Services to resume following fatal XPT derailment

Normal operations are set to return on the North East line in Victoria following the fatal XPT derailment at the Wallan loop last week.

An Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) spokesperson said operators advise that freight and passenger services will resume soon as repair works to damaged sections of the Wallan loop are almost complete. 

“Teams of up to 70 people at a time have been working around the clock to make the rail line available for freight and passenger rail services,” the ARTC spokesperson said.

Operators advised that subject to regulatory checks, services may start back on track from Thursday evening. Freight services are expected to resume first with passenger trains to follow. 

Rail services will resume after the relevant approvals from the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR).

The carriages of the train involved are being moved progressively back to Sydney, and rail works have included replacing 300 sleepers, laying 20 lengths of rail and 800 tonnes of ballast, as well as undertaking signalling works which are in their concluding stages.

John Fullerton, CEO of Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) visited the site on Thursday 27 February to thank rail staff working to repair the extensive damage to the track.

“A week ago, we lost two much-loved members of the rail family. This accident devastated families, friends, and colleagues, as well as an industry that prides itself on safety, and everyone wants to understand what happened and what actions need to be taken to prevent it ever happening again,” Fullerton said.

“For ARTC, our focus has been four-fold for the past week: cooperating with investigations underway, supporting our staff and contractors, working alongside emergency services and NSW Transport to safely remove the train, and repairing the track so it is available again for use.

“I would like to take this opportunity to give my heartfelt thanks to the teams of staff who have worked hard in tragic circumstances to undertake these tasks.”

A fire destroyed the Wallan signal box three weeks ago and caused  signals to be out of commission in the area along the section of the derailment.

The investigation will examine whether live signal testing by ARTC had been occurring along the track at the time of the derailment.

V/Line utilises sections of track where the derailment occurs and bans live testing of signals while services are still running.

The Herald Sun reported that senior Victorian transport sources said that running trains through the track where signals were not bagged increased risk, and the way they had been marked with a cross tied together with plastic was a “disgrace”.

An ARTC spokesperson said they have been providing full support to investigators from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), ONRSR and the Victorian coroner.

The ATSB will release a preliminary report in about a month, while the final report coming in about 18 months.

Opal ticketing tech network hits 30 million journeys

Millions of commuters have been using contactless payments when taking trains, trams, buses, and ferries across the Opal network.

Acting Minister for Transport and Roads Paul Toole said a major milestone had been reached with more than 30 million journeys taken using debit or credit cards, or linked devices, since the first trial on the Manly Ferry in 2017.

1.5 million journeys are paid without an Opal card on average in a week.

“Rolling out contactless payments is an Australian-first innovation and is one of the biggest advancements in ticketing technology in generations,” Toole said.

Toole said the NSW Government is providing more innovative payment options for those using the Opal network as people continue to move away from cash, and, more recently, cards.

He said while new payment options were growing in popularity among commuters, there was still demand for pre-loaded Opal cards.

“It’s easier than ever to pay for public transport and through our innovative payment platforms we’re aiming to create more digital products including the digital Opal card which we plan to roll out in a trial phase in 2020,” Toole said.

“This follows the activation of contactless payments on all public transport modes on the Opal network, and introducing the same fare and travel benefits of an Adult Opal card last year. Transport for NSW continues to offer Opal cards.”

Reduced dwell times to cut Sydney CBD light rail travel time

Sydney’s light rail has become 10 percent faster due to reduced journey times.

The 12-kilometre service between Randwick and Circular Quay had previously been running at around 45-50 minutes and this week the journey time will be improved to 40-45 minutes end to end.

Instead of adjusting speed limits, the journey will be quicker due to reduced dwell times at scheduled stops.

A Transport for NSW spokeswoman said more services will be added to the network to increase passenger journey times too. 

“The new timetable introduced yesterday (20 January) will boost the number of weekday services on the L2 Line by an additional 215 services per week, as well as improving the journey time between Randwick and Circular Quay,” the Transport for NSW spokesperson said. 

“Transport for NSW is continuing to work with ALTRAC to improve service reliability on the new light rail.”

The 19 stop service will become more frequent from the current foundation stage of running every 4-8 minutes between Circular Quay and Central, and every 8-12 minutes between Central and Randwick during peak times on weekdays.

Service operator Transdev told the NSW Parliament last year that projected travel times were 38-40 minutes.

Transport for NSW said they anticipated that there may be operational challenges and issues during the opening period of the L2 line, and there have been some unplanned disruptions to services.

“More than 1 million trips have been taken on the new L2 Randwick light rail line since opening on 14 Dec. On average, there are around 44,000 trips each day,” The Transport for NSW spokesperson said.

“Transport for NSW is continuing to work with the light rail operator to improve service reliability and journey time, especially in the lead up to the start of passenger services on the L3 Kingsford Line in March this year, funded through the existing project budget.”