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.

Grain

Heavy use of Rainbow-Dimboola line makes the case for investment

After data showed that the Rainbow-Dimboola line had carried 33 return freight services and 66,000 tonnes of grain since it was reopened in April, the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) is calling on governments to upgrade regional freight lines.

VFF grains group president Ashley Fraser said that the grains industry in the Wimmera and Mallee regions had a high demand for rail freight.

“We know the demand is there, industry knows the demand is there and here is the government’s data demonstrating the demand is there. All that is required is a willingness to get on with the job,” said Fraser.

Freight demand in Victoria is expected to triple by 2051 and rail is seen as vital to take a greater share of this demand.

“The government should heed their own message in this case – improvements to Victoria’s regional rail freight network will take trucks off roads resulting in lower freight costs and better road maintenance and safety outcomes,” said Fraser.

So far, major upgrades to the network of freight lines which connect Victoria’s agricultural regions to its ports have stalled since the halting of the Murray Basin Rail Project. A bumper grain crop in 2020 and calls for infrastructure funding to boost COVID-19 affected economies are driving demands for the project to be restarted.

Funding for regional rail improvements was part of the Victorian government’s COVID-19 stimulus package, however focused on resleepering existing lines, rather than opening new lines or gauge conversions.

Fraser said that now was the time for the Victorian government to act and these projects would have the support of farmers.

“If the Victorian government build it, absolutely, the trains will come.”

transport infrastructure

Major works continuing across Victoria’s transport infrastructure program

Works to remove level crossings on three lines through Melbourne will step up during spring, as work continues on transport infrastructure projects around Melbourne.

Fifteen level crossing projects are taking their next step in September. On the Upfield line, removals of four level crossings are underway along with the construction of two new stations.

On the Cranbourne line, duplication works will see buses replace trains from September 8-13. Four level crossings on that line are also set to go, getting it closer to being the first level crossing free line in Melbourne.

Sunbury line works are scheduled for November to enable the line to carry newer trains once the Metro Tunnel opens. These works involve track, power, and platform upgrades and will require a shutdown on the line from November 7-22 and on the Bendigo line from 7 to 21.

For the trains themselves, safety and performance testing of the new High Capacity Metro Trains will be conducted on the Werribee Line from late August

On the Metro Tunnel project, all four tunnel boring machines are in action and the twin tunnels are getting closer to completion.

The tram network will also benefit from maintenance works. Upgrades will be carried out in Malvern, South Melbourne, Parkville, and Pascoe Vale South. Tram stabling in East Melbourne will also be improved, to allow for more trams during special events.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said the works will have a wider benefit.

“These critical projects are building a better transport system, while supporting local jobs and Victoria’s economy,” she said.

Across all projects, tight hygiene controls are in place under Melbourne’s stage four restrictions and workforce numbers have been reduced.

“The safety of our workforce and the community is our priority – we are taking strict precautions to ensure our critical transport infrastructure projects can safely continue under coronavirus restrictions,” said Allan.

Stage 4 lockdown restricts public transport, rail construction in Melbourne

As Victoria enters stage 4 restrictions due to the spread of COVID-19, metropolitan rail services and construction on major rail projects in Melbourne are being cut back.

While public transport is able to continue running, with Melbourne under a curfew from 8pm to 5am, Metro Trains services have been significantly reduced with trains running infrequently. Yarra Trams have stated that some services will run at up to 40 minute frequency. Public Transport Victoria stated that changes to services will be different each night.

All Night Network services, which covers services that run after midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, will be suspended while stage 4 restrictions are in place. The current restrictions only allow people to leave their homes between 8pm and 5am for work, medical care, and caregiving.

According to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews some staff will be redeployed.

“The Night Network will be suspended, and public transport services will be reduced during curfew hours. This will also allow us to redeploy more of our PSOs into our enforcement efforts.”

Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) spokesperson Daniel Bowen said that better communication of changes was needed.

“On Monday night details of drastic evening service cuts for trams and trains were only published as they took effect, giving travellers no time to plan ahead,” he said.

The PTUA recommended running trains to a Saturday timetable would be a better outcome, with less demand during the peaks.

“While the capacity will probably be sufficient to maintain physical distancing given the curfew and the shutdown of most workplaces, the big problem is the wait times. Imagine finishing your shift at 11pm and having to wait 90 minutes for your train home,” said Bowen.

Rail construction projects are also limited under the stage 4 restrictions. Major construction sites are limited to the minimum amount of people required for safety, and no more than 25 per cent of the normal workforce. Small scale construction is limited to a maximum of five people on site. Andrews said the government was reviewing major public projects.

“To date, we’ve almost halved the number of people onsite on some of our biggest government projects. Now we’re going to go through project by project, line by line to make sure they are reduced to the practical minimum number of workers.”

A Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (MTIA) spokesperson said that work would continue under the new restrictions.

“The MTIA is continuing to look at ways to further reduce the number of staff while allowing essential works to continue safely.”

On-site, MTIA staff are required to wear a mask, practice physical distancing and follow hygiene procedures and staggered shifts. A 70-person strong COVID Safety Team have been ensuring that all worksites comply, with multiple checks each day on every project.

Other rail businesses and organisations will largely be able to continue in line with their COVIDsafe plans. This includes passenger and freight operations, including rail yards, and transport support services.

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie said she welcomed the government’s recognition of rail’s essential role and noted that the restrictions struck the right balance between keeping businesses operating and addressing the spread of COVID-19.

“The rail industry has been working hard to keep essential services safely operating throughout 2020,” she said.

“From the train drivers on passenger and freight services to those working in stations, workshops and in the office, rail workers have made sure essential services are there for people who need them no matter what.”

Rail manufacturing businesses will also be able to remain operating, due to their role in supporting an essential service. Manufacturing businesses that support critical infrastructure public works are able to operate as per their COVIDsafe plan.

“Now more than ever we need the rail network to be as reliable and efficient as possible and these businesses are crucial to that effort,” said Wilkie.

States must honour national border protocol say ALC, ARA

Inconsistency in the application of border controls for freight movements are creating delays and confusion for rail freight operators.

After the national cabinet endorsed a national protocol for freight movement over closed borders on July 24, which recommended that government agencies should consult with industry in relation to border controls, changes have occurred without consultation, said Australian Logistics Council (ALC) CEO Kirk Coningham.

“The lack of consultation directly contravenes the national protocol that all state and territories agreed to.”

Coningham said that a lack of consistency was creating confusion.

“It is especially concerning that some jurisdictions have now mandated negative COVID-19 test results for drivers coming from Victoria, yet Victorian authorities are explicitly discouraging anyone who is asymptomatic from obtaining a COVID-19 test,” he said.

“This leaves freight vehicle drivers travelling interstate from Victoria in an impossible position of being unable to comply with the requirements of one government because of the instructions given by another.”

Currently, South Australia is requiring those providing commercial transport and freight services who travel from Victoria to have a COVID-19 test within the last seven days of crossing the border.

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie said that consistency was vital to enable the efficient operation of supply chains.

“Delays at the border or differing approaches across the country frustrate those efforts at a time when we rely on our rail freight network more than ever.”

The national protocol sets out that COVID-19 tests should be made available to rail crew, and that routine testing should be required for those planning on entering or leaving hot spots. States and territories should also provide pop-up testing facilities that do not add undue time to the journey.

Wilkie said that delays at the border can have a significant impact on freight operations.

“It is essential state and territory border restrictions account for the vitally important role of the rail freight sector and make sure operators have consistent protocols to follow as they travel across the country.”

Duplication

Victorian train stations to get a make-over

The Victorian government will spend $24 million upgrading 16 train stations around the state.

The program of works is funded through the $2.7 billion Building Works package, of which $328.4m is being spent on transport projects.

The upgrades to train stations will include new passenger information screens, public address equipment, and disability shelters. Money will also go towards extra car parks, toilets, and bicycle parking.

Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said that the projects would support jobs in a number of communities.

“We’re hitting the ground running with these projects – creating hundreds of new jobs in the coming months to support local communities across Victoria that need it most.”

The station upgrades follow regional track improvements which were announced in July, as well as maintenance works.

Stations to be upgraded include Heathmont, Frankston, Melton, and Moonee Ponds in the Melbourne metropolitan network, and Broadford, North Shore, and Lara on the regional network.

It is hoped that the distributed nature of the numerous small-scale projects can provide a boost to local economies that have struggled during coronavirus (COVID-19) related shutdowns.

In total, the works are expected to create and support over 600 jobs, according to Carroll.

“Every dollar spent as part of this extra investment will support jobs and families, and improve our public transport network for everyone who relies on it.”

Works are expected to start in October with tenders to be released in the coming months.

A full list of upgrades are below:

Aircraft Station Accessibility upgrades: Installation of handrails, upgrade existing DDA carparks, installation of two Raised Boarding Pads (RBPs) including rubber fingers at train door 1. Upgrades to the pedestrian crossing via new rubber track inserts. Platform canopy and seating upgrades.
Anstey Station Accessibility upgrades: Installation of handrails, upgrade existing DDA carparks, installation of two RBPs including rubber fingers at train door 1. Installation of new DDA shelters. Upgrades to the pedestrian crossing via new rubber track inserts. Platform canopy and seating upgrades.
Heathmont Station Accessibility upgrades: upgrade existing DDA car parks. Platform, canopy and seating, fencing, Tactile Ground Surface Indicators (TGSI) installation, lighting.
Huntingdale Station Passenger information displays (PIDs).
Moonee Ponds Station Accessibility upgrades: installation of handrails, upgrading DDA car parks, installation of two RPBs including rubber fingers at train door 1. Upgrades to the pedestrian crossing via new rubber track-inserts. Toilet refurbishment.
Royal Park Station Platform, canopy and seating upgrades, bicycle parking.
Jordanville Station Accessibility upgrades: Upgrade fourexisting DDA car parks. Platform, canopy and seating upgrades, installation of TGSI.  Bicycle parking.
Footscray Station Platform PA system.
South Kensington Station Platform, canopy and seating upgrades, TGSI installation.
Frankston Station Public toilet and landscaping at station entrance.
North Geelong Station Platform PA system, toilet refurbishment, platform canopy and seating, accessibility upgrades.
North Shore Safety upgrades (e.g. lighting, CCTV).
Kilmore East Station Platform PA system, toilet refurbishment, platform canopy, and seating upgrades.
Broadford Station Toilet refurbishment, platform canopy, and seating upgrades.
Lara Station Platform PA, platform canopy, and seating.
Melton Station General station upgrades, accessibility upgrades, DDA upgrades, fencing, install PIDs.
Major projects

Victoria launches online major projects portal

Victoria has launched an online portal to give suppliers a comprehensive overview of major projects in the state.

The Victorian Major Projects Pipeline went live today, July 24, and covers projects worth over $100 million. These include major rail projects including the Suburban Rail Loop, Metro Tunnel Project, Melbourne Airport Rail, the Level Crossing Removal program and others.

The projects range from those in the business case/planning phrase, to procurement, and delivery. Each project is categorised by region, sector, and procurement agency, with indication of cost, procurement start and delivery start. The projects can be organised in a list or timeline format.

Links to contact details and specific project information is available through the portal.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan hope that industry would use the portal to plan ahead.

“This portal will be an invaluable tool for industry going forward as we plan and prepare to deliver Victoria’s biggest ever infrastructure agenda.”

According to a statement from the Victorian government the portal will be updated quarterly with new project announcements and budgets.

Developed by the Office of Projects Victoria (OPV), which provides independent advice to improve project delivery and project benefits, the portal is in addition to other public information available on Victoria’s Big Build Website.

OPV CEO Kevin Doherty said the project was a collaborative effort.

“OPV has worked closely with key delivery agencies and the construction industry to develop this portal which will literally help build a bigger and better Victoria.”

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.

Permits required for freight crossing NSW border from Victoria

Freight rail personnel travelling from Victoria to NSW will have to apply for a permit, under new regulations imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The new rules were imposed on July 8 and apply to anyone crossing the border from Victoria to NSW. While freight and logistics are exempted from the ban on travelling across the border as they are seen as providing critical services, a permit is required.

A separate permit is being created to clarify conditions for freight and transport operators. This permit will allow freight personnel to travel between NSW and Victoria for the purpose of their duties, as long as their employer has a COVID-19 Safety Plan and does not require them to self-isolate.

Applications for the new freight and transport permit will be live through Service NSW by close of business Thursday, July 9.

When the border closure was initially announced and put in place, freight and logistics operators were required to self-isolate, however chair of the Freight on Rail Group of Australia Dean Dalla Valle welcomed the change to the freight and transport-specific permit.

“Rail maintenance workers, terminal staff and safety compliance officers also need to regularly cross the Victorian-NSW border in cars to service and supervise essential freight train operations,” he said.

“Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole and his key agency staff immediately understood and appreciated these nuanced, daily practical requirements of our sector. He also understood the logistical difficulty of forcing hundreds of train crews to self-isolate for 14-days each time they crossed the border on a freight delivery run.”

Australian Logistics Council CEO Kirk Coningham also welcomed the NSW governments creation of the freight transport permit.

“ALC has been working with the NSW government and other industry groups over the past day to rectify the impractical requirement for freight transport workers entering NSW from Victoria to self-isolate for 14 days,” he said.

“We are pleased that the NSW Government is now creating a new permit that will allow our industry’s workforce to continue delivering essential goods to communities without being forced into self-isolation.”

Passenger rail between the two states has been halted, with the XPT service from Sydney terminating at Albury.

According to a statement from the Victorian and NSW agriculture ministers, both governments are working to ensure freight can flow across the border.

“We are working closely with our federal and New South Wales counterparts to ensure freight movements across the border can continue and our agricultural products can be delivered to market shelves across Victoria,” said Victorian Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes.

NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said that the governments will ensure that the agricultural supply chain will continue operating.

“Agriculture is critical to both our states and to the country, which is why we’ll be working to make sure there’s minimal to no disruption to this essential sector.”

Rail freight and the wider transport sector has been recognised as critical to ensuring Australians can access essential supplies throughout the COVID-19 period. When other state-borders were closed earlier in 2020, exemptions were granted for freight to continue. Coningham said that these procedures should continue.

“Our industry has supported communities right throughout this pandemic, and it’s important governments return that support by ensuring their COVID rules and regulations are practical, workable and allow us to keep delivering.”

Dalla Valle said that the efficiencies of rail had been clearly demonstrated throughout the pandemic.

“What has become crystal clear during the COVID-19 pandemic is the innate power of rail in being able to transport bulk volumes of freight over large distances and state borders in a safe and efficient manner,” he said.

“For example, a typical interstate goods train up to 1,500 metres in length can haul approximately 220 shipping containers, helping to significantly reduce the number of truck (and hence people) movements across state borders.”

Dalla Valle also said that rail was able to ensure that goods are transported via corridors and facilities that did not come into contact with the public.