Easier rides with new control centre

A nearly 90-year-old train control box at Melbourne’s Caulfield Station has closed, with operations moving to the new state-of-the-art Kananook Signal Control Centre — to better manage trains on the Frankston Line and reduce commuter delays during disruptions.

The Kananook Signal Control Centre at Seaford was built by the Level Crossing Removal Project and began operating last year during major works to remove five dangerous and congested level crossings at Edithvale, Chelsea and Bonbeach.

Previously, the Caulfield signal box managed the movement of trains along a 10-kilometre stretch of track between Caulfield and Cheltenham. The new Kananook Signal Control Centre is now responsible for controlling trains over almost the entire 43-kilometre Frankston Line from Caulfield to Kananook. From Kananook to Stony Point, including Frankston, trains will continue to be controlled by the Frankston signal box.

The old Caulfield signalling site.

Signalling is key to keeping Melbourne’s trains moving and drivers and passengers safe. Similar to traffic lights, signallers use coloured lights to indicate whether train drivers should stop, proceed or proceed with caution. They also operate a series of points to control and regulate the movement of trains along the rail network.

Signalling in Victoria was once controlled by leavers, pulleys and switches, although about a decade ago the system was computerised — allowing signallers to do their job by the click of a computer mouse.

While the Caulfield signal box has stood at the end of the station’s central platform since 1933, its modern replacement at Seaford will allow signallers to operate the Frankston Line more efficiently, keeping trains moving along one of Melbourne’s busiest rail corridors during disruptions.

“We are dealing with up to 100 trains on the Frankston Line during peak hour, with one passing through Caulfield every minute and a half, so we really have to focus,” he said.

Royston Adams.

“Often part of our job is to manually reroute trains around incidents on the line to keep passengers getting to where they need to go — it’s a tremendous challenge.”

It is Melbourne’s four signal control hubs at Kananook, Dandenong, Sunshine and the CBD that will play a key role in the Victorian Government’s goal of delivering a turn-up-and-go train service for Melburnians.

When combined with upgrades to signalling infrastructure and other Big Build projects — including the removal of 85 dangerous and congested level crossings across Melbourne and the Metro Tunnel, these signal control centres will allow trains to be run closer together, creating less crowding during peak periods and allowing people to get more easily to school, work, the shops or elsewhere.

“High-tech computerised signalling means we can see what is happening right across the rail network in real time,” Adams said.

“We no longer need lots of signal boxes along the line to look out the window and see what’s happening, it’s on our screens, and that’s a big win for commuters.”

The Victorian Government is getting rid of 20 level crossings and building 13 new stations along the Frankston Line by 2025 in a $4 billion investment.

Train control centre slashes commuter delays


The Kananook Signal Control Centre at Seaford in Melbourne was commissioned in September during works at Edithvale, Chelsea and Bonbeach to lower the train line under the local road network into three new rail trenches and build four new road bridges. Read more


Frankston line extension business case recommends against electrification

The preliminary business case for the extension of the Frankston Line to Baxter on the Mornington Peninsula has been released.

The business case assesses a number of options for improving public transport usage in Frankston and the wider peninsula, while increasing social and commercial activity in Frankston.

The option of creating passing loops on the Stony Point line and new stations at Tyabb and Bittern is indicated as the preferred option. The possibility of electrification to Baxter or Langwarrin, while having higher a higher cost benefit ratio, would cost more and have greater impacts, the business case sets out.

Currently, Melbourne’s electrified network terminates at Frankston, with diesel-hauled services continuing to Stony Point. The report notes that the infrequency of services on the Stony Point line means that car use in the area is high and public transport use is concentrated at Frankston Station, causing constraints on parking in the vicinity of the station.

An upgrade of the rail line without electrification under the Stony Point Uplift option would also provide additional rail services for the communities of Somerville and Hastings, who would miss out on the benefits of electrification to Baxter.

The federal government, which contributed $3 million to the business case, is pushing for the electrification of the Frankston Line to Baxter and has committed $225m to the project. The business case estimates the total cost of electrification to Baxter to be between $1.3 to $1.5bn.

“Delivering a metro rail line extension south of Frankston will help open up the whole of the Mornington Peninsula, meaning locals can get to work and get home sooner and safer,” said Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge.

The Victorian government has not confirmed a preference for any of the options outlined in the preliminary business case.

“The Commonwealth has indicated that their preferred next stage is a detailed business case, but has not yet provided the funding or approached Victoria to undertake that work,” said a Victorian government spokesperson.

“We’ll continue to work closely with the Commonwealth on our combined infrastructure commitments.”

The Committee for Greater Frankston, a grouping of local businesses and the Frankston city council, criticised the business case as “Orwellian”.

“It’s time for the state government to start properly planning to construct this vital public transport project,” said CEO Ginevra Hosking.

Public transport connectivity to Frankston is listed as a priority initiative by Infrastructure Australia, with initiatives for improvement including optimising the existing bus network, increasing bus frequency and coverage, or funding upgrades to rail services and infrastructure.

The Victorian government spokesperson said that the state government was already making significant investments.

“The Victorian government is already spending $3bnon projects along the Frankston Line that pave the way for an extension to Baxter – removing 18 level crossings, building 12 new stations and creating new stabling for 24 trains at Kananook that is a pre-requisite for any extension of the line.”

Tunnel boring machine construction begins for Metro Tunnel in Victoria

The first piece of a massive tunnel boring machine (TBM) has been assembled in North Melbourne in preparation for drilling works on the Metro Tunnel project.

The delivery of the machines component coincides with the one-year anniversary of ground being broken at the site. Three pieces of the TBM have been lowered into the station box in the last week, with crews working to finish the machine as soon as possible.

The TBM, nicknamed ‘Joan’ after Victoria’s first Premier Joan Kirner, will excavate over 100,000 cubic metres of rock and soil once launched. The boring project is part of the winter “suburban transport blitz” announced by the Victorian Government last month.

The construction marks the first TBMs planned for development on the Metro Tunnel project.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan visited the project site today, where they discussed more details of the blitz.

“Crews are working around the clock to put these massive machines together, which will dig the Metro Tunnel,  untangle the city loop, and deliver more trains more often across Melbourne,” Premier Andrews said.

“It’s part of our massive Suburban Transport Blitz – which is creating thousands of jobs and building the road and rail projects we need to get you where you need to go.”

Buses will replace trains on the Pakenham, Cranbourne and Frankston lines between Flinders Street and Caulfield from July 614 whie the works take place.

Coaches will also replace trains between Wendouree and Southern Cross on the Ballarat line from June 24-July 7.

Minister Allan thanked commuters for their patience while the works were carried out.

“Soon these massive tunnel boring machines will be digging underneath our city to run more trains more often,” she said.

Labor to meet with stakeholders for Suburban Rail Loop planning

The Andrews Labor Government is due to meet with representatives from Melbourne suburbs for consultations on the first stage of the Suburban Rail Loop.

Labor will meet with representatives from the suburbs of Whitehorse, Monash and Kingston to discuss first-stage implementation of the proposed corridor for the $50 billion project’s South East Section. The talks will include consultation regarding ecological and geotechnical studies

The Victorian Government looks to be on its own in delivering the ambitious rail project, after Labor was defeated at the federal election over the weekend. Labor leader Bill Shorten had made a commitment to provide $10 billion for the project.

Billed as Australia’s largest ever public transport project, construction on the Suburban Rail Loop is currently pencilled for a 2022 start and may not be completed until the 2050s.

The project involves construction of a new underground rail line that will connect several Melbourne suburbs to the city’s existing major lines so that  improving connectivity and reducing commuting times. The line will run 90km from the Frankston line in the southeast to the Werribee line in the west via Melbourne Airport in the north.

Initial site investigations have been proposed for the second half of 2019, but the final number of stations has yet to be determined.

“The Suburban Rail Loop will change the way we move around Melbourne forever, and we’re not wasting a minute getting this vital project started,” said Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

“It will create and support local jobs and slash travel times, getting people where they need to go.”