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.

Realising growth through consistency

Omada Rail Systems have expanded their footprint and their capabilities.

Since establishing the company in 2016, directors Luke Craven, Mark Hadfield, and Christopher Miller have grown Omada Rail Systems into one of the top railway signalling engineering companies in Australia; providing high quality professional management and engineering services from project inception and feasibility, through to the testing, operations, and maintenance phases.

A growing footprint
Since the beginning of 2020, the company has expanded their team’s physical presence into New South Wales and South Australia. Now with more than 30 full time staff, this expansion adds to the existing teams in Queensland and Victoria.

This recent growth has been concentrated in Omada’s testing team. Speaking in an interview on Omada’s expansion, Hadfield said, “Employing experienced engineers in these locations has opened up opportunities for us to work on projects that have previously been too costly to take on. The reduction in costs associated with not having to fly our team interstate to these locations, allows us to provide our clients with a great value for money service.”

The mass of rail projects underway across Australia has created huge demand for testers, however, this resource in the industry is a sparse commodity. Attempting to meet this demand, Omada’s directors made the decision to bring Ian Arnold into the company as Testing Engineering Manager to develop and lead the Omada test team. A highly experienced Tester in Charge (TIC) and well-known in the industry, Arnold quickly got to work in building an effective team of testers.

Julie Pennington, the first person to be employed by Omada in New South Wales, was brought in as an experienced TIC. In South Australia, Matthew Hooper has joined Omada, a tester with more than 17 years of experience in leading teams on large projects. The arrival of these new engineers has added a new dimension to Omada’s services, combining high quality design and management services with onsite testing and commissioning work. Now with multiple TIC’s, principal testers, functional testers and test assistants across Australia, Omada has built a diverse testing team, capable of meeting project requirements with minimal risk.

“The additions we made to our team were carefully selected to ensure we significantly increased our testing and commissioning capabilities. Not only have we expanded into new locations, but we have now positioned our company to be able to deliver full projects, rather than just packages of work,” said Hadfield, “The diverse experience of our staff provides us with the unique ability to solve any potential problem our clients may throw our way.”

Sustainability focus
Omada is fast becoming known in the industry as one of the most reliable and effective engineering options. Hadfield backed this claim by saying, “We have received excellent feedback from a number of our clients on recently completed projects. In particular, Ian Arnold was singled out by a client for being particularly effective, pulling everything together to get a commissioning over the line, safely and on-time.”

To establish a name as one of the industry’s most trustworthy providers, quality and reliability are vital.

“We have built a reputation for quality services and on-time project deliveries, which has been a major factor in allowing us to meet new clients, develop stronger relationships with our existing clients, and form industry partnerships,” said Hadfield.

Utilising their industry contacts, Omada’s directors have formed strong working relationships with rail construction companies around Australia, adding to their growing list of capabilities.

It is clear from the growth that Omada has shown recently, that there is a strong focus from the directors on business development. By increasing capabilities and capacity for work, Omada’s directors also set out to diversify their workforce. In March this year, Omada began a graduate program and welcomed two young graduate engineers into the company. Since then, these graduates have been able to work under mentorship on designs and work on site as test assistants, gaining valuable experience for future projects.

Despite increasing their team’s size and working on a greater number of projects, the quality of service that the team provides has not decreased. Omada’s directors have made this possible by ensuring that new team members are committed to adopting Omada’s values, methodologies and processes, backed up by a highly effective mentorship system.

For more information on Omada Rail Systems’ capabilities and project work head to their website: omadarail.com

Code commits states and territories to keep freight flowing

State, territory and federal infrastructure and transport ministers have released an enforceable code for the border control of freight movements; however, differences remain.

The code follows the previously released protocol and specifies the measures that states and territories will enforce to ensure freight can keep moving during COVID-19 while ensuring the virus does not spread.

The code aligns previously disparate measures that individual states and territories had adopted, particularly after the outbreak of a second wave of COVID-19 in Victoria, said Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz.

“Aligning state and territory measures through this Code will help reduce delays in the supply chain, ensuring our freight operators can keep moving safely and efficiently.”

Under the code, states and territories will not require freight workers, including rail crew, to self-isolate when travelling across a border, although workers are advised to keep contacts to a practical minimum.

Other common measures include the requirement for a valid border permit and record keeping by the driver and operator of a freight train of recent contacts.

Australian Logistics Council CEO Kirk Coningham said that the alignment of requirements across borders was welcome.

“The confirmation that workers will not need to go into quarantine or formal self-isolation in any jurisdiction is also especially important in minimising disruptions to freight movement. ALC also welcomes the Code’s commitment to the mutual recognition of COVIDSafe workplans between jurisdictions,” said Coningham.

Testing requirements remained an area of difference. While Queensland has mandated tests on a seven day rolling basis for those coming from hotspots, Victoria will not provide testing for asymptomatic freight workers. In WA, tests are mandated on a seven day rolling basis for those crossing the border and in NSW tests are encouraged. Upon arrival into a state, testing requirements also differ, with testing mandated within 24 hours in South Australia and within 48 hours after entering WA.

Conginham said that the federal government may be required to step in to assist testing in Victoria.

“With the extraordinary pressures on Victoria’s testing capacity at present, it may be appropriate for the Federal Government to provide the state with some additional support to help make this happen, in the interests of national supply chain efficiency,” he said.

“ALC remains deeply concerned that not providing testing for asymptomatic drivers in Victoria will make it extraordinarily difficult for freight workers to meet border requirements imposed by other states and could lead to supply chain disruptions.”

Chair of the Freight on Rail Group (FORG) Dean Dalla Valle also welcomed the protocol and code and the efforts of governments to enable freight to continue moving on rail.

“The only additional measure our sector would strongly recommend in the coming days and weeks is for extra resources to be thrown at more widespread and rapid COVID testing; albeit we appreciate testing regimes in states like Victoria have understandably been stretched to the limit,” he said.

“It was therefore very pleasing to see the new national protocol includes states and territories providing pop up testing facilities at rail freight terminals/depots where they can be accommodated.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the crisis had shown how Australia relied upon the efficient movement of freight.

“The work our freight operators do keeps our shelves stocked and our local economies running,” he said.

“Streamlining the process for crossing borders will make life easier for our freight operators.”

Dalla Valle said that government had to be brought up to speed on the requirements of rail freight.

“For instance, in any given day, numerous train crews and support staff must cross state borders in light vehicles to meet interstate services or return to home base after a shift,” said Dalla Valle.

“For example, a train crew based in Broken Hill will regularly cross in South Australia by car to relieve another crew on the Trans-Australian Railway, and vice-versa. Similarly train crews in south western NSW often cross into northern Victoria by car to meet bulk grain services on the Murray Basin Rail network.”

These realities have led train crews to keep themselves isolated and follow strict hygiene practices. This has enabled rail to continue to move freight across borders and minimise the spread of COVID-19.