Incorporating sustainability across the rail supply chain

An innovative solution to level crossings and sleepers is one step towards making the entire rail supply chain sustainable. Rail Express finds out.

Since mid-2019, the rail industry has seen a bump in passenger numbers as the flight shame movement has spread from Sweden to Europe, and then the globe.

Rail’s sustainability credentials are well known, in both the passenger and freight sectors. A freight train’s carbon dioxide emissions are one eighth of a truck, and one quarter of a freight barge, according to Ecotransit. Similarly, for a 1,000km journey from Berlin to Paris, a train emits a quarter of vehicle CO2 emissions and a fifth of plane CO2 emissions.

However, rail industry leaders are also recognising that the sector cannot rest on these laurels. The Railsponsible initiative, an alliance of procurement officers at major European rail organisations, aims to turn the entire rail supply chain green. Their vision to have a “global railway industry where all suppliers have in place good ethical, social, environmental and business practices” is enabled by product innovators who can supply sustainable solutions at each point in the rail lifecycle.

One product putting this into action is STRAIL, distributed in Australia and New Zealand by Phoenix. The level crossing panels are made from a mixture of recycled and new rubber and are manufactured in Germany by rubber specialists KRAIBURG. Andrew Roseman director and civil engineer at Phoenix explains how the products limit their impact on the environment.

“The goal to being sustainable in rail should be with economy, in material choice, and how materials are made. KRAIBURG prides itself on re-use of material whether it be processing rubber for panels or plastics for the sleepers. Limiting the use of new materials in production ensures a smaller footprint that the product is making on the environment,” he said.

In addition, when they reach the end of their life, the panels can be recycled and then reused in the rubber production process. These qualities make for a sustainable whole-of-life solution, which does not shirk on innovative design features.

“Being re-processed at the end of life essentially closes the loop fully, which is often missed by some products as their recycling is processed by third parties into alternative products, which have less or no demand,” said Roseman.

Able to be manufactured for any range of gauges, STRAIL is a modular system that can withstand high-frequented crossings and extreme weather conditions. The system has been used globally since 1976 and in Australia for 30 years, with Australia having the largest number of crossings installed outside of Europe. It is designed to be easy to install, enabling track maintenance without significant effort. One facet of the product is its corundum-embedded surface and bevelled edges, which maintains high skid resistance through whole of life and reduces noise and increasing comfort and safety for traffic using the crossing.

“The surface provides high levels of skid resistance with STRAIL’s unique process of embedding mineral grit into the panel surface, not just relying on surface texture than can wear down over the life of the crossing,” said Roseman.

Within the STRAIL range, in addition to the eponymous product, are the innoSTRAIL, and veloSTRAIL versions. The larger inner and outer panels in innoSTRAIL, which are independent of sleeper spacing, provide an economical solution. veloSTRAIL removes the flange groove, for the benefit of cyclists, wheelchair users, and pedestrians. The veloSTRAIL system is suitable for train speeds of up to 120km/h and the flangeway element can be replaced without removing the inner panel, improving the sustainability of the system. The veloSTRAIL and innoSTRAIL products also include the patented lock-tight system that ensures position stability in the case of diagonal traffic and prevents gaps from forming between the panels.

In addition to the level crossing products, STRAIL also produces a sleeper made from secondary raw materials, STRAILway. The product continues the company’s commitment to the sustainable manufacturing of railway products and is 100 per cent recyclable.

Compared with traditional wooden sleepers, the STRAILway does not leak chemicals such as creosote into the environment, and can last for at least 50 years, compared with a 14-15-year life for hardwood timber sleepers. In addition, unlike other moulded sleepers, the STRAILway is extruded, allowing for any length required, ideal for applications such as bridge transoms and turnout bearers. Furthermore, the STRAILway sleepers can be handled and processed at site almost like timber sleepers, as they are able to be sawed, drilled, or plated without the risk of exposure to harmful fibres.

For each of their environmentally sound solutions, STRAIL and its partner in Australia – Phoenix Australia – supplies technical installation and maintenance training.

Three level crossings to be upgraded North East Rail Line

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has confirmed that works will continue over the Easter weekend to upgrade the North East Rail line in Victoria.

The three level crossings upgraded over the long weekend are at Racecourse Rd, Chiltern, Federation Way at Bowser (Wangaratta North), and Bourke Rd at Bowser (Wangaratta North).

These improvements are on top of the 19 level crossings already upgraded in regional Victoria, including at West Wodonga, Wangaratta, and Barnawartha. Additionally, 16 rail bridges have been improved as part of the $235 million project.

“Teams have worked systematically south after major work started in Wodonga with four more level crossing renewals scheduled for April,” said ARTC general manager major projects Ed Walker.

“Work will start at 6pm on Sunday 12 April to improve these level crossings and we thank the community for their patience with changed traffic conditions in place and increased vehicle movements in the area.”

The project has focused on having benefits during the construction phase flow through to regional communities, with a major site office located in Wangaratta employing locals and engaging 32 North East Victorian suppliers.

Over 100,000 tonnes of ballast have been added to the track for depth improvement, mudhole removal, bridge works, and level crossing renewals.

Berwick level crossing removal design updated

The level crossing removal at Clyde Road, Berwick has been expanded to include the bus interchange at Berwick station. This extends the current project beyond lowering the road underneath the rail line.

Fulton Hogan and Metro Trains Melbourne will deliver the upgrades, which involves moving the bus interchange to the south side of the station. The new location will make the interchange safer, reduce travel times, and allow for more services to run once it is open.

Roughly 22,000 vehicles use the Clyde Road level crossing every day, with boom gates down for a third of the morning peak.

Construction will begin with site establishment works, which include a site compound, fencing, and offices, which will allow major construction works to start. The Level Crossing Removal Project expects works to be completed in 2022.

A key benefit of the project is enabling constant access for emergency services vehicles, which currently have to wait at the level crossing when the boom gates are down.

With the new design, access to Jane Street and Reserve Street will be maintained, and a new U-turn north of Gibb Street will be installed.

The changes were based on community feedback, and are designed to benefit residents and businesses, as well as emergency services.

In January, the City of Casey urged the Victorian state government to improve the amenity of the crossing with wider footpaths, landscaping, and lighting.

“This project also provides a once-off opportunity to transform the Berwick Railway Station, one of Melbourne’s busiest, ageing and out-of-date stations,” said City of Casey Mayor Susan Serey.

Williamstown

Rail line slated for change at Williamstown level crossing removal

The Victorian government is about to release design options for the raising or lowering of the rail line at the Ferguson Street level crossing.

The level crossing is located in Williamstown, on the Williamstown Line south west of Melbourne.

A preliminary design assessment found that road-based options were not appropriate for the crossing, which is used by 110 trains and 25,000 vehicles a day.

According to Melissa Horne, Member for Williamstown and Minister for Public Transport, community feedback will inform the design.

“Our project experts will take the community’s feedback and engineering investigations on board and keep everyone informed as they come up with the best way to remove this level crossing.”

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that the level crossing will be removed by 2022.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from locals that they want this level crossing gone for good – and we’ll continue to work with the community as we get on and deliver what we promised,” said Allan.

The current stage of consultation is the second in the project’s lifetime, with initial consultation drawing 260 online feedback forms, and 200 face-to-face consultations, in addition to updates, mail, and doorknocks. The project found that efficient and safe pedestrian and cycling connections, local heritage and simplifying local roads were prioritised by the community.

Preliminary designs under active considerations show the rail line lowered into a trench underneath Ferguson Street or raised via an overpass, with the station also updated in each design.

Contractor selected for Denny Avenue level crossing works

Downer EDI has been selected as the preferred proponent to deliver the entire Denny Avenue level crossing removal project, part of the Western Australia Metronet project.

In December 2019, Downer was named as the contractor who will deliver the rail component package, however in an announcement on February 17, WA Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti confirmed that Downer will deliver the entire works program.

“Denny Avenue will join a program of six METRONET projects under construction during 2020, which will upgrade Perth’s rail network and create and support local jobs,” said Saffioti.

Although the two construction contracts are separate, the entire works program will involve the removal of the level crossing at Denny Avenue, the realignment of Third Avenue, lowering Davis Road to pass under the elevated rail line, new cul-de-sacs for Third and Slee avenues, and works on Albany Hgihway.

Other works will include widening Davis Road from two to four lanes, and the installation of three traffic lights at Albany Highway, Streich Avenue, and Railway Avenue.

“Denny Avenue is the first of up to eight level crossings to be removed as part of METRONET, with all but one on the Armadale train line,” said Saffioti.

In addition to the road and rail infrastructure works, the Kelmscott town centre will be revitalised, with landscaping, tree planting, and civic works.

“This project will not only remove a dangerous crossing and reduce road congestion, it will also give locals an enhanced Kelmscott town centre to enjoy,” said Saffioti.

New rail bridge and station opens part of $3bn investment

Trains are now running over a new rail bridge in Carrum, located in south-east Melbourne.

Carrum station opened on Monday morning following a two-week construction blitz, including laying track and ballast and installing traffic signalling.

Level crossings at Mascot Avenue, Bonbeach, Station Street, and Eel Race Road were removed as part of the project, making the new station boom-gate free.

The new rail bridge now connects to the existing Frankston line. The Victorian Government has invested $3 billion to upgrade the Frankston line on the Metro trains network, including the removal of 18 level crossings and building 12 new stations.

Sonya Kilkenny,  Member for Carrum, said the “dreaded ding” of boom gates will no longer effect the community, making it safer and quieter.

Construction is still continuing on Carrum station. Current access to the new station is through The Station Street level crossing. The main entrance at McLeod Road is set to open later this year.

Carrum station, located in the bayside suburb, has been designed to accommodate coastal weather conditions, with weather protection pods, shelter canopies on the platform and wind screens in entrances.

The station will create a town square at its main entrance, a garden at the southern entrance, and a new foreshore park and beach promenade linking Carrum to the bay.

Jacinta Allan, Victorian minister for Transport infrastructure, said 34 crossings have been removed and 26 new stations have opened part of the level crossing removal project.

“It’s great to see the new Carrum Station bustling with passengers right on schedule,” Allan said.

“We’re not wasting a minute delivering the road and rail projects our city and state needs.”

Level crossing work comes to Werribee

Construction has begun on replacing the Cherry Street crossing in Werribee, Melbourne.

Instead of the current level crossing, a bridge will be built of the Werribee line between Tarneit Road and the Princes Highway.

Delivering the project is an alliance of McConnell Dowell, Arup, Mott MacDonald, and Metro Trains Melbourne. The alliance has already completed three other level crossing removals around Melbourne, and is building a stabling yard at Wyndham Vale.

The Cherry Street project is the first level crossing removal for the Werribee region. It will be followed by level crossing removals at Old Geelong Rd and Werribee Street. All will be completed in 2022, according to the Level Crossing Removal Project.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan visited the site on January 13 as work began on the $113.8 million contract.

“The Cherry Street level crossing can cause delays of up to 38 minutes in the two-hour morning peak, so removing these boom gates will mean less frustration and better travel times for drivers,” said Allan.

Member for Werribee Tim Pallas highlighted the economic benefit the project would bring to the local community.

“These major rail and road projects are creating thousands of jobs in Melbourne’s west and providing vital experience to Victorian apprentices, trainees and cadets under the Major Project Skills Guarantee,” said Pallas.

In addition to the level crossing replacement works, 130 new car parking spaces will be created at Werribee station.

Where cars once crossed the rail line at Cherry Street a new pedestrian underpass will be built to connect shops and homes for pedestrians and cyclists, and a shared-use path will also open up new connections in the area around the rail corridor.

New approach to level crossing safety wins award

A joint research paper on safety assessment for level crossings has won an international award.

The paper, prepared by KiwiRail senior level crossing engineer, Eddie Cook, and colleagues Shane Turner for Abley and Shaun Bosher from Stantec, documented a wider safety assessment process than what is used under the Australian Level Crossing Assessment Model (ALCAM).

The authors outlined the process that KiwiRail has used under its Level Crossing Safety Impact Assessment (LCSIA) process.

In contrast to ALCAM, LCSIA takes into account incident data, the opinion of locomotive engineers, as well as safety impacts created by the surrounding transport network.

The authors argue that the LCSIA process better reflects crash risks at level crossings, since its introduction in 2016.

The importance of taking into account the wider transport network was highlighted to the authors due to an increasing proportion of crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists. The authors attributed this to the construction of cycleways and shared paths alongside railway lines. In addition, when crashes with pedestrians and cyclists do occur, the severity is increased, even if overall injuries and deaths are low, as they are in New Zealand.

The paper won the Best Paper Award at the 2020 Transportation Research board Annual Meeting, attended by 14,000 transport professionals.

“It is gratifying to receive this recognition from our peers,” said Cook.

“Safety is our top priority, and we are always looking to improve the way we do things.”

KiwiRail conducts major work blitz on Auckland, Wellington networks

KiwiRail is replacing sleepers, tracks and turnouts on the Auckland commuter network over the Christmas and New Year period, as part of a holiday work blitz, while further maintenance work will also go ahead across the Wellington passenger rail network.

In Wellington, the work includes installing the foundations for 60 new masts for the overhead power lines in the busiest part of the network – the approaches to Wellington Railway Station.

“Replacing the masts is not an easy task. Building new foundations for each of these requires a three-metre-deep hole. The masts date as far back as 1938, and need to be replaced,” KiwiRail’s chief operating officer capital projects David Gordon.

“It is just not possible to carry out that work while commuter services are running.”

“Already the network is delivering more than 14 million commuter trips a year to the 500,000 plus people who live in the region,” Gordon said.

“That is predicted to grow, and this work is needed to make that happen.”

“We’ll be taking advantage of the holiday lull, when passenger demand is down, to shut down big parts of the network and give our teams safe access to work on the line.”

KiwiRail is working on sites spread from the Wairarapa to the Hutt Valley and Porirua. Work includes building underpasses, upgrading level crossings and barriers, replacing rail and sleepers, and improving slope stability and drainage, along with the foundation work.

The work blitz is possible due to nearly $300 million that the government has slated to go towards modernisation and upgrades, alongside the usual annual maintenance.

Nearly 150 KiwiRail and NZTA staff and contractors will work on the Wellington line upgrades, while nearly 170 KiwiRail staff and contractors will take on the Auckland commuter network.

Auckland’s Western line will be closed to allow for works to replace sleepers, track and turnouts – which allow trains to change tracks – at several locations.

The Southern line and Eastern line will be closed south of Westfield for Otahuhu third platform work and the Puhinui interchange, track work and sleeper replacement between Papakura and Pukekohe. This includes four level crossings along the Western line and one on the Southern line.

“Working at level crossings also causes disruption to road networks, so it makes sense to take advantage of the holidays when both rail and road networks are quieter. This way we can carry out a lot of work with minimal disruption to commuters and road users,” KiwiRail executive general manager operations Siva Sivapakkiam said.

“Auckland is a busy network, with nearly 200,000 commuter services a year, and 246 freight services a week. That means a lot of wear and tear on the network. The maintenance we do now will help reduce delays and increase reliability in the future.”

Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Hunter Valley network maintenance requires crew of 1300

The Hunter Valley rail network has kept 1300 rail workers busy this week, doing maintenance and enhancement works, according to the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).

A program of 125 projects scheduled over three days, ending Friday, was undertaken from Kooragang port along the rail corridor to Werris Creek as well as the Ulan line west from Muswellbrook.

The work includes re-signalling at Thornton, a level crossing upgrade at Army Road at Glenridding and track reconditioning work at Quirindi.

“The Ardglen Tunnel will also be re-sleepered and re-railed. This is an interesting job as it is a heritage-listed tunnel and we have to take those considerations into account while undertaking the works,” ARTC group executive for the Hunter Valley, Jonathan Vandervoort, said.

“We will also take advantage of the opportunity to undertake a number of works including removing ballast and improving drainage on this section. With tunnels you need to be very efficient as the conditions are difficult to work in and to you need to be very organised to get all the works done in the allotted time.”

Passenger services were replaced by buses over the three days to allow crews to access the rail tracks safely.

“We ask people in communities close to the rail corridor to be cautious during the shutdown period and keep an eye out for increased vehicle movements in and out of work sites,” Vandervoort said.