Ballarat Line Upgrade nears completion

Melbourne’s Cobblebank Station in the outer west is now open, with services stopping at the station since Monday.

Deputy prime minister and minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development Michael McCormack said passengers along the line will experience greater reliability thanks to the 18 kilometres of new track duplication.

The new track between Melton and Deer Park West will enable extra services by providing allowing trains to pass each other along the Ballarat Line. Passengers between Melton and the city will also get two extra peak hour services.

“This is a huge step forward for Ballarat Line passengers, who will see even more benefits from the Ballarat Line Upgrade rolled out next year,” said McCormack.

The station opened after 23-days of intensive construction work, including upgrades at Bacchus Marsh and Ballan station, track and signalling works, safety testing and driver training.

“I thank the workers who have been out there day and night delivering these works so this wonderful new station can start taking passenger,” Victoria’s minister for transport infrastructure Jacinta Allan said.

The station was delivered as part of the half-a-billion-dollar Ballarat Line Upgrade, which also includes four major station upgrades, two new passing loops and new train stabling.

Major construction on the Ballarat Line Upgrade is on track to be finished by the end of the year, according to the government. A final works blitz will take place from Saturday 7 to Friday 13 December.

Following the completion of the major construction work, there will be a further period of disruption for commissioning and safety testing to bring the remaining infrastructure online and enable even more services to be introduced in 2020.

The $551.7 million Ballarat Line Upgrade is jointly funded by the federal and state governments as part of the $1.75 billion Regional Rail Revival Program.

Rail bridge construction underway in Melbourne

Work towards rail bridge foundations has now commenced in an inner Melbourne suburb.

Thirty-four piles (deep concrete foundations to support the rail bridge) are being bored at the Toorak Road site in Kooyong.

Piling rigs and cranes have been at work on the site of the level crossing removal project. A piling rig is a specialist piece of equipment with a high mast that enables it to dig deep into the ground.

The piles at Toorak Road will be up to 20 metres deep and 2.1 metres in diameter. The locations of the piles were determined after geotechnical investigations were conducted in late 2018 and early 2019.

Once the piles have been bored, cranes will lift a steel cylindrical ‘cage’ into place to reinforce the pile, with each piling cage weighing between 9 tonnes and 12.5 tonnes. The hole is then reinforced with steel and concrete.

“This process creates secure foundations and ensures safety and stability of the rail bridge,” according to a Victorian government statement.

Resleepered track on WA's Leonora Branch Line. Photo: Brookfield Rail

Victoria’s $27 million sleeper replacement project underway

Sleeper replacement work has begun along the Shepparton line as part of the Victorian government’s more than $27 million sleeper replacement project.

A crew of 50 V/Line staff is working through the night in 10-night blocks to replace the first of 37,000 sleepers on the 83-kilometre section of track between Seymour and Shepparton.

“Crews are working through the night to get these essential sleeper replacements done while minimising disruptions to passengers,” minister for public transport Melissa Horne announced on Monday.

The government says the work is progressing quickly with workers now on the section of track between Murchison East and Toolamba.

Because of the major work, Shepparton trains will travel over the new sleepers at a slower speed to allow them to bed down.

“As a result, all services have an additional two minutes’ journey time during the works,” according to a government statement.

The major overhaul will reduce the need for future maintenance work, as well as improving the ride quality of the track, and ensuring safer and more reliable service for north east communities.

“We’ve invested more than $27 million on sleeper replacements along the rail corridor in the last 12-months as part of our plan to deliver more reliable services for locals,” member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes said.

Vital maintenance complete on Victorian regional tracks

Vital maintenance is now complete on regional tracks in Victoria, Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne announced yesterday.

More than 60 staff worked on the $3.4 million project, replacing old track and point machines with more reliable infrastructure.

“The track that was replaced at Southern Cross Station is one of the most used and most complex pieces of track on the regional network – which is why this maintenance work is so important,” said Horne.

Passenger trains began using the replaced two critical sections of track near Southern Cross Station on the morning of Friday 25 October, after extensive testing of the new infrastructure had been completed.

The tracks funnel regional trains to and from Southern Cross Station, forming a crucial part of the network.

“Replacing the aging track with new modern infrastructure will improve performance and reduce the risk of delays or disruptions due to track faults in the area.”

The new tracks were laid with the help of installing machines and safety systems, which control the movement of the tracks to direct trains to and from different platforms.

During the work, trains were not running on the Albury line so that staff could perform major maintenance on standard gauge trains. The Australian Rail Track Corporation also used the opportunity to expedite the removal of several temporary speed restrictions between Seymour and Albury.

Trains from all regional lines will now benefit, according to the government, as disruptions at Southern Cross Station often have flow on impacts to the entire network.

Drones watch over Victorian train network on Cup Day

Victoria has deployed two drones to monitor the more than 1000 extra train services running racegoers to and from the Melbourne Cup Carnival in Flemington.

Metro Trains Control Centre and security staff alongside Victoria Police will monitor the train network, which is operating at a higher frequency, via the drones. The intention is to be able to respond quickly if there is an infrastructure issue or security incident on the track, and therefore improve the reliability of trains.

“Using drone technology, we’ll be able to get the best possible views of the train network, which will carry around half of the 300,000 racegoers expected to flock to the Melbourne Cup Carnival,” announced the Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne yesterday.

This is the first time Metro Trains will use its own drone technology, complementing the 9,000 CCTV cameras already in place across Melbourne, with 10 specially trained pilots working across the four race days.

“We’re always working with our public transport operators to use new technologies that allow us to react quickly to anything that may occur anywhere on the train network,” said Horne.

Metro Trains and Victoria Police are spending $100,000 to tighten security for the race. A new mobile CCTV trailer, complete with thermal night-time, will also be used along the Flemington Racecourse line.

It is intended to target vandals and trespassers on the tracks, following major train delays over the past two weeks caused by the theft of copper cables which forced morning commuters off trains and onto buses.

The trailer includes a six-metre mast carrying a zoomable camera, as well as a thermal imaging camera, providing clear vision at night or in areas with little or no light.

Both technologies will help reduce the impact of train and track faults across the network, getting trains and racegoers moving as quickly as possible.

Flinders Street to partially close for Metro Tunnel works

The eastbound lanes of Flinders Street, Melbourne will be closed to traffic between Elizabeth Street and Swanston Street for up to three years while works on the Metro Tunnel project are carried out. 

The closure will begin from September 2, and the Victorian Government has warned of significant disruption to traffic. Trams will continue to run through the area in both directions in an attempt to ease the ensuing congestion however, with the exception of October 27.

The closure will cut truck movements on Swanston Street in half to around 100 trucks a day during peak construction in late 2020, with the full footpath on Flinders Street scheduled to re-open to pedestrians in late 2020

“This is a significant closure, but we need to do it – it’s the only way to build this vital underground connection between Flinders Street and the Metro Tunnel station,” said Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan.

“We know how disruptive this major construction will be so we’re doing everything we can to minimise disruptions and impacts on local residents, businesses and people visiting the city.”

Access for pedestrians and vehicles will be kept for residents and local businesses, with loading bays in place to the east of Elizabeth Street for drop-offs and deliveries. A new footpath will be constructed for pedestrians to the west of Degraves Street so that pedestrians can cross to the south side of Flinders Street, maintaining access to the tram stop.

The $5 billion Metro Tunnel project reached a drilling milestone last week as roadheaders broke through to the site of the State Library Station 30 metres below the Swanston Street surface. It is one of five new underground stations that will be built for the nine-kilometre project by 2025.

Monash study finds preference for cars among new parents

A Monash University study surveying the transportation habits of  Melbourne commuters has revealed possible methods to increase public transport adoption amongst first-time parents.

Respondents who had become parents in the past year cited a lack of off-peak frequencies, dedicated caregiver station parking and suburban reach as issues preventing their increased use of public transport.

The study found that among the 758 new parents surveyed, many were increasingly turning to cars to support their needs, with the volume of people using public transport regularly dropping from 30 per cent of respondents in the year prior to becoming parents to just 14 per cent a year after the birth of their children.

In addition, the number of respondents who said they rarely or never used a car decreased from one-third to less than one per cent in the same timeframe.

“A number of studies have shown that households with children are more car-dependent than other households groups,” said Laura McCarthy, a PhD researcher from Monash University’s Public Transport Research Group.

“Our study identifies different groups of transport users. By doing this, we found that, while car use did increase for most groups, other groups displayed more sustainable travel patterns following parenthood.

Monash split its findings into five distinct transport categories: Transit Leavers, Consistent Drivers, Committed Multimodals, Transit Faithfuls and Devoted Cyclists.

The Devoted Cyclists group showed one of the biggest post-parenthood drops, from 46 per cent to just one per cent.

McCarthy suggested that modest changes could be made to better accommodate families with young children using public transport.

“Each of the five groups shared different characteristics and attitudes towards travel modes,” she said. “This suggests a one-size-fits-all policymaking approach may need to be abandoned in favour of a more nuanced consideration of the public transport needs of new parents.”

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.

Busy Glenroy level crossing in Melbourne faces removal

Glenroy Road’s level crossing is now set for removal, becoming the second crossing to be removed on Melbourne’s Craigieburn line as part of the Victorian Government’s Level Crossings Removal Project (LCRP).

The rail line will be lowered below Glenroy Road to accommodate the removal. The government stated that this method would be the most feasible design option as it avoided significant levels of compulsory property acquisition while also suiting the topography of the area. A new station will also be built as part of the works, which are set to conclude in 2022.

The government stated that Glenroy Road was one of North Melbourne’s most congested roads, with around 19,000 vehicles passing the level crossing each day.

“We are now undertaking further technical investigations. Later this year, we will be back out with more information and locals will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the project,” VicGov said in a statement.

“The boom gates at this level crossing can be down for up to 43 per cent of the morning peak, causing congestion for up to a kilometre along Glenroy Road. Delays will worsen as more trains and cars travel through Glenroy in the future.”

Acting Premier Lisa Neville, acting Minister for Transport Infrastructure Melissa Horne and Member for Pascoe Vale Lizzie Blandthorn convened at Glenroy Station to aonnounce the project

“This dangerous and congested level crossing holds up thousands at Glenroy Road each day – it’s got to go,” Neville said.

“This will make a real difference for people in Glenroy, making it quicker, easier and safer to get around.”

The LCRP has so far removed 29 of a planned 75 dangerous and congested level crossings in Melbourne, with the remainder set for removal by 2025.

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.”