The Victorian Auditor General has found that the Department of Transport and Yarra Trams are at risk of breaching disability legislation due to the lack of accessibility on Melbourne’s tram network. Read more
As part of an overhaul of the PTV app, Melbourne commuters will be able to see how full their train is before boarding.
The technology will first undergo a trial with a small group of public transport users on trains and buses in Melbourne.
Data will come from passenger counting sensors and predictive modelling technology and be fed into real-time updates displayed on the PTV app.
Victorian minister for Public Transport and Roads Ben Carroll said the trial will enable passengers to return to public transport safely.
“The coronavirus pandemic has presented an opportunity for us to rethink how we travel around the state – we want these passenger modelling trials to help people travel more reliably and safely,” he said.
“While everyone has been doing the right thing and staying home over the past few months, we’ve been hard at work to make Victorians’ journeys easier and safer as we move towards a COVID Normal world.”
In addition to crowding data, real-time location information on buses and trains will be communicated through the app.
The updated app will also allow travellers to top up their myki cards and view their balance.
New personalisation features include saving home and work locations, searching favourite journeys, stops, and stations, and improved journey planning capabilities for more predictable journeys.
The needs of blind and low-vision passengers have been incorporated in the app’s redesign, and VoiceOver and TalkBack capabilities enable the app to be fully accessible. Neil King, national manager digital access at Vision Australia said the functions would be welcomed by those with a disability.
“Public transport is vital for people with disability. The Department of Transport’s decision to consider accessibility at the outset of the design process means important public transport information is now fully available to all Victorians.”
Based on current trials and feedback further functionality may be added to the app in the future.
A major road in Melbourne’s north has been closed to traffic to allow for the installation of giant bridge beams to carry the raised Upfield line.
Bell Street in Coburg was closed to enable cranes to lift into place the L beams above the road.
Bell Street is where one of four level crossings are being removed on the Upfield line, with level crossings at Munro and Reynard streets in Coburg and Moreland road in Brunswick to be gone by November.
The locally manufactured L beams weigh up to 110 tonnes and measure up to 32 metres in length. For each viaduct segment four L beams are joined together to form two U troughs which the trains will run on.
Once complete, the rail line will travel on 2.5 kilometres of viaducts with two new stations at Coburg and Moreland.
Crawler cranes as well as custom-built 90-tonne gantry cranes have been enabling the lifting to take place. Up to 14 bridge beams can be installed a day, hastening the progress of the project.
In Chelsea, a suburb south east of Melbourne, a new pedestrian bridge will be installed above the rail corridor as part of the removal of three level crossings in the suburb.
The bridge is in addition to the works along the rail corridor with an injection of $750,000 from the local Kingston City Council.
Early works on five level crossings in Chelsea, Edithvale, and Bonbeach are underway, and major works will begin in early 2021. A one-week closure of the Frankston line is now underway to prepare the worksites for major construction. This will involve upgrades to power and signalling, as well as the relocation of utilities. Support pads for heavy machinery and piling rigs will also be constructed.
The lowered rail line will be completed in 2022, enabling better road and pedestrian connections in the region.
Next week, services on the Cranbourne line will be replaced by buses between Cranbourne and Dandenong. The shutdown will enable crews to relocate the Greens Road boom gates to make way for the construction of a new rail bridge. Piling and earthworks further along the line will also be undertaken. These works together will allow for the last level crossing between Cranbourne and Dandenong to be removed.
Works to remove level crossings on three lines through Melbourne will step up during spring, as work continues on transport infrastructure projects around Melbourne.
Fifteen level crossing projects are taking their next step in September. On the Upfield line, removals of four level crossings are underway along with the construction of two new stations.
On the Cranbourne line, duplication works will see buses replace trains from September 8-13. Four level crossings on that line are also set to go, getting it closer to being the first level crossing free line in Melbourne.
Sunbury line works are scheduled for November to enable the line to carry newer trains once the Metro Tunnel opens. These works involve track, power, and platform upgrades and will require a shutdown on the line from November 7-22 and on the Bendigo line from 7 to 21.
For the trains themselves, safety and performance testing of the new High Capacity Metro Trains will be conducted on the Werribee Line from late August
On the Metro Tunnel project, all four tunnel boring machines are in action and the twin tunnels are getting closer to completion.
The tram network will also benefit from maintenance works. Upgrades will be carried out in Malvern, South Melbourne, Parkville, and Pascoe Vale South. Tram stabling in East Melbourne will also be improved, to allow for more trams during special events.
Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said the works will have a wider benefit.
“These critical projects are building a better transport system, while supporting local jobs and Victoria’s economy,” she said.
Across all projects, tight hygiene controls are in place under Melbourne’s stage four restrictions and workforce numbers have been reduced.
“The safety of our workforce and the community is our priority – we are taking strict precautions to ensure our critical transport infrastructure projects can safely continue under coronavirus restrictions,” said Allan.
As Victoria enters stage 4 restrictions due to the spread of COVID-19, metropolitan rail services and construction on major rail projects in Melbourne are being cut back.
While public transport is able to continue running, with Melbourne under a curfew from 8pm to 5am, Metro Trains services have been significantly reduced with trains running infrequently. Yarra Trams have stated that some services will run at up to 40 minute frequency. Public Transport Victoria stated that changes to services will be different each night.
All Night Network services, which covers services that run after midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, will be suspended while stage 4 restrictions are in place. The current restrictions only allow people to leave their homes between 8pm and 5am for work, medical care, and caregiving.
According to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews some staff will be redeployed.
“The Night Network will be suspended, and public transport services will be reduced during curfew hours. This will also allow us to redeploy more of our PSOs into our enforcement efforts.”
Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) spokesperson Daniel Bowen said that better communication of changes was needed.
“On Monday night details of drastic evening service cuts for trams and trains were only published as they took effect, giving travellers no time to plan ahead,” he said.
The PTUA recommended running trains to a Saturday timetable would be a better outcome, with less demand during the peaks.
“While the capacity will probably be sufficient to maintain physical distancing given the curfew and the shutdown of most workplaces, the big problem is the wait times. Imagine finishing your shift at 11pm and having to wait 90 minutes for your train home,” said Bowen.
Rail construction projects are also limited under the stage 4 restrictions. Major construction sites are limited to the minimum amount of people required for safety, and no more than 25 per cent of the normal workforce. Small scale construction is limited to a maximum of five people on site. Andrews said the government was reviewing major public projects.
“To date, we’ve almost halved the number of people onsite on some of our biggest government projects. Now we’re going to go through project by project, line by line to make sure they are reduced to the practical minimum number of workers.”
A Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (MTIA) spokesperson said that work would continue under the new restrictions.
“The MTIA is continuing to look at ways to further reduce the number of staff while allowing essential works to continue safely.”
On-site, MTIA staff are required to wear a mask, practice physical distancing and follow hygiene procedures and staggered shifts. A 70-person strong COVID Safety Team have been ensuring that all worksites comply, with multiple checks each day on every project.
Other rail businesses and organisations will largely be able to continue in line with their COVIDsafe plans. This includes passenger and freight operations, including rail yards, and transport support services.
Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie said she welcomed the government’s recognition of rail’s essential role and noted that the restrictions struck the right balance between keeping businesses operating and addressing the spread of COVID-19.
“The rail industry has been working hard to keep essential services safely operating throughout 2020,” she said.
“From the train drivers on passenger and freight services to those working in stations, workshops and in the office, rail workers have made sure essential services are there for people who need them no matter what.”
Rail manufacturing businesses will also be able to remain operating, due to their role in supporting an essential service. Manufacturing businesses that support critical infrastructure public works are able to operate as per their COVIDsafe plan.
“Now more than ever we need the rail network to be as reliable and efficient as possible and these businesses are crucial to that effort,” said Wilkie.
The Committee of Melbourne has called for the development of an integrated transport plan for Melbourne to coordinate the provision of transport infrastructure in the city.
While a number of government plans have been developed to guide infrastructure investment, the Committee for Melbourne has found that none are truly comprehensive, detailed, or strategic enough to outline how Melbourne will grow in the long-term.
Martine Letts, CEO Committee for Melbourne said that now was the right time to plan for the future of Melbourne.
“Mobility in Melbourne has reached a tipping point. With the growth pressures the city is facing that continue to build, more than ever a plan is required to accommodate the efficient movement of people and freight. A business-as-usual approach will see road congestion cost Melbourne’s economy up to $10.2 billion per annum by 2031 in operation and pollution costs.”
The report calls for a plan that integrates mobility patterns, land-use, and economic patterns, to enable seamless mobility throughout Greater Melbourne. This would mean that projects such as Suburban Rail Loop and the Melbourne Airport Rail Link would be included as certain aspects of the city’s future, along with further projects such as Melbourne Metro 2.
In addition to the infrastructure itself, the integrated plan would also combine elements such as demand management, technology, land-use planning, and economic development. These elements would guide measures such as public transport frequency, integrated mobility services, transport-oriented development, and using infrastructure investment as a level for investment.
The report recommends that with Melbourne’s population expected to continue to grow, and freight volumes also expected to increase, there is a need for integrated transport planning.
“It is not in anyone’s interest that Melbourne’s transport network returns to the state that it was in prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Peak hour commutes on public transport had become increasingly uncomfortable, while traffic congestion on the road network was worse than any other Australian capital city,” said Letts.
Melbourne was recently highlighted as a major Australian city with worsening congestion and reliability in travel in research by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and Uber.
“As our economy recovers and we once again welcome increasing numbers of new residents and visitors, and as we produce and consume more goods and services, we must ask ourselves what it will take to remain a highly liveable, prosperous, and sustainable, twenty-first century city. Designing, publishing, and implementing a strategic plan which considers transport, land-use, and economic development planning is a good place to start,” said Letts.
Victoria is adding hundreds of train and tram services across major train lines and key tram routes from Monday, July 13.
10 extra services per week will be added to the Sunbury, Craigieburn, Werribee, Mernda, Dandenong, Ringwood, and Glen Waverly lines, with an extra five services a week on the Hurstbridge line.
Once level crossing removal works on the Frankston line are complete on Monday, July 27, an extra 10 services a week will run on the Frankston and Sandringham lines.
On the tram network, two new peak period routes will be added. One will run during weekday peaks along St George’s Road, Brunswick Street, and Collins Street, while another will run for up to 19 hours every day between Victoria Harbour and St Vincent’s Plaza, also via Collins Street.
Route 30 will be replaced with route 12 to alleviate congestion on Collins Street, and will instead run on La Trobe Street.
The extra services are in part to reduce the chance of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) for those who do need to use the public transport system to travel, said Victorian Minister for Public Transport and Roads and Road Safety Ben Carroll.
“We’re adding hundreds of new train and tram services every week – giving Victorians the options to travel outside of the traditional peak hours and practice better physical distancing, keeping us all safer.”
In addition to the extra services, boarding via all doors on buses will be implemented over the next 18 months, to reduce crowding at bus stops, and contact will also be reduced with the end of cash payments on board buses from July 13.
Extra cleaners have also been deployed to the network to reduce the chance of the spread of infection.
“We’re grateful to our frontline public transport staff for keeping Victoria moving during the pandemic – these changes will keep them safer as they do their essential work,” said Carroll.
Bombardier’s Wendy McMillan describes how the company is creating a rail manufacturing centre of excellence as it reaches a major milestone.
Announcing the Victorian government’s purchase of 50 new trams for the Melbourne network in 2010, then Public Transport Minister Martin Pakula, highlighted what the first order of locally made trams in 20 years would mean for the state.
“The order is a boost to our tram fleet and is a fantastic endorsement of our local manufacturing industry with major components built at Dandenong as well as assembly and testing.”
Three years later, and a different public transport minister was riding the first of the E-Class trams as it left the Southbank depot and travelled on route 96.
“The E-Class tram will mean an improved ride for passengers with pivoting bogies and air-conditioning designed specifically for Melbourne,” said Terry Mulder, who noted the considerable difference the tram would make for the city and Melbourne’s commuters. “Each E-Class tram can carry 210 passengers, which is significantly more than other trams on the network.”
The company behind this series of trams, Bombardier, is now approaching production of the 100th E-Class vehicle, and the trams, proudly adorned with the ‘Made in Melbourne, For Melbourne’ motto, have become testament to the benefits of local manufacturing. Wendy McMillan, President Australia and New Zealand at Bombardier Transportation, said that by being made in Melbourne, the global mobility provider can “think global, act local”.
“It means you’ve got the full suite,” said McMillan. “We have the engineering capability to match what you actually bid, product assurance and design safety, and then you go into production.”
With the Dandenong workshop now completing vehicle 86 in the series, each tram is the result of Bombardier’s local and global expertise.
“If we look at the E-Class, you have industrial design in Brisbane, and we have at least a third of the global capability of industrial design in our Milton office. What it means is that you have a collaboration between functions, either here or overseas, full collaboration to actually bring the book together for the customer to enable sign off,” said McMillan.
In addition to the trams manufactured in Dandenong, Bombardier also produces the Vlocity 160 DMU for Victoria’s regional network. On both products, Bombardier has been able to update and vary the design locally in line with changes to requirements. Having local engineering capabilities is essential to these changes.
“There might be new standards that come in that the customer may wish to do a variation for,” said McMillan. “For example on LRV crashworthiness, it might be lines of sight, there might be driver requirements that change from the operator. Having engineering presence on the ground enables you to have that assurance.”
The first introduction of the E-Class trams saw improvements in accessibility for travellers by increasing the number of low floor trams running on the network. In addition, the enhanced capacity built into the design of the trams has become increasingly important.
“With COVID-19, larger capacity is a nice thing in hindsight because that allows more people on that tram, so that will give the highest capacity for the Yarra Trams fleet. That obviously means greater access and equity for the commuter and it also ensures that it’s the smoothest ride,” said McMillan.
Other improvements included positive feedback for safety standards in the driver’s cab, and Bombardier has worked with research institutions to look at other areas where design innovation can be introduced to respond to the particularities of Melbourne’s network.
“We’ve worked with a tertiary institution around visibility, line of sight, windscreens, and cameras outside the vehicle so that the driver is fully aware of their surroundings,” said McMillan. “The Melbourne network is not a closed network, it has a high interface with vehicles, whether they’re private drivers, Ubers, taxis, trucks, so we’re working with Yarra Trams and the Victorian government to plan a trial of an Obstacle Detection Assistance System (ODAS) that warns a driver about cars and passengers in front of the tram.”
In addition to upgrades, being local means that Bombardier are working on the trams every day, both in Dandenong and at maintenance depots.
“There was an incident today, an interface with a car or a truck on one of our trams. We hold spares for that. Our ability being on the ground means that we can work quickly, with Yarra Trams at their site in Preston, to repair those vehicles and have them back out. We can do that sourcing from both the Dandenong site and also with Yarra Trams,” said McMillan.
STRENGTHENING LOCAL MANUFACTURING
Bombardier’s presence in Dandenong continues over half a century of rail manufacturing heritage in south-east Melbourne. First opened by Commonwealth Engineering, then taken over by ABB, the current Bombardier plant is built in such a way to provide the best services for the Australian rail industry.
“Because the site itself has got access to the main line it’s very accessible both for V/ Line and Yarra Trams. We have an LRV test track there too and that gives us the ability to do a lot of work for the Victorian government and Yarra Trams on site,” said McMillan.
As McMillan highlights, it’s this collaborative relationship that has developed over the decades that has allowed Bombardier to serve the largest tram network in the world with local knowledge and production.
“We’re in production up to 91, well on the way up to 100 with the E-Class. That’s a big achievement and we can’t do that without our customer the Department of Transport and the State government, as well as a lot of hard work and dedication from our partners in the supply chain,” said McMillan. “We’ve worked to get the right quality supply chain partners, to get it right first time, minimise rework, while having capacity for repairs.”
Across Dandenong and the wider south- east Melbourne region, Bombardier has been key to the flourishing manufacturing ecosystem. The 11,000 manufacturers in south-east Melbourne employ 105,000 people, with each manufacturing job supporting four more jobs in other sectors, according to peak industry body South East Melbourne Manufacturing Alliance (SEMMA). Manufacturing large, complex systems such as rollingstock here enables a flow on effect across the entire region.
“Once we actually manufacture the design, we have an extraordinary, capable, local supply chain, and that’s around the Dandenong area in addition to Australia and New Zealand,” said McMillan. “Then there’s the multiplier impact, and obviously it’s in addition to the employment of those in the local community.”
The light rail operation alone employs more than 70 people directly, while enabling training through apprenticeships and partnerships with local education providers.
“Whether it’s safety training, welding, base manufacturing, or other skill sets, we have apprentices at the site and are close to Chisholm TAFE,” said McMillan. “Each quarter I give out service awards, and the incredible clusters around 5, 10, 15, 20, even 35 years, it blows you away.
“Another aspect is we’ve got a welding school that we offer to external training facilities, but you can’t do this unless you’re a good member of the community. We’re really trying to do not only the right things for the right reasons but really be proactive. We’ve done that in the bushfire appeal, we have an MoU that we’ve just signed with community development organisation St Kilda Gatehouse.”
BUILDING FROM A SUSTAINABLE BASE
Having these deep links to the community has become more important than ever. When COVID-19 hit, one unintended consequence of the local content requirement meant that there was minimal disruption to Bombardier’s manufacturing.
“We’ve been fortunate in our management and the local content policy assists in this regard in having suppliers around,” said McMillan. “Certainly, all supply chains were seriously disrupted and still are to an extent, but the actual impacts to us on these lines have been fairly minimal in a Victorian context. We were at one stage the only Bombardier Transportation site, apart from the China joint ventures, that were open in the world because of the unfortunate state of COVID and its impacts, particularly in Europe, the UK, and the Americas.”
While the disruptions of COVID-19 has an immediate impact on operations, McMillan also sees a role for rollingstock to play in enabling governments to respond. As governments look for ever greater value for money in transportation programs, changing the interaction between rollingstock and fixed infrastructure could provide a way forward.
“We’ve seen a request from clients to really stretch the rollingstock offer to match the associated network infrastructure. They look at expenditure and the interface in both. That might mean just your tram stops, how many of those need to go out, can rollingstock do something different about that? We’re very happy to look at the design possibilities in that regard as well,” said McMillan.
In addition, broader mobility trends will continue. As Melbourne looks to upgrade its network, innovations in light rail vehicles can overcome the limitations of a legacy network. Bombardier is involved in early design work for the next generation of trams, a defined benefit of which will be onboard energy storage to reduce the need for upgrades to the power network.
Another area for future development is integrating tram networks with the wider transportation system. Operating between heavy rail and active transport modes such as walking and cycling, McMillan sees an ongoing role for light rail in solving the ‘last mile’ of passenger movements.
“You have your last mile in logistics and you certainly have that in passenger movement. You’ve got the disruption of Uber and those operations as well in terms of how people still commute and get to nodes of heavy rail stations and meeting that with bike, so we are designing for bicycle capacity on our trains and trams.”
Increasing demand on Victoria’s regional network is leading to new thinking about the role of regional commuter trains, particularly to reduce emissions from diesel-powered units on unelectrified lines.
“In terms of regional-type commuter we can do a bi-mode diesel train, or a battery-electric train, and that can be introduced here. It could be utilised around the growth areas of the South East where we are but particularly to Ballarat and Geelong,” said McMillan.
Another area where Bombardier is involved in the next generation of transport networks is in delivering the signalling for the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project, as part of the Rail Systems Alliance (RSA). This is one area in particular where McMillian sees the local and the global coming together once again.
“Being basically in the same time-zone as Southeast Asia, and having very significant labs in Bangkok, assists with the RSA contract that’s on the ground here. You’ve got to be global for benefits and function shares. No one wants to reinvent the wheel and no customer wants that to happen on their program so that’s the benefit that we offer particularly in the services category.”
In the meantime, however, the day to day operations at Dandenong continue, with safety always the focus.
“At the Dandenong site we’ve achieved a safety record there and that is a result of every one of your staff, management down,” said McMillan.
A significant milestone has been reached on the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project, as three roadheaders meet at what will be the site of the new Town Hall station.
The three roadheaders have been at work creating the cavern and pedestrian connections between the new station and Flinders Street and Flinders Quarter.
“This is a huge milestone for this important project, bringing Melbourne another step closer to a turn up and go rail system, while keeping our construction workers safely on the job,” said Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan.
The new Town Hall station will be one of two interchange stations between the Metro Tunnel and the existing City Loop, with the other being at State Library/Melbourne Central.
When complete, the new station will be 33 metres deep and longer than a city block.
“We’ve made such amazing progress, we now have deep underground a new station entrance at Federation Square, the length of the future station platform and come out at the new entrance at City Square,” said Allan.
The three roadheaders have been working from three different launch sites. The first was launched late last year from City Square and began tunnelling under Swanston Street for the main station cavern. The second roadheader launched under Federation Square and will create the passenger connection between Flinders Street station and Town Hall. The third roadheader excavated the connection between Flinders Quarter and the station.
Each machine weighs up to 118 tonnes and has been working 25 metres below ground level. The cutterheads can cut through rock three times harder than concrete.
Once the roadheaders have finished excavating the stations, the tunnel boring machines will create the twin tunnels between the future Town Hall and State Library stations. All four tunnel boring machines are currently making their way underground towards the CBD.
The project is on track to have trains running through the new tunnels by 2025.
The Williamstown line will be lowered under Ferguson Street to replace the current level crossing in North Williamstown.
The rail-under-road design was decided upon after community feedback expressed a clear preference for such a design.
As part of the works, North Williamstown Station will also be renewed, with lowered platforms, plaza areas, and landscaping. Community feedback is being sought on the design of the station precinct.
Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that it was time for the dangerous level crossing to go.
“This crossing has been the scene tragedy and puts the community at risk every single day – we’re getting rid of it.”
In the past decade there have been five near misses, and the 110 trains that travel through the crossing each weekday cause delays for the 25,000 motorists who wish to cross the rail line.
“Our big build is removing traffic bottlenecks and building a better rail network across the west and right around Melbourne – and it’s creating vital jobs as we rebuild from coronavirus,” said Allan.
The Ferguson Street level crossing removal is one of six level crossing removals in Melbourne’s west on the Werribee and Williamstown lines. In Werribee, crews are preparing the area by relocating underground services and moving traffic lights to enable the construction of a new rail bridge.
Construction in Williamstown will begin in early 2021 and the crossing will be removed by 2022.
Rail delivered to Coburg
New railway track has been hauled to Coburg as part of the Bell to Moreland level crossing removal project.
Made in Whyalla, South Australia, the 10 kilometres of rail strings were transported in 27 metre lengths to a depot in Spotswood, Victoria. There, the strings were welded together into 165-metre lengths, before being hauled by rail to the work site on a 210-metre long train pulled by a diesel locomotive.
The rail will be stored on site before they are placed on the 2.5km elevated rail bridge. The bridge will replace level crossings at Bell, Munro, and Reynard streets in Coburg, and Moreland Road in Brunswick.