V/Line

V/Line appoints acting CEO

V/Line has appointed Gary Liddle as acting CEO of V/Line.

Liddle will take over from Nick Foa, who stepped into the role after former CEO James Pinder was sacked.

Pinder was removed by Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll after Carroll was advised that the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) had launched an investigation.

Melbourne rail operator Metro Trains has stood down rollingstock manager Peter Bollas due to the same investigation.

Separately, V/Line has been taken to court by a cleaning contractor for alleged lack of payment between 2015 and 2018. Statements of claim have been lodged in the Victorian Supreme Court. V/Line said that it had received non-compliant invoices which led to the withholding of payment.

Liddle returns to V/Line having been enterprise professor of transport at the University of Melbourne. Before this role, Liddle was interim CEO of V/Line in 2016 and has also been CEO of VicRoads, and Public Transport Victoria.

V/Line board chair Gabrielle Bell said that Liddle will be a stabilising force within the regional passenger rail operator.

“Liddle returns to our organisation with extensive knowledge of our business, our customers, our challenges, and our opportunities. He will provide the leadership and support V/Line needs at this time.”

Liddle was brought in to V/Line in 2016 as the CEO at another troubled period for the operator. A safety incident in January 2016 saw a V/Line train failing to trigger a boom gate at a level crossing in Dandenong. This led to some services being prohibited from running on the Melbourne suburban network.

Foa will return to his role as head of transport services at the Victorian Department of Transport.

New rail bridge and station opens part of $3bn investment

Trains are now running over a new rail bridge in Carrum, located in south-east Melbourne.

Carrum station opened on Monday morning following a two-week construction blitz, including laying track and ballast and installing traffic signalling.

Level crossings at Mascot Avenue, Bonbeach, Station Street, and Eel Race Road were removed as part of the project, making the new station boom-gate free.

The new rail bridge now connects to the existing Frankston line. The Victorian Government has invested $3 billion to upgrade the Frankston line on the Metro trains network, including the removal of 18 level crossings and building 12 new stations.

Sonya Kilkenny,  Member for Carrum, said the “dreaded ding” of boom gates will no longer effect the community, making it safer and quieter.

Construction is still continuing on Carrum station. Current access to the new station is through The Station Street level crossing. The main entrance at McLeod Road is set to open later this year.

Carrum station, located in the bayside suburb, has been designed to accommodate coastal weather conditions, with weather protection pods, shelter canopies on the platform and wind screens in entrances.

The station will create a town square at its main entrance, a garden at the southern entrance, and a new foreshore park and beach promenade linking Carrum to the bay.

Jacinta Allan, Victorian minister for Transport infrastructure, said 34 crossings have been removed and 26 new stations have opened part of the level crossing removal project.

“It’s great to see the new Carrum Station bustling with passengers right on schedule,” Allan said.

“We’re not wasting a minute delivering the road and rail projects our city and state needs.”

Industrial action continues to affect PTV performance

Ongoing industrial dispute across the Public Transport Victoria (PTV) network has affected January performance for all three operators.

It was revealed in the public transport performance results for January 2020, published by the Department of Transport on Tuesday, that the monthly reliability of Metro Trains, V/Line, and Yarra Trams has fallen below the threshold.

Jeroen Weimar, department of transport head of transport services said all parties need to come to the table and come to an agreement quickly to prevent further inconvenience.

More protected industrial action is planned across the network this month, with expectations that February performance targets could be affected too.

A PTV spokesperson has stated services are expected to be significantly disrupted on metropolitan trams next week and V/Line Ballarat and Gippsland lines.

“We’re working closely with Yarra Trams to reduce the impact of industrial action as much as we can,” the spokesperson said.

The PTV January report stated that other factors also played a role.

“While the driver resourcing issue was a major factor, Metro’s performance was also impacted by hot weather and storm activity.”

Lighting strikes affected rail equipment throughout the month as well as damage to overhead equipment on the Frankston line on Friday, 10 January.

“We continue to work with Metro Trains on plans to improve performance, through the rollout of initiatives including extra staff on station platforms, new technology on platform displays and ongoing work to prevent people illegally walking on tracks,” Weimar said.

Extreme heat impacted the tram network, with some routes cancelled, replaced or diverted when the temperature went above past 40 degrees in late January.

Yarra Trams ran an extra 3,724 tram trips during the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, which was a 21 per cent increase on the extra trips run for last year’s event.

Despite extreme weather and planned industrial action, between December and January, V/Line improved its punctuality from 85 to 90.6 per cent and reliability from 90.7 to 94.6 per cent.

“V/Line’s three busiest lines, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, experienced sharp rises in punctuality from December, growing from 89.9 to 92.6 per cent, from 91.8 to 93.3 per cent and from 86.1 to 90.2 per cent respectively,” a PTV spokesperson said.

“The January Ballarat punctuality figure was also the line’s best in more than three years and follows significant improvements delivered as part of the Ballarat Line Upgrade late last year.”

Weimar said it’s “encouraging”  to see regional trains improving throughout the month.

January included the excavation and concreting of the final section of the Metro Tunnel’s eastern entrance while adding new sections of track. 

Six new tram stops were also installed on Nicholson Street in the city’s north, making Route 96 Melbourne’s most accessible.

Metro Trains and Yarra Trams will pay compensation to eligible passengers after both operators fell below their reliability thresholds in January.

Weather, industrial action affects rail performance in Victoria

Victorian rail operators have fallen short of their monthly targets in December, while light rail operator, Yarra Trams met its punctuality target but missed its reliability threshold.

The figures, from Public Transport Victoria, highlight the strains that train operators are under during a busy and weather-impacted month, said head of transport services at the Department of Transport, Jeroen Weimar.

“Metro Trains was faced with many challenges in December but we’re still looking for them to improve their performance to ensure our passengers get the reliable service they deserve,” he said.

To cope with extreme heat levels in December, with temperatures reaching 44 degrees on December 20, Metro Trains has instituted real time temperature monitoring. The technology enabled fewer services to be cancelled during the heat.

Another factor impacting delays were people illegally entering tracks, incidences of which increased in December.

Increased patronage in the month also led to 540 extra metropolitan train services on New Years Eve.

Overall, Metro Trains’ punctuality sat at 90.8 per cent, and reliability at 98.2 per cent, a 0.1 and 0.7 per cent drop on November figures, respectively.

Yarra Trams’ result sat at 82.8 per cent for punctuality, and 97.2 per cent for reliability. During December the network was affected by industrial action, heat damage to overheads and bridge strikes along Racecourse Road.

Weimar highlighted that these delays were somewhat avoidable.

“It’s incredibly frustrating to see that tram overhead and rail bridges are continually being struck by oversized vehicles,” said Mr Weimar. “It is the responsibility of drivers to know the height of their vehicle and plan their journey accordingly to prevent avoidable disruptions on our roads and public transport network.”

Similar factors affected the performance of the V/Line network, as heat placed speed restrictions on services and industrial action led to services being replaced with buses.

Drones watch over Victorian train network on Cup Day

Victoria has deployed two drones to monitor the more than 1000 extra train services running racegoers to and from the Melbourne Cup Carnival in Flemington.

Metro Trains Control Centre and security staff alongside Victoria Police will monitor the train network, which is operating at a higher frequency, via the drones. The intention is to be able to respond quickly if there is an infrastructure issue or security incident on the track, and therefore improve the reliability of trains.

“Using drone technology, we’ll be able to get the best possible views of the train network, which will carry around half of the 300,000 racegoers expected to flock to the Melbourne Cup Carnival,” announced the Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne yesterday.

This is the first time Metro Trains will use its own drone technology, complementing the 9,000 CCTV cameras already in place across Melbourne, with 10 specially trained pilots working across the four race days.

“We’re always working with our public transport operators to use new technologies that allow us to react quickly to anything that may occur anywhere on the train network,” said Horne.

Metro Trains and Victoria Police are spending $100,000 to tighten security for the race. A new mobile CCTV trailer, complete with thermal night-time, will also be used along the Flemington Racecourse line.

It is intended to target vandals and trespassers on the tracks, following major train delays over the past two weeks caused by the theft of copper cables which forced morning commuters off trains and onto buses.

The trailer includes a six-metre mast carrying a zoomable camera, as well as a thermal imaging camera, providing clear vision at night or in areas with little or no light.

Both technologies will help reduce the impact of train and track faults across the network, getting trains and racegoers moving as quickly as possible.

Metro train. Photo: RailGallery.com.au

Victorian transport performance poor in September

Metro Trains, Yarra Trams and V/Line will pay compensation to Melbourne’s commuters for poor public transport performance during the month of September, according to Public Transport Victoria.

As part of the state’s contracts with transport operators, tough performance standards need to be met to operate Melbourne’s train network.

Metro Trains delivered 89.9 per cent of services on time in September, for failing to deliver 90 per cent of on time services. It also failed to meet its 98.5 per cent reliability target by 0.1 per cent.

This means the operator will pay compensation to passengers for the fourth time this year for falling short by 0.1 per cent.

Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne directed the Department of Transport to work closely with Metro Trains to improve their performance. As such, a dedicated team was created by the department to work closely with Metro’s management to improve performance.

“Metro Trains is expected to deliver a train service that Melburnians can rely on and there were a number of times during in September that did not happen,” said Department of Transport Head of Transport Services Jeroen Weimar.

Our train passengers deserve better.”

According to the government statement, several incidents impacted punctuality during the month of September, including one wherein an overhead power fault near East Richmond trains on four lines over several hours.

“There were more than 320 incidents involving police operations, trespassers on train tracks and near misses, which delayed a total of 955 trains.”

The 2019 AFL Finals series was also on in September, for which 300 extra services were delivered to help transport 250,000 fans.

Yarra Trams surpassed its 82 per cent punctuality target with 86.3 per cent, but achieved 97.9 per cent reliability which is under the 98 per cent compensation threshold and, as such, will pay compensation. Excluding an industrial action which meant work stoppages, says Public Transport Victoria, Yarra Trams averaged 98.9 per cent reliability throughout September.

Operational staff at Yarra Trams are planning another strike in October over its demands for wage increases. The Rail, Tram, and Bus Union is also engaging Metro Trains in court over the right to launch industrial action as well as seeking a new agreement with V/Line.

V/Line achieved 96.8 per cent reliability and 87.7 per cent punctuality. However, it will pay compensation to passengers for falling short of their targets on some individual lines.

“It’s pleasing to see V/Line deliver a consistent regional service this year,” Mr Weimar said. “We’re currently delivering a series of regional rail infrastructure upgrades, which will improve services across multiple regional lines.”

Incidents force lower punctuality for Melbourne in June

The Victorian Department of Transport will pay compensation to passengers of Metro Trains after failing to meet its punctuality targets in June. Metro Trains delivered 88.3 per cent of its trains on time last month, which was 3.7 per cent lower than its 92 per cent target.

Department Acting Deputy Secretary Alan Fedda said that compensation would be offered as the figures fell below 90 per cent. Metro Trains and Yarra Trams can be fined up to $1.25 million and $500,000 a month respectively if they fail to significantly meet their targets.

An overhead power issues near Aircraft Station on June 3, a collision between a train and car at Mentone Station on June 12, and more than 100 incidents of passengers taking ill and requiring help onboard were cited as contributors to delays.

“Metro Trains’ contract with the state government includes tougher measures than ever before in relation to punctuality,” he said. 

“We expect them to meet these targets and deliver a service that our passengers deserve. These results are unacceptable and we will continue to work with Metro Trains to ensure its performance returns to the expected levels.” 

Yarra Trams’s punctuality rose 4.4 per cent on May figures to 84.1 per cent, presenting its best result in four months, and second highest since October 2018. V/Line also recorded its best result this year, with the Ballarat, Geelong, Warrnambool and Bendigo lines all experiencing jumps.

Melbourne Metro Train. Photo: Creative Commons / Zed Fitzhume

Train collides with two cars at Melbourne level crossing

A train has his two cars at a level crossing in Officer, southeast Melbourne. The cars were on the level crossing after one car rear-ended the other onto the tracks.

The boomgates then closed as the drivers got out of their cars to swap details. The vehicles were destroyed, with the train pushing one of the cars 150 metres up the track and the other being pushed aside into the boom gate.

Five people received non-life threatening injuries in the incident, including the driver and two child passengers of the less damaged car and an elderly driver and passenger of the other car. The 84 passengers and two staff on the train were unhurt, though the driver was understandably shaken by the incident.

“The train on approach has seen those cars, sounded its horn and applied emergency brakes,” Public Transport Victoria spokesperson Georgia Main told the Australian Associated Press yesterday.

“The train driver’s pretty shaken, but okay. One car is stuck under train. That’s going to take a little bit to clear.”

The crash led to delays for commuters as sections of the Pakenham line were suspended, with Metro Trains arranging for buses to transport passengers between Pakenham and Berwick. The Gippsland V/Line was also affected by the crash but both services eventually returned to service in the afternoon.

Melbourne Metro Train. Photo: Creative Commons / Zed Fitzhume

Metro Trains’ May performance impacted by wire collapse

Public Transport Victoria’s reliability has suffered a drop for the month of May across its Metro Trains, Yarra Trams and V/Line services.

PTV chief executive officer Joroen Weimar called May a challenging month for Melbourne’s train network, citing an overhead power issue at Laverton Junction that impacted Werribee line services over a four-day period. A small segment of wire that fell from a corroded section of the overhead power structure became tangled in a passing train, which removed a further section of wire.

The incident led to PTV’s decision to replace all insulator connection on the Werribee line on top of its existing routine maintenance.

This incident led to Metro Trains falling short of its monthly reliability and punctuality targets, with reliability defined as the number of scheduled trains that ran and punctuality the number of trains that ran on time.

Metro Trains achieved a 90.4 per cent punctuality rate and 98.2 per cent reliability rate in May, short of the targets by 1.6 per cent and 0.3 per cent, respectively.

Yarra Trams and V/Line fared better, however. Yarra Trams exceeded its monthly reliability target in May, delivering 98.7 per cent of all scheduled services but missed on punctuality, delivering 79.2 per cent of services on time compared to an 82 per cent target.

Yarra Trams received a boost in May in the south east of the city due in part to the temporary closure of the Sandringham rail line to accommodate works on the ongoing Metro Tunnel project. Yarra Trams delivered 215 additional peak weekday services on three routes from May 22-31 to help compensate for this.

V/Line delivered 86.5 per cent of its services on time and 97.1 per cent of its scheduled services in May. In particular, the Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo lines all showed significant year-on-year improvements, according to Weimar, with Bendigo securing the biggest leap at 87.3 per cent, up 10.3 per cent from may 2018.

“We continue to work hard to deliver a service that our regional passengers can rely on while maintaining the network improvements we have seen over the past 12 months,” Weimar said.

“We’re working with all operators to improve their punctuality and reliability as well as enabling the major program of essential infrastructure upgrades to the state’s public transport network to be delivered.”