Melbourne to trial real-time crowding data

As part of an overhaul of the PTV app, Melbourne commuters will be able to see how full their train is before boarding.

The technology will first undergo a trial with a small group of public transport users on trains and buses in Melbourne.

Data will come from passenger counting sensors and predictive modelling technology and be fed into real-time updates displayed on the PTV app.

Victorian minister for Public Transport and Roads Ben Carroll said the trial will enable passengers to return to public transport safely.

“The coronavirus pandemic has presented an opportunity for us to rethink how we travel around the state – we want these passenger modelling trials to help people travel more reliably and safely,” he said.

“While everyone has been doing the right thing and staying home over the past few months, we’ve been hard at work to make Victorians’ journeys easier and safer as we move towards a COVID Normal world.”

In addition to crowding data, real-time location information on buses and trains will be communicated through the app.

The updated app will also allow travellers to top up their myki cards and view their balance.

New personalisation features include saving home and work locations, searching favourite journeys, stops, and stations, and improved journey planning capabilities for more predictable journeys.

The needs of blind and low-vision passengers have been incorporated in the app’s redesign, and VoiceOver and TalkBack capabilities enable the app to be fully accessible. Neil King, national manager digital access at Vision Australia said the functions would be welcomed by those with a disability.

“Public transport is vital for people with disability. The Department of Transport’s decision to consider accessibility at the outset of the design process means important public transport information is now fully available to all Victorians.”

Based on current trials and feedback further functionality may be added to the app in the future.

Melbourne Metro Train. Photo: Creative Commons / Zed Fitzhume

Performance figures in May outstrip April records in Victoria

The performance and punctuality of Victoria’s rail transport network improved again in May.

With April seeing some of the highest figures for on-time running and availability, May’s results were a step further.

Across all metrics except for tram reliability figures were higher in May than in April.

According to Metro Trains Melbourne, these figures were the result of a quieter network in May due to work from home restrictions imposed due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Patronage across the network decreased in May.

“We’re always striving to do better and this focus will support us as trains return to more normal patronage levels,” said a Metro spokesperson.

Train services in May were on time 96.2 per cent of the time, while 94.3 per cent of trams were on time and 92.8 per cent of regional trains were on time.

For reliability, 99.1 per cent of scheduled train services were delivered in May, while 98.6 tram services were delivered and 97.4 per cent of regional trains were delivered.

For V/Line services, the most reliable short distance line was the Seymour line, while the most punctual were services on the Geelong line. On the long distance lines, all Swan Hill & Echuca and Bairnsdale services were delivered, while services on the Warrnambool line were the most punctual.

Delays caused by people getting on and off services dropped due to fewer people on the Melbourne network, while trespassing and vandalism also fell.

With some restrictions in Victoria beginning to ease, transport operators are asking passengers to keep each other safe.

“Our priority is improving performance and delivering a reliable service for those who depend on our trains, so they can get to where they need to go,” said a Metro spokesperson.

Victorian public transport exceeds March targets

Victorian public transport operators have met all but one of their targets in March.

The only metric to not meet its target was the punctuality of regional trains, operated by V/Line, which fell to 85.4 per cent from 86.8 per cent, missing the 92 per cent total.

However, all other metrics were above the target and exceeded 12-month averages.

Metropolitan tram punctuality leapt the most, with a 5.3 percentage point increase from February figures. In March 86.8 per cent of tram services in Melbourne were on time. 98.7 per cent of tram services were delivered, exceeding the reliability target of 98.5 per cent.

Factors affecting these figures include the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown measures, with non-essential workers told to stay at home and limit travel. However, stage 3 restrictions, which made previous advice enforceable with fines, only came into effect on March 31, meaning that further limits will have a greater effect on April figures.

Metro Trains Melbourne listed a number of other factors which impacted on services in March, including flooding following heavy rainfall on March 5, the theft of signalling cable on March 13, and trespasser incidents, however 60 per cent fewer delays were caused by trespassers than in February.

Additionally, Yarra Trams has also had to content with COVID-19 measures, such as the cancellation of the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Renewal works on Plenty Road also had a significant impact upon the tram network.

Other renewal works were also carried out in March by Metro Trains Melbourne. A 10-day program of work on the Sandringham Line saw upgrades at Gardenvale Station, maintenance to overhead lines, signal upgrades, and level crossing renewal works near Brighton.

In total, 92.7 per cent of Metro Trains Melbourne services achieved the punctuality threshold, and 98.8 per cent were within the reliability window.

V/Line services achieved a 96.3 per cent reliability rate.

Transport agencies respond to COVID-19 shutdown

On Sunday, March 22, NSW and Victoria announced shutdowns of non-essential services from midday, Monday, March 23.

While both states have continued to determine that public transport is an essential service, Victoria has introduced extra guidelines to keep passengers and rail workers safe from coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Victorian government has encouraged commuters to stagger the times that they need to use public transport. With the recommended distance of four square metres per person in indoor gatherings often difficult to achieve on public transport, even with reduced patronage numbers, travelling outside of peak times could be safer.

On top of measures announced last week, extra cleaning will be carried out on Victorian public transport, including trains and trams. Similarly, in Auckland personal hand sanitisers have been given to frontline staff, and new public hand sanitiser stands have been installed. Health advice has been displayed on services and in stations and stops.

Transport for NSW reiterated the advice it has given to passengers and staff to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Operators are encouraging passengers to use cashless payments, including the myki and AT HOP cards. Auckland Transport will not be accepting cash fares on buses from Monday, March 23.

Outside of the major cities, the Australian and New Zealand governments have prohibited non-essential travel. This has led to operators suspending some interstate and regional passenger services.

In Australia, The Overland, The Ghan, and the Indian Pacific have been cancelled until May 31 after Western Australia and the Northern Territory closed their borders to non essential travel. South Australia has also restricted border crossings. This closure does not apply to freight rail.

In New Zealand, KiwiRail has suspended three tourist trains, until further notice, said chief executive Greg Miller.

“Tomorrow’s TranzAlpine, Northern Explorer and Coastal Pacific trains have been cancelled and the services will remain suspended until further notice,” he said. The Capital Connection service will continue.

Miller said that safety of staff, customers, and communities was the priority.

V/Line has advised that passengers using regional services should reconsider if their journeys are essential. Café bar services on V/Line trains will not be available.

A Transport for NSW spokesperson said that regional and urban trains will continue as normal.

“We understand the important role public transport plays in the daily lives of our commuters, especially in the regions, and there is currently no plan to reduce services of trains or buses across our network.”

Victorian Transport Department chief steps down

Former CEO of Public Transport Victoria (PTV), Jeroen Weimar has resigned from his current role in the Department of Transport.

After under a year as the Victorian Department of Transport’s head of transport services, Weimar will step down from his position.

Weimar was appointed to the position last July when PTV and VicRoads merged with the department.

Weimar was CEO of PTV for more than five years before his role in charge of Victoria’s transport operations.

Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan said in a social media post on Thursday that she thanks Weimar for his leadership and support.

“Jeroen has led the way as we continue to build a more accessible and inclusive network and keep people moving as we get on with our big build,” she said in a tweet.

Weimar was former Chair of Board for V/Line following roles at the British Transport Police Authority, the Greater London Authority, and KPMG.

Originally from the United Kingdom, he has had experience working at Transport for London for almost a decade.

Weimar’s replacement has not yet been announced.

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.

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 Tram

PTV and Victoria Police ramp network presence over school holidays

The Victorian Government has implemented a collaboration between authorised officers (AOs) and police to patrol certain interchanges during the school holiday period.

The move has been implemented to catch fare evaders and improve safety around shopping centre transport interchanges during a busy period for the network. Public Transport Victoria (PTV) and Victoria Police delivered 25 joint operations in the first five months of 2019 in association with Metro Trains, Yarra Trams and V/Line.

“Combining the efforts and skills of our authorised officers with Victoria Police help ensure all passengers are safe and doing the right thing when they travel on public transport,” said Victorian Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville.

PTV figures from an October 2018 fare compliance survey show general improvement over time, bar a couple of dips. Fare compliance rates across the Victorian metropolitan network stood at 96 per cent, close to the October 2015 and October 2016 records of 96.2 per cent and significantly higher than the five-year low of 88.1 per cent in May 2013.

Train commuters were found to be the most compliant overall (97.5 per cent), with bus commuters the least compliant (92 per cent).

2018 calendar year lost revenue related to unpaid fares has been estimated to amount to around $38.9 million, according to PTV. In addition, network AOs have recorded more than 235,000 ticketing and behavioural offences in the past 18 months.

“We want everyone travelling around Melbourne during the school holidays to get where they need to go safely, quickly and easily,” said Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne.

“We’re making it easier for people to top up, touch on and travel with a valid ticket.”

The joint effort between the police and AOs will run until July 15.

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.”