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.

Contractors sought for Inner Armadale Line level crossing removals

The request for proposals process has begun for the removal of three level crossings on the Inner Armadale Line in Perth.

Contractors are being sought for a $415 million combined package of works that involves the removal of crossings at Oats Street, Mint Street, and Welshpool Road and the construction of an elevated rail line.

New stations at Oats Street and Carlisle will form part of the alliance contracts.

Part of the contract will involve the creation of well-designed public spaces beneath the raised section of the Inner Armadale line.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said the projects were key for the economy and local communities.

“We are prioritising projects in Perth that will bust congestion but that are also going to drive the WA economy and deliver local jobs,” he said.

“These level crossings removals will do both.”

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said by conducting an RFP for the project, which forms part of the Metronet package, the final outcome would be shaped by those delivering the works.

“Metronet is the largest public transport investment in Perth’s history and the RFP process gives contractors the opportunity to be involved in delivering these exciting projects,” she said.

Planning is continuing for the removal of another three level crossings at William, Wharf, and Hamilton streets on the same line.

A total of 2.8km of elevated rail line could be constructed through Perth’s inner south. Local member and WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt said the project would benefit the local community.

“Removing these level crossings help reduce frustrations for commuters in the area who can be stuck waiting for up to three trains to pass at a time,” he said.

“It is also a unique and extraordinary opportunity for the local community to have their say about the surrounding area and what they would like to see.”

Level crossing gates are down for up to six hours a day at Oats Street and removing the level crossings will also improve safety.

A contract is expected to be awarded in 2021.

Halfway there on 75 level crossing removals around Melbourne

Over half of the 75 level crossings planned for removal by 2025 in Melbourne have been taken out.

The 38th crossing was removed as part of works on the Frankston line in August. The most recent crossing to go were at Charman and Park roads in Cheltenham and Balcombe Road in Mentone.

The next level crossings to be removed and get the project closer to the 75 target will be on the Upfield line, as work there progresses and the current blitz finishes in November. Crossings at Bell Street, Munro Street, Reynard Street, and Moreland Road will be removed.

While removing the crossings has been a key goal of the project, there have been many other associated benefits for commuters and the local community. So far, 20 stations have been renewed through upgrades, and three stations have been added as part of the Mernda Rail Extension.

Safety has also been a key goal. At the planned for removal level crossings, 30 people have lost their lives and there have been 800 near misses since 2005.

Travel times are already seeing improvements, with time spent in traffic cut by half in some areas where level crossings have been removed.

Finally, new open spaces and pedestrian and cycling connections have been created, with the newly elevated rail lines sometimes serving to protect and shade new play areas underneath. The newly created open space is equivalent to 14 MCGs and the length of the new walking and cycling paths stretches over 45 kilometres. In Cheltenham, the former station building has been repurposed as a community facility in Cheltenham Park. The heritage listed station building will be a multi-purpose facility in plans put forward by the Bayside City Council.

While COVID-19 restrictions have been in place at all construction sites, the Level Crossing Removal Project has continued throughout the pandemic, keeping 5,000 workers in jobs and on site. Since construction began in 2015, 44 million hours have been worked across the project.

Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Maintenance of Hunter network a reminder of level crossing safety

Level crossings in the Hunter network are undergoing maintenance to improve safety for trains and motorists.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is carrying out the works during a shutdown of the network from Newcastle to Ulan and Turrawan.

From September 22 to 25, 1,000 workers will conduct 500 maintenance jobs not limited to level crossings. These will include upgrading 3,500 metres of track, replacing 13,200 metres of rail, and regularly scheduled maintenance activities.

ARTC General Executive Hunter Valley Network Wayne Johnson said the level crossing work was in addition to regular maintenance.

“In the upcoming rail shutdown, in addition to our regular maintenance work, level crossings will be getting some special attention with tamping being carried out on 34 level crossings,” he said.

“A tamping machine is used to pack (or tamp) the track ballast under railway tracks to make the tracks more durable. The base of the level crossing is replaced and stabilised to improve the geometry of the track and this also helps improve the surface so vehicles will experience a smoother ride as a result.

“Tamping the levels crossings allows safer access across the railway crossings for vehicle traffic.”

Level crossings, of which only 21 per cent nationally are active, are a critical safety concern for the rail industry, and Johnson warned motorists of the consequences of not driving safely near level crossings.

“Tragically, every year too many people lose their lives in level crossing collisions, while there are more than 1,000 ‘near misses’ each year – the difference between a fatal collision and a near collision can be just seconds,” he said.

“With a bumper grain season ahead, we can expect high volumes of freight trains coming from the central areas of the state, so people need to be vigilant with level crossings in the regional parts of New South Wales.”

Maintenance is expected to finish on September 25.

Footage of motorists flouting level crossing warnings released

Transport for NSW has released footage of motorists crossing rail lines as trains are moving at Port Kembla.

The vision comes from the Old Port Road level crossing, which is regularly used by freight trains carrying goods from the Port Kembla steelworks and industrial areas.

In the CCTV clips, cars can be seen crossing the tracks while trains are moving towards the crossing, ignoring the flashing red lights. In one incident, a waiting vehicle overtakes the vehicle in front of it across double lines as a train is beginning to enter the crossing.

Police will be targeting the crossing to ensure no incidents occur.

The weight and speed of trains means that motorists will come off worse, and Transport for NSW deputy secretary for safety, environment and regulation Tara McCarthy said that motorists needed to pay attention.

“Trains can travel at speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour and can take up to one-and-a-half kilometres to come to a complete stop,” she said.

“That means that by the time they see you, it’s often too late. Signs, flashing lights, boom gates and road markings are at level crossings for a good reason, and drivers, riders and pedestrians need to pay attention.”

Motorists also need to consider the impact of a collision or close call on those manning the trains.

“We all have a duty of care when driving, not only for ourselves, passengers and other road users, but also for train passengers and crew,” said McCarthy.

The penalty from crossing a level crossing at the wrong time can include three demerit points and a $464 fine. Acting superintendent Ben Macfarlane from traffic and highway patrol said NSW police would be enforcing these penalties.

“We will be looking out for speeding and distracted drivers near these level crossings and those who disregard flashing lights and stop signs. The consequences of a car or truck hitting a train are severe so don’t rush to the other side,” he said.

Watch footage of the incidents below: