Sleeper replacement works on Ararat Line complete

Sleeper replacement works on the Ararat line were completed last week, taking the total number of replaced sleepers on the Victorian regional rail network to 100,000 in 2020.

34,000 sleepers were replaced between Ararat and Wendouree in just over two months, and followed sleeper replacements on the Bendigo and Warrnambool lines.

Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said the works showed the ability for works to continue safely during COVID-19.

“We’ve taken extra steps to allow projects like this to continue safely and help keep track workers, suppliers and contractors working during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Carroll.

“To install 100,000 sleepers on the regional rail network this year is a fantastic effort from crews and shows that we are continuing work on important infrastructure projects during these extraordinary times.”

With the sleeper replacement works complete, Ararat line services can return to normal speeds and the permanent timetable will come into effect from October 22. Trains have been running at slower speeds to allow the newly installed sleepers to bed down.

Old sleepers were replaced with new, long-lifespan concrete sleepers produced at Avalon, near Geelong.

Over 50 people worked during the night in 10-day blocks to ensure that trains could continue running. Works began after the last train each night and finished before the first service each morning.

Every sleeper on the 22-kilometre section between Buangor and Dobie was replaced, and the track beneath the road at the Warrayatkin Road level crossing in Dobie was renewed.

Member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford said the works would improve the passenger experience on the Ararat line.

“These works are vitally important for the ongoing upkeep of the line, to ensure passengers can continue to have a safe, reliable, and comfortable experience on services to Ararat.”

Works have been carried out by V/Line and followed Health Department guidelines.

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.”

VLocity

Redesigned VLocity trains win two Good Design Awards

Bombardier’s VLocity trains have won two design awards at the Australian Good Design Awards.

The locally-designed and built regional trains, which had a redesign in April 2020 as part of the order for new trains to run on Victoria’s standard gauge network, won the Gold Good Design Award and the Best Interior Design Award.

The Best Interior Design Award recognised improvements to safety and accessibility on the trains. A new front to the train improved crashworthiness and new accessibility and comfort measures inside the train cabin were designed for the needs of older travellers and those with disabilities.

Wendy McMillan, president Australia and New Zealand at Bombardier Transportation said that the awards are a result of collaboration.

“These two awards recognise the efforts and strong collaboration between Bombardier Transportation, Department of Transport, V/Line and the participating stakeholders, which led to the development of this user-friendly train design.”

Improvements to the driver’s cabin included a focus on safety.

The Interior Design Award also recognised innovations in the manufacture of the trains, which is being done locally, in Dandenong. Recycled materials are in use in the train and the use of advanced manufacturing and material technologies increase safety and efficiency while reducing cost and weight.

The Bombardier design team reflected that rollingstock design is a unique task.

“This award acknowledges the unique challenges our Industrial Design team face, balancing the vast demographic of user needs against the many constraints of rollingstock functionality in the public transport sector. Our interior design needs to meet legislative requirements, endure high frequency of use, satisfy public safety, and embrace inclusivity.”

The Good Design Awards are Australia’s peak design awards and have been running since 1958 making them one of the oldest and most prestigious international design awards in the world. This is not the first time that the VLocity trains have been recognised. In 2005, the trains’ original design won the Australian Design Award, the first train in the history of the competition to do so.

McMillan said the company and its passengers are proud of the recognition.

“We are very proud of the new VLocity train and the people of regional Victoria can now share in this pride too. I would also like to thank the Victorian Government for their ongoing support for Bombardier and our VLocity trains.”

The redesign included accessibility upgrades.

V/Line

V/Line appoints acting CEO

V/Line has appointed Gary Liddle as acting CEO of V/Line.

Liddle will take over from Nick Foa, who stepped into the role after former CEO James Pinder was sacked.

Pinder was removed by Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll after Carroll was advised that the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) had launched an investigation.

Melbourne rail operator Metro Trains has stood down rollingstock manager Peter Bollas due to the same investigation.

Separately, V/Line has been taken to court by a cleaning contractor for alleged lack of payment between 2015 and 2018. Statements of claim have been lodged in the Victorian Supreme Court. V/Line said that it had received non-compliant invoices which led to the withholding of payment.

Liddle returns to V/Line having been enterprise professor of transport at the University of Melbourne. Before this role, Liddle was interim CEO of V/Line in 2016 and has also been CEO of VicRoads, and Public Transport Victoria.

V/Line board chair Gabrielle Bell said that Liddle will be a stabilising force within the regional passenger rail operator.

“Liddle returns to our organisation with extensive knowledge of our business, our customers, our challenges, and our opportunities. He will provide the leadership and support V/Line needs at this time.”

Liddle was brought in to V/Line in 2016 as the CEO at another troubled period for the operator. A safety incident in January 2016 saw a V/Line train failing to trigger a boom gate at a level crossing in Dandenong. This led to some services being prohibited from running on the Melbourne suburban network.

Foa will return to his role as head of transport services at the Victorian Department of Transport.

V/Line

V/Line CEO stood down

Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll has suspended V/Line CEO James Pinder.

Carroll made the decision due to advice from the Department of Transport that the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) had launched an investigation.

“On the basis of that advice, I directed the V/Line Board to immediately suspend Mr Pinder, while IBAC carries out its investigation,” said Carroll in a statement.

Nick Foa, who is currently head of transport services at the Department of Transport will step into Pinder’s role.

According to reports, IBAC is investigating the Department of Transport but is not providing any further information.

V/Line previously came to the attention of IBAC in its investigation into TAFE qualifications for workers.

V/Line and the Department of Transport were also subject to criticism by the Victorian Auditor-General over their handling of the Murray Basin Rail Project, with the stalled project having “not met scope, time, cost or quality expectations”.

Accelerated delivery of new Huntly station

The Victorian government has announced that a new station serving the growing town of Huntly, near Bendigo, will be brought forward by a year.

Originally scheduled to be complete in 2023, Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that locals will be able to catch trains to Bendigo and the rest of the V/Line network by mid-2022.

Huntly is one of three new stations being built as part of the $49.6 million Bendigo Metro 3 project, along with station at Goornong, also on the Echuca line, and Raywood, on the Swan Hill line.

Goornong Station will be the first complete by the end of 2021, and Raymond Station is expected to be finished by late 2022.

“Each of these stations will connect residents to more opportunities for work, education and health – and it’s fantastic to see that Huntly Station will be finished even sooner than expected,” said Allan.

Each station will have a single-sided platform with lighting, tactile paving, seating, pedestrian shelters and carparking with lighting and CCTV.

The community is invited to give feedback on concept drawings for the station.

“We want to have input from residents on these stations and that feedback will inform the final designs before we start construction,” said Allan.

The work on the three stations is being conducted alongside upgrades to the Bendigo and Echuca lines, which includes an improved electronic train ordering system, level crossing upgrades. Other works are also being conducted to improve the frequency of services between Bendigo and Kyneton.

Upgrades underway to keep Melbourne trains exceeding punctuality and reliability targets

Metro Trains Melbourne is working to improve the reliability of the network to continue to record some of the highest ever punctuality and reliability targets.

Punctuality and reliability figures for June for Victoria’s public transport network saw all operators meet or beat their targets, continuing the run of above target figures.

While not as high as May, 95.7 per cent of metropolitan trains ran on time, and Metro Trains Melbourne delivered 99 per cent of scheduled services. These services included extra trains to manage social-distanced demand.

“This makes it easier for passengers to stagger travel times and physically distance while travelling for one of the four essential reasons to leave home,” said a Metro spokesperson.

With patronage levels low and fewer disruptions to the network due to crowding and delays due to people getting on and off services, Metro is hoping to ensure the months of above target figures continue.

“To ensure we’re delivering the best possible service, we invest $12 million in our network every week to maintain our infrastructure, trains and technology,” said the Metro spokesperson.

These works include efforts to minimise delays due to trespassing, emergency services requests, equipment faults, external power outages, infrastructure upgrades, and extreme weather. Maintenance has also been determined based on data from last year of where common faults occur to rectify issues before they cause a disruption to services. Critical components such as points, track circuits, and signals are of particular focus.

Yarra Trams has also been completing upgrade works during June to increase reliability. Infrastructure upgrades in St Kilda and renewed tram tracks on Spring and Nicholson Streets were completed during the month.

Yarra Trams delivered 98.5 per cent of services, equal to its target, and 93.1 per cent of services were on time, well above the 82 per cent target.

Regional services also met their targets of 96 per cent of scheduled services and 92 per cent of services on time. In June 93.3 per cent of regional trains were on time and V/Line delivered 97.5 per cent of scheduled services.

The Seymour line was the most reliable of the short distance lines, with the Geelong line being the most punctual, while the Shepparton line was the most reliable of the long distance lines, with the Swan Hill and Echuca line the most punctual. Services on the Albury line however were often delayed, with only 42.7 per cent of services delivered on time.

Transport upgrades for Building Works program announced

The Victorian government has detailed transport works that will receive funding as part of its $2.7 billion Building Works program.

Announced in May, programs to be carried out as part of the program include upgrades to regional freight and passenger lines.

$83 million will be spent on improving 400 kilometres of freight only rail lines by replacing sleepers, repairing ballast, and renewing level crossing equipment.

$36m will be spent on the maintenance of the V/Line Classic Fleet, to be carried out by Bombardier. This will support 20 jobs for engineers, repair workers, and cleaners to maintain the V/Line fleet.

$7.5m will go towards upgrades to track for the regional passenger network, enabling more reliable services Deer Park Junction to Ballarat, Ballarat to Ararat, Donnybrook to Seymour, Corio to Waurn Ponds and the Bendigo East Track.

Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said that the upgrades would enable more efficient connections between primary producers and export facilities.

“The upgrades will mean produce can be transported from farm to port much more quickly, opening up key markets to Victorian farmers,” she said.

“These investments in our rail freight network are part of our ongoing commitment to boost our export power and support regional jobs.”

Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said the improvements would provide more reliable services for regional travellers, connecting regional centres and localities.

“We’re building on our unprecedented investment in regional rail, and this maintenance blitz will be a boost for local jobs and keep Victoria moving as we recover from the coronavirus crisis.”

In addition to the announced measures, funding from the Building Works package has also been earmarked for the maintenance and restoration of trams. Other works also include improving stations and stops across Victoria and managing rail corridors through the removal of rubbish and graffiti and the management of vegetation.