Ballarat Line Upgrade

Final testing and commissioning on Ballarat Line Upgrade confirmed

The final phase of testing and commissioning for the Ballarat Line Upgrade will be carried out during late December 2020 and January 2021.

The jointly funded project is in its final stages after construction was completed in 2019, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“We’re excited to see the Ballarat Line Upgrade at this final stage, preparing the line for those much-needed extra services and better reliability for passengers in these growing communities,” said McCormack.

“It’s been more than three years in the making and nearly 1.6 million hours of work by dedicated crews, and we’re now on the home stretch to delivering huge benefits for passengers.”

Once critical safety testing is completed and drivers are trained for the new elements of the line, passengers will be able to take advantage of further increases to services between Ballarat and Melbourne, said Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan.

“We’re thrilled passengers will soon see the full benefits of the Ballarat Line Upgrade, but first we must complete this crucial final step on the project, as we integrate new track, a new signalling system and other infrastructure onto the existing rail line,” said Allan.

“It’s one of the most critical tasks undertaken on the project to date and it’s taken time to get the right resources in place to deliver this final piece of the project.”

While construction was largely finished in 2019, the new signalling system, which will allow more trains to run more frequently, was the last element of the project to be bedded in.

“Our rail experts have continued complex and extensive signalling design and planning work throughout the year in preparation for the commissioning, and passengers will soon enjoy the benefits of this hard work,” said Allan.

While buses replace trains, 500 metres of track duplication between Bacchus Marsh and Maddingley and at two level crossings in Ballan will be installed.

Once services return to the line, the new second platforms at Ballan, Bacchus Marsh, and Wendouree will open. The new station at Cobblebank has already opened and other stations have benefited from upgrades.

Already, two extra peak weekday services have been running between Melton and Southern Cross Station. Once complete, trains will run every 40 minutes in the off peak.

Sped up Avon River bridge crossing ready in December

The bridge over the Avon River used by trains on the Gippsland Line will be completed in early December, ahead of schedule.

After a works blitz to connect the new bridge to the existing rail line from Saturday, November 28 to Sunday, December 6, trains will be able to travel at up to 90km/h on the new bridge, well above the 10km/h speed limit on the current bridge.

The early completion date was significant, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack, as working conditions had to account for COVID-19 restrictions.

“It’s fantastic that works on the new bridge are finishing early, especially given crews have worked under modified conditions for most of the year,” he said.

The Avon Bridge is one part of the wider Gippsland Line Upgrade, that will increase the frequency and reliability of services to this part of regional Victoria. Other works include track duplication, extending the Morwell crossing loop, upgrading signalling, and adding second platforms at four stations along the line.

In addition, local level crossings would be improved with added safety features, including at McAlister Street.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that the works have prioritised local contractor involvement.

“The past few months have seen a massive effort to bring this new bridge to life, with plenty of involvement from local workers and suppliers,” Ms Allan said.

“Local contractors have worked hard on the project, and we’re focused on continuing to support the local economies of Stratford and Gippsland through the Gippsland Line Upgrade.”

Final works to prepare the Avon River bridge for train services include track and signalling works, removing old sections of railway track and sleepers, and final landscaping works. Additionally, the final pairs of 60-tonne beams are being lifted into place and walls attached.

Local artist Ray Thomas has been commissioned to paint a mural on the side of the bridge.

Part of the Regional Rail Revival program, other works on the joint state-federal funded Gippsland Line Upgrade will continue until late 2022.

Warrnambool Line upgrades

Warrnambool line track and signalling upgrades commence

Signalling and track infrastructure upgrades on the Warrnambool Line have begun.

The jointly funded, state and federal project aims to enable more services to run between Warrnambool and Geelong, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“It’s pleasing to see this vital project get underway, with signalling upgrades and a crossing loop at Boorcan to play a key part in boosting reliability of the line and allowing more services to be introduced,” McCormack said.

“The addition of the crossing loop will boost the number of services to the line, benefiting a growing number of regional travellers.”

The first works underway involve the installation of underground cabling to enable signalling upgrades along the line.

The construction of a 2.2km passing loop between Boorcan Road and Oswell Road in Boorcan will begin in the coming weeks.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said the entire program would be finished in late 2021.

“Thanks to these upgrades, passengers on the Warrnambool Line will benefit from a much-needed fifth weekday return service, providing extra travel options for people in Victoria’s South West,” Allan said.

Rail Projects Victoria awarded Downer the contract to carry out the works, in addition to its work on the Geelong line.

Other upgrades along the Warrnambool line have just completed, with the renovation of 12 level crossings now complete. Crossings had new boom gates, bells, lights, and better train detection technology fitted.

Federal Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said the work was completed while minimising the threat of any spread of COVID-19.

“More than 170 workers have been involved in the level crossing upgrades since works began in January, with V/Line crews working around 28,500 hours under modified conditions to reduce the spread of coronavirus.”

Patronage on the line has grown steadily over the past years, with patronage on the adjoining Geelong line growing significantly, by 131.5 per cent from 2014-15 to 2018-19.

State Member for Western Victoria Gayle Tierney said the improvements would benefit the region.

“With work on signalling and the crossing loop now underway residents can soon expect more frequent services and better reliability,” she said.

“This project is also providing jobs for people in the region, which is especially important during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Contractor selected for Shepparton Line Stage 2 upgrades

The Victorian government has announced the successful contractor for Stage 2 of the Shepparton Line Upgrade.

A Coleman Rail and KBR joint venture has won the contract, which includes infrastructure upgrades to allow VLocity trains to run on the line, replacing locomotive hauled N-type carriages.

The project involves the extension of platforms at Mooroopna, Murchinson East and Nagambie stations to enable the VLocity trains to stop there. A new stabling facility north of Shepparton Station will also be built.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said the project will improve services for communities along the line.

“The Shepparton Line is a vitally important part of our regional train network, which is why the Victorian government has invested $356 million in the first two stages of this major upgrade,” she said.

“It will give Shepparton passengers the modern and reliable trains they’ve been calling for and provide more services more often.”

Other works included in the contract include upgrades to 59 level crossings between Donnybrook and Shepparton. The crossing loop near Murchinson East will be extended to enable trains to pass each other.

Since Stage 1 was completed, an extra 10 services a week have run on the line. Stage 2 is expected to be completed in 2022.

Stage 2 also includes a business to finalise the cope and cost of delivering nine return services a day between Shepparton and Melbourne

Once Stage 2 is completed, a further stage will include upgrades to allow trains to travel at up to 130 km/h and further signalling upgrades to enable the extra return services to Melbourne.

Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp said the upgrade would not only benefit passengers.

“This upgrade is giving Shepparton residents access to modern transport infrastructure and making it easier than ever to enjoy the comfort of travelling by train.”

“Drivers will also see the benefits of the level crossing upgrades, which will make crossing the line much safer for motorists.”

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.

Bendigo

Extra funding for Bendigo and Echuca Line upgrades

An improved electronic train ordering system will be installed on the Bendigo and Echuca Line, after the Victorian and federal governments agreed to a $300 million funding boost.

The modernised train ordering system will be a first for Victoria and enable fast and more frequent services to Echuca and more services between Epsom, Eaglehawk and Bendigo.

Bendigo and the surrounding region will benefit from over three times the number of week-day return services to Echuca, one more than what was previously promised.

The electronic train ordering system will use the existing telecommunication networks and radio equipment in use on V/Line trains, improving safety and frequency.

Once deployed on the Echuca Line, the technology could be rolled out across the entire V/Line network.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that the improvements would lift the region’s economy.

“These critical upgrades will mean better services for passengers while creating jobs and providing a much- needed boost to the regional economy through and beyond the pandemic,” she said.

In addition to the train ordering system, ten level crossings between Eaglehawk and Bendigo will be upgraded with improved train detection technology. This technology will make the level crossings safer while allowing more services to run.

The $300m funding boost is in addition to other improvements being carried out on the regional rail line. Three new stations at Goornong, Raywood, and Huntley will be constructed to allow Metro-style services between Bendigo and surrounding communities.

“This extra funding will get shovels in the ground faster – delivering more trains more often for Bendigo and Echuca passengers,” said Allan.

The combined funding increases the total investment in Victoria’s regional rail network, under the Regional Rail Revival banner, to over $2 billion.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said the funding would enable better connections between Victoria’s cities and regions.

“This funding will significantly boost the Regional Rail Revival Package, helping to improve conditions for train passengers on their journeys to and from Melbourne.”

Australasian Railway Association CEO Caroline Wilkie said that it was heartening to see rail recognised as a sector that can support long-term economic recovery.

“It is good to see funding for projects that will provide an immediate boost to our economy while also supporting long term value for the community,” said Wilkie.

Further work on the Bendigo Echuca Line upgrade will look into improving the frequency of services between Bendigo and Kyneton, and the reopening of Harcourt station.

Station upgrades progressing around Victoria

One project has just begun and another has just completed to expand parking and continue upgrades at stations in Victoria.

Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne announced that a contractor has been selected to expand car parking at Craigieburn station, north of Melbourne.

Civil construction firm Civilex will build 745 parking spaces at the station, along with associated lighting, CCTV, and access works.

“We’re getting on and delivering another 11,000 carparks at train stations across Victoria – making it easier for locals to get where they need to go,” said Horne.

A new pedestrian crossing will also be built so that commuters can get from the carpark, built on the eastern edge of the Hume Highway, east of the station, to the station. The pedestrian crossing above the railway line will also be upgraded.

Member for Yuroke Ros Spence said that the carpark would increase the ability of residents to use public transport.

“Now we have appointed a contractor, works will get underway later this year. This is another milestone in this long-awaited carpark and like all Craigieburn residents, I can’t wait to see works commence.”

In Donnybrook, as part of the regional rail revival program, a new carpark is now open, with an extra 150 car-parking spaces. The upgrades included additional accessible parking, CCTV, and lighting.

The new carpark is part of upgrades to the station itself, with an extension to the city-bound platform allowing for passengers to access all train doors. This is hoped to eliminate delays on Seymour line services.

Connectivity to local transport services was improved through upgrades to a drop-off zone, taxi rank, and a new bus interchange which will open in the coming months once work on Springs Road is finished.

The carpark took 170 works almost 12,000 hours to complete.

Contractor announced for Geelong and Warrnambool line upgrades

Upgrades to the Geelong and Warrnambool line will be carried out by Downer, Rail Projects Victoria announced.

As part of the $1.75 billion Regional Rail Revival program, Downer will deliver signalling upgrades between Waurn Ponds and Warrnambool and a new crossing loop at Boorcan to increase reliability and improve recovery times on the Warrnambool line.

On the Geelong Line Downer will construct a second platform, duplicated track, a pedestrian overpass, improved and new parking, bicycle storage facilities, and more CCTV, lighting, and myki machines.

According to Mark Mackay, executive general manager transport projects at Downer, the project will draw upon Downer’s expertise.

“Our committed team of experts will deliver an integrated solution, future-proofed to minimise rework and maximise opportunities for passengers and the community,” he said.

Construction will begin in mid-2020 and completion is hoped for by late 2021.

In addition, Downer will construct a new stabling facility at Waurn Ponds for the overnight stabling of V/Line trains for more frequent future services.

Elsewhere as part of the upgrades on the Regional Rail Revival program, planning works are being undertaken on Stage 2 of the Geelong Line Upgrade, which includes the Waurn Ponds Duplication Project. Track will be duplicated from South Geelong to Waurn Ponds, and level crossings will be removed at Fyans Street and Surf Coast Highway. South Geelong and Marshall stations will also be upgraded.

Downer will utilise its knowledge gained from the Waurn Ponds station in 2014, as well as work on the Bendigo station upgrade, and the High Capacity Metro Trains maintenance facility.

NZ National party proposes more transport authorities

New Zealand’s opposition party, National, is proposing a shake-up of transport governance, by establishing regional transport authorities for both Wellington and Canterbury as well as the accelerated rollout of integrated ticketing.

“It is unacceptable that people have been using bank cards and phones to pay for London’s Tube since 2004 but train users in Wellington still pay with coins and cardboard tickets,” the party’s transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said.

“National is proposing to accelerate the rollout of integrated ticketing nationwide.”

The proposal was made in the party’s Transport and Infrastructure discussion document, released on Monday.

“National is proposing new regional transport authorities in Wellington and Canterbury that will have sole-charge over public transport, as well as cycling, parking and roading.”

“We believe public transport governance is too fragmented in this country, with opaque accountability and no clear delineation of which agency is responsible for each part of the network. This is diluting the quality of service for commuters.”

“I think everyone would agree the current transport model is not perfect, it’s far from perfect, and we’ve seen that with the rollout of the bus changes over the course of the last year.”

“The bus fiasco in Wellington has indicated that the shared responsibility and the divided responsibility and accountability lines has not really worked.The city council blaming the regional council, the regional council blaming the city council and when that kind of expired they all put up their hands and blamed the New Zealand Transport Agency, and that’s just not tenable.”

The party says, if elected, they will introduce a revenue-neutral congestion charge in major cities to help manage the flow of traffic.

“By charging for travelling at certain times and/or on certain routes it encourages commuters to find alternatives, such as travelling earlier or later, taking a different route or getting out of the car and taking public transport,” the document says.