V/Line train. Photo: Victorian Government

11 rail commitments in Victorian Budget

Victorian transport minister Jacinta Allan has described the state’s 2015/16 Budget as “the biggest investment in public transport in Victoria’s history,” with as much as $6.32 billion committed to rail projects.

Allan said the Budget, which was handed down on Tuesday, lays the foundations for a public transport system able to move millions more people as Victoria grows into Australia’s most populous state.

“The Andrews Labor Government is investing in the transport projects that Victoria needs, so people can get to work and get back home to their families safer and sooner,” Allan said.

“This investment is a part of the Labor Government’s plan for a high-capacity, high-frequency train system where you don’t need a timetable – you just turn up and go.”

11 separate commitments directly relevant to rail are included in the 2015/16 Budget:

  1. $2.4 billion is committed to kick-start the Andrews Government’s planned removal of 50 of Victoria’s most dangerous and congested level crossings.The commitment will see the removal of at least 20 level crossings in the Government’s first term. If the Andrews Government lasts beyond that, and all 50 crossings are removed, the scheme will cost a total of between $5 and $6 billion.
  2. $2 billion  will be spent on 83 new trams and trains across the state’s metro and regional rail passenger networks. As announced on Monday, the funding will finance the delivery of:
    • 37 new high capacity metro trains ($1.3 billion)
    • 20 new E-Class trams ($274 million)
    • 21 new VLocity carriages ($257 million)
    • 5 new X’Trapolis trains ($90 million)
    • Maintenance and refurbishment to extend the life of the current Comeng train fleet ($75 million)
    • Extending the life of the B-Class Tram fleet ($21 million)
  3. $1.5 billion will go towards the first works to construct the Melbourne Metro Rail project. Premier Daniel Andrews made headlines in April by announcing the planned spending, which will go towards anticipated planning, design and significant early works for the project, which is expected to commence construction in 2018. The Melbourne Metro is expected to cost $9 to $11 billion to complete.
  4. Up to $220 million could go to the Murray Basin Rail project, once the business case for that project is finalised in coming months. $30 million has already been fast-tracked to this project, Allan said.
  5. $55.6 million is provided for Stage 1 of Victoria’s first trial of High-Capacity Signalling, set to be rolled out on the Sandringham line.
  6. $50.5 million is set aside to upgrade 52 level crossings
  7. $50 million has been committed to trial the Homesafe scheme – a plan for all night public transport on weekends, to begin on January 1, 2016. The Government says the plan is designed to get shift workers and late night travellers home safely.
  8. $18.8 million in funding is assigned to a road and rail minor works fund, intended to be used to pay for critical maintenance and improvements around the transport network.
  9. $13.1 million is committed to upgrade the Frankston Station precinct. $50 million is set to be made available for this project in future budgets, Allan said.
  10. $9 million is for the planning and preparation of the business case for the Mernda Rail Link, with remaining funds for the project to be assigned in future budgets.
  11. $2 million has been committed to the Bendigo Metro Rail Project.

All in all, the 2015/16 Budget commits to just over $6.3 billion in spending for rail or rail-related projects, but almost all of that spending sets the scene for even more state spending down the track. Projects like Melbourne Metro, the Rolling Stock plan, and the level crossing removal scheme will likely all see more money spent in coming years.

The Australasian Railway Association yesterday congratulated the Victorian Government for delivering “a strong, smart transport infrastructure plan that will not only future-proof the efficiency and productivity of the state’s heavy and light rail networks; but also provide greater certainty to local rolling stock manufacturers and suppliers”.

ARA’s new interim chairman, Bob Herbert, said the Budget was a clear sign that the state was listening to the rail industry.

“This announcement supports the ARA’s priority policies that were outlined to all the political parties prior to the Victorian election late last year, which included greater orders of rolling stock for metro and regional train services; acceleration of the renewal of Melbourne’s tram fleet with E-class light rail vehicles to meet growing demand; and a mandated 50 per cent local content in all rolling stock orders – all of which are outlined in this Budget,” Herbert said.

“Support from Government for our local rail manufacturing industry is imperative to its future, having watched the decimation of Australian rail manufacturing and the loss of jobs that goes with that over the past decade.

“This injection of funding in to the local rail manufacturing industry will ease ongoing pressures and enable industry to invest in new innovation and technologies as well as broaden the skill set of workers.”

Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Hunter Valley network on track; North Coast remains closed

The Australian Rail Track Corporation is still unable to operate serviced beyond Maitland, but main line operations for local passenger trains have returned to the Hunter network since it was closed last week due to flooding.

The ARTC said on Sunday night that the Hunter Valley network should be opened by Monday morning, but confirmed that the North Coast line would remain closed.

Following flooding and high winds last week, the ARTC shut the Hunter Valley network between Maitland and the Port of Newcastle, along with its North Coast network.

Initially the authority believed it could re-open the Hunter network on Friday last week, but flood waters were slow to retreat, and the ARTC announced a further closer to the Hunter network of 48 hours.

The ARTC said on Monday that it would be able to give a forecast for return to services between Maitland and the port sometime on Tuesday afternoon.

“With flood waters dropping over the weekend and improved weather conditions, ARTC teams have been able to make good progress with repairs to the track between the Port of Newcastle and Maitland,” the ARTC said.

A Pacific National test train was run on the track to de-scale the rail and ensure all repaired signaling and track circuitry was working properly.

“The Maitland flood gates remain up but water has been dropping at a rate that we expect the gates to be removed tomorrow morning,” the ARTC said.

“There are still sections of track with high water levels around Wallis Creek, and this will be the key area of focus for our team after the flood gates come down.

“Some parts of the network are still without power, and there remains a sizeable track repair and signalling repair job to take place over coming days.”

The ARTC said crews will continue to work through the week to return the track to normal operating conditions.

“Residents are advised that this will involve heavy track repair machines working around-the-clock conducting track resurfacing and rail grinding.

“This is essential to get the network back up and running and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

The corporation said it will continue to work with customers and the Hunter coal chain on an operational start up plan for coal, passenger and general freight that will take into account the need to meet passenger timetables, provide coal customers with access to the port, “and above all, safety”.

The North Coast network, which sustained substantial damage during last week’s extreme weather – including severe ballast washouts and several landslips – remains closed, with no forecast for re-opening yet offered by the ARTC.

Funding approved for first stage of ATMS implementation

Australia’s rail and logistics industries have welcomed the Federal Government’s approval of the $15.5 million first tranche of funding towards the implementation of the Advanced Train Management System project.

Deputy prime minister and minister for infrastructure and regional development Warren Truss announced the funding approval on Tuesday morning.

Viewed as the next development in rail communication and management, the Australian Rail Track Corporation says the implementation of ATMS will see modern technology to significantly upgrade capabilities of the Australian rail industry.

According to the ARTC, the ATMS will:

  1. Replace trackside signalling with in-locomotive displays of authorities to drivers
  2. Provide precise location of trains both front and rear
  3. Provide new digital network control centres, each capable of controlling all traffic on the ARTC national network
  4. Provide a back up capability in the event of failure at one control centre
  5. Provide enforcement of authorities on each locomotive if a train is at risk of exceeding its authority
  6. Provide switch settings and automatic route clearances
  7. Provide information (voice and data) to all locomotives via the Telstra 3G National Network.

“ATMS uses GPS navigation, broadband communications and state-of-the-art computer technology to locate and route trains in real time, allowing trains to operate more safely and closer together,” Truss said on Tuesday.

“ATMS will further improve the reliability of our national rail network, increasing on-time performance and safety. It will also increase capacity for the movement of freight across the nation, boosting the productivity of our industries.”

Truss said the Australian Government has committed $50 million to start the roll out of ATMS across Australia, with trains operating between Whyalla and Port Augusta in South Australia set to be the first to implement ATMS as part of stage one of the project.

ARTC chief executive and managing director John Fullerton said ATMS will transform the industry.

“ATMS will be gradually scaled up in a live but safe operational environment so the system’s full capabilities can be tested,” Fullerton said.

“Initial trials commenced in January 2015 and so far two locomotives that travel between Port Augusta and Whyalla have been fitted with in-cab ATMS equipment.

“Planning is already underway for the next set of trials which will involve further consultation with the end users of the system, rail operators. These trials are expected to commence later this year.

“The system is custom-engineered technology and will transform the way freight rail infrastructure is managed and monitored across the country.”

The first stage of implementation is being jointly delivered by ARTC and Lockheed Martin Australia.

Australasian Railway Association chief executive officer Bryan Nye welcomed the news.

“ATMS is designed to improve rail network capacity and reliability, through a communication based train management system that allows network controllers and the train drivers to operate in closer proximity than ever before and to be assured that they are doing it safely,” Nye said.

“ATMS is the cornerstone technology that will boost improved communications and digitalisation in the rail industry.”

Nye said the system would allow the industry to get the most out of existing infrastructure, reducing the need to construct new or upgraded track infrastructure.

“It is incredibly important as it allows for a safer, more cost and time efficient and ultimately more productive system that will benefit not only the Australian rail industry but also the nation’s economy given the forecasted increasing freight task,” he added.

Australian Logistics Council managing director Michael Kilgariff also welcomed the news, saying it meant 21st Century technologies would be harnessed to maximise freight efficiency.

“Economic analysis undertaken by ALC shows productivity boosting initiatives, such as the ATMS project, will deliver broader economic benefits in the billions of dollars.”

According to an ALC report released in July 2014, a 1% improvement in efficiency in the rail sector can generate $2 billion in gains for the economy every year.

“Future-focused technology, like ATMS, enhances the capacity for industry to transport products around Australia’s rail system more efficiently and safely,” Kilgariff said.

PTV's new tramTRACKER system on the Yarra Trams network. Photo: Yarra Trams

PTV rolls out tramTRACKER to 50 more stops

The successful trial of a solar-powered arrival prediction system for Public Transport Victoria’s Yarra Trams  network has resulted in the addition of the mini units to 50 more stops.

PTV installed tramTRACKER units at nine tram spots on the Melbourne network in 2014, and found they resulted in “a high degree of satisfaction” among customers.

“The success of this trial meant funding approval from PTV for a further 50 tram stops,” the company said this morning.

The tramTRACKER live arrival prediction screens are designed to deliver information on the next arriving trams in real time. They include voice options for visually impaired customers, alerts for planned or unplanned disruptions and advice on which trams are low-floor for easy access.

PTV says the units are suited to fit all of its tram stops, while solar power was chosen to improve network sustainability.

Installation of the 50 new devices was completed at the end of March.

PTV also recently installed 30 new remote PA units, after 10 such units were successfully trialled on Collins Street last year.

The PA units allow operator Yarra Trams to broadcast live to passengers at tram stops across the CBD. Typical announcements include safety reminders, information about extra trams to special events, and service disruption information.

PTV chief executive Mark Wild said the authority was committed to improving customer experience across its networks.

“Real-time information provided by these innovations helps customers make more informed decisions about their travel options,” Wild said.

Yarra Trams chief Clément Michel said the tramTRACKER mini units provide a lower cost option to many alternatives.

“tramTRACKER mini uses existing passenger information infrastructure found at tram stops which has been used for many years,” Michel explained.

“The design of tramTRACKER mini includes a number of anti-vandal features and provides automatic alerts back to the Operations Centre when the data feed cannot be found.

“Customers surveyed thought this was a great way to provide live disruption information at tram stops.”

The new PA systems, Michel added, will provide an extra level of quality customer experience.

“Live announcements will mean customers receive more detailed information than is possible through digital information displays at the stop,” he said.

“They will provide updates on the status of the disruption and alternative travel options where possible.”

tramTRACKER mini units are now located at the following tram stops:

Bridge Road at:

  • Bosisto Street
  • Church Street
  • Richmond Town Hall
  • Coppin Street
  • Burnley Street
  • Yarra Boulevard

Brunswick Street at:

  • Fitzroy Bowling Club
  • Gertrude Street
  • Johnston Street
  • Hanover Street
  • Leicester Street
  • Newry Street
  • Alexandra Parade

Burwood Road at

  • St James Park
  • Hawthorn Station

Gertrude Street at:

  • Brunswick Street
  • Napier Street

Gisborne Street at:

  • Albert Street

Queens Parade at:

  • Clifton Hill Interchange

Smith Street at:

  • Johnston Street
  • Rose Street
  • Gertrude Street
  • Peel Street
  • Keele Street
  • Alexandra Parade

Swan Street at:

  • Lennox Street
  • Church Street
  • Edinburg Street
  • Burnley Street
  • Stawell Street
  • Madden Grove
  • Punt Road
  • Richmond Station

Toorak Road at:

  • South Yarra Station

Victoria Street at:

  • North Richmond Station
  • Nicholson Street
  • Church Street
  • Flockhart Street
  • McKay Street
  • Leslie Street

Wellington Parade at:

  • Lansdowne Street
  • Simpson Street
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.

Cranbourne-Pakenham Upgrade. Graphic: Labor Victoria

Labor replaces ‘Liberal con’ plan for Cranbourne-Pakenham with its own

Victoria’s new Labor Government has dropped the former Liberal Government’s $2.5 billion upgrade proposal for the Cranbourne-Pakenham line, and has launched an upgrade plan of its own.

The Andrews Government announced on Tuesday that it will not proceed with the existing proposal for the Cranbourne-Pakenham line, which it said “was brought to the previous government as a complex unsolicited bid by a private sector consortium”.

Labor said the plan “didn’t go far enough and couldn’t even deliver what the Liberals had promised,” and said it estimated the project costs would blow out to $3.1 billion – $600 million more than the plan estimated.

“The Liberals promised billions of taxpayer dollars to a private sector consortium without knowing if the project would even work,” state treasurer Tim Pallas said.

“The Liberals lied about their own project, disregarded their own process, and came close to blowing billions of taxpayer dollars on a proposal that didn’t stack up.”

Minister for public transport Jacinta Allan added: “The unsolicited bid was riddled with problems. It wasn’t up to scratch and didn’t go far enough. We’re getting on with a bigger and better plan.”

Private consortium members MTR, John Holland Rail and UGL will reportedly be paid $30 million in compensation, and the Andrews Government will buy their intellectual property for the upgrade to the line.

The new plan will see 37 new trains added to the line, with 50% of their construction to take place in Australia.

Nine level crossings will be removed between Dandenong and Caulfield, and four stations will be rebuilt: Clayton, Carnegie, Murrumbeena and Hughesdale.

A new train depot and maintenance facility will be put in Pakenham, and new and upgraded rail infrastructure will be installed in the corridor, including power and signalling upgrades.

“Fewer level crossings and more trains means fewer delays and more services, every single day,” Allan said. “It will transform Melbourne’s busiest rail line.

“Removing level crossings will create Victorian jobs. Building trains locally will protect Victorian jobs. This helps our transport system and our economy.”

Premier Andrews said: “I live in the south-east so I know the level crossings nightmare all too well.

“The boom gates between Dandenong and Caulfield stay down for up to 80 minutes over the morning peak. If we don’t act now, transport in the south-east will eventually grind to a halt.

“We’re removing 50 of our most dangerous and congested level crossings, to get people home safer and sooner.”

Parramatta Station

Network struggles force Baird to offer only modest rail promise

NSW premier Mike Baird and transport minister Gladys Berejiklian have promised two extra express services in the morning on the train line between Parramatta and the City, but say they will have to upgrade the network before that can be delivered.

Baird and Berejiklian on Monday vowed to invest in new infrastructure, signalling and power supply in Western Sydney, allowing for the extra train services, but Berejiklian later told the media that this would likely mean the extra services – two each morning; totalling ten a week – wouldn’t be online until 2016 or 2017.

“We’re focused on improving the lives of people across NSW and a priority is delivering fast, reliable and convenient public transport services,” Baird said.

“Labor slashed hundreds of rail services in government and left public transport in a complete mess.”

Baird explained that “significant infrastructure” is needed to deliver the additional train services, including upgrading signalling between Westmead and Granville, power upgrades and more tracks at Parramatta for extra trains. Work is expected to take two to three years.

Berejiklian said these projects make up the first stage of the Western Sydney Rail Upgrade Program, a multi-billion dollar project promised by the Baird Government which will deliver more trains services to Western Sydney.

“The additional express services are just the beginning of benefits that will be realised through the government’s plans,” Berejiklian said.

“A fast-tracked Second Harbour Crossing and Western Sydney Rail upgrade will allow us to deliver a 60% increase in capacity throughout the network, moving an extra 100,000 people per hour.”

Member for Parramatta Geoff Lee said the extra express train services from Parramatta to the CBD will no doubt be extremely popular with locals.

“This is fantastic news for the Parramatta community – I know so many people will benefit from these express services and have more time to spend with family and friends,” Lee said.

“The Baird Government has delivered major improvements across public transport and we are listening to the community and will continue to deliver what they want.”

‘Near miss’ videos aim to shock

British Transport Police has made waves online with its new YouTube series featuring near misses around rail level crossings in the UK, as part of a new campaign to raise awareness to the dangers of rail.

‘Operation Look’ is the BTP’s program aimed at reducing the amount of accidents and near misses that occur every year at level crossings in Britain.

BTP’s YouTube channel has received thousands of views so far this week, as it has uploaded a number of videos from CCTV and other cameras, which have captured nearly catastrophic near-misses at rail crossings.

The series can be viewed here.

Also as part of Operation Look, BTP officers will be carrying out additional high-visibility patrols at a number of locations this week, but it’s BTP’s YouTube channel which is getting more attention.

During 2014, 337 motorists failed to obey warning lights or lowering barriers at level crossings in Scotland alone – where the BTP is focusing its awareness operation.

“Many of these drivers had got into the habit of deliberately misusing crossings, with figures showing people of all ages willing to risk their lives to shave a few minutes off their journey,” BTP said.

BTP’s inspector Becky Warren said: “All too often people get into the habit of taking risks at crossings and our message is simple. Use crossings safely.

“It may be tempting to jump a light to shave a minute or two off your journey, but every time you do, you endanger your life and the lives of other road and rail users. Fail to obey the signals and you may also end up with a driving ban or a criminal record. Is it really worth the risk?”

“Level crossings create a risk for people that we want to remove. Where possible we close them, and we have already closed more than 900 in the past five years,” said Darren Furness, head of level crossings for Network Rail, which is joining BTP in the awareness campaign.

“Those we cannot close we aim to make safer and awareness events like these mean we can meet and talk to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians about the dangers and how to stay safe.”

Recognising 40 years of railway innovation

Australia’s premier applied research centre in railway technology last week celebrated four decades of innovative solutions in mining and commuter rail systems.

A Celebration of 40 Years of Railway Research andTechnology was held last Thursday at the Park Hyatt, Melbourne, to celebrate the 40 years of railway research and technology by Monash University’s Institute of Railway Technology (IRT).

Originally part of research activities undertaken for the companies now known as BHP Billiton Iron Ore and Rio Tinto Iron Ore, IRT is now an applied research centre at Monash University. It provides technical assistance to the world’s three biggest iron ore producers, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Vale (Brazil), and more than 90 other railway entities, including leading commuter rail authorities.

IRT, which has clients in several countries, specialises in providing comprehensive solutions to technical issues in existing rail systems, whether they transport iron ore, freight or commuters. IRT is also a leader in remotely monitoring tracks and rolling stock using cutting-edge technology to detect faults before catastrophic failures occur.

Monash University’s senior deputy vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor (research) Professor Edwina Cornish, congratulated IRT on leading the Australian railway technology field for four decades.

“The Institute of Railway Technology is a great example of how universities and industry can collaborate to develop solutions that drive technology forward,” Prof Cornish said.

“IRT was born out of industry need and now real-world problems continue to drive its agenda.”

Director of IRT, Ravi Ravitharan, said the institute was set to build on its success.

“IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements of the rail industry,” Ravitharan said.

“Being part of Australia’s largest university, IRT is well-placed to continue to lead the railway research and technology needs of the rejuvenated railway industry.”

The Victorian minister for public transport Terry Mulder, delivered the keynote address at the gala dinner and general manager of infrastructure at the Hong Kong rail authority MTR, Richard Keefe, and rail engineering manager at Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Leland LeBreton, both long term clients of IRT, also spoke at the event.

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | Newcastle City Hall
www.informa.com.au/heavyhaulrail

Wireless technology boosts Tasmanian level crossing safety

An intelligent wireless advance warning and safety system, SafeZone, that is beyond Australian safety standards has been installed at 13 level crossings across Tasmania.

The Federally funded $4m project, delivered by the Tasmanian Government in conjunction with TasRail, provides wireless roadside active advance warning signs with twin flashing lights around 200-300 metres in advance of the level crossings, and in-road centreline alert beacons between the advance warning sign and the crossing.

Australian company, Inventis Technology, which developed SafeZone over the past two years, said the key to the technology was that it addressed basic human behaviour, rather than being a variant on existing static roadside or over-road signs.

Inventis Technology national sales manager Peter Macarthur said the key to SafeZone was that it addressed basic human behaviour, rather than being a variant on existing static roadside or over-road signs.

“SafeZone places the key element of a warning system in a driver’s and their passengers’ field of vision where it is more likely to be acknowledged. It more instinctively ‘switches on’ a person’s ‘alert state’,” Macarthur said.

“By doing this repeatedly and in plenty of time to elicit a response, SafeZone is hoped to become an important part of the rail safety improvement in all states.”

Macarthur said that discussions are underway with a number of transport authorities to deploy thetechnology for use at dangerous level crossings and the overhwleming response has been that thetechnology fits well with current holistic, integrated approaches to safety improvement.

“Now is the time for Australian Transport Council members and representatives to truly assess for themselves the safety and behavioural impact SafeZone is having on road and rail users in Tasmania,” Macarthur said.

SafeZone been installed at level crossings across Tasmania including Tea Tree, Evandale, Perth, Conara, Colebrook, Avoca, Ormley, Burnie, Highclere and Hampshire.