$125 million in new rail infrastructure for the Port of Melbourne

The Victorian government has approved a new on-dock rail to be built at the Port of Melbourne.

Port of Melbourne Operations will invest $125 million in new rail infrastructure.

The Port of Melbourne will introduce a $9.75 per twenty-foot equivalent unit charge on imported containers and the funds raised from the charge will directly deliver new sidings and connections for the rail project.

Improving rail access to the Port of Melbourne is a legislated condition of its lease, aiming towards a wider push to expand rail freight across Victoria.

The Labor Government said in a statement they are “also supporting the Port Rail Shuttle Network connecting freight hubs in Melbourne’s north and west to the port, new intermodal terminals planned at Truganina and Beveridge, new automated signalling for faster rail freight to GeelongPort and improvements in the regional rail freight network”.

“On-dock rail will make rail transport more competitive, cut the high cost of the ‘last mile’ and reduce truck congestion at the port gate – a big win for Victorian exporters delivering goods to the Port of Melbourne.”

Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the project will increase the competitiveness of Victorian industry.

“The Port of Melbourne is a vital part of our multi-billion dollar export sector and agriculture supply chain and on-dock rail will make its operations more efficient for Victorian exporters – removing congestion at the port gate.”

Chairman of the Freight on Rail Group, Dean Dalla Valle, highlighted the industry’s support of the measure.

“Port of Melbourne must also be congratulated for working closely with government and freight companies to deliver this game changing initiative.”

The project is set to be completed by 2023.

ARTC to modify reference design for Inland Rail route

John Fullerton, Australian Rail Track Corporation CEO, said “the current route is not locked in,” at a senate inquiry hearing of the management of the Inland Rail project, held on January 30 in Brisbane.

Richard Wankmuller CEO for the Inland Rail Programme said “we understand we need to improve.”

One senator called out “Mr Fullerton, there are pitchforks waiting for you,” as the CEO addressed “white hot anger” concerns of the proposed inland rail route from QLD senators.

Fullerton said the potential “fatal flaw” is floods. 

The ability to construct a public safety model that aligns with the proposed Inland Rail route through the McIntyre floodplain is the main area of concern, Fullerton stated in the hearing.

“There are a number of areas of concern that we’re looking at,” Wankmuller said.

“We’ve finished about 90 per cent of the reference design phase and we’re modifying the reference design.”

Fullerton said ARTC’s main priority is investigating floodplains and “increasing transparency”.

“I get people are scared, and it’s our obligation to [construct] something that is safe,” Wankmuller said.

“This is not just an ARTC program, that is a community program and there is no way we can be successful without community, council, and private sectors.”

Fullerton’s hearing follows criticism that the major freight rail corridor will go through one of Australia’s largest floodplains, raised from the rural Senate Committee meeting in Millmerran on Wednesday evening. 

Goondiwindi Mayor Graeme Scheu said the regional council is an advocate for the project, but object ARTC’s decision-making process.

Scheu stated to the committee that the decision to announce D1 as the preferred design option “came as a major surprise to everyone in our region”.

“From the minute D1 was announced, it has been the opinion of Goondiwindi Regional Council that if the route had to cross the floodplain (primarily to appease the time restraints), then the only acceptable solution would be an elevated bridge from the Queensland side to Wearne on the NSW side,” he said.

“I must reaffirm that Goondiwindi Regional Council is supportive of the Inland Rail Project and have been for many years but the decision making process of ARTC leaves a lot to be desired.”

Goondiwindi Regional Council stated they are advocating to overturn the D1 route design option and “believes the decision should be over turned to the alternative option of A”.

“The route directly crosses the floodplain, minimising the flood potential once the Whalan escape route is fully addressed.

Community consultation results and opinion will support Option A over D1.”

Fullerton said that “this is a complicated project that is important to people,” and recognises that engagement in the past “wasn’t up to speed”.

“We are looking where we have made the right decision or where a different decision should be made.

“There is government procedures in everything we do, we meet with the minister’s department for monthly and quarterly reporting to look at each issue.”

The Inland Rail route will be about 1,700km in length across Queensland, NSW, and Victoria and is scheduled to be completed by 2025.

Services suspended following V/Line and freight train crash

A V/Line train collided with a wagon from a derailed freight train on Wednesday evening south of Wodonga in Victoria.

An Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) spokesperson said ARTC can confirm an incident has occurred on its rail network between Chiltern and Barnawartha at approximately 5.40pm on Wednesday.

The ARTC spokesperson advised that a northbound freight train derailed and a passenger train service travelling south on the adjacent track struck a wagon of the freight train.

The 5.20pm V/Line Albury to Melbourne passenger service was travelling south on the adjacent track when it subsequently struck one of the freight train’s wagons.

The ARTC spokesperson said the train line “currently remains suspended to all services and the site is quarantined for attendance by independent safety regulators and for incident investigations through today,”

“Track opening will be subject to recovery and infrastructure damage assessments following site incident investigations across a roughly 1.7 kilometres long area,”

“A more detailed forecast of reopening will be provided once a full assessment of damage to the track is able to take place.”

ARTC said in a statement that their priority at this stage is to ensure the safety of the persons involved and assisting attending emergency authorities.

A CFA spokesperson said a number of the wagons were alight when emergency services arrived, and the flames sparked a grassfire.

The grassfire was deemed safe at 8.15pm Wednesday evening.

A VicEmergency update stated that the “train incident is still ongoing and is currently being assessed by the relevant agencies.”

There are no reported injuries to passengers or crews of either train service.

The ARTC will provide further updates as they become available. 

Toorak level crossing removed ahead of schedule

The Level Crossings Removal Project estimates that the Toorak Road level crossing will be removed six months ahead of schedule.

A revised completion date of April will see the new rail bridge operational, with cars travelling underneath.

Work currently being completed includes the installation of 18 concrete columns to support the new rail bridge. During February and March, U-troughs will be installed which will form the rail bridge. 20 of the structures will be installed along with retaining walls in Tooronga Park and Talbot Crescent.

While works and being undertaken, the rail line will be closed during the next months. These will be scheduled during off-peak periods.

In early 2021, 23,000 trees, plants, and grasses will be plated to finish the project.

Other projects currently underway as part of the Level Crossings Removal Project include site investigations for upgrades to the Hurstbridge Line. Surveys and investigations have occurred in Greensborough, Montmorency, and Diamond Creek.

As part of the Level Crossings Removal Project, the Victorian government plans to duplicate the rail line between Greensborough and Montmorency, and between Diamond Creek and Wattle Glen. Work will also be undertaken at Greensborough and Montmorency stations.

Train stabling at Victoria Park will also be upgraded and power and signalling will be improved along parts of the Hurstbridge Line. Submissions on changes to the Planning Scheme Amendment which will enable the project are now open.

 

TAA to deliver Safeworking training in Victoria

Training Ahead Australia (TAA) will begin delivering safeworking training in Victoria next month on approved networks from Handsignaller through to Track Force Protection Coordinator Level 3.

Different courses will be on offer based on the level of seniority required by the candidate.

The course progresses through the levels of a further view on the current ARO Rail standards of paperwork and the importance of documentation along with hazard assessments. 

Dannielle Walz, Director of Operations at TAA said the current facility in Maribyrnong Victoria has a 20m track with a variety of concrete, composite, and wood sleepers with a half set of points, which allows trainers to go through more practical demonstrations. 

“Training Ahead Australia is an approved ARTC safeworking training provider and is looking to go above and beyond in the methods of teaching the courseware, through continuing to develop its current facility which includes day and night time training and its ability to show day and night time scenarios with train running at the Victorian distances based on the Victorian line speeds,” Walz said.

Walz said a great Track Force Protection Coordinator (TFPC) has the potential to add hours of productivity and to almost eliminate hazards from rail traffic based on their management strategies.

“Safeworking has the capacity to ensure that all supervisors and machine operators – along with all other roles required comprehend the job at hand and the timelines that allow them to conduct their works through the safeworking brief conducted by the TFPC for the shift.

“Since October we have been assisting over 22 individuals enter the initiative and it is something we are very proud to be leading,” Walz said.

“In the future we  would like the opportunity for companies or ARO’s to see the value of Trainers to facilitate and shadow Trainees in live environments once they are signed off to add value in the craft of Safeworking.”

Weather, industrial action affects rail performance in Victoria

Victorian rail operators have fallen short of their monthly targets in December, while light rail operator, Yarra Trams met its punctuality target but missed its reliability threshold.

The figures, from Public Transport Victoria, highlight the strains that train operators are under during a busy and weather-impacted month, said head of transport services at the Department of Transport, Jeroen Weimar.

“Metro Trains was faced with many challenges in December but we’re still looking for them to improve their performance to ensure our passengers get the reliable service they deserve,” he said.

To cope with extreme heat levels in December, with temperatures reaching 44 degrees on December 20, Metro Trains has instituted real time temperature monitoring. The technology enabled fewer services to be cancelled during the heat.

Another factor impacting delays were people illegally entering tracks, incidences of which increased in December.

Increased patronage in the month also led to 540 extra metropolitan train services on New Years Eve.

Overall, Metro Trains’ punctuality sat at 90.8 per cent, and reliability at 98.2 per cent, a 0.1 and 0.7 per cent drop on November figures, respectively.

Yarra Trams’ result sat at 82.8 per cent for punctuality, and 97.2 per cent for reliability. During December the network was affected by industrial action, heat damage to overheads and bridge strikes along Racecourse Road.

Weimar highlighted that these delays were somewhat avoidable.

“It’s incredibly frustrating to see that tram overhead and rail bridges are continually being struck by oversized vehicles,” said Mr Weimar. “It is the responsibility of drivers to know the height of their vehicle and plan their journey accordingly to prevent avoidable disruptions on our roads and public transport network.”

Similar factors affected the performance of the V/Line network, as heat placed speed restrictions on services and industrial action led to services being replaced with buses.

V/Line driver’s near-miss with a train after failing to stop at signals

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) rail safety investigation found a V/Line driver ran through a level crossing before the boom gates were down at Marshall, Victoria.

On January 2nd 2018 at around 2pm, V/Line train 7750 travelling to Geelong and 1305 V/Line travelling to Warrnambool were heading towards each other on a single track in suburban Geelong.

The two trains were 940m apart from colliding when a control room worker in Melbourne issued an emergency call instructing the drivers to stop.

The ATSB found that the driver of train 7750 did not respond to the Stop indications of signals MSL10 and MSL8 at Marshall.

The driver of train 7750 entered the single line section between Marshall and South Geelong and then into the Marshalltown level crossing before the crossing booms had lowered.

At approximately the same time, The 1305 V/Line Melbourne to Warrnambool service with two crew and 166 passengers on board had departed Geelong and was headed towards Marshall on the same single line section.

The trains were scheduled to cross using the loop track at Marshall.

The investigation report stated that in preparation for the cross of the two trains at Marshall, the train controller “was observing the signalling control and CCTV VDU when he saw train 7750 go through Marshall platform travelling too fast to stop at MSL10,”

“Realising that train 7750 would not be able to stop, the train controller made a fleet radio transmission to all trains in the area to ‘Red Light’ (Stop), the CCTV also allowed the train controller to confirm that train 7750 had stopped beyond the Marshalltown Road level crossing.”

The investigation concluded that the driver of V/Line train 7750 was most likely influenced by symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal, having not applied a nicotine patch on that day.

“Following this incident, the driver of train 7750 tested positive for an inactive metabolite of cannabis, with levels suggesting use within the previous 7 days,” the report stated.

It could not be determined whether that had affected the driver’s performance at the time of the incident.

Report authors say attempts by V/Line safety critical workers to stop smoking should be managed under medical supervision.

As a result of the incident, V/Line has installed a train protection system at Marshalltown Road level crossing to stop a train that has passed a signal at Danger, which has over-speed sensors to prevent a train entering the crossing when unprotected.

V/Line has continued with planning for the provision of three-position signalling for this section as part of other infrastructure projects.

The driver of train 7750 no longer works for V/Line.

Infrastructure Australia knocks back North East Rail line upgrade

Infrastructure Australia has announced that the current business case for the North East Rail Line upgrade is not nationally significant.

The business case, submitted by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), covers the 316km Victorian line from Melbourne to Albury, via Seymour and Wangaratta. The estimated cost would be $198.3 million.

In a statement, Infrastructure Australia noted that rail service disruptions are locally or regionally significant, but not of national importance. Infrastructure Australia’s independent review of the business case found that the estimated benefits were overstated, while the business case itself said the costs would be higher than the benefits, highlighted chief executive of Infrastructure Australia, Romilly Madew.

“We know compared to other regional Victorian passenger lines, there is relatively poor punctuality, and reliability on the North East Rail Line. However, based on the current evidence available, the cost of the project would significantly outweigh its benefits.”

The Commonwealth’s independent infrastructure advisory board noted that 1,800 people use the line each day, however demand has fallen due to poor punctuality, while the neighbouring Hume Highway has been improved.

The lack of benefit to freight services was one reason that Infrastructure Australia turned down the project, along with the lack of new rail services, new rolling stock, or faster travel times.

Madew noted that a revised business case would be welcomed by Infrastructure Australia.

“We recognise the importance of good-quality regional rail transport to give people genuine travel choices and equitable service levels,” she said.

North East Rail Line early works progressing

Investigation work has commenced towards the $235 North East Rail Line Upgrade project in Victoria, after the contract was awarded to John Holland last week.

Ninety kilometres of the 500 kilometres of track have been walked and site assessments are now underway. Site walks started at Albury and will continue south towards Melbourne.

According to ARTC, a team of up to five John Holland and Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) project staff will be walking all 500 kilometres of track by mid-January, in preparation for the major works commencement in the new year.

Findings will inform site assessments about how  impacts to the community can be minimised.

Since October, early works have thus far included: 85 kilometres of tamping, the removal of over two kilometres of mudholes, and distribution of 6,500 tonnes of fresh ballast. Both tracks at the Summers Road level crossing in Springhurst have also be renewed.

“With our main works contractor in place, progress on the track upgrade will start to ramp up in the new year,” ARTC’s general manager for Victoria Projects Ed Walker said.

“Not only will people start to see increased activity in the rail corridor, but also John Holland and ARTC personnel out and about in local towns and businesses.”

Victoria’s retired rollingstock needs new home

More than 800 of Victoria’s retired or soon to be retired trains and trams are looking for a new home. Retired rollingstock is currently kept at the Newport rail yards where it is “taking up valuable space that could be put to better use”, according to the Victorian government.

The state government, last month, began the Expression of Interest process to repurpose retired rollingstock once it was no longer needed by transport operators.

As part of the EOI, VicTrack is looking for an innovative and experienced commercial provider to develop a business model to deal with the retired rollingstock. This will include managing the ongoing pipeline of older rollingstock coming off the network in the future as the government rolls out new trains and trams.

“We’re open to all ideas about how these carriages, locomotives and trams can be repurposed and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the EOI process,” minister for public transport Melissa Horne said.

“We’re building new trains and trams to get people where they need to go. As we retire our older trains and trams, we need to make sure we have a plan to ensure they are put to the best possible use.”

Newport is considered an important strategic part of the rail network, and the state government is looking to put the space at the Newport rail yeards to better use as part of its growing investment in public transport infrastructure.

The provider has the option to partner with the government or to operate a standalone commercial venture and may use part of Newport for its operations.