The Commonwealth and Victorian governments have announced $16.2m in funding for a dual-track connection to the Somerton freight hub. Read more
The National Cabinet has agreed to raise the threshold for projects having to be evaluated by Infrastructure Australia to those requiring more than $250 million in Commonwealth funding. Read more
Work has begun on replacing 39,000 sleepers on the Rainbow to Dimboola line in Victoria’s North West.
V/Line crews with the support of contractors are conducting the works that are funded through the Victorian government’s Building Works program which sets aside $83 million for regional rail maintenance.
Victorian minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the works would support freight movements and economic growth in the region.
“This investment will help improve our freight network and ensure we are continuing to support farmers and freight operators at a time when they need it the most,” said Horne.
“We’re continuing to maintain and improve the network, taking extra steps to allow projects like this to continue safely and help keep track workers, suppliers and contractors working.”
In addition to sleeper replacement works, ballast will also be renewed and resurfacing will improve the condition of the track. Scheduling has aimed to minimise the impact on freight services using the line.
Member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford said the works were essential with a large grain harvest expected this year.
“This upgrade will provide easier and more efficient ways for farmers to transport their goods ahead of what is expected to be a bumper grain harvest,” said Pulford.
“The line has already been put to good use since re-opening in April, and this investment will make it even better.”
The 66km line from Rainbow to Dimboola was reopened in April after a $1m investment to replace 5,000 sleepers. So far, 38 freight services have used the re-opened line, carrying 100,000 tonnes of grain and replacing 5,700 truck movements.
Heavy use of the line has led farmers to previously call for further reopening of freight lines servicing grain growers and other primary producers throughout regional Victoria.
The Victorian government is investing $3.5 million in upgrade works to the Maryvale rail siding in Gippsland.
The siding is primarily used by freight trains hauling paper from Australian Paper’s Maryvale mill to Melbourne.
Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the upgrade would ensure paper products continued to be transported via rail.
“This important upgrade will ensure Victoria’s busiest regional rail freight train continues to run and will support the jobs of 900 Gippsland workers,” she said.
“We’re keeping rail freight cost-effective and helping businesses like Australian Paper access key domestic and overseas markets.”
The upgrade will involve the replacement of sleepers and ballast, with ground resurfacing works also taking place. Ultimately, the works will increase the efficiency of the rail infrastructure by reducing maintenance expenditure, ensuring that rail remains competitive for Australian Paper.
Procurement will begin in early 2021 and construction should begin soon after that.
The funding for the project is part of the Victorian government’s COVID-19 response. In May, the government earmarked up to $90m for regional rail infrastructure upgrades.
“This work comes adds to the significant improvements to the signalling system in Morwell, which have already been completed – making it easier than ever to move freight through Gippsland,” said Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing.
To connect freight trains to the main Gippsland line, an automated signalling system in Morwell has been installed, replacing manual processes and improving integration across the network.
The Victorian government has detailed transport works that will receive funding as part of its $2.7 billion Building Works program.
Announced in May, programs to be carried out as part of the program include upgrades to regional freight and passenger lines.
$83 million will be spent on improving 400 kilometres of freight only rail lines by replacing sleepers, repairing ballast, and renewing level crossing equipment.
$36m will be spent on the maintenance of the V/Line Classic Fleet, to be carried out by Bombardier. This will support 20 jobs for engineers, repair workers, and cleaners to maintain the V/Line fleet.
$7.5m will go towards upgrades to track for the regional passenger network, enabling more reliable services Deer Park Junction to Ballarat, Ballarat to Ararat, Donnybrook to Seymour, Corio to Waurn Ponds and the Bendigo East Track.
Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said that the upgrades would enable more efficient connections between primary producers and export facilities.
“The upgrades will mean produce can be transported from farm to port much more quickly, opening up key markets to Victorian farmers,” she said.
“These investments in our rail freight network are part of our ongoing commitment to boost our export power and support regional jobs.”
Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said the improvements would provide more reliable services for regional travellers, connecting regional centres and localities.
“We’re building on our unprecedented investment in regional rail, and this maintenance blitz will be a boost for local jobs and keep Victoria moving as we recover from the coronavirus crisis.”
In addition to the announced measures, funding from the Building Works package has also been earmarked for the maintenance and restoration of trams. Other works also include improving stations and stops across Victoria and managing rail corridors through the removal of rubbish and graffiti and the management of vegetation.
A reshuffle of minister in Victoria has seen changes within the transport portfolios.
Ben Carroll has been appointed Minister for Public Transport and Minister for Roads and Road Safety, taking the Public Transport portfolio from Melissa Horne.
Premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement that the former Minister for Crime Prevention, Corrections, Youth Justice, and Victim, support would be stepping forward.
“Ben Carroll will step into the frontline roles of Minister for Public Transport and Minister for Roads and Road Safety, continuing to ensure we have the reliable and integrated transport network we need to get Victorians home safer and sooner.”
Melissa Horne will continue as Minister for Ports and Freight and has added Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation to her portfolios.
Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan has retained her transport portfolio and added the title of Minister for the Suburban Rail Loop.
“Jacinta Allan will lead the delivery of our biggest public transport project and reshape our suburbs as the Minister for the Suburban Rail Loop. She will also continue to oversee Development Victoria and the key transport precincts of Arden, Sunshine and the Richmond to Flinders Street corridor,” said Andrews.
The ministerial reshuffle follows the removal of Adem Somyurek, Marlene Kairouz, and Robin Scott after the branch stacking scandal.
In a tweet, Allan said that she was proud to be Minister for Suburban Rail Loop.
“Victoria’s biggest ever project which will change the way we move around forever – creating 10,000s jobs during construction and more jobs and services in Melbourne’s suburbs.”
Yarra Trams is utilising the Victorian government’s Working for Victoria scheme to clean trams, depots, and high-volume stops.
The $500 million initiative aims to get Victorian jobseekers into work as the state recovers from coronavirus (COVID-19) mandated lockdowns.
300 jobseekers have been deployed around the Melbourne tram network to boost cleaning and allow commuters and passengers to travel safely, said Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne.
“Our trams are seeing more cleaning than ever before, and passengers should be assured that we are doing everything we can to keep the network clean.”
Workers are cleaning the network between 7am and 6pm and high patronage stops such as Federation Square and Melbourne University and getting an extra deep clean. On busy corridors such as St Kilda Road, teams will be jumping on and off trams to increase cleaning frequency.
Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Trade Martin Pakula said the scheme benefited both the workers and the community.
“This is creating opportunities for people who have lost their job through no fault of their own and providing a crucial community service into the bargain.”
The extra cleaning is in addition to standard cleaning that occurs at the beginning and end of each service. High touch areas such as handrails and grab straps are cleaned at the beginning of each run.
Minister Horne acknowledged the important role that the extra cleaning was doing.
“I want to thank our hard-working team who are working around the clock cleaning, providing advice to passengers and keeping our transport network moving.”
The Victorian government has brokered a deal to transfer manufacturing staff from Alstom’s manufacturing site in Ballarat to Bombardier’s maintenance depot in the same regional town.
The deal was agreed to by the Victorian government, the two major manufacturers, and unions, and will see 27 of Alstom’s permanent manufacturing staff redeployed to work on the VLocity train maintenance program, which will be carried out at Bombardier’s Ballarat workshop.
Alstom workers who have not been redeployed will continue working on other rollingstock projects, said Minister for Public Transport, Melissa Horne.
“We’re helping keep these highly skilled manufacturing jobs in Ballarat – giving certainty to workers and their families.”
The deal comes after speculation over the future of Alstom’s Ballarat workforce once the final X’Trapolis trains in the current order are completed. While the Victorian government has committed to an order of X’Trapolis 2.0 trains, designs are still being completed, leaving the workforce in limbo. Victorian secretary of the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) Luba Grigorovitch said that the jobs could have disappeared altogether.
“There was the potential for these regional jobs to be lost, and I’m really pleased that the state government applied the pressure that was necessary to ensure that the redeployment of the employees has been facilitated.”
The Victorian government has committed $12 million to Alstom to continue designing the X’Trapolis 2.0 trainsets.
Grigorovitch welcomed the investment but said that a confirmed order was needed.
“The investment in the design phase is only the first step and the workers and their families will only truly be secure once they see an order of much needed X’Trapolis 2.0s.”
By redeploying the workers onto the VLocity fleet, maintenance schedules will be sped up, said Horne.
“Alstom workers will gain new experience and skills carrying out vital maintenance on our VLocity fleet – helping to keep services moving across regional Victoria.”
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.
Upgrades on the Warrnambool line have been brought forward, with works to begin on June 9.
The works involve the replacement of 27,000 timber sleepers with concrete sleepers at a cost of $8.1 million.
V/Line staff and contractors will work through the night in 10-day blocks to renew the line. The work will be focussed on the section of the line between Colac and Waurn Ponds after other upgrade works were done in late 2018 and early 2019 on the section between Warrnambool and Colac.
Although the works will be conducted at night, trains will run slower than normal after the works are complete to allow the sleepers to bed down. Some trains will be replaced by buses. Freight services will operate as normal.
Once works are complete, Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne said that passengers would enjoy a smoother ride.
“These works help to ensure V/Line can continue to offer a safe, reliable and comfortable experience for passengers who rely on the service.”
The sleepers are being produced by Austrack at their Avalon facility.
“This project is not only going to benefit south-western Victorian public transport users but is supporting local business to get the job done,” said Member for Western Victoria Gayle Tierney.
The Victorian government has been carrying out sleeper replacement works on other regional lines, including a $16.1m program on the Bendigo line that used 48,000 concrete sleepers.