Williamstown

Williamstown level crossing to be replaced by rail trench

The Williamstown line will be lowered under Ferguson Street to replace the current level crossing in North Williamstown.

The rail-under-road design was decided upon after community feedback expressed a clear preference for such a design.

As part of the works, North Williamstown Station will also be renewed, with lowered platforms, plaza areas, and landscaping. Community feedback is being sought on the design of the station precinct.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that it was time for the dangerous level crossing to go.

“This crossing has been the scene tragedy and puts the community at risk every single day – we’re getting rid of it.”

In the past decade there have been five near misses, and the 110 trains that travel through the crossing each weekday cause delays for the 25,000 motorists who wish to cross the rail line.

“Our big build is removing traffic bottlenecks and building a better rail network across the west and right around Melbourne – and it’s creating vital jobs as we rebuild from coronavirus,” said Allan.

The Ferguson Street level crossing removal is one of six level crossing removals in Melbourne’s west on the Werribee and Williamstown lines. In Werribee, crews are preparing the area by relocating underground services and moving traffic lights to enable the construction of a new rail bridge.

Construction in Williamstown will begin in early 2021 and the crossing will be removed by 2022.

Rail delivered to Coburg
New railway track has been hauled to Coburg as part of the Bell to Moreland level crossing removal project.

Made in Whyalla, South Australia, the 10 kilometres of rail strings were transported in 27 metre lengths to a depot in Spotswood, Victoria. There, the strings were welded together into 165-metre lengths, before being hauled by rail to the work site on a 210-metre long train pulled by a diesel locomotive.

The rail will be stored on site before they are placed on the 2.5km elevated rail bridge. The bridge will replace level crossings at Bell, Munro, and Reynard streets in Coburg, and Moreland Road in Brunswick.

trams

Melbourne trams get extra cleaning through Victorian government scheme

Yarra Trams is utilising the Victorian government’s Working for Victoria scheme to clean trams, depots, and high-volume stops.

The $500 million initiative aims to get Victorian jobseekers into work as the state recovers from coronavirus (COVID-19) mandated lockdowns.

300 jobseekers have been deployed around the Melbourne tram network to boost cleaning and allow commuters and passengers to travel safely, said Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne.

“Our trams are seeing more cleaning than ever before, and passengers should be assured that we are doing everything we can to keep the network clean.”

Workers are cleaning the network between 7am and 6pm and high patronage stops such as Federation Square and Melbourne University and getting an extra deep clean. On busy corridors such as St Kilda Road, teams will be jumping on and off trams to increase cleaning frequency.

Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Trade Martin Pakula said the scheme benefited both the workers and the community.

“This is creating opportunities for people who have lost their job through no fault of their own and providing a crucial community service into the bargain.”

The extra cleaning is in addition to standard cleaning that occurs at the beginning and end of each service. High touch areas such as handrails and grab straps are cleaned at the beginning of each run.

Minister Horne acknowledged the important role that the extra cleaning was doing.

“I want to thank our hard-working team who are working around the clock cleaning, providing advice to passengers and keeping our transport network moving.”

Worker transfer deal maintains train manufacturing jobs in Ballarat

The Victorian government has brokered a deal to transfer manufacturing staff from Alstom’s manufacturing site in Ballarat to Bombardier’s maintenance depot in the same regional town.

The deal was agreed to by the Victorian government, the two major manufacturers, and unions, and will see 27 of Alstom’s permanent manufacturing staff redeployed to work on the VLocity train maintenance program, which will be carried out at Bombardier’s Ballarat workshop.

Alstom workers who have not been redeployed will continue working on other rollingstock projects, said Minister for Public Transport, Melissa Horne.

“We’re helping keep these highly skilled manufacturing jobs in Ballarat – giving certainty to workers and their families.”

The deal comes after speculation over the future of Alstom’s Ballarat workforce once the final X’Trapolis trains in the current order are completed. While the Victorian government has committed to an order of X’Trapolis 2.0 trains, designs are still being completed, leaving the workforce in limbo. Victorian secretary of the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) Luba Grigorovitch said that the jobs could have disappeared altogether.

“There was the potential for these regional jobs to be lost, and I’m really pleased that the state government applied the pressure that was necessary to ensure that the redeployment of the employees has been facilitated.”

The Victorian government has committed $12 million to Alstom to continue designing the X’Trapolis 2.0 trainsets.

Grigorovitch welcomed the investment but said that a confirmed order was needed.

“The investment in the design phase is only the first step and the workers and their families will only truly be secure once they see an order of much needed X’Trapolis 2.0s.”

By redeploying the workers onto the VLocity fleet, maintenance schedules will be sped up, said Horne.

“Alstom workers will gain new experience and skills carrying out vital maintenance on our VLocity fleet – helping to keep services moving across regional Victoria.”

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.

New study to guide investment in Victorian containerised freight rail flows

A new study will look at ways to move freight more efficiently and reduce the number of trucks going into the Port of Melbourne.

Funded by the Victorian government, the Port of Melbourne Container Logistics Chain Study will be the first in a decade and carried out by the Port of Melbourne operator.

The study will look into the flow of containers into the port, trends, and changes since 2009.

With forecast growth of 900 million tonnes in freight in Victoria by 2051, the study will examine the impact and nature of growth in container volumes.

“With Victoria growing rapidly so it’s more vital than ever that we have the detailed information we need to plan for the future,” said Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne.

The study’s findings will inform investment and policy decisions that will enable efficient freight movements via rail.

“The knowledge gained from this study will help us get more freight onto trains and off local roads,” said Horne.

After the previous study was conducted, investments were made in the intermodal freight precinct at Truganina, as well as the West Gate Tunnel.

The announcement of the study follows the extension of the Mode Shift Incentive Scheme (MSIS) and a $125 million commitment to on dock rail at the Port of Melbourne.

CEO of the Port of Melbourne Brendan Bourke said that the research would improve freight supply chains.

“We all need reliable information to support our organisations’ future directions, as well as our collective efforts to ensure our industry continues to underpin the state’s economy and competitive edge.

“We know from stakeholder feedback that the 2009 study has greatly assisted government and industry during the past decade in its business planning and investment decisions,” Bourke said.

Port of Melbourne scheme

Rail freight competitiveness scheme gets a $4m extension

The Victorian government has boosted a scheme that helps to shift freight from road to rail with a $4 million injection.

The funding will extend the Mode Shift Incentive Scheme (MSIS) to 30 June 2021, and takes the total investment in the scheme to $24m over six years.

According to the Victorian government, the MSIS has already taken the equivalent of 28,000 truck trips off Victorian roads and onto rail.

“We’re moving more freight more efficiently and keeping our state connected by reducing rail costs and making it easier to get Victorian products to our ports,” said Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne.

The MSIS provides incentives to freight operators to move more freight via rail. Current recipients of the scheme are Linx Portlink on the Shepparton corridor, Wimmera Container Line on the Horsham corridor, Westvic Container Export on the Warrnambool corridor, and Seaway Intermodal on the Mildura corridor.

Horne said the scheme improves the cost competitiveness of freight.

“This scheme benefits the community by getting trucks off roads which locals use every day and supporting industry through cost-effective movement of freight.”

Chair of the Freight on Rail Group, Dean Dalla Valle welcomed the Victorian government’s decision.

“A big thank you to Minister Horne for listening to industry and giving the scheme a critical lifeline during these unprecedented and uncertain times,” Dalla Valle said.

“The benefits of the scheme stretch well beyond regional freight businesses; the scheme helps to take trucks off local and regional roads, driving better road safety outcomes for the community, and is an investment in the future of regional rail freight jobs.”

Dalla Valle said the extension of the MSIS would benefit regional Victorian businesses.

“Australian regional exporters operate in highly competitive international markets and ending this scheme would have driven up freight costs and severely impacted many regional businesses,” he said.

“By continuing the scheme, the Andrews Government is helping to protect many regional jobs across the freight supply chain and putting the state’s economy on the right track towards recovery.”

The MSIS is one of a number of initiatives to ensure that Victoria’s growing freight task is handled by rail. By 2051, freight volumes in the state are expected to triple, and the government is also investing in improving access to the Port of Melbourne, building new intermodal terminals as Truganina and Beveridge, and funding the Port Rail Shuttle.

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.

Grain

Bumper winter grain harvest sparks calls for rail upgrades

A forecast record grain crop is leading to calls for improvements to the regional freight network in Victoria.

Advocacy group Rail Futures Institute has identified the Sea Lake and Manangatang lines, the Korong Vale group, as ripe for improvement to shift a bumper winter crop.

“We are urging a fast allocation of funding so that these labour-intensive works can be actioned between July and October of this year so that this important freight link can again be made available to handle the forecast bumper grain harvest from November 2020,” Rail Futures Institute president John Hearsch said.

According to the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences, this year’s winter crop is forecast to reach 7.4 million tonnes, 16 per cent above the ten year average to 2018-2019 and double last year’s crop.

With a limited capacity on freight lines between Dunolly and Ballarat, extra grain may have to be hauled by truck, costing growers.

“In offering a second option for Korong Vale Group grain trains to go south, the number of broad gauge trains proceeding via Dunolly and Maryborough can be reduced, releasing more train paths for standard gauge trains from the Mildura and Murrayville lines, which can only reach Geelong, Portland, or Melbourne via Ararat and so must travel through Maryborough,” said Hearsch.

Rail Futures Institute points out that the 41km of track in need of an update involves replacement of sleepers, repairs to areas damaged by floods in 2007 and 2011 and reactivation of the rail junctions at Inglewood and Eaglehawk. The relatively minor improvements could also be completed using locally sourced materials, said Hearsch.

Other benefits would include the potential extension of regional passenger services from Bendigo to Marong and a connection between Bendigo rollingstock manufacturing and repair workshops and the rail network in north-western Victoria.

The Victorian government is currently finalising an updated businesses case for the stalled Murray Basin Rail Project, which intended to upgrade the Korong Vale group lines. Once complete, the business case will be presented to the federal government for consideration for funding further stages.

Four level crossing removals among program of winter works

Four level crossings are scheduled to go on the Upfield line by November 2020.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that a construction blitz will remove the four level crossings at Munro, Reynard, and Bell streets, and Moreland Road.

Work crews of over 1,000 will work around the clock from July 28 to November 15.

The blitz involves elevating two kilometres of rail line and constructing two new stations, at Coburg and Moreland stations.

“Over the next few months we’re ramping up work on our Big Build, including the biggest level crossing removal blitz we’ve ever done,” said Allan.

Buses will replace trains between Anstey and Upfield, however a new turnback facility at Anstey will allow trains to continue between Anstey and the city, reducing the impact on commuters.

Works on other level crossing on the Frankston line are getting underway in May, with trenches to be excavated and new stations built to facilitate the removal of level crossings at Park and Charman roads in Cheltenham, and Balcombe Road in Mentone.

Other projects are underway in Lyndhurst, Pakenham, Berwick, Edithvale, Chelsea and Bonbeach, Werribee, Hoppers Crossing, Mooroolbark and Lilydale.

As part of Victoria’s Big Build program, construction on the Metro Tunnel Town Hall station is taking another step forward. Trams will not run along Flinders Street between Elizabeth and Russell streets from July 5-11 and cars on St Kilda Road won’t be able to turn left into Flinders street to maintain pedestrian safety around the construction site. The Sunbury Line upgrade, to facilitate trains to run on the line as part of the Metro Tunnel project, is also continuing in late June.

Winter will also see track renewal and maintenance in the CBD and on the regional train network, specifically the Bendigo, Swan hill and Echuca lines. On the Bendigo Line between Sunbury and Bendigo the $16.1 million sleeper replacement program was completed a month ahead of schedule. 50 workers were on site around the clock to renew 48,000 sleepers, locally manufactured at Avalon, near Geelong.

“Building these projects is more important than ever, as we rebuild our economy and get people back to work,” said Allan.

$328m for transport upgrades around Victoria

300km of regional rail track and 15 train stations will be upgraded as part of a $2.7 billion spending plan to help Victoria recover after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The spending will be spread across the economy, including education, social housing, and tourism upgrades, however $328 million is targeted at the transport sector.

Part of the funding will go towards upgrades of trains and trams and is in addition to the $107bn Big Build program.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that the funding will go to projects that will begin immediately.

“We’re getting to work on hundreds of new projects across the state, meaning shovels in the ground – and boots in the mud – within a matter of weeks and months,” he said.

“From upgrading our roads and rail, to critical maintenance for social housing and new projects for our tourist destinations, this package will create jobs for our local tradies and so many others – and support local businesses all over Victoria.”

$90m will be invested in upgrading and replacing sleepers, structures, and signalling across the regional rail network. This funding will cover the renewal of 300km of sleepers and ballast across the regional network.

$62.6m will go towards the maintenance and restoration of trams and regional trains. Over half of this funding will go towards improving the reliability of V/Line trains.

$23m will be spent on improving stations and stops, including better seating, passenger information, toilets, and accessibility upgrades.

$5.6m will be spent on removing rubbish and graffiti as well as managing vegetation along transport corridors.

Chief executive of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia Adrian Dwyer said that the funding was well structured.

“The phase one package provides the right blend of projects and programs that will support job creation and stimulate economic activity,” he said.

“The focus on new and existing projects across schools, social housing, and road and rail maintenance means that the benefits of this stimulus will be broad-based.”

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said that the funding will help the wider economy.

“We’ve always said Victoria is the engine room of the nation – with this package, we’re cranking the engine and kickstarting our economy.”

The entire funding package is expected to create 3,700 direct jobs with many thousands more in the supply chain. For companies which need to hire extra employees, the Victorian government has mandated that new hires are to be found through the Working for Victoria scheme.

In a press conference on May 18, Andrews said that this announcement would be followed by other announcements which will target particular sectors. Andrews would not confirm whether the Melbourne Airport Rail Link would be announced, however he suggested that a decision would be made soon.