Incidents force lower punctuality for Melbourne in June

The Victorian Department of Transport will pay compensation to passengers of Metro Trains after failing to meet its punctuality targets in June. Metro Trains delivered 88.3 per cent of its trains on time last month, which was 3.7 per cent lower than its 92 per cent target.

Department Acting Deputy Secretary Alan Fedda said that compensation would be offered as the figures fell below 90 per cent. Metro Trains and Yarra Trams can be fined up to $1.25 million and $500,000 a month respectively if they fail to significantly meet their targets.

An overhead power issues near Aircraft Station on June 3, a collision between a train and car at Mentone Station on June 12, and more than 100 incidents of passengers taking ill and requiring help onboard were cited as contributors to delays.

“Metro Trains’ contract with the state government includes tougher measures than ever before in relation to punctuality,” he said. 

“We expect them to meet these targets and deliver a service that our passengers deserve. These results are unacceptable and we will continue to work with Metro Trains to ensure its performance returns to the expected levels.” 

Yarra Trams’s punctuality rose 4.4 per cent on May figures to 84.1 per cent, presenting its best result in four months, and second highest since October 2018. V/Line also recorded its best result this year, with the Ballarat, Geelong, Warrnambool and Bendigo lines all experiencing jumps.

Melbourne Metro Train. Photo: Creative Commons / Zed Fitzhume

Train collides with two cars at Melbourne level crossing

A train has his two cars at a level crossing in Officer, southeast Melbourne. The cars were on the level crossing after one car rear-ended the other onto the tracks.

The boomgates then closed as the drivers got out of their cars to swap details. The vehicles were destroyed, with the train pushing one of the cars 150 metres up the track and the other being pushed aside into the boom gate.

Five people received non-life threatening injuries in the incident, including the driver and two child passengers of the less damaged car and an elderly driver and passenger of the other car. The 84 passengers and two staff on the train were unhurt, though the driver was understandably shaken by the incident.

“The train on approach has seen those cars, sounded its horn and applied emergency brakes,” Public Transport Victoria spokesperson Georgia Main told the Australian Associated Press yesterday.

“The train driver’s pretty shaken, but okay. One car is stuck under train. That’s going to take a little bit to clear.”

The crash led to delays for commuters as sections of the Pakenham line were suspended, with Metro Trains arranging for buses to transport passengers between Pakenham and Berwick. The Gippsland V/Line was also affected by the crash but both services eventually returned to service in the afternoon.

Swan Hill latest beneficiary of Victorian transport ‘blitz’

The Swan Hill line in Victoria will return to service tomorrow following $3 million of improvements by more than 50 V/Line staff and contract workers.

The works, which were scheduled to take place over four days starting from Friday June 21, include significant track, signal and structure improvements.

For the duration of the works passengers travelling to Swan Hill had to take a replacement coach service from Bendigo; Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp thanked passengers for their patience during this period.

A concrete bridge deck has been constructed and tracks have been relaid on the bridge running over the Waranga Western Irrigation Channel near Tandarra, while the McCallum Street and Pental Island Road level crossings have had their signalling and train detection technology upgraded.

Sleepers have also been replaced and new ballast distributed on five rail bridges in Kerang and Tragowel, which will help to reduce infrastructure fault risks.

“Our program of continual maintenance and renewal works is vital to keep the regional train network moving effectively, delivering a more comfortable and reliable journey for passengers,” said State Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne.

“These works will create a smoother ride for passengers and help future proof the consistently high reliability of the Swan Hill line.”

Melbourne Metro Train. Photo: Creative Commons / Zed Fitzhume

Metro Trains’ May performance impacted by wire collapse

Public Transport Victoria’s reliability has suffered a drop for the month of May across its Metro Trains, Yarra Trams and V/Line services.

PTV chief executive officer Joroen Weimar called May a challenging month for Melbourne’s train network, citing an overhead power issue at Laverton Junction that impacted Werribee line services over a four-day period. A small segment of wire that fell from a corroded section of the overhead power structure became tangled in a passing train, which removed a further section of wire.

The incident led to PTV’s decision to replace all insulator connection on the Werribee line on top of its existing routine maintenance.

This incident led to Metro Trains falling short of its monthly reliability and punctuality targets, with reliability defined as the number of scheduled trains that ran and punctuality the number of trains that ran on time.

Metro Trains achieved a 90.4 per cent punctuality rate and 98.2 per cent reliability rate in May, short of the targets by 1.6 per cent and 0.3 per cent, respectively.

Yarra Trams and V/Line fared better, however. Yarra Trams exceeded its monthly reliability target in May, delivering 98.7 per cent of all scheduled services but missed on punctuality, delivering 79.2 per cent of services on time compared to an 82 per cent target.

Yarra Trams received a boost in May in the south east of the city due in part to the temporary closure of the Sandringham rail line to accommodate works on the ongoing Metro Tunnel project. Yarra Trams delivered 215 additional peak weekday services on three routes from May 22-31 to help compensate for this.

V/Line delivered 86.5 per cent of its services on time and 97.1 per cent of its scheduled services in May. In particular, the Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo lines all showed significant year-on-year improvements, according to Weimar, with Bendigo securing the biggest leap at 87.3 per cent, up 10.3 per cent from may 2018.

“We continue to work hard to deliver a service that our regional passengers can rely on while maintaining the network improvements we have seen over the past 12 months,” Weimar said.

“We’re working with all operators to improve their punctuality and reliability as well as enabling the major program of essential infrastructure upgrades to the state’s public transport network to be delivered.”

Labor reveals state budget ‘transport blitz’ for Victoria

The Victorian Government has unveiled plans to commit record funding for road and rail projects across the state in what it has referred to by Premier Daniel Andrews as a “blitz” for suburban transport.

“From fixing a pothole at the end of your street to the biggest transport projects in Victoria’s history – this Budget will get you where you need to go,” Andrews said.

The plans constitute part of the Victorian Budget for 201920, incorporating a $27.4 billion pipeline of works.

This includes $15.8 billion for the creation of the North East Link; $6.6 billion to remove 25 more level crossings (of a total 75) as part of the ongoing level crossing removal project; and $3.4 billion to deliver upgrades to the Sunbury, Cranbourne and Hurstbridge lines.

In all, the Sunbury line will receive a $2.1 billion boost, Cranbourne $750 million, and Hurstbridge $547 million.

Sunbury will also receive new high-capacity trains that will boost passenger capacity by 113,000 people.

The first of the 65 high-capacity trains previously announced in 2016 as part of the Labor Government’s High Capacity Metro Trains Project, is set to start on the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines this year.

Cranbourne will benefit from line duplications (doubling capacity during peak hours) and Hurstbridge will receive station upgrades at Greensborough and Montmorency.

The government has also set aside $615 million for regional public transport deliveries, including $340 million to purchase up to 18 new three-car V/Line VLocity trains, which the government said would bring good news for manufacturing and supply jobs in Dandenong, which hosts the assembly plant where the trains are built.

$111 million on training, recruitment and upskilling of train drivers in preparation for the new trains and services.

Three new stations will also be built at Goornong, Raywood and Huntly in the Bendigo area for a combined cost of $49.6 million and $150 million will be provided to fund new car parks at some of the busier stations in Melbourne and regional Victoria through the Car Parks for Commuters Fund

Following on from promises made before the state election in March, Labor will build 11,000 new spaces at stations across the state, bumping the current total number of spaces by 20 per cent to 66,000 stations in order to help relieve pressure along the lines.

An incentive scheme designed to reduce truck numbers on local roads by shifting more freight to rail will also be extended with an $8 million investment. Minister for Public Transport, Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said, “We promised to get trucks off local streets and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Outside of rail projects, the Andrews Labor Government will also put aside $608 million for road upgrades (including $425 million on regional roads) and $45.4 million for the development of bike and pedestrian paths, including new bike paths on St Kilda Road.

$205.1 million will be spent on increasing train and bus services generally, with the latter to be rolled out in Melbourne growth areas such as the north and south-east of the city.

“These projects should have been built years ago,” said Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan. “We can’t change that, but we can keep our promises and keep delivering the projects Victorians voted for and need – and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

The Labor Government has spent $46.7 billion on state transport in the last four years, including its ongoing work on expensive projects such as the aforementioned level crossing removals and the $11 billion Metro Tunnel development, an underground rail line connecting the Sunbury line in the northwest to the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines in the south east.

Western Rail Plan gets $100m Budget boost

The Victorian Government’s 20192020 Budget includes a $100 million boost to the Western Rail Plan.

The investment is intended to fund planning and design works to separate the regional and metro services on the Geelong and Ballarat lines as part of a wider plan to deliver fast rail to the regions. This separation will avoid situations where V/Line trains are slowed down by Metro trains, allowing for faster and more frequent journeys.

Rail Projects Victoria (RPV) has started a program of investigations and technical studies along the Melton, Werribee, Wyndham Vale and Geelong corridors, with staging of the Western Rail Plan being considered alongside the Melbourne Airport Rail Link business case, due for publication in 2020.

Committee for Ballarat chair Nick Beale welcomed the investment in a statement, saying the works were “in line with Committee’s stated aim of duplicating the line between Ballarat and Southern Cross, which includes electrification and quadruplication of the line to Melton. Once the work is complete, it will result in a noticeably faster trip to Melbourne.”

The Western Rail Plan sets out investment plans for three connected rail projects, including the creation of two new metro lines leading west to Melton and Wyndham Vale; increased rail capacity between Melbourne’s CBD and Sunshine; and upgrades on the Geelong and Ballarat lines to allow trains to run faster than 160km/h.

The creation of the metro lines to Melton and Wyndham Vale will separate the two areas from the Ballarat and Geelong lines, with Wyndham Vale also proposed as the potential western section of the Suburban Rail Loop, which is expected to cost at least $50 billion, with a pencilled completion date of 2050.

V/Line train. Photo: Victorian Government

V/Line to benefit from influx of new drivers

V/Line has revealed plans to boost driver numbers in Victoria by 20 per cent by the end of 2020.

The move is in keeping with promises made by the Andrews Labor Government to increase regional rail reliability by increasing the number of services by 40 per cent.

The group, which is responsible for regional rail services to towns in Victoria such as Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong, stated that it had trained around 30 fully qualified drivers in the last year. A further 120 trainees are currently completing an intense training course.

The course includes on-the-job training, classroom work and driving practice using train driving simulator systems. Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes said that the “fresh crop” of drivers would help to improve reliability in the short term and support the network for years to come.

“We’re providing a massive boost to driver numbers by the end of next year, which will mean more reliable services, less cancellations, and more local jobs,” said Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne.

“As our regional cities continue to grow – we’re investing in the people and infrastructure to help keep our regional network moving and get you where you need to go safely and quickly.”

In addition to the training ramp-up, the state government recently started works on the first stage of a $7.2 million sleeper replacement program on the Seymour V/Line, which is due for completion by June 26.

Certain evening trains on the Seymour line are being replaced by coaches for a two-week period until May 23 as a result of the ongoing maintenance. These coaches will also replace certain evening trains on the line from May 26 to June 6.

The works form part of wider track maintenance investment in Victoria by Labor on the Seymour and Shepparton lines, which will see 55,000 life-expired sleepers on the two tracks between Donnybrook and Seymour replaced in 2019.

V/Line also carried out works to install new boom gates, bells and flashing lights at the Ewings Road level crossing at Avenel and the High Street level crossing at Barnawartha between March and April this year.

PTV posts improved performance in April despite works disruption

Public Transport Victoria (PTV) has improved its public transport reliability figures in April across its Metro Trains, Yarra Trams and V/Line services.

Metro delivered 91.4 per cent of its services on time for the month, while V/Line and Yarra Trams delivered 86.8 per cent and 81.8 per cent of their services on time, respectively.

April figures across the three services were all improved on the 88.4 per cent, 84.4 per cent and 78.1 per cent posted for the Metro, V/Line and Yarra Trams in March.

PTV CEO Jeroen Weimar said that April saw Victoria’s “biggest ever construction blitz”, including continued works on the Metro Tunnel and level crossing removal project. These works contributed to the implementation of 600 replacement buses across the state to meet commuter demand.

“The Autumn construction blitz included major track, signal and platform upgrades on the Geelong and Warrnambool lines, which will lead to more reliable trains in Victoria’s southwest,” Weimar said

Yarra Trams exceeded its reliability target in terms of running services at 98.7 per cent, while V/Line’s reliability increased by 2.6 per cent to 97.8 per cent.

Reliability figures on V/Line’s busiest line, Geelong, showed marked improvement in punctuality by 3.9 per cent to 92.1 per cent, a rise PTV attributed in part to timetabling improvements set out in March.

Metro’s reliability performance missed its target by just 0.2 per cent at 98.3 per cent, a factor PTV attributed in part to disruptions caused by a level crossing accident on the Sandringham line on April 15.

Weimar said that the April figures for Metro were a “step in the right direction” but admitted that performance was still below passenger expectation.