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.

Qube train. Photo: Qube

Victoria’s Ultima Terminal will generate millions in new exports

Victoria’s minister for ports and freight Melissa Horne officially opened a rail freight terminal in Ultima, northern Victorian, for exporting to the Asian market.

The QUBE Ultima Intermodal Terminal officially opened yesterday, however trains have been running on the line since at least June according to Fully Loaded.

Recently, the state government spent $23 million on an upgrade of the Manangatang freight line. It went towards the replacement of sleepers over a 90km section of the line in the Ultima region by V/Line. Track formation was also improved with new ballast which will improve the ride quality for trains.

Two trains a week currently service the Ultima facility, but it’s expected that will expand to three or four trains a week.

“This new facility is creating jobs for the local community and is helping to get more freight onto rail – removing around 4,000 truck trips every year from Victorian roads,” Horne said.

QUBE, Pentarch Agricultural and Pickering Transport, through a joint venture, invested $3.65 million in the facility

“Already two trains a week are using this terminal to provide integrated rail solutions to the intermodal and bulk markets, and we hope to expand this when more local products become available later this summer,” QUBE Managing Director Maurice James said.

Hay from local farms is compressed and loaded into containers at the facility. The containers are then put on a train and taken to the Port of Melbourne for export to Asia.

Pentarch markets Australian oaten hay, cottonseed and other grain internationally and the new facility will generate millions of dollars in new exports to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China.

AusRAIL: What’s next for Inland Rail

Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller has updated industry on the progress of  the project and what it will tackle next now that Queensland has given the greenlight to construction.

“We’re moving over the next few months to the next section. This is much larger, at least double the size of what we’ve completed so far. Now that we’ve been given the green light, we can begin the economic stimulus of this area. We’re trying to accelerate that as much as possible for these vital areas that have been impacted by the drought,” Wankmuller said, speaking at the AusRail Plus conference.

This section comprises 28km of new dual gauge track between Gowrie (north-west of Toowoomba) and Helidon (east of Toowoomba).

“This is an engineering feat. It will be very challenging, and we have to make sure that we get it right,” according to Wankmuller.

“The centrepiece is a 6.2 km long tunnel to be constructed through the Great Dividing Range of Toowomba, a mountainous terrain which leads down into the Lockyer valley, creating topographical and geological challenges requiring eleven rail and two road bridge and viaduct structures totalling 6.7km in length between Gowrie and Helidon.

“The tunnel through the Toowomba Range and I will call it The Tunnel, because The Tunnel is the second largest great tunnel in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s going to be an engineering marvel not just because of its size and its length but because of all the challenges that are involved in designing a world class and efficient system.

“But we do have to attack some of the big challenges which include ventilation. When you put a diesel freight train through a tunnel like that you have a lot of heat and you have to make sure you’re ventilating it appropriately and making it safe. We are future proofing it so passenger rail can go through if needed in the future.

“The highest of the thirteen structures along this section is the Six Mile Creek Viaduct which is expected to be about 966 metres long and 49 metres high at its maximum. By comparison the total length of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is 1149 metres and the bridge’s height clearance for shipping is around 49 metres. The second viaduct is expected to extend to about 1.8km in length, and in addition to rail bridges there are three crossing loops posed between Gowrie and Helidon, each about 2.2 kms in length.”

The extensive geotechnical investigations have been carried out with extensive stakeholder consultation, according to Inland Rail.

“This is one of the more challenging sections and it is challenging on a world scale, so we had to put together a world class team and we’ve done that. We now have 400 or so of the world’s best working directly for Inland Rail, not to mention the 1000s of service providers helping us meet this challenge. But the challenge is real.

“But Inland Rail’s ingenuity isn’t just about these really difficult challenges it’s also about what we do every day. We’re very proud of what we do every day and safety is near and dear to our heart every day. We look at innovation in all industries and one of the interesting things we’ve adopted is one we stole from the mining industry where we’re electronically tagging our people so when they enter a danger zone with equipment, that equipment automatically shuts down before there can be any reaction to that person and their equipment.

“We’ve changed the steel rail profile itself, which for many years has been the same design. We’ve rounded it out so we don’t need to grind it to get our trains in operation, this is going to lead to less maintenance.

“In 1700km we’re going to have 2-3 million concrete sleepers. We’re going to have to get those fabricated, delivered and unloaded on site. We’ve found a way to do that efficiently, by designing hydraulic machinery we can use to unload it in the most efficient way possible and touch it the least amount of times. If we can save 10 minutes or even 2 minutes every time we unload it across all those millions of sleepers, it saves a lot of time and productivity gains.”

One of the reasons for the delay in Queensland getting on board with Inland Rail has been the controversy surrounding the Condamine floodplain, Wankmuller addressed this.

“It’s not just about having global technology capabilities, it is about having local knowledge. That’s how you make a truly world class flood model. You talk to the local people and see what they’ve seen in previous storm events. By working together with global expertise and the local knowledge of people that have been there for generations, you get a model that makes sense and replicates what actually happens. So now you know you can rely on it in the future, because if you can’t, everything you do from that point is wrong.

“It is all about safety and we’re committed to not making the situation any worse than it was going to be anyhow by us being there. Water has to flow, it has to flow around and through our structures, and there’s some engineering challenges in that that we’re geared up to meet, and we’re doing the work to get it right.”

Wankmuller wrapped up with a call to federal and state governments to accelerate their uptake of the project.

“We need the federal and state governments to work together and they’re doing that but there’s still a lot left to do. We don’t know where the intermodal tunnel rails are yet, in Melbourne or Brisbane. Hard to build a rail line when you’re storing your stock.”