Gippsland

Joint funding for Gippsland Line upgrades

The Victorian and Commonwealth governments have committed $300 million to upgrades on the Gippsland Line, as part of the Regional Rail Revival program.

The upgrades will improve service reliability between Pakenham and Traralgon, easing congestion on metropolitan lines in the process.

According to the Victorian government, the works will create 400 jobs in the region. A contractor is expected to be appointed shortly and works will begin before the end of 2020, with a targeted completion date in late 2022.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan announced the rail upgrades along with improvements to the Princes Highway East at Flynn and Kilmany.

“These important projects will provide safer, more reliable roads and train services for locals and tourists alike,” said Allan.

Regional Rail Revival projects on the Gippsland line include signalling upgrades, a new crossing loop and track duplication, additional platforms, level crossing upgrades, and a new stabling facility near Traralgon. Construction is already underway on a new bridge across the Avon River in Stratford.

The current funding announcement will enable track duplication, extending the Morwell crossing loop, and second platforms at four stations, including Bunyip and Longwarry.

Once complete, trains will be able to run every 40 minutes between Melbourne and Traralgon in off-peak periods.

The package of works will be delivered alongside the signalling works on the Bendigo and Echuca Line.

Member for Eastern Victoria Jane Garrett said that the project will provide local opportunities.

“The Regional Rail Revival will enhance our regional economies, create local jobs and provide valuable opportunities for local suppliers as the state recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.”

The Gippsland region was heavily impacted by the 2019-2020 bushfires, prior to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We know It’s been a very difficult year for Gippsland communities – this funding will help to boost the local economy and create jobs while building the transport infrastructure Gippslanders need,” said Allan.

Locally-made concrete beams support level crossing removal

Locally-made concrete beams have been installed at the Cardinia Road level crossing removal project.

The crossing, located in Pakenham, south-east Melbourne, will be replaced with a road bridge over the rail line.

The 24 beams, locally-made in the regional Victorian town of Kilmore, are up to 32 metres long and weigh up to 60 tonnes each. The beams were trucked to site and installed with cranes.

The Cardinia Road level crossing removal is part of a wider works blitz on the Pakenham line, with work also underway on removing crossings at Clyde Road, Berwick, and South Gippsland Highway, Dandenong.

Once finished the 77,000 vehicles that use the three level crossings will more smoothly move through the area and will not have to wait while boom gates are down for a third of the morning peak. In total, 17 level crossings are being removed on the Pakenham line.

A construction blitz is also about to kick off at Balcombe Road, in Mentone. Boom gates were removed on Friday, May 15 and a five-week road closure begun as part of a nine-week construction period.

The Balcombe Road level crossing removal is part of the largest level crossing construction blitz with 1,700 people working in Cheltenham and Mentone for 64 days.

At the end of the works, three level crossings will be gone, with the rail line lowered and road bridges built above the rail corridor.

Balcombe Road will reopen on Tuesday, June 23, and the new Mentone station opening on Monday, August 3.

Prior to their removal, the boom gates at Balcombe Road were down for 49 minutes in the morning peak, with congestion backing up to the Nepean highway.

High-capacity signalling test site under construction

A test site for high-capacity signalling is now being established at the Pakenham East Depot in Melbourne.

The test site will allow for the introduction of high-capacity signalling, described as “moving block” signalling systems, instead of “fixed block” systems. The new signalling system will enable trains to automatically adjust their speed, in order to maintain a safe distance from the train in front. This technology differs from current systems, which tell trains when it is safe to proceed to a new section of track via coloured signals.

High-capacity signalling is delivered by the Rail Systems Alliance, a consortium of CPB Contractors, Bombardier, Metro Trains Melbourne, and Rail Projects Victoria.

The test site will be constructed at Nar Nar Goon, in south east Melbourne. This will enable access to the high-capacity signalling platform and test track, situated inside the Pakenham East Depot.

Trackside equipment will be installed between March 2 and 6.

On the Melbourne network, high-capacity signalling will be installed on the Sunbury to Cranbourne/Pakenham line, as well as the Mernda Line between Epping and South Morang.

Signal control centres will be built at Sunshine and Dandenong. Signallers will support train movements across the lines from here, including through the Metro Tunnel.

In addition to the high-capacity signalling work, new high-capacity metro trains will be introduced on the Melbourne Metro network. On the platforms, floor-to-ceiling platform screen doors will be installed. These will reduce overcrowding, dwell times, and improve tunnel ventilation. These will be designed and supplied by Faiveley Transport. The platforms screen doors will also be tested at the Pakenham East depot.

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.

Tunnel boring machine construction begins for Metro Tunnel in Victoria

The first piece of a massive tunnel boring machine (TBM) has been assembled in North Melbourne in preparation for drilling works on the Metro Tunnel project.

The delivery of the machines component coincides with the one-year anniversary of ground being broken at the site. Three pieces of the TBM have been lowered into the station box in the last week, with crews working to finish the machine as soon as possible.

The TBM, nicknamed ‘Joan’ after Victoria’s first Premier Joan Kirner, will excavate over 100,000 cubic metres of rock and soil once launched. The boring project is part of the winter “suburban transport blitz” announced by the Victorian Government last month.

The construction marks the first TBMs planned for development on the Metro Tunnel project.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan visited the project site today, where they discussed more details of the blitz.

“Crews are working around the clock to put these massive machines together, which will dig the Metro Tunnel,  untangle the city loop, and deliver more trains more often across Melbourne,” Premier Andrews said.

“It’s part of our massive Suburban Transport Blitz – which is creating thousands of jobs and building the road and rail projects we need to get you where you need to go.”

Buses will replace trains on the Pakenham, Cranbourne and Frankston lines between Flinders Street and Caulfield from July 614 whie the works take place.

Coaches will also replace trains between Wendouree and Southern Cross on the Ballarat line from June 24-July 7.

Minister Allan thanked commuters for their patience while the works were carried out.

“Soon these massive tunnel boring machines will be digging underneath our city to run more trains more often,” she said.

Labor reveals state budget ‘transport blitz’ for Victoria

The Victorian Government has unveiled plans to commit record funding for road and rail projects across the state in what it has referred to by Premier Daniel Andrews as a “blitz” for suburban transport.

“From fixing a pothole at the end of your street to the biggest transport projects in Victoria’s history – this Budget will get you where you need to go,” Andrews said.

The plans constitute part of the Victorian Budget for 201920, incorporating a $27.4 billion pipeline of works.

This includes $15.8 billion for the creation of the North East Link; $6.6 billion to remove 25 more level crossings (of a total 75) as part of the ongoing level crossing removal project; and $3.4 billion to deliver upgrades to the Sunbury, Cranbourne and Hurstbridge lines.

In all, the Sunbury line will receive a $2.1 billion boost, Cranbourne $750 million, and Hurstbridge $547 million.

Sunbury will also receive new high-capacity trains that will boost passenger capacity by 113,000 people.

The first of the 65 high-capacity trains previously announced in 2016 as part of the Labor Government’s High Capacity Metro Trains Project, is set to start on the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines this year.

Cranbourne will benefit from line duplications (doubling capacity during peak hours) and Hurstbridge will receive station upgrades at Greensborough and Montmorency.

The government has also set aside $615 million for regional public transport deliveries, including $340 million to purchase up to 18 new three-car V/Line VLocity trains, which the government said would bring good news for manufacturing and supply jobs in Dandenong, which hosts the assembly plant where the trains are built.

$111 million on training, recruitment and upskilling of train drivers in preparation for the new trains and services.

Three new stations will also be built at Goornong, Raywood and Huntly in the Bendigo area for a combined cost of $49.6 million and $150 million will be provided to fund new car parks at some of the busier stations in Melbourne and regional Victoria through the Car Parks for Commuters Fund

Following on from promises made before the state election in March, Labor will build 11,000 new spaces at stations across the state, bumping the current total number of spaces by 20 per cent to 66,000 stations in order to help relieve pressure along the lines.

An incentive scheme designed to reduce truck numbers on local roads by shifting more freight to rail will also be extended with an $8 million investment. Minister for Public Transport, Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said, “We promised to get trucks off local streets and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Outside of rail projects, the Andrews Labor Government will also put aside $608 million for road upgrades (including $425 million on regional roads) and $45.4 million for the development of bike and pedestrian paths, including new bike paths on St Kilda Road.

$205.1 million will be spent on increasing train and bus services generally, with the latter to be rolled out in Melbourne growth areas such as the north and south-east of the city.

“These projects should have been built years ago,” said Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan. “We can’t change that, but we can keep our promises and keep delivering the projects Victorians voted for and need – and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

The Labor Government has spent $46.7 billion on state transport in the last four years, including its ongoing work on expensive projects such as the aforementioned level crossing removals and the $11 billion Metro Tunnel development, an underground rail line connecting the Sunbury line in the northwest to the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines in the south east.