Sydney Train

Build trains locally and create thousands of jobs: Weld Australia

There is the potential for thousands of jobs to be created in Australia and to support the country’s economic recovery from COVID-19 if more trains were built locally, according to CEO of Weld Australia, Geoff Crittenden.

Reforming procurement practices in Australia would have deep benefits for local and national comments, said Crittenden who leads Weld Australia, the peak body for welders in Australia.

“State government rail procurement practices that support local welders and fabricators would create thousands of jobs, supporting local families and local economies in a post COVID-19 world. It would facilitate technology transfer and drive some of the world’s most innovative research and development,” said Crittenden.

The call for local manufacturing follows the NSW government’s dismissal of the talents of local rail manufacturers, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying that Australians were “not good at building trains” and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance train manufacturing does not exist in Australia.

While Crittenden highlighted that Australia and NSW has a heritage of building technically advanced train fleets, he also pointed to the potential for future improvements.

“With a long-term procurement commitment from the state governments, rail industry manufacturers would have the confidence to reinvest in their own capabilities, strengthening the industry from within. This type of business innovation strengthens businesses and creates new and better jobs, which together support a move to higher living standards. Innovation investment by business is crucial to our ongoing prosperity. It would make Australia home to a world-leading rail industry, with the capability to build and export superior quality trains.”

Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing and Senator for Western Australia Louise Pratt said that Commonwealth funding should be directed towards local manufacturing, including rail.

“As COVID-19 has highlighted how sensitive we are to global supply chains and as unemployment is rising, particularly in regional areas, now more than ever we need a plan for manufacturing which includes rail.”

With an extensive local maintenance and repair industry, the cost of whole of life support means that it makes sense to build more trains locally, according to Crittenden.

“If our state governments adopted a nationally consistent procurement process that considered whole of life costs and prioritised local content, not only would it create thousands of jobs, it would deliver better quality public transport. Locally fabricated trains would adhere to all relevant Australian and international Standards, reducing expensive rework and repair. Cheap imports from overseas often cost more in the long run,” he said.

Having more consistent procurement standards between different states would improve the competitiveness of Australia-based manufacturers, highlighted Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie.

“We have long been calling for a national procurement process for rail manufacturing to give the industry greater scale, promote efficiency and create more local jobs which are supported by advanced manufacturing techniques from industry.”

In a tendering framework released in May, the ARA said that greater harmonisation of specifications was one area that would reduce the cost of tendering in Australia.

Berejiklian criticised for NSW train manufacturing comments

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been criticised for comments that local manufacturers of rollingstock are not up to scratch.

On Wednesday, August 26, Berejiklian said at a media conference, “Australia and New South Wales are not good at building trains, that’s why we have to purchase them.”

The comments drew immediate push back from the NSW Labor party, with deputy leader Yasmin Catley saying that NSW should be investing more in locally manufactured public transport vehicles.

“Instead of running down our local industries at press conferences, Gladys Berejiklian should be giving them the opportunity to build our new ferries and trains,” Catley said.

Minister for Transport Andrew Constance backed his leader’s comments, reportedly estimating the cost difference at 25 per cent more for locally manufactured trains, due to higher energy, labour, and raw material costs.

“I think most people know the car industry, the train industry, in terms of manufacturing here in Australia; we don’t have it, and there’s a reason for it,” said Constance.

Following these remarks, the NSW Labor leader, Jodi McKay announced that Labor would introduce a NSW Jobs First Bill, which would require tenderers on government contracts to support NSW jobs and industries.

The dispute has come as NSW puts the first of its second order of Chinese-manufactured Waratah Series 2 trains into service. The Korean-made New Intercity Fleet, which are replacing the Western Sydney-made V-Set and allowing the Newcastle-made H-Set to enter suburban service, are also in the early testing stage.

CEO of the Australasian Railway Association Caroline Wilkie said a national procurement process would enable locally-built trains to become more competitive with their overseas counterparts.

“The NSW Government’s procurement choices have eroded the manufacturing sector and make it harder for local operators to compete,” said Wilkie.

“Better coordination with their counterparts in other states and territories would see more trains manufactured locally and improve efficiencies and cost profiles across the life of the asset.”

Wilkie noted that only looking at the upfront cost of purchasing rollingstock ignored the cost of lifecycle support, and a whole of life cost approach should be taken.

In 2019, the Western Australia government signed an agreement with Alstom to manufacture 246 railcars in Bellevue, in eastern Perth. The contract will see at least 50 per cent of the railcars built locally and 30 years of maintenance. Announced in December 2019, the contract was $347 million under the $1.6 billion budget.

Wilkie said that with overseas trade and travel limited due to COVID-19, the value of local manufacturing was greater than ever.

“A nationally consistent procurement process would benefit both state government purchasers and the rail manufacturing industry itself,” she said.

“The NSW government says it is open to working with other state governments and industry to strengthen and standardise procurement processes – it’s now time for them to act.”

Waratah

New Waratah Series 2 train in service 3 months ahead of schedule

The first of a second order of Waratah Series 2 trains has entered service this week, three months ahead of schedule.

The train is one of 17 Waratah Series 2 trains that will begin operating on the Sydney network as part of the second delivery. The rest are expected to commence service later in 2020 and early 2021, said Minister for Transport Andrew Constance.

“It is exciting to see this train on the tracks three months ahead of schedule, after it was one of 17 fast tracked for delivery at the start of 2019,” said Constance.

“The remainder of the trains will be delivered by the end of this year and will be rolled out progressively after testing.”

The investment in new rollingstock is part of the NSW government’s More Trains More Services program. The program also covers upgrades to signalling, the installation of new train control systems, traffic managements systems, and infrastructure improvements.

The $4.3 billion investment will increase the capacity of the current Sydney network to allow for further growth in passenger demand as seen over the past years, said Constance.

“We have seen rapid growth in the number of train journeys over the past few years, which is why it is so important that we invest in new trains and new infrastructure right across our rail network.”

Sydney Trains acting chief executive Suzanne Holden said the new trains would feature similar passenger-focused upgrades as those in the first delivery.

“They’ll feature air conditioning with advanced temperature control, high definition customer information screens, internal and external CCTV, as well as priority seating, wheelchair spaces and hearing aid loops,” she said.

The new trains will operate on the T2 Inner West & Leppington, T3 Bankstown, and T8 Airport & South lines.

The rest of the fleet will be delivered before the end of 2020. Once in Australia the trains will undergo testing and commissioning.

CCTV

AI trained on CCTV footage to be used to fight harassment and violence on public transport

Artificial intelligence (AI) will be applied to CCTV footage from cameras on the Sydney train network to detect threatening behaviours.

The trial is the result of Transport for NSW’s Safety After Dark Innovation Challenge, which sought initiatives to improve safety for women travelling on public transport.

The AI CCTV solution was proposed by the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility. The software would automatically analyse real-time footage and alert an operator when it detect a suspicious incident or unsafe environment.

Lead researcher John Barthelemy said the software could be applied in a number of ways.

“The AI will be trained to detect incidents such as people fighting, a group of agitated persons, people following someone else, and arguments or other abnormal behaviour,” he said.

“It can also identify an unsafe environment, such as where there is a lack of lighting. The system will then alert a human operator who can quickly react if there is an issue.”

The project is based on PhD student Yan Qian’s research that is using computer vision across multiple cameras to improve understandings of traffic and pedestrian movements.

“We are using open-source code that tries to estimate the poses of a human being and predict if there’s a fight,” she said.

“As far as we know, nothing like this has been attempted globally. We are pushing the limits of the technology.”

Other successful projects came from data sharing platform She’s a Crowd, safety technology vendors Guardian LifeStream and Cardno/UNSW.

Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said that transport operators had an obligation to improve the experience of travelling on their networks.

“We want all our customers to feel safe on the network and it is not good enough that 9 out of 10 Australian women experience harassment on the street and modify their behaviour in response,” Constance said.

“The winners were chosen for their potential to meaningfully address real safety issues, and their ability to use creative and sophisticated new technologies to make a real difference.”

Construction work on NSW rail facilities pass major milestones

The new maintenance facility to serve NSW’s New Intercity Fleet (NIF) regional trains and utility relocation for the Parramatta Light Rail have been completed.

The maintenance facility, located at Kangy Angy on the NSW central coast, includes six kilometres of electric rail lines, spread across seven tracks at its widest point, as well as a rail bridge, access roads, offices and amenities.

Constructed by John Holland for Transport for NSW, the maintenance facility will be operated by UGL Rail as part of the RailConnect consortium which has built, designed, and will maintain the new fleet.

UGL is now hiring staff for the facility, said Minister for Transport Andrew Constance.

“The maintenance facility has created employment, skills development and business opportunities on the Central Coast during construction and that will all continue into operation,” he said.

Testing of the NIF fleet has begun in Australia on the Blue Mountains with three trains having arrived so far. A total fleet of 55 trains with 554 carriages will be delivered to NSW and maintained from the facility at Kangy Angy.

In Parramatta, work is continuing on the construction of the Parramatta Light Rail. A micro tunnelling machine is boring 10 metres a day under Church Street, in the Parramatta CBD, also known as Eat Street.

Program director Anand Thomas said that since February 2020, 300 utilities have been identified and relocated to allow for the streets to be prepared for the light rail line.

“The relocation of utilities in Eat Street, including high-voltage power cables that power the CBD, Sydney water mains, Jemena gas crossings, 500 metres of stormwater pipes and thousands of metres of conduit, is complete,” said Thomas.

“This is a major achievement that enables us to get on with the all-important job of building the network.”

Work to install street lights, tree pits, and drainage on Church Street is continuing ahead of the reopening of the street on November 1 for a three month period.

“From 1 November 2020, as part of our commitment to the community, construction on Eat Street will cease, hoardings will come down, outdoor dining will be temporarily restored and we will deliver activities and events to attract people to the CBD,” said Thomas.

TMS supplier selected for Digital Systems program

Siemens has been announced as the successful tenderer for the supply of a new Traffic Management System (TMS) for Sydney Trains.

The TMS is part of Transport for NSW’s Digital Systems program, which involves the replacement of traditional signalling with European Train Control System (ETCS) level 2 in-cab signalling. The program also involves the implementation of Automatic Train Operation (ATO) to assist drivers to provide reduced and more consistent journey times.

The $80 million TMS will continually monitor the position of all trains, to ensure trains run as scheduled and to assist with responses if incidents do occur.

Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said that the TMS would improve the Sydney Trains network.

“This is an important step in the process of upgrading our network with internationally proven technology that boosts safety, capacity, reliability and enhances the customer experience,” said Constance.

“Sydney’s heavy rail network is the backbone of our public transport system and it’s crucial we have the latest systems and technology available to serve our customers well into the future.”

The TMS will be operated from the Rail Operations Centre (ROC) in Alexandria, and integrate with other operational systems used by Sydney Trains.

The first deployment of Digital Systems will be on the T4 line from Sutherland to Cronulla and Bondi Junction to Redfern. The deployment of the system to other parts of the network is currently being planned.

Once the system is fully rolled out across the Sydney network in the 2030s, Digital Systems will allow for greater utilisation of the rail network, more reliable services, reduced journey times, and enhanced real-time information.

Rail line at Port Botany. Photo: Sydney Ports Corporation / Brendan Read

Botany duplication and Cabramatta loop approved

The NSW government has given planning approval for the Botany Rail Duplication and the Cabramatta Passing Loop.

Both projects will be delivered by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) with shortlisted contractor expected to be invited to tender shortly, Peter Winder, group executive Interstate Network at ARTC.

“These two landmark projects will encourage a shift in freight share from road to rail, to help rail carry more of Sydney’s freight growth and associated traffic congestion and support growth in the containerised freight task and port-shuttle rail services between Port Botany and intermodal terminals such as at Enfield, Moorebank, Minto and Chullora.”

The project will allow for freight trains up to 1,300 metres in length to pass between Cabramatta and Warwick Farm and enable Port Botany to handle increasing freight loads by rail, said Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance.

“As the state’s largest container port, the efficient operation of Port Botany is critical. Forecasts predict a whopping 77 per cent increase in the amount of freight it handles from 14.4 million tonnes in 2016 to 25.5 million tonnes by 2036.”

The dual projects were one of a number of NSW rail projects that received fast-tracked planning approvals. According to Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole the projects will allow more freight to be carried by rail.

“These projects are crucial because more freight is moved on rail lines and congestion is busted with fewer trucks on our roads,” he said.

“This project will not only provide new rail infrastructure but will inject around $400 million into the economy and create around 500 local jobs during construction.”

The Cabramatta Loop will be completed by mid-2023 and the Botany Rail Duplication will be completed by late 2024.

Australian Logistics Council CEO Kirk Coningham welcomed the announcement.

“Duplicating the remaining 2.9-kilometre single track section of the Botany Line between Mascot and Botany and constructing a new passing loop on the Southern Sydney Freight Line at Cabramatta will inject greater efficiency and capacity into the freight network and help to meet NSW’s growing freight demands,” he said.

“The delivery of these projects by the Australian Rail Track Corporation will further encourage freight owners to transport more containers by rail and will build on significant investments NSW Ports has already made to increase port-side rail capacity.”

Sydney Metro seeking industry contribution to potential Pyrmont station

The NSW government is increasingly closing in on confirming Pyrmont as a station for the new Sydney Metro West line, which will run from Westmead via Parramatta to the Sydney CBD.

While stations have been confirmed at Westmead, Parramatta, Sydney Olympic Park, North Strathfield, Burwood North, Five Doc and The Bays in Rozelle, a question mark has hung over a station in Pyrmont.

This week, Sydney Metro released an invitation to participate to the private sector for a potential Metro station at Pyrmont. The market engagement process aims to provide feedback on the scope for financial and/or non-financial contribution from the private sector and/or commercial beneficiaries to a station in Pyrmont.

The engagement will include written submissions and one-on-one meetings with selected participants. The invitation to respond names landowners, business, other private sector and commercial entities as potential participants.

This engagement with the private sector follows the release of a planning strategy for the Pyrmont Peninsula, which includes multiple mentions of a potential station. The station would support the strategy’s vision for a connected and low-carbon peninsula. The strategy hopes to realise the benefits of a new station by making Pyrmont a “destination, rather than a point where journeys start”.

Announcing the strategy on July 31, Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said that options were still being considered for the station.

“We’re still working through the potential for a Metro station in Pyrmont, but it has progressed to the next stage of the process.”

A new Metro station has previously been touted as a way to extend the Sydney CBD and connect the two peninsulas.

Constance said that further connections to Western Sydney would be required.

“Connecting Pyrmont with Western Sydney would encourage jobs, investment and economic growth. My job is to ensure the area is easily accessible and has the right transport options in place.”

Westmead

Preparations underway for light rail to Westmead

Work to enable light rail to run to Westmead health precinct in Western Sydney is underway, with major construction having begun.

Once complete, the light rail line will link Westmead hospital with Western Sydney University at Westmead station and Parramatta, before travelling on to Carlingford via Rydalmere.

Construction has been ongoing for the project in the Parramatta CBD and the conversion of the existing Carlingford heavy rail line to light rail.

The development of the transport link is in line with the construction of the Westmead health precinct, for which accessibility is a key feature, said Minister for Transport Andrew Constance.

“The precinct will cater to more than 40,000 full-time staff and 30,000 students by 2036 and building this type of infrastructure will be key to our economic recovery and will help get people back to work, important parts of the NSW Government’s COVID Recovery Plan,” he said.

“It’s vital we have strong public transport infrastructure in place to support this growth and deliver this legacy project for future generations.”

Early road works including the widening of Hawkesbury Road have been completed, and the next steps will include removing the road surface, replacing underground utilities, and rebuilding the road.

During the lockdown period, extra work has been completed on the Parramatta Light Rail project. In North Parramatta O’Connell street has been widened and George Street in the Parramatta CBD has been turned into a two-way road.

“While not directly on the light rail route, these road network upgrades will now provide
additional capacity for commuters in and around the CBD, and help to minimise disruption
for the people of Parramatta during construction,” said Constance.

New Intercity Fleet

Blue Mountains Line ready for New Intercity Fleet

Upgrades to the Blue Mountains line to prepare for the introduction of the New Intercity Fleet are finished.

The $75 million upgrades included changes to platforms and the rail corridor, including the Ten Tunnels Deviation. Electrification infrastructure was also upgraded to be consistent with the rest of the network.

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said that this would allow improved train services for the line.

“The Blue Mountains Line between Springwood and Lithgow has now been upgraded to a more consistent standard to match the rest of the electrified network, meaning the new trains can now run all the way to Lithgow,” he said.

“These upgrades will pave the way for the new fleet to provide better connections to places and opportunities for employment, education, business and enjoyment.”

The New Intercity Fleet will first begin running on the Central Coast and Newcastle line later in 2020, before being introduced to the Blue Mountains line and South Coast line. Testing will soon begin to Katoomba and then to Lithgow.

The new trains will improve customer comfort, said Minister for Regional Transport Paul Toole.

“Customers can expect more spacious seating, mobile device charging ports, modern heating and air conditioning and dedicated spaces for wheelchairs, luggage, prams and bicycles.”

The introduction of the New Intercity Fleet has been criticised, both for the need to upgrade stations to fit the new trains, as well as safety concerns raised by guards, with the RTBU refusing to staff the trains.