The WA Government has allocated more than $5.7 billion to deliver its transformational METRONET program over the next four years. The commitment was announced in the State Budget handed down last week. Read more
Queensland Rail and Queensland Police are seeking to improve safety at level crossings. Read more
The government of Victoria says new data shows reductions in travel times thanks to level crossing removals. Read more
Work to replace level crossings in Edithvale, Chelsea, and Bonbeach along the Frankston Line have been held up due to legacy signalling equipment. Read more
The South Australian government has released four options for the design of the Hove Level Crossing Removal Project. Read more
The Victorian government has awarded contracts to three separate alliances for the removal of seven level crossings around Melbourne. Read more
Early works have begun on the Hallam Road level crossing in Melbourne’s south-east.
Once complete, a rail bridge will replace the level crossing and a new station will be built to serve passengers in Hallam and the surrounding suburbs.
Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that the level crossing removal would complement other transport works occurring in the area.
“We’re freeing up Melbourne’s booming south-eastern suburbs – with the Hallam Road Upgrade, level crossing removals and the Metro Tunnel, we’re busting congestion on busy roads and slashing travel times on trains.”
Early works include the erection of fences and the installation of site offices. Major works are expected to begin at the end of the year. A temporary commuter car park will open to replace spaces lost to the site office which will be located in the station’s southern car park.
Community feedback has so far been included in the updated station design, with a second entrance added to allow access from either side of Hallam Road. Additional bike parking has also been added.
Further community feedback is being south through the Hallam Road Level Crossing Removal Construction Liaison Group, said local member Luke Donnellan.
“We’re excited to see early works get underway on the level crossing project and the new station – and I’d encourage all locals who want to get involved in the project to consider joining the Construction Liaison group.”
The nearby community will be able to notice the effect of removed level crossings with the nearby Evans Road bridge opened in the next week, replacing the level crossing on that road.
The boom gates at Hallam Road are closed for a third of the two-hour morning peak, delaying 20,000 vehicles. In addition, the crossing has had 14 near misses in the past 10 years.
The need for proper processes to be established and followed to ensure rail safety has been highlighted in two recently completed rail safety investigations by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).
In an investigation into how a passenger train passed through a level crossing in North Geelong in January 2019 without activating flashing lights and boom gates at the level crossing, the ATSB found a lack of supporting instructions contributed to the error.
“The contractor undertaking the work did not provide signalling testers with specific instructions detailing the scope of work to be conducted at each stage of a project, but rather, only provided packaged isolation plans for the entire project,” said ATSB director transport safety Kerri Hughes.
Work to upgrade signalling required the level crossing for the broad and dual gauge tracks, managed by V/Line, at Thompson Road, North Geelong to be isolated. The adjacent standard gauge tracks, managed by the ARTC, were to be operating as normal.
The contractor, UGL Engineering, which was undertaking the work on behalf of VicTrack, had incorrectly isolated the level crossing for all of the lines. Fortunately, no vehicles were on the crossing at the time.
“Work instructions are step-by-step guides on how to perform a specific task or activity, in support of a process or procedure. They are important defences within a safety system for ensuring work is performed safely and as intended,” said Hughes.
VicTrack has updated their processes to include specific work instructions for each task associated with level crossing isolation plans.
In a separate incident in November 2019, thirty freight train wagons rolled unattended for 1,425 metres along a siding in Bordertown, South Australia. In its investigation, the ATSB found that a misunderstanding led to the wagons being uncoupled before a full application of the train’s air brakes.
ATSB director transport safety Stuart Godley said the incident highlighted the need to follow procedural steps and processes.
“The non-application of handbrakes increased the train’s reliance on the full application of wagon air brakes to prevent a runaway,” he said.
“However, a slight out of sequence implementation of the air brake process resulted in only partial application of the wagon air brakes and the subsequent runaway of unattended wagons.
“It is essential that all procedural steps are undertaken when uncoupling wagons for run-around movements.”
Rail operator, Bowmans Rail issued a safety alert in response, and the rail track manager, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has also since installed an arrestor bed at the Bordertown dead end.
Introducing a new mode of transport to the city takes time, planning, and requires a skilled delivery team. But even with all these in place, how the general public will react and learn to live with the transport mode remains an unknown until the day of opening.
This was the case in Canberra, as the city prepared for the introduction of the new light rail line. While the city is served by a train service to Sydney, for many Canberrans, having a rail corridor through the northern spine of the city was a new experience, and one that would take some time to adjust to.
Paralympian Vanessa Low, who moved to Canberra after growing up in Germany, could see what this would mean for the city.
“When I saw that the light rail is getting introduced I realised pretty quickly that this is something new to Canberrans and that there’s probably going to be some problems around people understanding that this is a change that they have to be aware of.”
Low’s concern was safety. With light rail interfacing with drivers along Northbourne Avenue and pedestrians at crossings and stations, Canberrans needed to be alert to the risks and hazards associated with such a transport system. Low got in contact with staff from the Canberra Metro operations team and began working on a plan to keep Canberrans safe.
“We talked about, instead of waiting for something to happen, how we can put in some measures for raising awareness around the safety issues and raising awareness about what the consequences may be if you don’t pay attention.”
Like any rail transport mode, the Canberra light rail came with warning signs about crossing the tracks, and lines on the platform which passengers should not cross while waiting for their service. However, beyond the physical infrastructure, Low saw the need to connect with future passengers.
“It’s not just about the rules on a piece of paper or officials saying, ‘You shouldn’t do this.’ or ‘You should do that.’ It is connecting the everyday situation to feeling because, in a way, people easily forget what you said but they never forget how you make them feel,” said Low.
More than most, Low knows what it rail safety feels like. When she was 15 years old, Low fell from a train station platform in her hometown of Ratzeburg and was struck by an oncoming train. Following the accident, doctors had to amputate both of Low’s legs.
“I really realised that it’s not just about the loss of the legs, it was the impact on my family and friends and their families and how a lot of people suffered through the situation and a lot of people never really realised that this was ever going to happen to themselves or to someone they knew,” said Low. “That’s when I realised that a lot of people aren’t quite aware of the issues that arise in all sorts of traffic and that it’s really up to us to make the conscious decision to change that and not let it become a problem. I really wanted to get involved in helping people understand these things before something happens to them or someone they knew.”
In 2019, Low was the ACT Rail Safety Week ambassador and conducted workshops and seminars with school students and the commuting public about staying safe around the new light rail. Low’s experience enabled her to share with Canberrans the importance of staying safe around rail.
“It’s about raising awareness and then naturally people understand what they need to do. Crucial to that is to encourage others to be rail safe, pay attention and have an awareness of not just yourself but understanding what impact this action or non-action may have on everyone around you.”
This year, Low will take on the role of the inaugural national rail safety ambassador, with a particular focus during Rail Safety Week. Just as rail might be novel to Canberra, Low also notes that around Australia, more people are coming into contact with rail environment.
“I grew up in Europe where being around trains is very normal, everyone takes the public transport to go to work and it’s ingrained from being young, but in Australia because cars are the main transport and everything is quite far away it’s quite unusual to be crossing train tracks, a lot of people don’t do that on a daily basis.”
Low sees a role for awareness in encouraging those who may come into contact with rail less frequently to still understand the risks involved.
“All of a sudden they’re exposed to a situation that they aren’t familiar with and they aren’t aware of the dangers. That’s why these safety programs are needed because people aren’t quite that used to being around trains as much.”
While being safe around trains is an individual responsibility, it is also important for people to be aware of others. Being alert to one’s surroundings is therefore key.
“My biggest slogan is just pay attention if you participate in traffic, whether you’re a pedestrian or on a bike, or in a car, there are other participants in traffic and unfortunately trains do not have the option to merge out of the way. They take a very long time to stop because they are so heavy.”
Giving a face to the rail safety message will be a new and important initiative for Rail Safety Week 2020, said Low.
“I really hope that we can make this a very personal message so that people can feel like it’s up to each one of us to take action and be aware.”
The West Australian government is using the construction of a new station and rail line as a way to guide development in Morley. The government is working with local residents and businesses to develop connections between the future Morley station and the surrounding area.
Over 200 residents and businesses have given their feedback, which has shaped the Morley Station Precinct Concept Master Plan, which is being developed in consultation with the City of Bayswater. Once complete, the master plan will guide planning and infrastructure delivery around the station.
Morley is a new station that will be located on the Morley-Ellenbrook line, being built as part of the Metronet project. The station is the first on the line that begins at Bayswater station.
According to WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti, the construction of a new rail line allows for a rethink of the development of the surrounding suburbs.
“The significant investment in the Morley-Ellenbrook Line provides the opportunity to continue to grow the Morley Activity Centre as an important social and economic hub for the north-east corridor.”
A high-frequency bus service will link the station to the Morley Galleria to provide access to shopping and services.
Morley MLA Amber-Jade Sanderson said that the plan would also shape private investment in the area.
“This concept plan will provide vision and clear direction for the private sector and help stimulate much needed new investment in the commercial precinct,” she said.
“We want the many private land holders to develop their land for the revitalisation of Morley.”
The plan will inform the development of a local structure plan, which will go into more depth on infrastructure, zoning, and development to complete the design vision.
Work is on track to award the contract for the construction of the line later in 2020, with two shortlisted proponents, Ellenbrook Alliance (CPB Contractors and Downer EDI) and MELconnx Consortium (Laing O’Rouke Australia Construction).
Elevated rail preferred for Inner Armadale Line
Up to six level crossings between Carlisle and Beckenham will be replaced with a rail bridge to improve safety and ease movement in the area.
As part of the works, Wharf Street level crossing was to be removed or replaced with an elevated rail option, however a third option is now being considered, involving rebuilding Queens Park station. The option to close the Wharf Street crossing is no longer being considered.
The WA government is continuing to seek feedback of the final design.