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:

Level crossings to go and access improved on Armadale Line

The Western Australia government has unveiled a series of works for Perth’s Armadale Line to improve safety and increase access along the line through Perth’s south-eastern suburbs.

The WA government and federal government will jointly fund the removal of up to six level crossings.

The $415 million plan to remove three level crossings at Oats Street, Mint Street, and Welshpool Road, along with assessment of three level crossings at William, Wharf, and Hamilton streets has been submitted to Infrastructure Australia.

Procurement will begin on the Metronet project before the end of 2020, said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

“Submitting the business case to Infrastructure Australia is the next step forward to removing these boom gates,” she said.

The rail line will be raised over the road at the level crossings for up to 2.8 kilometres. The elevated rail option will enable better connections between adjoining communities, safer roads, and less noise.

As part of the WA Recovery Plan, train stations on the Armadale line will be upgraded to improve disability access.

$8 million will be spent on Cannington, Gosnells, and Kelmscott stations to bring them up to the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (DSAPT).

These improvements will include better pedestrian access, the relocation of passenger information and ticket vending machines, and better lighting, signage, and CCTV coverage.

At Gosnells station, upgrades to the parking area will be part of the works, while at Kelmscott Station the bus stand infrastructure will also be improved.

“Public transport is for everyone, and we have a responsibility to ensure that anybody using our stations can do so as safely as possible, regardless of their mobility levels,” said Saffioti.

“These upgrades will mean all patrons using Cannington, Gosnells and Kelmscott stations will be able to use Transperth train services with dignity and independence.”

The project is part of the WA Recovery Plan, which has identified projects that can begin immediately and inject activity into the WA economy.

Six level crossings removed in latest Metronet works program

Six more level crossing are to go on the Armadale Line in Perth as part of the next major works package in the Metronet project.

The level crossings are at Mint, Oats, Hamilton, Wharf, and William streets and Welshpool Road. All the crossings will involve elevated rail except at Hamilton Street, where land has been reserved for a road over rail solution.

Up to 2.8 kilometres of elevated rail could be constructed, with roads and active travel links created under the rail line.

In addition to the level crossing removals, new stations will be built at Oats Street, Carlisle, and Beckenham and potentially Queens Park. Oats Street Station will replace the current Welshpool station, which will be closed.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said that removing the level crossings would benefit commuters and the wider community.

“Metronet is also about connecting the community – for the first time in a century this will remove parts of the rail barrier that have separated the communities of Carlisle, East Victoria Park and Cannington,” she said.

“Commuters can finally say bye, bye boom gates – we’ve all felt the pain sitting at a level crossing waiting for one, two, sometimes three trains to pass by.”

As design work is just beginning, Saffioti said that she hopes the community will get involved.

“This project will also mean new train stations at Carlisle and Oats Street and potentially Queens Park, giving the local community the opportunity to have their say on what they would like these new stations designs to look like.

“It will create opportunities for new and unique public space and developments around stations, connect our communities and allow us to wave goodbye to boom gates.”

$415 million of state funding has been committed to the Mint, Oats, and Welshpool level crossings while funding for the other three is subject to an agreement with the federal government.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the project will deliver a changed community.

“This plan will transform the Armadale Line as we know it, setting it up for the next 100 years and creating more liveable and vibrant communities linked to METRONET.”

The current boom gates are closed 233 times a day for up to six hours per day.

MTM

MTM releases footage, warns motorists, students of level crossing risks

Metro Trains Melbourne (MTM) has released footage of severe crashes and near misses at level crossing around Melbourne, as passengers and motorists begin to return to the transport network.

Last year, vehicle incidents have caused delays or cancellations to 700 trains, with incidents highest on the Mernda and Frankston lines.’

General manager – safety operations Adrian Rowland said that motorists need to understand the severity of an incident.

“Trains don’t stop on a sixpence – and if you end up in a compromising position on a level crossing, there is nothing a train can do about it and you’re going to come off worse,” he said.

The most common incident is when vehicles damage boom arms or level crossing equipment, which happened 83 times in the past 12 months.

MTM has also been encouraging school students to be aware of risks around trains, with MTM community education officer Kelli Williams engaging with Victorian school children.

“Trains are 140 metres long, weigh as much as 250 cars, and can’t swerve or stop quickly – so there can be serious consequences if young people take risks,” said Williams.

Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne shared these concerns.

“Please look out for yourselves and others as our rail network gets busier. There’s no excuse for risk-taking behaviour.”

Incidents involving school students often cover mobile phone and headphone distractions, rushing for trains, forcing open doors, illegally crossing tracks, and using skateboards and scooters on platforms.

MTM said that the continuing program of level crossing removals will improve safety around the network, with currently 75 level crossings to go.

Toorak level crossing removed ahead of schedule

The Level Crossings Removal Project estimates that the Toorak Road level crossing will be removed six months ahead of schedule.

A revised completion date of April will see the new rail bridge operational, with cars travelling underneath.

Work currently being completed includes the installation of 18 concrete columns to support the new rail bridge. During February and March, U-troughs will be installed which will form the rail bridge. 20 of the structures will be installed along with retaining walls in Tooronga Park and Talbot Crescent.

While works and being undertaken, the rail line will be closed during the next months. These will be scheduled during off-peak periods.

In early 2021, 23,000 trees, plants, and grasses will be plated to finish the project.

Other projects currently underway as part of the Level Crossings Removal Project include site investigations for upgrades to the Hurstbridge Line. Surveys and investigations have occurred in Greensborough, Montmorency, and Diamond Creek.

As part of the Level Crossings Removal Project, the Victorian government plans to duplicate the rail line between Greensborough and Montmorency, and between Diamond Creek and Wattle Glen. Work will also be undertaken at Greensborough and Montmorency stations.

Train stabling at Victoria Park will also be upgraded and power and signalling will be improved along parts of the Hurstbridge Line. Submissions on changes to the Planning Scheme Amendment which will enable the project are now open.

 

Vic awards $910m in crossing removal work

A pair of major contracts awarded on Monday will see the removal of six level crossings and the construction of three new train stations as part of the Victorian Government’s Level Crossing Removal programme.

A team of Lendlease, Acciona Coleman Rail and WSP has won a $744 million deal to lower the Frankston line and remove level crossings at Edithvale Road in Edithvale, Station Street in Bonbeach, and Argyle Avenue, Chelsea Road and Swanpool Avenue in Chelsea.

The contract also includes new stations to be built at Edithvale, Chelsea and Bonbeach.

The second contract, awarded to Fulton Hogan, is a $166 million deal to remove the Clyde Road level crossing in Berwick by lowering the road under the Pakenham line.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the two new contracts were evidence Labor was following through on its promise to remove 50 level crossings by 2022 and 75 by 2025. The two contracts announced on December 9 bring the total number of contracted crossing removals to 50, paving the way for the first part of that promise to be fulfilled.

“Every level crossing removal makes local streets safer, improves traffic flow and allows us to run more trains – and every one of them creates Victorian jobs,” Andrews said.

“These level crossings choke our roads and put lives at risk,” state member for Mordialloc Tim Richardson said. “Getting rid of them will make a real difference for our community and everyone travelling along this stretch of the Nepean Highway.”