Melbourne to trial real-time crowding data

As part of an overhaul of the PTV app, Melbourne commuters will be able to see how full their train is before boarding.

The technology will first undergo a trial with a small group of public transport users on trains and buses in Melbourne.

Data will come from passenger counting sensors and predictive modelling technology and be fed into real-time updates displayed on the PTV app.

Victorian minister for Public Transport and Roads Ben Carroll said the trial will enable passengers to return to public transport safely.

“The coronavirus pandemic has presented an opportunity for us to rethink how we travel around the state – we want these passenger modelling trials to help people travel more reliably and safely,” he said.

“While everyone has been doing the right thing and staying home over the past few months, we’ve been hard at work to make Victorians’ journeys easier and safer as we move towards a COVID Normal world.”

In addition to crowding data, real-time location information on buses and trains will be communicated through the app.

The updated app will also allow travellers to top up their myki cards and view their balance.

New personalisation features include saving home and work locations, searching favourite journeys, stops, and stations, and improved journey planning capabilities for more predictable journeys.

The needs of blind and low-vision passengers have been incorporated in the app’s redesign, and VoiceOver and TalkBack capabilities enable the app to be fully accessible. Neil King, national manager digital access at Vision Australia said the functions would be welcomed by those with a disability.

“Public transport is vital for people with disability. The Department of Transport’s decision to consider accessibility at the outset of the design process means important public transport information is now fully available to all Victorians.”

Based on current trials and feedback further functionality may be added to the app in the future.

Metro

Rollingstock innovations keep Metro trains on track

Metro Trains Melbourne’s Comeng, Siemens and X’Trapolis fleets have undergone major maintenance to ensure the trains are kept to the highest standard and improve the experience for passengers.

Melbourne trains are being retrofitted with wireless data recorders to monitor key train systems, improve safety and reliability, and maintenance, enabling the trains are available to run on the network more often.

The On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system will give Metro engineers access to near real time data so they can monitor train performance, identify faults sooner, and maintain trains more efficiently.

Metro has recently installed the state-of-the-art technology on 174 three-carriage X’Trapolis train units.

The OBD project is being completed at the Newport rail workshops and has now moved on to the Siemens fleet.

The system is used to monitor everything including vibration in critical train bogie components, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, as well as passenger body-side doors, traction, auxiliary power supply, and passenger information systems.

This helps Metro diagnose and respond to potential issues sooner, reducing the risk of passengers being delayed by train faults.

Metro’s general manager of rolling stock, Dave Carlton said that Metro was completing a world first with this technology.

“We’re proud to be leading the largest-ever retrofit of remote condition monitoring equipment on an existing train fleet, globally,” he said.

“The data we collect from this technology is being shared across Metro, which benefits our operations, infrastructure and network development teams.”

Technical upgrades have also been carried out on the oldest vehicles in the Metro fleet. 75 per cent of the Comeng fleet, which in total numbers 179 trains are being overhauled, with passenger-facing and engineering improvements.

In 2017, a three-stage, $75 million upgrade project began, funded by the Victorian government.

Metro’s CEO Raymond O’Flaherty said the project will extend the life of the fleet.

“The Comeng fleet has served the people of Melbourne for almost 40 years, they are brilliant trains and they’ve certainly got more life left in them,” he said.

“We have very stringent maintenance programs for all our trains, that’s one of the reasons they are still so reliable. It’s also essential that we utilise all the technical advances that are available, and this life extension program makes sure that our passengers have the best possible experience on board.”

The life extension project has three stages, of which the first two are complete.

Stage one included critical-safety improvements to Comeng train doors – a feature now standard on all Metro trains.

Stage two was focused on the passenger experience, including rearranging and reupholstering seating, installing LED lights, new grab poles and straps, safer gang-way bellows, and new digital signage on the front of trains to give passengers destination information.

Upgrades have also been made to the driver’s instrument panel.

Stage three is the project’s final stage and is now almost complete. It involves upgrades to the passenger information system, with digital displays inside the carriages tracking the train’s journey in real-time.

Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said that upgrades would also increase safety for passengers, with new high definition CCTV cameras been fitted with a wider field of view that can be accessed remotely, which will support Metro and Victoria Police investigations.

“We can access camera footage remotely as soon as issues are reported – helping Metro and Victoria Police respond to incidents as quickly as possible and giving Victorians peace of mind that their journeys are safe.”

There are also improvements to hearing-aid links for people with additional needs and upgraded speakers for clearer on-board announcements.

On the engineering side, the trains’ air brakes are being overhauled, while the electrical relay panel and traction systems are being upgraded to support a safer journey.

For the Siemens fleet, Metro’s middle child, Metro partnered with accessibility group Vision Australia to support new safety upgrades for the Siemens fleet

New bellows were needed between carriages, which has instituted an “outer wall” that fills in the gap between the train and the platform.

By providing an exterior that is flat along the full length of the train, Metro has reduced the risk of falls for vision-impaired passengers who may mistake the gap for a door.

Since an upgrade program commenced in February this year, more than 20 per cent of Siemens trains have been upgraded with the new bellows.

As well as being safer for passengers, the upgrades also provide sound-proofing, making the carriages quieter for a more comfortable journey.

Together with Vision Australia, Metro used a mock-up train carriage to test the design to ensure it provided all the necessary safety features.

The mock-up train is used by Vision Australia to help familiarise vision-impaired passengers and enable them to move confidently around trains, while also teaching guide dogs how to navigate the network.

Carlton said this work was important for the community.

“The work we do to make sure our trains and stations are fully accessible for all our passengers is absolutely essential. Providing a public transport service means making sure that every person can use our network without limitation,” he said.

“These new gangways give us extra confidence that not only are we continuously improving safety, but we are improving the passenger experience. It’s not just about getting to your destination, it’s about getting to your destination as easily and comfortably as possible.”

A mock-up of a Siemens-class train for vision-impaired passengers.
V/Line

V/Line appoints acting CEO

V/Line has appointed Gary Liddle as acting CEO of V/Line.

Liddle will take over from Nick Foa, who stepped into the role after former CEO James Pinder was sacked.

Pinder was removed by Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll after Carroll was advised that the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) had launched an investigation.

Melbourne rail operator Metro Trains has stood down rollingstock manager Peter Bollas due to the same investigation.

Separately, V/Line has been taken to court by a cleaning contractor for alleged lack of payment between 2015 and 2018. Statements of claim have been lodged in the Victorian Supreme Court. V/Line said that it had received non-compliant invoices which led to the withholding of payment.

Liddle returns to V/Line having been enterprise professor of transport at the University of Melbourne. Before this role, Liddle was interim CEO of V/Line in 2016 and has also been CEO of VicRoads, and Public Transport Victoria.

V/Line board chair Gabrielle Bell said that Liddle will be a stabilising force within the regional passenger rail operator.

“Liddle returns to our organisation with extensive knowledge of our business, our customers, our challenges, and our opportunities. He will provide the leadership and support V/Line needs at this time.”

Liddle was brought in to V/Line in 2016 as the CEO at another troubled period for the operator. A safety incident in January 2016 saw a V/Line train failing to trigger a boom gate at a level crossing in Dandenong. This led to some services being prohibited from running on the Melbourne suburban network.

Foa will return to his role as head of transport services at the Victorian Department of Transport.

V/Line

V/Line CEO stood down

Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll has suspended V/Line CEO James Pinder.

Carroll made the decision due to advice from the Department of Transport that the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) had launched an investigation.

“On the basis of that advice, I directed the V/Line Board to immediately suspend Mr Pinder, while IBAC carries out its investigation,” said Carroll in a statement.

Nick Foa, who is currently head of transport services at the Department of Transport will step into Pinder’s role.

According to reports, IBAC is investigating the Department of Transport but is not providing any further information.

V/Line previously came to the attention of IBAC in its investigation into TAFE qualifications for workers.

V/Line and the Department of Transport were also subject to criticism by the Victorian Auditor-General over their handling of the Murray Basin Rail Project, with the stalled project having “not met scope, time, cost or quality expectations”.

Duplication

Victorian train stations to get a make-over

The Victorian government will spend $24 million upgrading 16 train stations around the state.

The program of works is funded through the $2.7 billion Building Works package, of which $328.4m is being spent on transport projects.

The upgrades to train stations will include new passenger information screens, public address equipment, and disability shelters. Money will also go towards extra car parks, toilets, and bicycle parking.

Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said that the projects would support jobs in a number of communities.

“We’re hitting the ground running with these projects – creating hundreds of new jobs in the coming months to support local communities across Victoria that need it most.”

The station upgrades follow regional track improvements which were announced in July, as well as maintenance works.

Stations to be upgraded include Heathmont, Frankston, Melton, and Moonee Ponds in the Melbourne metropolitan network, and Broadford, North Shore, and Lara on the regional network.

It is hoped that the distributed nature of the numerous small-scale projects can provide a boost to local economies that have struggled during coronavirus (COVID-19) related shutdowns.

In total, the works are expected to create and support over 600 jobs, according to Carroll.

“Every dollar spent as part of this extra investment will support jobs and families, and improve our public transport network for everyone who relies on it.”

Works are expected to start in October with tenders to be released in the coming months.

A full list of upgrades are below:

Aircraft Station Accessibility upgrades: Installation of handrails, upgrade existing DDA carparks, installation of two Raised Boarding Pads (RBPs) including rubber fingers at train door 1. Upgrades to the pedestrian crossing via new rubber track inserts. Platform canopy and seating upgrades.
Anstey Station Accessibility upgrades: Installation of handrails, upgrade existing DDA carparks, installation of two RBPs including rubber fingers at train door 1. Installation of new DDA shelters. Upgrades to the pedestrian crossing via new rubber track inserts. Platform canopy and seating upgrades.
Heathmont Station Accessibility upgrades: upgrade existing DDA car parks. Platform, canopy and seating, fencing, Tactile Ground Surface Indicators (TGSI) installation, lighting.
Huntingdale Station Passenger information displays (PIDs).
Moonee Ponds Station Accessibility upgrades: installation of handrails, upgrading DDA car parks, installation of two RPBs including rubber fingers at train door 1. Upgrades to the pedestrian crossing via new rubber track-inserts. Toilet refurbishment.
Royal Park Station Platform, canopy and seating upgrades, bicycle parking.
Jordanville Station Accessibility upgrades: Upgrade fourexisting DDA car parks. Platform, canopy and seating upgrades, installation of TGSI.  Bicycle parking.
Footscray Station Platform PA system.
South Kensington Station Platform, canopy and seating upgrades, TGSI installation.
Frankston Station Public toilet and landscaping at station entrance.
North Geelong Station Platform PA system, toilet refurbishment, platform canopy and seating, accessibility upgrades.
North Shore Safety upgrades (e.g. lighting, CCTV).
Kilmore East Station Platform PA system, toilet refurbishment, platform canopy, and seating upgrades.
Broadford Station Toilet refurbishment, platform canopy, and seating upgrades.
Lara Station Platform PA, platform canopy, and seating.
Melton Station General station upgrades, accessibility upgrades, DDA upgrades, fencing, install PIDs.

Transport upgrades for Building Works program announced

The Victorian government has detailed transport works that will receive funding as part of its $2.7 billion Building Works program.

Announced in May, programs to be carried out as part of the program include upgrades to regional freight and passenger lines.

$83 million will be spent on improving 400 kilometres of freight only rail lines by replacing sleepers, repairing ballast, and renewing level crossing equipment.

$36m will be spent on the maintenance of the V/Line Classic Fleet, to be carried out by Bombardier. This will support 20 jobs for engineers, repair workers, and cleaners to maintain the V/Line fleet.

$7.5m will go towards upgrades to track for the regional passenger network, enabling more reliable services Deer Park Junction to Ballarat, Ballarat to Ararat, Donnybrook to Seymour, Corio to Waurn Ponds and the Bendigo East Track.

Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said that the upgrades would enable more efficient connections between primary producers and export facilities.

“The upgrades will mean produce can be transported from farm to port much more quickly, opening up key markets to Victorian farmers,” she said.

“These investments in our rail freight network are part of our ongoing commitment to boost our export power and support regional jobs.”

Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said the improvements would provide more reliable services for regional travellers, connecting regional centres and localities.

“We’re building on our unprecedented investment in regional rail, and this maintenance blitz will be a boost for local jobs and keep Victoria moving as we recover from the coronavirus crisis.”

In addition to the announced measures, funding from the Building Works package has also been earmarked for the maintenance and restoration of trams. Other works also include improving stations and stops across Victoria and managing rail corridors through the removal of rubbish and graffiti and the management of vegetation.

Beaconsfield

New cark park to be built at Beaconsfield station

An extra 150 spaces will be added to Beaconsfield station, with a car park funded by the federal and Victorian governments.

The current 285-space car park at Beaconsfield station in the outer south east suburbs of Melbourne is often full by 7.30 in the morning, and over 250,000 commuters use the station each year. Commuters instead use nearby streets for parking.

Delivering the project are the Level Crossing Removal Project, Metro Trains Melbourne, and Fulton Hogan.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said that commuters on the Pakenham line would not only be the ones who benefit.

“More parking spaces at trains stations means more people on public transport and more cars off the road.

“Beaconsfield Station is one of 30 sites identified as high priority across Victoria and this will make a big difference in the lives of local people.”

The car park will be built on vacant state-owned land next to the existing car park and will feature improved lighting and CCTV. Bicycle parking will also be facilitated, with the installation of new amenities such as a Parkiteer and 16 additional bike hoops.

Victorian Minister for Public Transport, Roads and Road Safety Ben Carroll said that the investment would enable more people to use public transport.

“Victoria’s Big Build is revitalising transport in the south-east – we want all Victorians to be able to experience our huge investment in our transport infrastructure and be better connected than ever,” he said.

“The Victorian government is getting on with boosting capacity at station car parks that need it most – making sure everyone can use our public transport system without parking congestion being a barrier.”

Federal Member for La Trobe Jason Wood said that the upgrade was the first for an Urban Congestion Fund project in La Trobe.

Funding has also come from the federal Commuter Car Park Fund and the Victorian Car Parks for Commuters Fund.

Craigieburn parking underway

At Craigieburn, in Melbourne’s outer north, 745 new carparking spaces are under construction.

Member for Yuroke Ros Spence said that for the expanding area car parks meant more could travel via train.

“These new spaces will deliver a significant boost to car parking for Craigieburn Station and enable more people to access public transport in our rapidly growing community.”

The carpark is expected to be completed before the end of 2020 and will lift the total number of spaces at the station to over 1,000.

Surrounding streets will be improved to enable pedestrian access, as well as space for bicycles, lighting and CCTV.

E-Class Melbourne tram. Photo: Liam Davies

Major boost to train and tram services in Victoria

Victoria is adding hundreds of train and tram services across major train lines and key tram routes from Monday, July 13.

10 extra services per week will be added to the Sunbury, Craigieburn, Werribee, Mernda, Dandenong, Ringwood, and Glen Waverly lines, with an extra five services a week on the Hurstbridge line.

Once level crossing removal works on the Frankston line are complete on Monday, July 27, an extra 10 services a week will run on the Frankston and Sandringham lines.

On the tram network, two new peak period routes will be added. One will run during weekday peaks along St George’s Road, Brunswick Street, and Collins Street, while another will run for up to 19 hours every day between Victoria Harbour and St Vincent’s Plaza, also via Collins Street.

Route 30 will be replaced with route 12 to alleviate congestion on Collins Street, and will instead run on La Trobe Street.

The extra services are in part to reduce the chance of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) for those who do need to use the public transport system to travel, said Victorian Minister for Public Transport and Roads and Road Safety Ben Carroll.

“We’re adding hundreds of new train and tram services every week – giving Victorians the options to travel outside of the traditional peak hours and practice better physical distancing, keeping us all safer.”

In addition to the extra services, boarding via all doors on buses will be implemented over the next 18 months, to reduce crowding at bus stops, and contact will also be reduced with the end of cash payments on board buses from July 13.

Extra cleaners have also been deployed to the network to reduce the chance of the spread of infection.

“We’re grateful to our frontline public transport staff for keeping Victoria moving during the pandemic – these changes will keep them safer as they do their essential work,” said Carroll.

New public transport minister in Vic cabinet reshuffle

A reshuffle of minister in Victoria has seen changes within the transport portfolios.

Ben Carroll has been appointed Minister for Public Transport and Minister for Roads and Road Safety, taking the Public Transport portfolio from Melissa Horne.

Premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement that the former Minister for Crime Prevention, Corrections, Youth Justice, and Victim, support would be stepping forward.

“Ben Carroll will step into the frontline roles of Minister for Public Transport and Minister for Roads and Road Safety, continuing to ensure we have the reliable and integrated transport network we need to get Victorians home safer and sooner.”

Melissa Horne will continue as Minister for Ports and Freight and has added Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation to her portfolios.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan has retained her transport portfolio and added the title of Minister for the Suburban Rail Loop.

“Jacinta Allan will lead the delivery of our biggest public transport project and reshape our suburbs as the Minister for the Suburban Rail Loop. She will also continue to oversee Development Victoria and the key transport precincts of Arden, Sunshine and the Richmond to Flinders Street corridor,” said Andrews.

The ministerial reshuffle follows the removal of Adem Somyurek, Marlene Kairouz, and Robin Scott after the branch stacking scandal.

In a tweet, Allan said that she was proud to be Minister for Suburban Rail Loop.

“Victoria’s biggest ever project which will change the way we move around forever – creating 10,000s jobs during construction and more jobs and services in Melbourne’s suburbs.”