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.”

Victorian Government launches trial of plastic rail sleepers in Melbourne

The Andrews Labor Government has begun an 18-month trial of railway sleepers made from recycled plastic.

Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio and Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne were in attendance as the first of 200 Duratrack plastic sleepers was laid today at Richmond train station in Melbourne.

“We’re embracing new technology to tackle the problem of plastic pollution in our community,” D’Ambrosio said.

“This project is a great example of the circular economy we’re creating through innovation and rethinking a product we use every day.”

The sleepers are produced using a mix of polystyrene and agricultural waste such as cotton bale wrap and vineyard covers by Mildura-based business Integrated Recycling, which developed the product in association with Monash University over a two-year period. 

The Duratrack sleepers are built to a potential life cycle of 50 years at half the cost of timber sleepers. Integrated Recycling also cites benefits such as reduced replacement cycles, the ability to integrate with existing sleepers, a weight comparable to timber sleepers and non-conductivity. Each kilometre of track that uses the sleepers translates to roughly 64 tonnes of plastic saved from landfills.

Integrated Recycling has already received approval to use the sleepers on Melbourne’s metro network, which have been implemented on four tourist railways including the Puffing Billy railway in the Dandenong Ranges.

“It’s exciting to see innovative, environmentally friendly technology rolled out at one of Melbourne’s busiest train stations,” said Minister for Transport Horne.

Mobile myki service approaches 100,000 user milestone

The Mobile myki system launched by the Victorian Government has been used by nearly 100,000 users since its public implementation just over two months ago.

The system allows passengers to pay for rides with their smartphones using Mobile myki in place of their physical myki cards, the contactless travel card system that has been in place for most public transport in Victoria since 2012.

The mobile version of myki is compatible with existing physical transfer points such as gates and readers on buses, trams and at train stations.

Launched on March 28, the Mobile myki app was used by nearly 11,000 people in its first 24 hours, and has been used by around 1,000 users a day since launch.

The majority of Mobile myki users are Melbourne train travellers, who represent 57.8 per cent of all smartphone transactions according to statistics released today by the Victorian Government. In addition, users between 25 and 34 years old represented the largest user group by age overall at over 30 per cent of total users (users between the ages of 35 and 44 were in second place).

Currently, Mobile myki is available for Android smartphones via the Google Pay app, but the Victorian Budget for 2019-20 includes $1 million to improve Mobile myki’s compatibility with other platforms, particularly Apple’s iPhone.

$350,000 has also been set aside to implement 160 free mobile charging ports at the Richmond, North Melbourne, South Yarra and City Loop stations.

“We’ve seen an incredible response to Mobile myki in just over two months and we’re getting on with the development and technical testing needed to make this technology available for people with other smartphones,” said Victorian Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne.

“Our work doesn’t stop here- we look forward to continuing to make travelling on Victoria’s public transport network easier and more passenger-friendly.”

Over 63km of track removed in first phase of Inland Rail project

The Australasian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has now removed over 63 kilometres of existing rail line from the Inland Rail construction in Parkes, New South Wales.

The project, a partnership between the Australian Government and private sector, is intended to upgrade the national freight network between Melbourne and Brisbane by developing regional lines across Victoria, NSW and Queensland.

The works on the section of line between Parkes and Narromine represent the first of a planned 13 Inland Rail projects encompassing over 1700 kilometres.

The track, which has been removed from the freight line between Parkes and Narromine (the P2N project), will be recycled and repurposed for Pacific National’s Intermodal Terminal in Parkes as well as other parts of the NSW rail network.

“It’s just one of the ways we keep our commitment to sustainability,” the ARTC stated in an inaugural project newsletter.

In addition to the track removal, over 100,000 cubic metres of material has been removed as a result of ongoing earthworks.

The works are being carried out by INLink, a joint venture between BMD Group and Fulton Hogan, which is focused on upgrading existing links, building new embankments and culverts, and upgrading signage, signals, level crossings and fencing.

The ARTC stated that they would install over 4000 culverts across the project in total.

Neighbouring projects include the southerly Stockinbingal to Parkes (S2P) project and northerly Narromine to Narrabri (N2N) project, which are both currently in the project feasibility stage.

The ARTC held its first community forum on the project, with two more set to follow on June 19 at the ARTC Community and Working Hub in Parkes and on June 20 at Peak Hill RSL in Peak Hill.

Tunnel boring machine construction begins for Metro Tunnel in Victoria

The first piece of a massive tunnel boring machine (TBM) has been assembled in North Melbourne in preparation for drilling works on the Metro Tunnel project.

The delivery of the machines component coincides with the one-year anniversary of ground being broken at the site. Three pieces of the TBM have been lowered into the station box in the last week, with crews working to finish the machine as soon as possible.

The TBM, nicknamed ‘Joan’ after Victoria’s first Premier Joan Kirner, will excavate over 100,000 cubic metres of rock and soil once launched. The boring project is part of the winter “suburban transport blitz” announced by the Victorian Government last month.

The construction marks the first TBMs planned for development on the Metro Tunnel project.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan visited the project site today, where they discussed more details of the blitz.

“Crews are working around the clock to put these massive machines together, which will dig the Metro Tunnel,  untangle the city loop, and deliver more trains more often across Melbourne,” Premier Andrews said.

“It’s part of our massive Suburban Transport Blitz – which is creating thousands of jobs and building the road and rail projects we need to get you where you need to go.”

Buses will replace trains on the Pakenham, Cranbourne and Frankston lines between Flinders Street and Caulfield from July 614 whie the works take place.

Coaches will also replace trains between Wendouree and Southern Cross on the Ballarat line from June 24-July 7.

Minister Allan thanked commuters for their patience while the works were carried out.

“Soon these massive tunnel boring machines will be digging underneath our city to run more trains more often,” she said.

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.