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.

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.

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.

infrastructure

Warrnambool line sleeper replacement works brought forward

Upgrades on the Warrnambool line have been brought forward, with works to begin on June 9.

The works involve the replacement of 27,000 timber sleepers with concrete sleepers at a cost of $8.1 million.

V/Line staff and contractors will work through the night in 10-day blocks to renew the line. The work will be focussed on the section of the line between Colac and Waurn Ponds after other upgrade works were done in late 2018 and early 2019 on the section between Warrnambool and Colac.

Although the works will be conducted at night, trains will run slower than normal after the works are complete to allow the sleepers to bed down. Some trains will be replaced by buses. Freight services will operate as normal.

Once works are complete, Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne said that passengers would enjoy a smoother ride.

“These works help to ensure V/Line can continue to offer a safe, reliable and comfortable experience for passengers who rely on the service.”

The sleepers are being produced by Austrack at their Avalon facility.

“This project is not only going to benefit south-western Victorian public transport users but is supporting local business to get the job done,” said Member for Western Victoria Gayle Tierney.

The Victorian government has been carrying out sleeper replacement works on other regional lines, including a $16.1m program on the Bendigo line that used 48,000 concrete sleepers.

Sleepers replaced ahead of schedule on Bendigo line

Sleeper replacement works have been completed ahead of schedule on the Bendigo line.

50 workers worked around the clock to replace 48,000 timber sleepers with concrete sleepers, to improve reliability and comfort on the regional Victorian line that connects Bendigo, Echuca, and Swan Hill.

The concrete sleepers were locally made in Avalon, and work began in January.

The $16.1 million project is part of a wider $103m investment in maintenance across the V/Line regional network to be rolled out during this financial year.

Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne said that the project benefits the whole of the state.

“We’re getting on with upgrading vital regional rail infrastructure right across the state – improving services and creating jobs,” she said.

Member for Bendigo East and Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said that locals will be able to rely on improved services.

“This massive project will mean Bendigo locals who rely on V/Line services get the service they deserve.”

Regional maintenance works on Victoria’s train lines have been given an extra $90.5m boost as part of the $2.7 billion building blitz, announced on May 18, which includes sleeper replacement elsewhere on the network. Safety precautions are being taken across the state on all infrastructure projects to minimise the chance of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Travellers on the Bendigo line are now back to the regular timetable, however some rail milling works continue until Friday, June 5.

“This massive $16.1 million upgrade has been completed months ahead of schedule, meaning locals will have access to smoother rides sooner,” said Bendigo West MP, Maree Edwards.

Victorian

Victorian transport operators exceed all performance and reliability targets

Victorian public transport operators have exceeded all punctuality and reliability targets in April.

The figures were some of the highest in the past year, and some operators recorded the highest results since data was being measured.

The results were largely due to fewer people on the network and fewer disruptions due to stay at home directives issues by the Victorian government to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), according to a statement from Metro Trains Melbourne.

“A quieter network means more trains are able to get to their destinations sooner, which is important for the Melburnians who still depend on our services.”

A Department of Transport spokesperson also acknowledged the impact of fewer people in the transport system.

“The lower patronage on the public transport network combined with fewer cars on the road has resulted in an improvement in punctuality for our trains and trams in April,” said the spokesperson.

“The improved result was also due to a reduction in incidents, such as track and infrastructure faults and ill passengers on the network.”

Metropolitan train services were punctual 96.2 per cent of the time, and 99 per cent of services were delivered. This exceeded the respective 92 and 98.5 per cent targets.

Metro Trains Melbourne said that there were fewer incidents on the network during April, which also improved performance.

“In April we saw fewer faults impacting our trains and equipment meaning a more reliable journey for passengers,” the operator said in a statement.

“There were also fewer disruptions caused by weather events, trespassers and police operations.”

Regional train services were similarly above targets, with 92.1 per cent on time and 97.4 per cent of services delivered. The most reliable short distance line was the Seymour Line with 99.1 per cent of services delivered and the most punctual were services on the Geelong line.

Of the long-distance lines, Warrnambool, Albury/Wodonga, Swan Hill and Echuca, and Shepparton lines all saw 100 per cent of services delivered. The most on time services were on the Warrnambool line, with 99.3 per cent delivered within 10 minutes and 59 seconds of the scheduled time.

The punctuality of tram services was well above the 82 per cent target, with 93.8 per cent of services arriving on time. 99.2 per cent of services were delivered, exceeding to 98.5 per cent target. Both figures were the highest for the past 12 months.

Victorian

Design released for locally-made new VLocity sets

The design of the new VLocity trains for the North East line in Victoria have been released.

The new model will be manufactured by Bombardier at its Dandenong workshops, said Minister for Public Transport, Melissa Horne.

“These new trains will be the first VLocitys to run on standard gauge tracks on Victoria’s regional network and will provide North East line passengers with a more comfortable and reliable train journey,” said Horne.

Features of the new trains include built in USB chargers, six luggage racks and overhead luggage storage, a modern catering facility, and six wheelchair spaces with companion seats nearby. Three bike racks will be installed, as well as four shared tables so groups can sit together. The design also includes accessibility improvements so that transport is accessible to people of all abilities.

The units will be manufactured in three car sets which can run coupled together for a six carriage train. Todd Garvey, director sales & marketing Australia for Bombardier, said the company has utilised its local knowledge and expertise.

“Bombardier is proud to support the Andrews Government by manufacturing these new standard gauge trains for North-East Victoria, in Victoria, using our local supply chain. Our operations in Dandenong employ over 500 people and we are the only business in Australia that can build trains and trams from end-to-end right here in Melbourne. We are fortunate to have a strong, talented workforce and a facility that can deliver for Victoria.”

The new design was developed in consultation with the community in North East Victoria, said Member for Northern Victoria, Jaclyn Symes.

“The feedback from local passenger groups, accessibility advocates, local government and tourism representatives has been fantastic, and central to the design process – I thank everyone who contributed.”

Once the $235 million upgrade to the North East Line is complete, the new trains will run on the standard gauge line. Current services to Albury are hauled by N class locomotives as the rest of the V/Line VLocity fleet are designed for Victoria’s broad gauge network.

Regional rail improvement works about to begin

A $3.9 million package of maintenance and improvement works is kicking off on the Ballarat, Ararat, and Maryborough lines.

The works will begin on Wednesday, April 22, and continue until Sunday, May 3 and involve a works crew of 90 to complete the major infrastructure upgrades. Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne said that the upgrades will make for better rail services.

“We’re getting on with this work now to improve reliability and services for passengers on the Ballarat, Ararat and Maryborough lines.”

Work will involve maintaining and renewing infrastructure, such as the Melton Reservoir Viaduct. In addition, the surface of the rail bridge over Toolern Creek and other culverts will be replaced, allowing water to easily pass under the tracks.

Other sections of track will be replaced and improved, while signalling equipment will be installed and the road surface at the Dowling Road level crossing in Windermere will be upgraded.

Coaches will be replacing trains while the works are underway.

Physical distancing measures will be in place on site.

“These works are going ahead with extra precautions in place to keep workers safe as we continue to slow the spread of coronavirus,” said Horne.

Member for Wendouree, Juliana Addison said that the works would improve regional rail.

“We are carrying out these important works now, to ensure that the many members of the Ballarat community who rely on V/Line services, get the service they deserve.”

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.