“This Government is committed to delivering smart and effective transport solutions for our growing city,” Nalder concluded. “That’s why we’ve decided to go to the market to find out if it’s reasonable to improve the customer experience in this way.”

Cranbourne Line. Photo: Creative Commons

Key players to duke it out for major crossing removal tender

John Holland and Leighton Contractors, each already part of their own four-crossing removal contract in Victoria, are pitted against each other in the bidding for the next contract, which will remove nine more crossings and rebuild four stations.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday announced a pair of consortia had made the shortlist for the contract to remove the nine level crossings on Melbourne’s Cranbourne-Pakenham line, and to rebuild four stations:

  • the consortium of John Holland, Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), McConnell Dowell Constructors and Jacobs (known as the Excelerate consortium)
  • the consortium of Lend Lease Engineering, Leighton Contractors, Aurecon Australia and Parsons Brinckerhoff Australia

The contract is the third major level crossing tender announced by the Andrews Government since it came to power in 2014. Part of a scheme to remove 50 of the state’s most dangerous crossings over the next eight years, the government has doled out contracts first for two packages of four crossings, and is now preparing to select a contractor for the biggest contract so far.

And while not incredibly surprising, it is interesting to note that key players from each of the shortlisted consortia are each responsible for one of the four-crossing contracts already handed out.

A consortium of John Holland and KBR was picked in May to 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.

A consortium of Leighton Contractors, Aurecon and Hyder Consulting was selected as the preferred contractor to design and construct level crossing removals at Heatherdale Road in Mitcham, Blackburn Road in Blackburn, and Main and Furlong Roads in St Albans.

And now John Holland and KBR, and Leighton Contractors and Aurecon, are pitted against each other for the contract which appears to be the most valuable so far.

The package will remove all nine level crossings between Caulfield and Dandenong, rebuild four stations at Carnegie, Murrumbeena, Clayton and Hughesdale, and roll out significant power and signalling upgrades, the Government said.

“These nine level crossings are crippling local roads, slowing down trains and putting lives at risk,” Acting Premier James Merlino said.

“Announcing the shortlist brings us closer to starting work and getting rid of these congested death traps on our busiest rail line once and for all.”

As part of the process, each proponent will be required to demonstrate adherence to significant local content targets, including the use of local steel, and a workforce comprising of 10% apprentice-based employees, he said.

Transport minister Jacinta Allan said the level crossing removal along this specific line is part of a targeted program to improve service on the corridor, which is Melbourne’s busiest.

Together with signalling upgrades and 37 new high capacity trains (Expressions of Interest sent out last week), the level crossing removals are hoped to increase capacity on the line by 42%.

“Removing every level crossing on our busiest line is critical for our train system and our economy,” Allan said, “unlocking major economic centres in the south east and supporting thousands of local jobs.”

Aurizon train on Queensland Rain Network. Photo: Aurizon

Aurizon’s new CQCN systems to automate condition monitoring

Aurizon’s new rollingstock condition monitoring technology will be fully supported on its Central Queensland Coal Network (CQCN) by early next year, the company has said.

Supplied by automatic trackside inspection system manufacturer BeenaVision Systems, the new technology will automate many of the rollingstock inspection and assessment tasks currently performed manually in depots, Aurizon explained in April.

The technology begins with trackside monitoring structures housing multiple lasers and cameras which scan along the length of each train, analysing the condition of key components such as wheels, brake systems and doors via “sophisticated machine vision algorithms”.

Aurizon hopes the system, which was due to be installed by June 2015 and should be fully operational across the CQCN network early next year, can give its maintenance team real-time information and predictive capabilities.

The system is designed to alert Aurizon’s ‘rollingstock defect coordinators’ of any issues, via text message and email, when problems arise.

It will also be used to consolidate and manage all wayside detection data, and automatically generate maintenance work orders based on the analysis of the condition monitoring data, Aurizon added.

“This technology is about having access to the right data in real-time, so we can be more proactive with our maintenance,” the company explained.

“It will also enable greater availability and asset productivity for the corridor, which is key to lowering our operating and maintenance costs.”

Additional benefits from this technology include the reduction of component

spend by running trains to their full life and replacing whilst on-train, as well as the reduction in maintenance yard shunts providing opportunity for improvements to yard operations and cycle times, the operator said.

The technology was installed in the Blackwater System at Kalapa in February, and Aurizon said in April it planned the next installation for Wandoo in the Goonyella System.

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: www.taic.org.nz

Melbourne Metro Train. Photo: Creative Commons / Zed Fitzhume

Melbourne Metro performance dips in May

Melbourne’s metropolitan passenger rail network was at its least punctual in at least 12 months in May.

91.7% of all metro services were on time, according to the latest statistics from Public Transport Victoria. While this meant the network achieved its 38th consecutive month of over 90% punctuality, it was also the lowest figure so far in the 2014/15 financial year.

The figure was only slightly worse than that of the month prior (April 2015), when 91.8% of trains were recorded ‘on-time’.

With no clear explanation offered for the punctuality dip from public transport director of performance and contract management Jereon Weimar, one possibility is that the decline in timeliness is linked to the improvement in another area of Melbourne Metro’s performance: the reduction of unplanned station skipping.

Station-skipping trains, known by PTV as “unplanned express” services, are those which go right through a station where they were supposed to stop, often because they are running late.

Looking to fix a pet peeve for many rail customers, Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan pushed for Melbourne Metro to reduce the practice. Her campaign looks to have paid off, with station skipping reduced from a peak of 0.5% of services in May 2014, to just 0.1% in January, February and May this year, and just 0.2% in March and April.

But that reduction in station skipping could logically have resulted in the slight decline in overall punctuality, and that’s suggested in the figures.

Understandably, Weimar did not mention the 12-month low for Melbourne Metro punctuality in his official statement on the May figures, instead choosing to focus on the benefits of the reduction to station-skipping.

“Of the more than 63,000 Metro services that operated in May, 48 services ran as unplanned express, representing 0.1% of Metro’s daily timetable this month,” he said.

Melbourne Metro delivered a total of 98.9% of its timetable in May, which is within the range it has delivered over the past 12 months. Service delivery peaked at 99.3% in June 2014, and has dipped as low as 98.5% in two months since then.

Level crossing removal project. Photo: Department of Transport Victoria

Gates added to notorious level crossing

While Victoria is working to remove many of its level crossings, it’s also working to make those it’s not removing safer.

Victorian minister for transport Jacinta Allan on Thursday announced the completion of a $554,000 project to insall boom gates at the level crossing on the Bendigo to Echuca rail line at the Midland Highway.

Allan said the upgrade will help control movement of cars and heavy vehicles as they pass through the crossing.

“There have been a number of near misses at this crossing in recent years,” Allan said. “It needed to be upgraded.

“The new boom gates will increase the awareness of motorists, improving their safety and the safety of local residents and rail passengers.

“The Andrews Labor Government is removing or improving level crossings across Victoria, to make our road and rail network safer.”

She said the local Bagshot community is now safer for the boom gates, which will reduce the risk of collisions, fatalities and injuries for local residents, road users and train passengers.

There have been a number of near misses between trains and vehicles at this specific level crossing over the last five years, the State Government said.