Sydney Train

Report: Sydney Trains maintenance backlog soon to exceed $1 billion

An internal NSW government report, completed in September, has forecast a $1.3 billion maintenance backlog on Sydney’s trains, the Sydney Morning Herald has revealed.

“Escalating maintenance costs, increasing levels of technical and component obsolescence and the ability to integrate into future network systems platforms … are prohibitive and present short and medium-term challenges,” SMH quotes the report.

Almost one-quarter of the passenger trains are more than 30 years old, while nearly half of the fleet is more than 20 years old.

The report cites the compounding impact of increased services, leading to trains, tracks and other rail assets “wearing out faster”. In turn, the rail network needs “more regular maintenance”.

While the overall condition of rail tracks is “good”, the backlog of deferred track maintenance is forecast to grow if more funding from the state is not forthcoming.

The backlog will surge to $1.3 billion by the end of the decade, from $419 million last year, if there is no funding boost, according to SMH.

“Due to the significant growth planned for time-tabled passenger rail services, it is anticipated the levels of wear and tear on infrastructure will increase proportionally,” the report says.

The report says there is “lack of long-term commitment for sustainable funding” by government to improve the condition of civil assets such as bridges, culverts and tunnels.

Melbourne Metro Tunnel nears completion

With the start of the New Year a transport construction blitz has begun on the Melbourne Metro Tunnel at South Yarra in Melbourne’s west, as well as other ancillary work, according to minister for transport infrastructure Jacinta Allan.

Crews will excavate the final section of the metro tunnel entrance and shift existing train tracks to make room for the new track to connect existing lines to the tunnel as part of the blitz, dubbed “Victoria’s Big Build”.

“During this quieter period we’re getting on with a massive amount of work on some of our biggest transport projects, to keep our city and state moving,” Allan said.

The final sections of tunnel roof slab will be poured and tunnel support structures installed.

The level crossings at Reservoir, Toorak Road, Carrum, Cheltenham, Mentone, Lyndhurst and Pakenham are to be removed, bringing the total up to 38 level crossing removals completed out of the 75 intended for removal.

Six new accessible tram stops will be built on Route 96, necessitating the closure of Nicholson Street between Barkly Street in East Brunswick and Johnston Street in Fitzroy until 19 January.

“We thank Victorians for their patience and encourage them to plan ahead and allow extra time – we know it’s disruptive, but it will mean better trains, trams and traffic in the future,” Allan said.

KiwiRail conducts major work blitz on Auckland, Wellington networks

KiwiRail is replacing sleepers, tracks and turnouts on the Auckland commuter network over the Christmas and New Year period, as part of a holiday work blitz, while further maintenance work will also go ahead across the Wellington passenger rail network.

In Wellington, the work includes installing the foundations for 60 new masts for the overhead power lines in the busiest part of the network – the approaches to Wellington Railway Station.

“Replacing the masts is not an easy task. Building new foundations for each of these requires a three-metre-deep hole. The masts date as far back as 1938, and need to be replaced,” KiwiRail’s chief operating officer capital projects David Gordon.

“It is just not possible to carry out that work while commuter services are running.”

“Already the network is delivering more than 14 million commuter trips a year to the 500,000 plus people who live in the region,” Gordon said.

“That is predicted to grow, and this work is needed to make that happen.”

“We’ll be taking advantage of the holiday lull, when passenger demand is down, to shut down big parts of the network and give our teams safe access to work on the line.”

KiwiRail is working on sites spread from the Wairarapa to the Hutt Valley and Porirua. Work includes building underpasses, upgrading level crossings and barriers, replacing rail and sleepers, and improving slope stability and drainage, along with the foundation work.

The work blitz is possible due to nearly $300 million that the government has slated to go towards modernisation and upgrades, alongside the usual annual maintenance.

Nearly 150 KiwiRail and NZTA staff and contractors will work on the Wellington line upgrades, while nearly 170 KiwiRail staff and contractors will take on the Auckland commuter network.

Auckland’s Western line will be closed to allow for works to replace sleepers, track and turnouts – which allow trains to change tracks – at several locations.

The Southern line and Eastern line will be closed south of Westfield for Otahuhu third platform work and the Puhinui interchange, track work and sleeper replacement between Papakura and Pukekohe. This includes four level crossings along the Western line and one on the Southern line.

“Working at level crossings also causes disruption to road networks, so it makes sense to take advantage of the holidays when both rail and road networks are quieter. This way we can carry out a lot of work with minimal disruption to commuters and road users,” KiwiRail executive general manager operations Siva Sivapakkiam said.

“Auckland is a busy network, with nearly 200,000 commuter services a year, and 246 freight services a week. That means a lot of wear and tear on the network. The maintenance we do now will help reduce delays and increase reliability in the future.”