Bombardier Transportation Australia has had a solid year in spite of the pandemic, thanks largely to their commitment to local manufacturing. Rail Express speaks to ANZ President, Wendy McMillan.
A major road in Melbourne’s north has been closed to traffic to allow for the installation of giant bridge beams to carry the raised Upfield line.
Bell Street in Coburg was closed to enable cranes to lift into place the L beams above the road.
Bell Street is where one of four level crossings are being removed on the Upfield line, with level crossings at Munro and Reynard streets in Coburg and Moreland road in Brunswick to be gone by November.
The locally manufactured L beams weigh up to 110 tonnes and measure up to 32 metres in length. For each viaduct segment four L beams are joined together to form two U troughs which the trains will run on.
Once complete, the rail line will travel on 2.5 kilometres of viaducts with two new stations at Coburg and Moreland.
Crawler cranes as well as custom-built 90-tonne gantry cranes have been enabling the lifting to take place. Up to 14 bridge beams can be installed a day, hastening the progress of the project.
In Chelsea, a suburb south east of Melbourne, a new pedestrian bridge will be installed above the rail corridor as part of the removal of three level crossings in the suburb.
The bridge is in addition to the works along the rail corridor with an injection of $750,000 from the local Kingston City Council.
Early works on five level crossings in Chelsea, Edithvale, and Bonbeach are underway, and major works will begin in early 2021. A one-week closure of the Frankston line is now underway to prepare the worksites for major construction. This will involve upgrades to power and signalling, as well as the relocation of utilities. Support pads for heavy machinery and piling rigs will also be constructed.
The lowered rail line will be completed in 2022, enabling better road and pedestrian connections in the region.
Next week, services on the Cranbourne line will be replaced by buses between Cranbourne and Dandenong. The shutdown will enable crews to relocate the Greens Road boom gates to make way for the construction of a new rail bridge. Piling and earthworks further along the line will also be undertaken. These works together will allow for the last level crossing between Cranbourne and Dandenong to be removed.
A new freight rail connection in Dandenong South will remove 100,000 trucks of Melbourne’s roads a year.
The new rail line will connect the Salta Properties freight hub in Dandenong South with the Melbourne suburban rail network, allowing shuttle trains to run between the Port of Melbourne and Melbourne’s southeast.
The $28 million project is funded by the federal and state governments, with each contributing $18.3m and $9.7m respectively.
The project will be completed by the Level Crossing Removal Authority as part of the Cranbourne Line upgrade.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the connection would form part of a wider network of freight rail connecting the Port of Melbourne with intermodal facilities.
“The new spur line will connect the intermodal freight terminal at Dandenong South to the Cranbourne Line. As part of the Port Rail Shuttle Network it will help cut the number of trucks on inner Melbourne roads by up to 100,000 each year and support hundreds of jobs during construction and as part of the terminals ongoing operations.”
Victorian Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the project would make freight more competitive.
“We’re making rail freight a more attractive option for businesses, and this investment means containers can be transported by rail the entire way from the Port of Melbourne to Dandenong South,” she said.
“It will reduce congestion at the port gate and cut the high cost of the last mile that so often disadvantages containers moved by rail.”
The Port of Melbourne has recently made major investments to improve the capacity of rail to handle cargo. The port authority is investing $125m in on-dock rail, to enable freight to be taken directly from ship to rail and to intermodal terminals such as these.
The Victorian government has also invested in two other port rail shuttles, one to Altona and another to Somerton, with further funding to be announced.
A $1bn upgrade to the Cranbourne Line is one of a number of upgrades to the Melbourne rail network to recently take a step forward.
Duplication of eight kilometres of track between Cranbourne and Dandenong is now underway, in addition to the 11 level crossings already removed.
The duplicated track will allow services ever 10 minutes, increasing capacity by 121,000 passengers in the peak across the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines.
Construction crews are working on power, signalling, and drainage upgrades at Merinda Park Station and in the rail corridor from Cranbourne to Greens Road.
Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that works will enable a first for the line.
“We’re getting on with the massive Cranbourne Line Upgrade, delivering more frequent services and removing its last four level crossings – making it Melbourne’s first level crossing-free train line.”
Level crossings still to go on the line include the Abbotts Road level crossing, where 25-metre foundations are being drilled into the ground, and the Merinda Park station will be renewed in August. At Evans Road the bridge will remove the level crossing before the end of 2020, restoring connections in Lyndhurst, Lynbrook and Cranbourne West.
Elsewhere on the Melbourne rail network, the federal government has committed $8 million in funding to remove the Glenferrie Road level crossing in Kooyong. The funding will allow the Victorian government to begin a business case, said federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge.
“This funding means we can start vital scoping and early development works for the level crossing removal.”
The $8m comes alongside $2m for initial feasibility studies for level crossing removals at Tooronga Road in Tooronga and Madden Grove in Burnley.
Glenferrie Road has been identified as a high priority level crossing in studies in 2013 by VicRoads and in 2017 by the Victorian Auditor General, in part due to the interaction of trains, trams, and vehicles.
In the west of the Melbourne rail network, two level crossings have been fast tracked to begin construction in early 2021. Level crossings at Fitzgerald Road in Ardeer and Deer Park’s Robinsons Road will be removed by 2023.
At Robinsons Road a road underpass will be built, and at Fitzgerald Road a road overpass will be built to minimise disruptions to train services and allow for upgrades to the Geelong-Ballarat train line.
Safety and congestion have been a concern at both level crossings, with 18 near misses since 2012 and boom gates down for 45 per cent of the morning peak.
With the two level crossings gone, the Mount Derrimut Road level crossing can be removed by 2025, the last between Deer Park and the city.
Victoria is now seeking community feedback on the design of the level crossings.
In Hallam, station designs have been released as part of the removal of Hallam Road level crossing, with a new elevated rail line with access from both sides of Hallam Road. Works is expected to begin at the end of 2020 with the crossing to be removed in 2022.
As some level crossing removal projects begin, others are closer to completion. At Mentone Station, the station will open two weeks ahead of schedule and Cheltenham station is on schedule to open on Sunday, August 16. Frankston line trains will begin running a week ahead of schedule, stopping at Mentone Station from Monday, July 20.
New facilitation at the station include a climate-controlled waiting area, sheltered seating, and electronic passenger information displays to enable smoother transitions between bus and train services. Accessibility and access has been improved and work will now begin on landscaping and active transit connections between Cheltenham and Mentone.
Cheltenham and Mentone stations have also received a five-star Green Star sustainable design rating from the Green Building Council of Australia. The award has recognised the installation of solar panels, water saving, and rainwater collection facilities.
Bombardier’s Wendy McMillan describes how the company is creating a rail manufacturing centre of excellence as it reaches a major milestone.
Announcing the Victorian government’s purchase of 50 new trams for the Melbourne network in 2010, then Public Transport Minister Martin Pakula, highlighted what the first order of locally made trams in 20 years would mean for the state.
“The order is a boost to our tram fleet and is a fantastic endorsement of our local manufacturing industry with major components built at Dandenong as well as assembly and testing.”
Three years later, and a different public transport minister was riding the first of the E-Class trams as it left the Southbank depot and travelled on route 96.
“The E-Class tram will mean an improved ride for passengers with pivoting bogies and air-conditioning designed specifically for Melbourne,” said Terry Mulder, who noted the considerable difference the tram would make for the city and Melbourne’s commuters. “Each E-Class tram can carry 210 passengers, which is significantly more than other trams on the network.”
The company behind this series of trams, Bombardier, is now approaching production of the 100th E-Class vehicle, and the trams, proudly adorned with the ‘Made in Melbourne, For Melbourne’ motto, have become testament to the benefits of local manufacturing. Wendy McMillan, President Australia and New Zealand at Bombardier Transportation, said that by being made in Melbourne, the global mobility provider can “think global, act local”.
“It means you’ve got the full suite,” said McMillan. “We have the engineering capability to match what you actually bid, product assurance and design safety, and then you go into production.”
With the Dandenong workshop now completing vehicle 86 in the series, each tram is the result of Bombardier’s local and global expertise.
“If we look at the E-Class, you have industrial design in Brisbane, and we have at least a third of the global capability of industrial design in our Milton office. What it means is that you have a collaboration between functions, either here or overseas, full collaboration to actually bring the book together for the customer to enable sign off,” said McMillan.
In addition to the trams manufactured in Dandenong, Bombardier also produces the Vlocity 160 DMU for Victoria’s regional network. On both products, Bombardier has been able to update and vary the design locally in line with changes to requirements. Having local engineering capabilities is essential to these changes.
“There might be new standards that come in that the customer may wish to do a variation for,” said McMillan. “For example on LRV crashworthiness, it might be lines of sight, there might be driver requirements that change from the operator. Having engineering presence on the ground enables you to have that assurance.”
The first introduction of the E-Class trams saw improvements in accessibility for travellers by increasing the number of low floor trams running on the network. In addition, the enhanced capacity built into the design of the trams has become increasingly important.
“With COVID-19, larger capacity is a nice thing in hindsight because that allows more people on that tram, so that will give the highest capacity for the Yarra Trams fleet. That obviously means greater access and equity for the commuter and it also ensures that it’s the smoothest ride,” said McMillan.
Other improvements included positive feedback for safety standards in the driver’s cab, and Bombardier has worked with research institutions to look at other areas where design innovation can be introduced to respond to the particularities of Melbourne’s network.
“We’ve worked with a tertiary institution around visibility, line of sight, windscreens, and cameras outside the vehicle so that the driver is fully aware of their surroundings,” said McMillan. “The Melbourne network is not a closed network, it has a high interface with vehicles, whether they’re private drivers, Ubers, taxis, trucks, so we’re working with Yarra Trams and the Victorian government to plan a trial of an Obstacle Detection Assistance System (ODAS) that warns a driver about cars and passengers in front of the tram.”
In addition to upgrades, being local means that Bombardier are working on the trams every day, both in Dandenong and at maintenance depots.
“There was an incident today, an interface with a car or a truck on one of our trams. We hold spares for that. Our ability being on the ground means that we can work quickly, with Yarra Trams at their site in Preston, to repair those vehicles and have them back out. We can do that sourcing from both the Dandenong site and also with Yarra Trams,” said McMillan.
STRENGTHENING LOCAL MANUFACTURING
Bombardier’s presence in Dandenong continues over half a century of rail manufacturing heritage in south-east Melbourne. First opened by Commonwealth Engineering, then taken over by ABB, the current Bombardier plant is built in such a way to provide the best services for the Australian rail industry.
“Because the site itself has got access to the main line it’s very accessible both for V/ Line and Yarra Trams. We have an LRV test track there too and that gives us the ability to do a lot of work for the Victorian government and Yarra Trams on site,” said McMillan.
As McMillan highlights, it’s this collaborative relationship that has developed over the decades that has allowed Bombardier to serve the largest tram network in the world with local knowledge and production.
“We’re in production up to 91, well on the way up to 100 with the E-Class. That’s a big achievement and we can’t do that without our customer the Department of Transport and the State government, as well as a lot of hard work and dedication from our partners in the supply chain,” said McMillan. “We’ve worked to get the right quality supply chain partners, to get it right first time, minimise rework, while having capacity for repairs.”
Across Dandenong and the wider south- east Melbourne region, Bombardier has been key to the flourishing manufacturing ecosystem. The 11,000 manufacturers in south-east Melbourne employ 105,000 people, with each manufacturing job supporting four more jobs in other sectors, according to peak industry body South East Melbourne Manufacturing Alliance (SEMMA). Manufacturing large, complex systems such as rollingstock here enables a flow on effect across the entire region.
“Once we actually manufacture the design, we have an extraordinary, capable, local supply chain, and that’s around the Dandenong area in addition to Australia and New Zealand,” said McMillan. “Then there’s the multiplier impact, and obviously it’s in addition to the employment of those in the local community.”
The light rail operation alone employs more than 70 people directly, while enabling training through apprenticeships and partnerships with local education providers.
“Whether it’s safety training, welding, base manufacturing, or other skill sets, we have apprentices at the site and are close to Chisholm TAFE,” said McMillan. “Each quarter I give out service awards, and the incredible clusters around 5, 10, 15, 20, even 35 years, it blows you away.
“Another aspect is we’ve got a welding school that we offer to external training facilities, but you can’t do this unless you’re a good member of the community. We’re really trying to do not only the right things for the right reasons but really be proactive. We’ve done that in the bushfire appeal, we have an MoU that we’ve just signed with community development organisation St Kilda Gatehouse.”
BUILDING FROM A SUSTAINABLE BASE
Having these deep links to the community has become more important than ever. When COVID-19 hit, one unintended consequence of the local content requirement meant that there was minimal disruption to Bombardier’s manufacturing.
“We’ve been fortunate in our management and the local content policy assists in this regard in having suppliers around,” said McMillan. “Certainly, all supply chains were seriously disrupted and still are to an extent, but the actual impacts to us on these lines have been fairly minimal in a Victorian context. We were at one stage the only Bombardier Transportation site, apart from the China joint ventures, that were open in the world because of the unfortunate state of COVID and its impacts, particularly in Europe, the UK, and the Americas.”
While the disruptions of COVID-19 has an immediate impact on operations, McMillan also sees a role for rollingstock to play in enabling governments to respond. As governments look for ever greater value for money in transportation programs, changing the interaction between rollingstock and fixed infrastructure could provide a way forward.
“We’ve seen a request from clients to really stretch the rollingstock offer to match the associated network infrastructure. They look at expenditure and the interface in both. That might mean just your tram stops, how many of those need to go out, can rollingstock do something different about that? We’re very happy to look at the design possibilities in that regard as well,” said McMillan.
In addition, broader mobility trends will continue. As Melbourne looks to upgrade its network, innovations in light rail vehicles can overcome the limitations of a legacy network. Bombardier is involved in early design work for the next generation of trams, a defined benefit of which will be onboard energy storage to reduce the need for upgrades to the power network.
Another area for future development is integrating tram networks with the wider transportation system. Operating between heavy rail and active transport modes such as walking and cycling, McMillan sees an ongoing role for light rail in solving the ‘last mile’ of passenger movements.
“You have your last mile in logistics and you certainly have that in passenger movement. You’ve got the disruption of Uber and those operations as well in terms of how people still commute and get to nodes of heavy rail stations and meeting that with bike, so we are designing for bicycle capacity on our trains and trams.”
Increasing demand on Victoria’s regional network is leading to new thinking about the role of regional commuter trains, particularly to reduce emissions from diesel-powered units on unelectrified lines.
“In terms of regional-type commuter we can do a bi-mode diesel train, or a battery-electric train, and that can be introduced here. It could be utilised around the growth areas of the South East where we are but particularly to Ballarat and Geelong,” said McMillan.
Another area where Bombardier is involved in the next generation of transport networks is in delivering the signalling for the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project, as part of the Rail Systems Alliance (RSA). This is one area in particular where McMillian sees the local and the global coming together once again.
“Being basically in the same time-zone as Southeast Asia, and having very significant labs in Bangkok, assists with the RSA contract that’s on the ground here. You’ve got to be global for benefits and function shares. No one wants to reinvent the wheel and no customer wants that to happen on their program so that’s the benefit that we offer particularly in the services category.”
In the meantime, however, the day to day operations at Dandenong continue, with safety always the focus.
“At the Dandenong site we’ve achieved a safety record there and that is a result of every one of your staff, management down,” said McMillan.
Initial works have begun to remove the level crossings at Manchester Road, Mooroolbark and Maroondah Highway, Lilydale, in Melbourne’s outer east.
At both sites, works to establish construction sites are beginning, with service relocations and vegetation removal commencing. Fencing and construction workers will arrive in the coming days and weeks.
Most major construction will begin towards the end of 2020. In preparation for this a test pile will be sunk into the ground at the western commuter carpark at Lilydale station to determine the depth needed for foundations for the rail bridge over Maroondah Highway.
In addition to removing the level crossings, two new stations will be built at Mooroolbark and Lilydale, as well as a multi-deck carpark at Mooroolbark to increase capacity to 900 spaces.
Completion is expected by 2022.
In late December 2019, the $496 million contract for both crossings was awarded to an alliance of Laing O’Rouke, Jacobs, and Metro Trains Melbourne.
Work will involve raising the rail line above both roads and elevated platforms at each new station.
Over 53,000 vehicles travel through the two level crossings each day, with boom gates down for a quarter of the morning peak. In the last 10 years there have been 13 crashes, with one fatal incident.
In Dandenong South, the new rail bridge over Greens Road has been updated with new screening to keep maintenance workers safer once the project is complete. The removal of the level crossing there is part of the $679 million Cranbourne Line upgrade, which involves track duplication and more frequent services.
Work sites at Greens Road have been established since March, along with utility works and preparatory works for line duplication.
Once finished, the screens will surround both viaducts which will carry the rail line over Greens Road. An alliance of McConnell Dowell, Arup, Mott MacDonald, and Metro Trains Melbourne will remove the level crossing at Greens Road and duplicate the line between Dandenong and Lynbrook.
Confirming weeks of rumours, Alstom has announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bombardier Inc to acquire Bombardier’s transportation unit.
The MoU values Bombardier Transportation at between €5.8 and €6.2 billion ($9.4 to $10 billion).
Henri Puopart-Lafarge, chairman and CEO of Alstom announced the merger of the two rail manufacturing giants.
“I’m very proud to announce the acquisition of Bombardier Transportation, which is a unique opportunity to strengthen our global position on the booming mobility market.”
Although headquartered in Canada, Bombardier’s transport operations are led from Berlin, Germany. The deal, if approved, could create a European rail champion, a goal which Alstom previously pursued in discussions with Siemens, with whom Bombardier also pursued merger talks.
Puopart-Lafarge acknowledged that the two companies share similar operating areas.
“Bombardier Transportation will bring to Alstom complementary geographical presence and industrial footprint in growing markets, as well as additional technological platforms,” he said.
Bombardier representatives also welcomed the deal’s announcement.
“With a shared commitment to the next generation of green and digital rail solutions, a combined company would benefit from economies of scale resulting into improved investment and innovation capabilities, and a streamlined investment pipeline,” said Eric Prud’Homme, head of external communications at Bombardier Transportation.
In Australia, Alstom and Bombardier both have significant manufacturing operations. Bombardier manufactures diesel multiple units and light rail vehicles in Dandenong, Victoria while Alstom has a manufacturing base in Ballarat where it produces the X’Trapolis trains for the Melbourne network. Additionally, Alstom has been confirmed as the manufacturer of new rollingstock for Perth’s Metronet project, and will construct a local manufacturing facility in Western Australia.
Previous merger discussions between Siemens and Alstom drew the attention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which noted that a merger would raise competition concerns, however in the field of signalling. Ultimately, the European Commission blocked the proposed deal.
In the MoU announcement, Poupart-Lafarge said that all existing employees of Bombardier Transportation would continue to work for Alstom once the deal is completed.
“We will be thrilled to welcome all the talent and energy of Bombardier Transportation employees. We are deeply committed to step up the turnaround of Bombardier Transportation activities and deliver significant value to all stakeholders, particularly our customers,” he said.
Alstom expects that, subject to approvals from regulatory and anti-trust authorities, the deal will be closed in the first half of 2021.
The Victorian Government has unveiled plans to commit record funding for road and rail projects across the state in what it has referred to by Premier Daniel Andrews as a “blitz” for suburban transport.
“From fixing a pothole at the end of your street to the biggest transport projects in Victoria’s history – this Budget will get you where you need to go,” Andrews said.
The plans constitute part of the Victorian Budget for 2019–20, incorporating a $27.4 billion pipeline of works.
This includes $15.8 billion for the creation of the North East Link; $6.6 billion to remove 25 more level crossings (of a total 75) as part of the ongoing level crossing removal project; and $3.4 billion to deliver upgrades to the Sunbury, Cranbourne and Hurstbridge lines.
In all, the Sunbury line will receive a $2.1 billion boost, Cranbourne $750 million, and Hurstbridge $547 million.
Sunbury will also receive new high-capacity trains that will boost passenger capacity by 113,000 people.
The first of the 65 high-capacity trains previously announced in 2016 as part of the Labor Government’s High Capacity Metro Trains Project, is set to start on the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines this year.
Cranbourne will benefit from line duplications (doubling capacity during peak hours) and Hurstbridge will receive station upgrades at Greensborough and Montmorency.
The government has also set aside $615 million for regional public transport deliveries, including $340 million to purchase up to 18 new three-car V/Line VLocity trains, which the government said would bring good news for manufacturing and supply jobs in Dandenong, which hosts the assembly plant where the trains are built.
$111 million on training, recruitment and upskilling of train drivers in preparation for the new trains and services.
Three new stations will also be built at Goornong, Raywood and Huntly in the Bendigo area for a combined cost of $49.6 million and $150 million will be provided to fund new car parks at some of the busier stations in Melbourne and regional Victoria through the Car Parks for Commuters Fund
Following on from promises made before the state election in March, Labor will build 11,000 new spaces at stations across the state, bumping the current total number of spaces by 20 per cent to 66,000 stations in order to help relieve pressure along the lines.
An incentive scheme designed to reduce truck numbers on local roads by shifting more freight to rail will also be extended with an $8 million investment. Minister for Public Transport, Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said, “We promised to get trucks off local streets and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Outside of rail projects, the Andrews Labor Government will also put aside $608 million for road upgrades (including $425 million on regional roads) and $45.4 million for the development of bike and pedestrian paths, including new bike paths on St Kilda Road.
$205.1 million will be spent on increasing train and bus services generally, with the latter to be rolled out in Melbourne growth areas such as the north and south-east of the city.
“These projects should have been built years ago,” said Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan. “We can’t change that, but we can keep our promises and keep delivering the projects Victorians voted for and need – and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
The Labor Government has spent $46.7 billion on state transport in the last four years, including its ongoing work on expensive projects such as the aforementioned level crossing removals and the $11 billion Metro Tunnel development, an underground rail line connecting the Sunbury line in the northwest to the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines in the south east.