Maintenance works to begin on north west Victorian regional network

November will see a maintenance blitz on the Bendigo, Swan Hill, and Echuca lines to enable more reliable services to north west Victoria.

The $4m works will include track and signalling maintenance across all three lines, as well as safety upgrades at level crossings on the Swan Hill line.

Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said that works had been aligned with upgrades to the Sunbury Line and Metro Tunnel works to reduce disruption.

“We’ve done months of planning to make sure we get as much done as possible while minimising the disruption for passengers,” he said.

“The safety of the community is our number one priority, which is why we’re working to upgrade level crossings and road intersections across the state.”

Near Kerang, train detection technology will be upgraded and boom barriers added to crossings at Murray, Victoria, Vaughan, and Wellington streets.

On the Bendigo line, ballast and drainage will be improved, culvert maintenance will be carried out in Clarkefield and the track and road surface will be renewed at the Ravenswood Street level crossing.

More than 8,000 sleepers will be replaced on the Echuca line, while the signalling system at the Murray Valley Highway crossing will be adjusted to allow for new traffic signals nearby.

Maintenance on the tracks between Castlemaine and Maldon will be carried out by Victorian Goldfields Railway, to support heritage services on that section of line.

Rail milling works will be conducted between Kyneton and Gisbourne. These improvements are funded by $1m from the Victorian government’s Building Works stimulus package.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said the works would improve rail travel in north west Victoria.

“These rail lines are a vital link for many Northern Victorians – we’re getting on with these upgrades to make sure passengers continue to have safe, comfortable and efficient journeys around our state well into the future.”

Works will begin on Friday, November 6 and continue until Saturday, November 21. Trains will be replaced by coach services.

Accelerated delivery of new Huntly station

The Victorian government has announced that a new station serving the growing town of Huntly, near Bendigo, will be brought forward by a year.

Originally scheduled to be complete in 2023, Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that locals will be able to catch trains to Bendigo and the rest of the V/Line network by mid-2022.

Huntly is one of three new stations being built as part of the $49.6 million Bendigo Metro 3 project, along with station at Goornong, also on the Echuca line, and Raywood, on the Swan Hill line.

Goornong Station will be the first complete by the end of 2021, and Raymond Station is expected to be finished by late 2022.

“Each of these stations will connect residents to more opportunities for work, education and health – and it’s fantastic to see that Huntly Station will be finished even sooner than expected,” said Allan.

Each station will have a single-sided platform with lighting, tactile paving, seating, pedestrian shelters and carparking with lighting and CCTV.

The community is invited to give feedback on concept drawings for the station.

“We want to have input from residents on these stations and that feedback will inform the final designs before we start construction,” said Allan.

The work on the three stations is being conducted alongside upgrades to the Bendigo and Echuca lines, which includes an improved electronic train ordering system, level crossing upgrades. Other works are also being conducted to improve the frequency of services between Bendigo and Kyneton.

Bendigo

Extra funding for Bendigo and Echuca Line upgrades

An improved electronic train ordering system will be installed on the Bendigo and Echuca Line, after the Victorian and federal governments agreed to a $300 million funding boost.

The modernised train ordering system will be a first for Victoria and enable fast and more frequent services to Echuca and more services between Epsom, Eaglehawk and Bendigo.

Bendigo and the surrounding region will benefit from over three times the number of week-day return services to Echuca, one more than what was previously promised.

The electronic train ordering system will use the existing telecommunication networks and radio equipment in use on V/Line trains, improving safety and frequency.

Once deployed on the Echuca Line, the technology could be rolled out across the entire V/Line network.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that the improvements would lift the region’s economy.

“These critical upgrades will mean better services for passengers while creating jobs and providing a much- needed boost to the regional economy through and beyond the pandemic,” she said.

In addition to the train ordering system, ten level crossings between Eaglehawk and Bendigo will be upgraded with improved train detection technology. This technology will make the level crossings safer while allowing more services to run.

The $300m funding boost is in addition to other improvements being carried out on the regional rail line. Three new stations at Goornong, Raywood, and Huntley will be constructed to allow Metro-style services between Bendigo and surrounding communities.

“This extra funding will get shovels in the ground faster – delivering more trains more often for Bendigo and Echuca passengers,” said Allan.

The combined funding increases the total investment in Victoria’s regional rail network, under the Regional Rail Revival banner, to over $2 billion.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said the funding would enable better connections between Victoria’s cities and regions.

“This funding will significantly boost the Regional Rail Revival Package, helping to improve conditions for train passengers on their journeys to and from Melbourne.”

Australasian Railway Association CEO Caroline Wilkie said that it was heartening to see rail recognised as a sector that can support long-term economic recovery.

“It is good to see funding for projects that will provide an immediate boost to our economy while also supporting long term value for the community,” said Wilkie.

Further work on the Bendigo Echuca Line upgrade will look into improving the frequency of services between Bendigo and Kyneton, and the reopening of Harcourt station.

Sleepers replaced ahead of schedule on Bendigo line

Sleeper replacement works have been completed ahead of schedule on the Bendigo line.

50 workers worked around the clock to replace 48,000 timber sleepers with concrete sleepers, to improve reliability and comfort on the regional Victorian line that connects Bendigo, Echuca, and Swan Hill.

The concrete sleepers were locally made in Avalon, and work began in January.

The $16.1 million project is part of a wider $103m investment in maintenance across the V/Line regional network to be rolled out during this financial year.

Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne said that the project benefits the whole of the state.

“We’re getting on with upgrading vital regional rail infrastructure right across the state – improving services and creating jobs,” she said.

Member for Bendigo East and Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said that locals will be able to rely on improved services.

“This massive project will mean Bendigo locals who rely on V/Line services get the service they deserve.”

Regional maintenance works on Victoria’s train lines have been given an extra $90.5m boost as part of the $2.7 billion building blitz, announced on May 18, which includes sleeper replacement elsewhere on the network. Safety precautions are being taken across the state on all infrastructure projects to minimise the chance of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Travellers on the Bendigo line are now back to the regular timetable, however some rail milling works continue until Friday, June 5.

“This massive $16.1 million upgrade has been completed months ahead of schedule, meaning locals will have access to smoother rides sooner,” said Bendigo West MP, Maree Edwards.

Industrial action continues to affect PTV performance

Ongoing industrial dispute across the Public Transport Victoria (PTV) network has affected January performance for all three operators.

It was revealed in the public transport performance results for January 2020, published by the Department of Transport on Tuesday, that the monthly reliability of Metro Trains, V/Line, and Yarra Trams has fallen below the threshold.

Jeroen Weimar, department of transport head of transport services said all parties need to come to the table and come to an agreement quickly to prevent further inconvenience.

More protected industrial action is planned across the network this month, with expectations that February performance targets could be affected too.

A PTV spokesperson has stated services are expected to be significantly disrupted on metropolitan trams next week and V/Line Ballarat and Gippsland lines.

“We’re working closely with Yarra Trams to reduce the impact of industrial action as much as we can,” the spokesperson said.

The PTV January report stated that other factors also played a role.

“While the driver resourcing issue was a major factor, Metro’s performance was also impacted by hot weather and storm activity.”

Lighting strikes affected rail equipment throughout the month as well as damage to overhead equipment on the Frankston line on Friday, 10 January.

“We continue to work with Metro Trains on plans to improve performance, through the rollout of initiatives including extra staff on station platforms, new technology on platform displays and ongoing work to prevent people illegally walking on tracks,” Weimar said.

Extreme heat impacted the tram network, with some routes cancelled, replaced or diverted when the temperature went above past 40 degrees in late January.

Yarra Trams ran an extra 3,724 tram trips during the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, which was a 21 per cent increase on the extra trips run for last year’s event.

Despite extreme weather and planned industrial action, between December and January, V/Line improved its punctuality from 85 to 90.6 per cent and reliability from 90.7 to 94.6 per cent.

“V/Line’s three busiest lines, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, experienced sharp rises in punctuality from December, growing from 89.9 to 92.6 per cent, from 91.8 to 93.3 per cent and from 86.1 to 90.2 per cent respectively,” a PTV spokesperson said.

“The January Ballarat punctuality figure was also the line’s best in more than three years and follows significant improvements delivered as part of the Ballarat Line Upgrade late last year.”

Weimar said it’s “encouraging”  to see regional trains improving throughout the month.

January included the excavation and concreting of the final section of the Metro Tunnel’s eastern entrance while adding new sections of track. 

Six new tram stops were also installed on Nicholson Street in the city’s north, making Route 96 Melbourne’s most accessible.

Metro Trains and Yarra Trams will pay compensation to eligible passengers after both operators fell below their reliability thresholds in January.

Incidents force lower punctuality for Melbourne in June

The Victorian Department of Transport will pay compensation to passengers of Metro Trains after failing to meet its punctuality targets in June. Metro Trains delivered 88.3 per cent of its trains on time last month, which was 3.7 per cent lower than its 92 per cent target.

Department Acting Deputy Secretary Alan Fedda said that compensation would be offered as the figures fell below 90 per cent. Metro Trains and Yarra Trams can be fined up to $1.25 million and $500,000 a month respectively if they fail to significantly meet their targets.

An overhead power issues near Aircraft Station on June 3, a collision between a train and car at Mentone Station on June 12, and more than 100 incidents of passengers taking ill and requiring help onboard were cited as contributors to delays.

“Metro Trains’ contract with the state government includes tougher measures than ever before in relation to punctuality,” he said. 

“We expect them to meet these targets and deliver a service that our passengers deserve. These results are unacceptable and we will continue to work with Metro Trains to ensure its performance returns to the expected levels.” 

Yarra Trams’s punctuality rose 4.4 per cent on May figures to 84.1 per cent, presenting its best result in four months, and second highest since October 2018. V/Line also recorded its best result this year, with the Ballarat, Geelong, Warrnambool and Bendigo lines all experiencing jumps.

Swan Hill latest beneficiary of Victorian transport ‘blitz’

The Swan Hill line in Victoria will return to service tomorrow following $3 million of improvements by more than 50 V/Line staff and contract workers.

The works, which were scheduled to take place over four days starting from Friday June 21, include significant track, signal and structure improvements.

For the duration of the works passengers travelling to Swan Hill had to take a replacement coach service from Bendigo; Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp thanked passengers for their patience during this period.

A concrete bridge deck has been constructed and tracks have been relaid on the bridge running over the Waranga Western Irrigation Channel near Tandarra, while the McCallum Street and Pental Island Road level crossings have had their signalling and train detection technology upgraded.

Sleepers have also been replaced and new ballast distributed on five rail bridges in Kerang and Tragowel, which will help to reduce infrastructure fault risks.

“Our program of continual maintenance and renewal works is vital to keep the regional train network moving effectively, delivering a more comfortable and reliable journey for passengers,” said State Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne.

“These works will create a smoother ride for passengers and help future proof the consistently high reliability of the Swan Hill line.”