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.

TBMs

TBMs all boring under Melbourne for Metro Tunnel

All four tunnel boring machines (TBMs) on the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project are in the ground, ensuring that the project is on track to be finished in 2025, a year ahead of schedule.

Premier Daniel Andrews said that having all TBMs working at the same time was a milestone for the project.

“We’re making significant progress on this landmark project – with all four tunnel boring machines in the ground.”

The news comes as other significant works are completed. At Parkville station, excavation of the station box at Grattan Street is complete and 50 steel columns are being installed at the under-construction State Library Station.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan thanked those who were working on the project.

“The team have worked around-the-clock to get the four tunnel boring machines underway, while observing social distancing and keeping workers safe.”

Andrews echoed that these works would have an economy-boosting impact.

“Big construction projects like the Metro Tunnel are more important than ever as we rebuild from the pandemic – kickstarting our economy and supporting thousands of jobs.”

Of the four TBMs, two are tunnelling from the Ardern site in North Melbourne towards Parkville. TBMs Meg and Joan, named after Australian cricketer Meg Lanning and Victoria’s first female Premier Joan Kirner, are completing the two parallel tunnels.

At the eastern portal TBM Millie and TBM Alice, named after Millie Peacock – Victoria’s first female member of Parliament – and Alice Appleford, wartime nurse, are excavating the twin tunnels from Anzac Station to South Yarra.

Dangerous level crossings removed and new connections about to open

Level crossing works in Melbourne’s south east have reached major milestones, with boom gates removed and bridge beams installed.

At Evans Road, Lyndhurst, seven giant bridge beams weighing 70 tonnes and 32 metres in length have been installed. The beams will support a new road bridge over the Cranbourne line, allowing smoother connections around the transport network.

The beams were made in Victoria in Kilmore, and delivered to the site by truck.

The level crossing at Evans Road had been a site of concern for the community since it was closed in 2005, with motorists taking extreme measures to avoid detours. The removal of the level crossing will reconnect communities such as Lyndhurst, Lynbrook, and Cranbourne West.

Work will be completed on the Evans Road level crossing by the end of 2020.

Boom gates in Cheltenham and Mentone at Park, Charman and Balcombe roads are now gone, meaning the suburbs in south east Melbourne are now level crossing free.

The works are part of the largest level crossing blitz ever undertaken, and once complete rail trenches will be constructed, and two new stations will be built at Charman and Balcombe roads.

Trains will return to the line on July 27, and roads will reopen even sooner, with Park Road opening on June 8, Charman Road on June 11 and Balcombe Road on June 23.

The historic Cheltenham Station is being preserved, after being dismantled and relocated to storage. The new station will reopen on August 17 while the new Mentone station will open on August 3.

Finishing works including car parking, landscaping and walking and cycling connections will continue until the end of 2020.

New study to guide investment in Victorian containerised freight rail flows

A new study will look at ways to move freight more efficiently and reduce the number of trucks going into the Port of Melbourne.

Funded by the Victorian government, the Port of Melbourne Container Logistics Chain Study will be the first in a decade and carried out by the Port of Melbourne operator.

The study will look into the flow of containers into the port, trends, and changes since 2009.

With forecast growth of 900 million tonnes in freight in Victoria by 2051, the study will examine the impact and nature of growth in container volumes.

“With Victoria growing rapidly so it’s more vital than ever that we have the detailed information we need to plan for the future,” said Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne.

The study’s findings will inform investment and policy decisions that will enable efficient freight movements via rail.

“The knowledge gained from this study will help us get more freight onto trains and off local roads,” said Horne.

After the previous study was conducted, investments were made in the intermodal freight precinct at Truganina, as well as the West Gate Tunnel.

The announcement of the study follows the extension of the Mode Shift Incentive Scheme (MSIS) and a $125 million commitment to on dock rail at the Port of Melbourne.

CEO of the Port of Melbourne Brendan Bourke said that the research would improve freight supply chains.

“We all need reliable information to support our organisations’ future directions, as well as our collective efforts to ensure our industry continues to underpin the state’s economy and competitive edge.

“We know from stakeholder feedback that the 2009 study has greatly assisted government and industry during the past decade in its business planning and investment decisions,” Bourke said.

Route 58

Tram route 58 gets track uplift

Tram route 58 is getting a major upgrade to improve services in Melbourne’s inner north, said Victorian Public Transport Minister Melissa Horne.

“We’re getting on with these works so we can give passengers better services and get them where they need to go.”

$3.7 million in funding is going towards the replacement of 1.2km of tram tracks, upgrades of overhead wires, and work on underground cables.

The work will begin on Friday, May 22, and continue until Monday, June 1.

While work is underway, buses will replace trams from Royal Park to the Bell Street and Melville Road terminus. Road closures in the area will also be implemented.

Route 58 runs from Pascoe Vale South via the Melbourne CBD and on to South Yarra and Toorak. Services from Royal Park to Toorak will continue while work is underway.

Horne said that the vital works will help the route cope with increased demand.

“Route 58 is one of our busiest tram routes and these upgrades will mean the system can cope with that demand.”

Measures are in place so that work crews and those in the surrounds do not come into contact and limit any chance of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Physical distancing requirements are in place at all worksites.

The work on route 58, although previously scheduled, comes after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that tram revitalisation works would be part of the state’s Building Works program, to get Victorians back into jobs and the economy moving again.

Four level crossing removals among program of winter works

Four level crossings are scheduled to go on the Upfield line by November 2020.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that a construction blitz will remove the four level crossings at Munro, Reynard, and Bell streets, and Moreland Road.

Work crews of over 1,000 will work around the clock from July 28 to November 15.

The blitz involves elevating two kilometres of rail line and constructing two new stations, at Coburg and Moreland stations.

“Over the next few months we’re ramping up work on our Big Build, including the biggest level crossing removal blitz we’ve ever done,” said Allan.

Buses will replace trains between Anstey and Upfield, however a new turnback facility at Anstey will allow trains to continue between Anstey and the city, reducing the impact on commuters.

Works on other level crossing on the Frankston line are getting underway in May, with trenches to be excavated and new stations built to facilitate the removal of level crossings at Park and Charman roads in Cheltenham, and Balcombe Road in Mentone.

Other projects are underway in Lyndhurst, Pakenham, Berwick, Edithvale, Chelsea and Bonbeach, Werribee, Hoppers Crossing, Mooroolbark and Lilydale.

As part of Victoria’s Big Build program, construction on the Metro Tunnel Town Hall station is taking another step forward. Trams will not run along Flinders Street between Elizabeth and Russell streets from July 5-11 and cars on St Kilda Road won’t be able to turn left into Flinders street to maintain pedestrian safety around the construction site. The Sunbury Line upgrade, to facilitate trains to run on the line as part of the Metro Tunnel project, is also continuing in late June.

Winter will also see track renewal and maintenance in the CBD and on the regional train network, specifically the Bendigo, Swan hill and Echuca lines. On the Bendigo Line between Sunbury and Bendigo the $16.1 million sleeper replacement program was completed a month ahead of schedule. 50 workers were on site around the clock to renew 48,000 sleepers, locally manufactured at Avalon, near Geelong.

“Building these projects is more important than ever, as we rebuild our economy and get people back to work,” said Allan.

Two more tunnel boring machines in the ground under Melbourne

The construction of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel has reached another milestone, with all four tunnel boring machines (TBM) now in operation.

TBM Millie, named after Victoria’s first female MP, Millie Peacock, is excavating the 1.7km tunnel between Anzac Station and the eastern entrance to the Metro Tunnel at South Yarra, while TBM Alice, named after wartime medical hero Alice Appleford, will soon begin on the second under St Kilda Road in the next weeks.

The first two tunnel boring machines had reached Anzac station from the west and are now creating the twin tunnels from Arden Station to Parkville station. There, the excavation of the station box was completed earlier in April.

Other works currently progressing at excavations under Swanston and Flinders streets to create the Town Hall station central cavern. The tunnelling for the twin tunnels under the CBD at the new State Library station, will begin later in 2020.

During these construction works, and with the building of rail infrastructure deemed an essential service, extra safety precautions are in place, said Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan.

“The Metro Tunnel team are doing an amazing job finding practical, safe ways of working, so we can continue building this urgently needed project in challenging circumstances.”

As states begin to lift coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, the continuation of infrastructure construction such as the Melbourne Metro Tunnel will be key for economic recovery, said Allan.

“Just as we’re facing an unprecedented health challenge, we’re facing an unprecedented economic challenge too. Our Big Build will be vital as we recover after the pandemic has passed.”

Drilling works continuing for Suburban Rail Loop

Early geotechnical works are continuing as part of the first stages of the Suburban Rail Loop.

Having begun in November 2019, during April a number of site investigations have taken place in Clayton, Burwood, Notting Hill, Mount Waverly, Highett, Cheltenham, and Glen Waverly.

The works so far include drilling to gain data and information about local ground conditions. This involves confirming an area is free of utility services, geotechnical drilling and testing, and installing a groundwater monitoring well for samples and measurement of groundwater levels.

Investigations have been focused in the south east of Melbourne, as the first stage of the loop will run from Cheltenham to Box Hill. Clayton will serve as a new transport super hub while new stations will be built in Burwood and Monash.

In March this year, a number of investigations were also carried out in areas from Box Hill to Highett. The project aims to have 100 boreholes drilled by mid-2020.

Once complete, the Suburban Rail Loop will connect each metropolitan train line in Melbourne and travel around the city from Cheltenham to Werribee via Melbourne Airport.

Initial construction works are expected to commence in 2022. When operational, the Suburban Rail Loop will run as a separate rail line, using dedicated rollingstock and separate systems. The same ticketing system will serve both networks, however.

The divergent future of intermodal in Australia

While increasing freight volumes are putting pressure on infrastructure in some locations, elsewhere limited growth is leading to projects being deferred.

Intermodal terminals were described as the “essential building blocks” for overall rail- based supply chains, in a 2017 report by PwC, prepared for the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

In Australia, these foundational blocks are spread throughout the country. However, they are under varying amounts of stress. In the eastern states, capacity is becoming strained by increases in freight volume. In South Australia and Western Australia, there is considerable room to grow with the existing infrastructure.

These differences were highlighted in recent announcements by state governments, rail, and port operators.

In NSW, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is proceeding with works on the Botany Rail Duplication and Cabramatta Loop Projects to increase freight capacity at the congested Port Botany terminal.

In January, ARTC shortlisted three contractors for the two projects. For the Botany Rail Duplication project, CPB Contractors, Laing O’Rouke, and John Holland are shortlisted. For the Cabramatta Loop Project, ARTC has shortlisted Downer EDI, Fulton Hogan, and John Holland. The formal tender process will be undertaken in 2020 for both projects.

ARTC CEO and managing director, John Fullerton, noted that these projects will grow the potential of freight in Sydney.

“These major projects aim to improve rail capacity, flexibility and reliability for freight rail customers, encouraging more freight to shift from road to rail, and we are getting on with delivering these massive improvements.”

Both projects aim to increase rail capacity and service reliability to and from Port Botany, while increasing capacity across the Sydney freight network. According to NSW Ports’ 30-year Master Plan, 80 per cent of containers that arrive in Port Botany are delivered to sites closer than 40km away. Increasing freight rail frequency will allow for these containers to be moved to industrial and logistics sites in Western and South-Western Sydney.

“Improving freight performance at Port Botany is critical for the economic growth and prosperity of Sydney, NSW and Australia with the amount of container freight handled by the Port set to significantly increase by 77 per cent to 25.5 million tonnes by 2036,” said Fullerton.

“These two landmark projects will strike the balance between rail and road by duplicating the remaining single freight rail track section of the Botany Line between Mascot and Botany and constructing a new passing loop on the Southern Sydney Freight Line (SSFL) between Cabramatta Station and Warwick Farm Station to allow for freight trains up to 1300m in length.

“Once completed, the Cabramatta Loop Project will allow freight trains travelling in either direction along the Southern Sydney Freight Line to pass each other and provide additional rail freight capacity for the network.”

Work on the Sydney freight network will also increase rail’s share of freight, and alleviate congestion on the Sydney road network, highlighted Fullerton.

“Each freight train can take up to 54 trucks worth of freight off the road, tackling congestion and improving the everyday commute in Sydney.”

The Port of Melbourne is also looking at the potential to increase the volume of freight moved by rail from the Port to intermodal terminals in Melbourne’s north and west.

In late January, the Victorian government improved the Port operator’s plans to invest $125 million for the construction of a new on-dock rail.

The Port of Melbourne will introduce a $9.75 per 20-foot equivalent unit charge on imported containers and the funds raised from the charge will directly deliver new sidings and connections for the rail project. Improving rail access to the Port of Melbourne is a legislated condition of its lease, aiming towards a wider push to expand rail freight across Victoria.

The Victorian government said in a statement it is “also supporting the Port Rail Shuttle Network connecting freight hubs in Melbourne’s north and west to the port, new intermodal terminals planned at Truganina and Beveridge, new automated signalling for faster rail freight to GeelongPort and improvements in the regional rail freight network”.

“On-dock rail will make rail transport more competitive, cut the high cost of the ‘last mile’ and reduce truck congestion at the port gate – a big win for Victorian exporters delivering goods to the Port of Melbourne.”

Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the project will increase the competitiveness of Victorian industry.

“The Port of Melbourne is a vital part of our multi-billion dollar export sector and agriculture supply chain and on-dock rail will make its operations more efficient for Victorian exporters – removing congestion at the port gate.”

The project is set to be completed by 2023.

DIFFERENT ROUTES IN SA

In contrast to these announcements, the South Australian government has decided to pull back from a plan to move greater volumes of freight via a new network named GlobeLink. An election promise from the Marshall government, in late January, the government announced that the project would be terminated, as the business case did not stack up.

The proposed project would comprise a road and rail corridor behind the Adelaide Hills, which would connect the National Highway and the rail link from Victoria to Northern Adelaide. The project would have also included an intermodal export park and freight-only airport at Murray Bridge.

The SA government commissioned KPMG to produce a business case for the project, which found that rail freight in the corridor would decline.

Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government Stephan Knoll highlighted that investment in rail freight would not be of economic value for the state.

“Particularly, with respect to the rail component, the report highlights that limited and declining volumes see limited relative economic benefit for the state,” he said.

“Therefore, with rail volumes unlikely to increase sufficiently in the future, the benefits of a new rail corridor are very marginal.”

The KPMG report found that the benefit cost ratios for the initial rail corridor is 0.08 – a value of 1 is where a project would break even.

The South Australian Freight Council (SAFC) welcomed the decision, with SAFC executive officer, Evan Knapp, highlighting that alternative projects would be a better fit for the state.

“The Freight Industry is both pleased and relieved GlobeLink will no longer go ahead, and that instead other options will be explored – we look forward to consultation on the new approach in due course.”

The report also suggested the potential of a new intermodal terminal south east of Adelaide, however Knapp pointed out that the terminal could go ahead without government investment.

“We understand that there is a proponent looking at it now and there’s no reason why that cannot go ahead,” he said. “Cancelling GlobeLink in no way impacts on that element at all.”

Of more benefit to the freight rail sector and the wider community in South Australia, would be the removal of level crossings in the Adelaide metro area, said Knapp.

“Currently we’re happy with the freight rail line, we do believe there is room for some work on level crossing removals towards Adelaide, particularly the level crossing on Cross Road, as you can imagine a freight train going through that crossing at a very slow speed and given their lengths of well over a kilometre does take some time and causes dislocation of a major road in South Australia.”

Dual multimillion dollar contracts awarded for rail upgrades in south east Melbourne

Two contracts have been announced to begin work on improving rail connections in south east Melbourne.

The Level Crossing Removal Project announced that the duplication of the Cranbourne Line between Cranbourne and Dandenong will be carried out by two alliances.

The first alliance will bring together McConnell Dowell, Arup, Mott MacDonald, and Metro Trains Melbourne, for the section of track between Dandenong and Lynbrook. This contract will also involved the removal of the Greens Road level crossing in Dandenong South.

The second alliance will complete the track duplication between Lynbrooke and Cranbourne. This alliance comprises Laing O’Rouke, Jacobs, and Metro Trains Melbourne. The grouping will also build a new Merinda Park station and increase the size of the car park at Lynbrooke Station.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that the work formed part of a larger suite of works.

“With 11 level crossings already removed along the Cranbourne line, we’re getting on with delivering better services to more people in Melbourne’s growing south east.”

Works on the line duplication, new station, and level crossing removal will be completed by 2025 and allow for a future rail extension to Clyde. Services will be able to run up to every 10 minutes and once the Metro Tunnel is complete, new high-capacity trains will be able to transport 121,000 extra peak hour passengers per week on the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines.

“The Cranbourne Line Upgrade is just one of a suite of major road and rail projects easing congestion, improving safety and making journeys more reliable in the south-east,” said Member for Cranbourne Pauline Richards.

According to program director, Steve Brown, the authority has been looking to get started on these major works.

“These projects are a huge priority for us, and we’ve been working hard to make sure they can start as soon as possible.”

In a separate announcement, the Level Crossing Removal Authority advised that a level crossing in Melbourne’s major commercial and industrial area will be removed in mid 2020 with the construction contract signed.

The contract will be delivered by an alliance of Fulton Hogan and Metro Trains Melbourne.

Early works to begin the South Gippsland Highway, Dandenong South level crossing removal are set to start soon.

The level crossing will be removed and replaced with a road bridge over the rail line.

Early works will include site establishment on South Gippsland Highway and underground services relocation.

Major works in mid 2020 will involved the construction of the new road bridge and the replacement of the busy intersection at South Gippsland Highway and Princes Highway with a fully signalised T-intersection.

A level crossing removal project (LCRP) spokesperson said LCRP will work to minimise local disruptions or community impacts while these works take place.