Waratah

New Waratah Series 2 train in service 3 months ahead of schedule

The first of a second order of Waratah Series 2 trains has entered service this week, three months ahead of schedule.

The train is one of 17 Waratah Series 2 trains that will begin operating on the Sydney network as part of the second delivery. The rest are expected to commence service later in 2020 and early 2021, said Minister for Transport Andrew Constance.

“It is exciting to see this train on the tracks three months ahead of schedule, after it was one of 17 fast tracked for delivery at the start of 2019,” said Constance.

“The remainder of the trains will be delivered by the end of this year and will be rolled out progressively after testing.”

The investment in new rollingstock is part of the NSW government’s More Trains More Services program. The program also covers upgrades to signalling, the installation of new train control systems, traffic managements systems, and infrastructure improvements.

The $4.3 billion investment will increase the capacity of the current Sydney network to allow for further growth in passenger demand as seen over the past years, said Constance.

“We have seen rapid growth in the number of train journeys over the past few years, which is why it is so important that we invest in new trains and new infrastructure right across our rail network.”

Sydney Trains acting chief executive Suzanne Holden said the new trains would feature similar passenger-focused upgrades as those in the first delivery.

“They’ll feature air conditioning with advanced temperature control, high definition customer information screens, internal and external CCTV, as well as priority seating, wheelchair spaces and hearing aid loops,” she said.

The new trains will operate on the T2 Inner West & Leppington, T3 Bankstown, and T8 Airport & South lines.

The rest of the fleet will be delivered before the end of 2020. Once in Australia the trains will undergo testing and commissioning.

Port Botany

Update to IA Priority List identifies rail projects as key for growth

In a mid-year update to the 2020 Infrastructure Priority List, Infrastructure Australia has added four rail projects to the list of nationally significant infrastructure.

The mid-year update provides governments with a snapshot of the projects that will drive Australia’s economy, said Infrastructure Australia CEO Romilly Madew.

“Australia is planning its recovery from a rolling series of crises: drought, flood, the bushfires and now COVID-19. As we look forward, the focus is on delivery and as the nation’s infrastructure advisory body, we are continuing to improve our ability to move quickly to identify investments that will improve productivity – this is about expanding the pipeline, keeping the economy growing, helping to create jobs and attract investment.”

The total infrastructure pipeline is now worth more than $64 billion, and Madew said it was key that infrastructure investment was wisely spent.

“This is the first time we have formally released the Priority List mid-year, by doing so, we want to highlight the most recent priority proposals at a time when our infrastructure investment needs to progress quickly, without jeopardising the quality of those investments,” she said.

Rail will continue to play a key role in stimulating the Australian economy and lifting its productivity as the country recovers.

Rail projects added to the list include Stage 2 of the More Trains, More Services project in NSW, the Port Botany Rail Line Duplication & Cabramatta Passing Loop, and two Metronet projects, the Morley–Ellenbrook Line project and the high capacity signalling project. All were deemed “priority projects”.

Rail line and station improvements on the Gold Coast line from Kuraby to Beenleigh has also been updated to reflect the latest information on infrastructure constraints on the Gold Coast line.

The addition of these projects highlights that well-planned rail infrastructure will be key to Australia’s post-COVID-19 recovery.

Infrastructure Australia is now seeking submissions for its 2021 report, to be released in February.

Waratah

First of next set of Waratah trains arrive

The first delivery of the second order of Waratah Series 2 trains have arrived at the Port of Newcastle.

The trains are the first of 17 new Waratah Series 2 trains to expand the Sydney Trains fleet. The increase in trains is part of the More Trains, More Services program.

Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said the need to have more trains was due to rising patronage.

“Over the last few years we’ve seen a rapid growth in the number customers travelling on the rail network which is why it is important we invest in new infrastructure, including new trains,” he said.

Once the full fleet is operational on the Sydney network it will take the number of Waratah Series 2 trains to 41. The extra order was announced in February 2019.

Once the trains arrived at the dock, they were able to be placed immediately on rail lines adjacent to the ship. The rest of the 15 trains will be handled in this way over the next eight months, said Port of Newcastle CEO Craig Carmody.

“Newcastle has a key advantage in being able to unload this type of rolling stock cargo directly onto rail lines immediately next to the ship, without the need for any unnecessary truck movements.”

A Newcastle Stevedores spokesperson said that the team enjoys the challenge of this style of cargo.

“We are delighted to facilitate the discharge and initial consolidation of the second stage of the project. The unique nature of West Basin, with direct under hook access to network connected rail, lends itself perfectly to rolling stock imports.”

The trains will undergo testing and completion works in Cardiff and will then be hauled by locomotive to the Auburn Maintenance Centre. Testing there will ready the trains for the Sydney network.

“Most of the testing will take place at night and across the weekend to minimise the impact on customers,” said Constance.

The trains are manufactured in a joint venture between Chinese manufacturer CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles and Downer Rail. The vehicles are assembled in Changchun before testing and commissioning is conducted in Cardiff, near Newcastle.

Mascot

Mascot station gets major access upgrade

Mascot station in Sydney’s inner south will have a major upgrade to cope with rapid increases in commuter demand.

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) announced that the upgrade will involve a new entrance and exit with new escalators and a lift. In addition, further ticket gates will be installed to increase people flow through the station.

The measures are designed to decrease crowding, as the station has experienced a 117 per cent increase in customer trips to and from the station between 2015 and 2019.

“Outside of the Sydney CBD, Mascot is one of the busiest stations on the network and with demand set to continue, we need to deliver improvements to ensure this important transport hub is equipped to handle increased customer volumes in the future,” said a TfNSW spokesperson.

Currently there is only one entrance on the eastern side of Bourke Street, with passengers from nearby high-rise developments, workplaces, and those travelling to the station by bus having to use a pedestrian crossing to cross Bourke street, limiting traffic flow.

“Road users will also notice reduced congestion on Bourke Street with less people having to rely on the pedestrian crossing to access the station,” said the spokesperson.

Mascot station is one of a number of stations on the Airport line that will receive upgrades to rail and track infrastructure as part of the More Trains, More Services upgrades. TfNSW announced the successful tenderers for that project in May.

“This includes plans to increase services for Mascot customers during the morning peak by 60 per cent, meaning trains on average every three to four minutes instead of every six today,” said the spokesperson.

Preliminary investigations including drilling and site set up work will now begin, and the review of environmental factors will be open to public comment later in 2020.

The Airport Line which runs through Mascot is one of the busiest on the Sydney network.

Contracts announced for More Trains, More Services infrastructure upgrades

The NSW government has announced the two successful tenderers as part of the next stage of construction on the $4.3 billion More Trains, More Services upgrades.

The Next Rail partnership of John Holland and Jacobs will fulfil the contract between Central and Hurstville, and Transport for Tomorrow – made up of Laing O’Rouke and KBR – will work from Mortdale to Kiama. Each contract is worth about $300 million.

The program of works includes upgrades to rail infrastructure such as stabling yards, signalling, track, station platforms, and power supply on the South Coast, Illawarra and T8 Airport Lines.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that the works would enable better services on each line.

“The work will support the introduction of new suburban and intercity trains and allow us to deliver more frequent train services, with less wait times and a more comfortable journey for customers on the T4 Illawarra, T8 Airport and South Coast lines,” he said.

“We’re prioritising these lines because they are among the busiest on the network, catering for 440,000 trips in a typical day, which is around one third of daily rail customers.”

Construction will begin in the middle of 2020 and be completed ahead of the service improvements, which are scheduled for late 2022.

Passengers will see a 20 per cent increase in peak services on the T4 Illawarra Line, with space for up to 3,600 more travellers, equivalent to an extra three services an hour in the peak from interchanges such as Hurstville and Sutherland. There will be a 60 per cent increase on the T8 Airport line at the International, Domestic, Mascot, and Green Square stations with the capacity for an extra 2,400 passengers.

On the South Coast Line station platforms will be lengthened to accommodate the 10 car trains of the New Intercity Fleet trains as well as an extra off peak service each hour between Wollongong and the Sydney CBD, bringing frequency to a train every 30 minutes.

Constance said that the work will allow for an employment boost across a number of professions, including engineers, trades workers, and apprentices.

“Today’s announcement means we are keeping people in work and creating about 350 direct new jobs and around 200 indirect jobs located either in Sydney or on the South Coast.”

Further measures to reduce crowding across Sydney Trains

Sydney Trains will be taking extra steps to ensure crowding on the network does not return once patronage increases following the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown.

In responding to a report from the Auditor-General for NSW which found that platform crowding was a key strategic risk, a Sydney Trains spokesperson said that a raft of measures are being introduced.

“Sydney Trains is currently implementing a number of initiatives to help customers make informed decisions about physical distancing in accordance with NSW government advice,” said the spokesperson.

“These include increased visibility through signs and announcements on trains and at stations explaining physical distancing. Additional measures include a communication campaign targeting school children, managing Opal gates to space customers entering and leaving stations, new guidelines for passenger numbers on lifts, regular customer information announcements and social media messaging, and staff education to help guide customers safely around the network.”

In its report, the Auditor-General recommended that Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW (TfNSW) should address key data gaps in the operator’s understanding of where crowding was occurring.

“Sydney Trains do not have sufficient oversight to know if crowding is being effectively managed,” said the Auditor-General.

Although customer management plans exist for high-patronage stations, a lack of policy supporting the plans limited their effectiveness, the auditor-General found, and a centralised collection of data on crowding interventions did not exist, nor did Sydney Trains have a routine process for identifying whether crowding contributed to minor safety incidents.

Sydney Trains and TfNSW accepted the Auditor-General’s recommendations and have been instituting responses to limit crowding.

“In March last year, we saw the introduction of the $296 million world class Rail Operations Centre, with an integrated network of 11,000 digital cameras monitoring stations and concourses in real-time to help support crowd management and safety,” said a Sydney Trains spokesperson.

The Auditor-General also cited larger programs such as the More Trains More Services initiative as well as the building of Sydney Metro will alleviate network pressure in the longer term.

Research and technology programs are also looking at how to smoothen operations and changes customer behaviour. The Auditor-General found that some of these initiatives, such as reduced fare prices outside of the peak travel periods and improved wayfinding, needed to be evaluated to assess their value.

The effectiveness of measures to reduce crowding will be one way to encourage commuters to return to public transport. In the preliminary findings of a University of Sydney survey, public transport was found to be seen as significantly less comfortable than private cars, which could limit the use of trains and buses after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, said associate professor Matthew Beck from the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies.

“To avoid levels of congestion that exceed those experienced prior to COVID-19, governments need to encourage work from home as much as possible. Businesses also need to be flexible with remote working and think about how they might stagger the hours of the day staff travel to and from work.”

According to Sydney Trains, continuing normal services levels has allowed customers to physically distance on trains and platforms.

“We have also continued to run a full timetable with only minor adjustments, despite substantially reduced patronage across the network. This has created the best options for customers to physically distance within train carriages and at stations.”

NSW Transport Minister announced run in Eden-Monaro by-election, then pulls out

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has said he would make the move from state to federal politics, and only 24 hours later withdrawn the bid.

Constance was to contest the seat of Eden-Monaro, on the NSW South Coast, which covers his state electorate of Bega. The Labor candidate is Kristy McBain, who is the current Bega Valley Mayor. The resignation of Labor MP Mike Kelly triggered the by-election. Kelly stepped down for health reasons.

Constance had already told the public that his time in state politics was limited. Following the NSW bushfires in early 2020, Constance took an extended period of leave after his home in Malua Bay was almost destroyed by fire. At the time, Constance had said that once the recovery was complete he would resign from politics.

In a statement on May 6, Constance said he had “unfinished business” in the transport portfolio.

“I want to deliver crucial life-saving reforms in road safety and a safer, cleaner future in public transport.”

Constance was appointed to the position of Transport Minister in 2015, following the NSW state election that year. Constance was previously Treasurer for the year prior.

Since becoming Transport Minister, Constance oversaw the roll-out of the Sydney Metro project. The delivery of the project kicked off in 2015 shorty after Constance became Transport Minister and the proceeds of the power privatisation scheme could be used to fund the new rail line, although construction had begun in 2013. The line became operational in May 2019.

Other projects that have been progressed during Constance’s time as Transport Minister include the More Trains More Services signalling and timetable upgrades, and the associated Digital Systems Program.

While Constance has drawn praise for the Metro Northwest line, a controversial project during his time as Transport Minister has been the Sydney CBD and Southeast Light Rail. Construction had commenced in 2015 and while major construction was initially expected to be completed in 2018, the line did not open until late 2019. The fall-out between the NSW government and the Altrac consortium also led to legal disputes costing hundreds of millions of dollars. In April 2020, the final branch of the line to Kingsford was opened.