Maintenance works to begin on north west Victorian regional network

November will see a maintenance blitz on the Bendigo, Swan Hill, and Echuca lines to enable more reliable services to north west Victoria.

The $4m works will include track and signalling maintenance across all three lines, as well as safety upgrades at level crossings on the Swan Hill line.

Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said that works had been aligned with upgrades to the Sunbury Line and Metro Tunnel works to reduce disruption.

“We’ve done months of planning to make sure we get as much done as possible while minimising the disruption for passengers,” he said.

“The safety of the community is our number one priority, which is why we’re working to upgrade level crossings and road intersections across the state.”

Near Kerang, train detection technology will be upgraded and boom barriers added to crossings at Murray, Victoria, Vaughan, and Wellington streets.

On the Bendigo line, ballast and drainage will be improved, culvert maintenance will be carried out in Clarkefield and the track and road surface will be renewed at the Ravenswood Street level crossing.

More than 8,000 sleepers will be replaced on the Echuca line, while the signalling system at the Murray Valley Highway crossing will be adjusted to allow for new traffic signals nearby.

Maintenance on the tracks between Castlemaine and Maldon will be carried out by Victorian Goldfields Railway, to support heritage services on that section of line.

Rail milling works will be conducted between Kyneton and Gisbourne. These improvements are funded by $1m from the Victorian government’s Building Works stimulus package.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said the works would improve rail travel in north west Victoria.

“These rail lines are a vital link for many Northern Victorians – we’re getting on with these upgrades to make sure passengers continue to have safe, comfortable and efficient journeys around our state well into the future.”

Works will begin on Friday, November 6 and continue until Saturday, November 21. Trains will be replaced by coach services.

Ballarat Line Upgrade

Final testing and commissioning on Ballarat Line Upgrade confirmed

The final phase of testing and commissioning for the Ballarat Line Upgrade will be carried out during late December 2020 and January 2021.

The jointly funded project is in its final stages after construction was completed in 2019, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“We’re excited to see the Ballarat Line Upgrade at this final stage, preparing the line for those much-needed extra services and better reliability for passengers in these growing communities,” said McCormack.

“It’s been more than three years in the making and nearly 1.6 million hours of work by dedicated crews, and we’re now on the home stretch to delivering huge benefits for passengers.”

Once critical safety testing is completed and drivers are trained for the new elements of the line, passengers will be able to take advantage of further increases to services between Ballarat and Melbourne, said Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan.

“We’re thrilled passengers will soon see the full benefits of the Ballarat Line Upgrade, but first we must complete this crucial final step on the project, as we integrate new track, a new signalling system and other infrastructure onto the existing rail line,” said Allan.

“It’s one of the most critical tasks undertaken on the project to date and it’s taken time to get the right resources in place to deliver this final piece of the project.”

While construction was largely finished in 2019, the new signalling system, which will allow more trains to run more frequently, was the last element of the project to be bedded in.

“Our rail experts have continued complex and extensive signalling design and planning work throughout the year in preparation for the commissioning, and passengers will soon enjoy the benefits of this hard work,” said Allan.

While buses replace trains, 500 metres of track duplication between Bacchus Marsh and Maddingley and at two level crossings in Ballan will be installed.

Once services return to the line, the new second platforms at Ballan, Bacchus Marsh, and Wendouree will open. The new station at Cobblebank has already opened and other stations have benefited from upgrades.

Already, two extra peak weekday services have been running between Melton and Southern Cross Station. Once complete, trains will run every 40 minutes in the off peak.

Preliminary design contract awarded for southern NSW sections of Inland Rail

The contract to carry out reference design and accompanying primary approvals documentation on two sections of the Inland Rail project has been awarded.

WSP Australia will carry out the work on the Albury to Illabo and Stockinbingal to Parkes sections, said project director Melvyn Maylin.

“A range of investigations will be delivered under the new contract, including ecological and geotechnical surveying, as well as scrutiny of impacts to cultural heritage, noise, air quality and utilities,” he said.

“This is an important step in progressing these two enhancement projects in southern New South Wales.”

The two sections have been combined together due to their similarities, reducing time and cost.

“The benefits of combining the two Inland Rail projects into the same service provider package is that both sections are enhancement projects in existing rail corridors, rather than new construction,” said Maylin.

“By nature, they are similar types of work and this approach will lead to cost effective and efficient project delivery.”

Work on the two sections with a combined length of 358km largely involves upgrading the current rail line to enable double stacked freight trains to run on the future route. Specific works will include increasing vertical clearances around bridges and new crossing loops.

The 37km section of new track from Illabo to Stockinbingal is still in the reference design stage.

The two sections have been identified as needing to progress by the NSW government, which handles planning approvals.

“The Albury to Illabo section has been classified State Significant Infrastructure by the NSW Government, and is currently in the process of an Environmental Impact Statement approvals pathway,” said Maylin.

“As for the Stockinbingal to Parkes project, the environmental assessment will be through four Review of Environmental Factors (REFs).”

The tenders for the first packages of construction work will follow reference design and planning approvals. This is expected in late 2021.

Level Crossing Removal Project

Level Crossing Removal Project reaches 43 crossings gone milestone

A number of level crossing milestones have been reached across Melbourne.

On the Upfield Line, trains are now running on the newly elevated line, and four level crossings have been removed.

Work has been ongoing on site since late July and has beaten its schedule despite operating under COVID-19 restrictions during Melbourne’s second wave.

The four crossings at Munro, Bell, and Renard streets and Moreland Road will be gone by Wednesday, November 4, improving safety, reducing congestion, cutting travel times, and enabling traffic to move more freely through this area of inner Melbourne.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan on Monday said work was continuing on removing the Bell Street level crossing.

“One dangerous set of boom gates on Bell Street is now gone for good – and we’re now getting rid of its neighbour in Preston, with this notorious arterial road to be totally level crossing-free by 2022.”

In addition to the level crossing removals, two new stations are being built at Coburg and Moreland. The stations will open in mid-December. Until then, and as platforms, station buildings, and customer facilities are completed, services to those stations are being replaced by buses and trams.

“We’ve made great progress over the past five years and we’re not slowing down. We’ve removed 43 level crossings and built 28 new train stations – delivering better connections, supporting thousands of jobs,” said Allan.

Work on open space and landscaping beneath the rail line will continue into 2021.

Work will move further north on the Upfield Line in the next year, with crossings in Glenroy and Preston to go by the end of 2022.

On Saturday, November 1, the Evans Road crossing was the 39th level crossing to go.

A new road bridge over the Cranbourne Line was opened, and Evans Road is the first crossing to go as all level crossing are removed between Cranbourne and the Melbourne CBD by 2025. The Cranbourne Line will also be duplicated, allowing for a train ever 10 minutes.

“Getting rid of the Evans Road crossing is the first step in our massive Cranbourne Line upgrade – removing every single level crossing and duplicating the line to get people in the south-east home safer and sooner,” said Allan.

Midland Station

Works for Morley-Ellenbrook Line begin as Midland Station design released

Works to prepare for the rail corridor in the Tonkin Highway median have begun, while new designs for Midland Station are released.

The current works include the construction of two underpasses with dive structures to enable the line to enter and exit the highway, as well as travel underneath the Reid Highway and Tonkin Highway interchange.

A road and bus bridge will also be built at Broun Avenue, including a bus interchange station, to enable access to the Morley Station.

The Tonkin Gap project is one of a number of major infrastructure projects in Western Australia that have been accelerated to encourage the economy to recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The works follow the signing of the contract for the construction of the Morley-Ellenbrook line.

“We now have workers on the ground starting the vital enabling works for the train to travel down Tonkin Highway to Ellenbrook,” said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

“These works will create thousands of local jobs and opportunities for local businesses.”

The rail enabling works are expected to be complete in late 2022 and the full Tonkin Gap project in late 2023.

Updated concept designs for Midland Station
Revised concept station designs have been released for the new Midland Station, also part of the WA Metronet program.

The new station will involve decommissioning the existing Midland Station and building a new station closer to commercial and health facilities and better integrated with the surrounding community.

The project also involves the removal of the Helena Street level crossing and a new crossing at Cale Street for more efficient traffic movements.

The alliance contract for the station works is expected to be awarded in mid-2021.

Saffioti said the project would link with the new railcar manufacturing site.

“The new station will also link to Metronet’s Bellevue Depot, making it the first landmark our brand new C-Series trains will pass through on their way to regular service on the network.”

The station will also service the nearby Midland TAFE, where a purpose-built training facility for rail courses was recently finished.

December opening date set for Flinders Line extension

Teams are closing in on the completion date for the new Flinders Line in Adelaide.

An extension of the existing Tonsley Line, the re-named line will connect the Adelaide train network to the Flinders health and education precinct when it opens in early December.

Once open, the new line will increase services along the line, with an added 12,000 trips to the new timetable and weekend services from December 26. Tonsley Line services previously only ran Monday-Friday.

South Australian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Corey Wingard said the project will enable more people to use public transport.

“This extension of the railway line to Flinders health and education precincts will create new connections for not only the residents who live in the area, but all those who work or study at the university and hospitals,” said Wingard.

Services on the current line will be suspended for two weeks from the last service on Friday, November 20, to allow for testing and driver training before the extension opens.

“The closure is critical to ensure the new track is tested and our train drivers are familiar with the line before it opens,” said Wingard.

Local federal member Nicolle Flint said the new line would be a catalyst for further development in Adelaide’s southern suburbs.

“The extended train line will help local residents get to and from the city, and also help people get to Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders University safely and easily without the pressure of finding a car park,” Flint said.

“The Flinders Link rail line will also help the University unlock investment for their $1.5 billion Flinders Village redevelopment, as well as linking their main campus at Bedford Park to the new Tonsley Innovation Precinct.”

The joint federal-state funded $141 million extension project has involved an elevated track over Sturt Road, Laffers Triangle and Main South Road, two new stations at Flinders and Tonsley, and a shared pedestrian/cycle path adjacent to the rail line.

Tonsley station will replace Clovelly Park station, which will be closed.

Cardinia

Cardinia Road level crossing to be gone before the end of 2020

The road bridge over the railway line at Cardinia Road in Pakenham will be gone before the end of the year, months ahead of schedule.

While safety measures have been in place for the Level Crossing Removal Project, the bridge has rapidly been put into place and will open in December following a final works blitz for two weeks.

Originally scheduled to open in 2021, around the clock work programs have led to the final works including laying asphalt, line-marking, and signage installation, to be finalised in 2020.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said the project was about moving people around the community more efficiently.

“We promised to ease congestion and make the Pakenham community safer by removing level crossings – and we’re doing that well ahead of schedule, getting people where they need to go sooner by road and on the train.”

Along with the removed level crossing, new pedestrian and shared paths will open sooner, creating connections between the nearby train station and local amenities.

Cardinia Road will be the 44th level crossing removed as part of the Victorian government’s plan to remove 75 crossing by 2025. The boom gates are currently down for a third of the morning peak and 23,000 vehicles travel through the crossing each day. A new bridge will improve safety while reducing congestion and improving travel times.

Work on a new community space will begin in early 2021. Located underneath the road bridge, the space will provide an area for residents to meet, exercise, and relax.

Elsewhere on the Level Crossing Removal project, the Seaford Road level crossing project is leading to improvements to the nearby traffic network, with work on the Armstrongs Road and Railway Parade intersection beginning.

Signalising the intersection will improve safety for users and accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists.

The new signals will be connected to the level crossing to manage vehicle movements to and from Railway Parade. The pedestrian crossing will be similarly clarified.

The works come in addition to the removal of the Seaford Road level crossing in 2018.

At the Glen Huntly site, community feedback is being sought on the design of the future interchange.

Rainbow to Dimboola line sleeper replacement work underway

Work has begun on replacing 39,000 sleepers on the Rainbow to Dimboola line in Victoria’s North West.

V/Line crews with the support of contractors are conducting the works that are funded through the Victorian government’s Building Works program which sets aside $83 million for regional rail maintenance.

Victorian minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the works would support freight movements and economic growth in the region.

“This investment will help improve our freight network and ensure we are continuing to support farmers and freight operators at a time when they need it the most,” said Horne.

“We’re continuing to maintain and improve the network, taking extra steps to allow projects like this to continue safely and help keep track workers, suppliers and contractors working.”

In addition to sleeper replacement works, ballast will also be renewed and resurfacing will improve the condition of the track. Scheduling has aimed to minimise the impact on freight services using the line.

Member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford said the works were essential with a large grain harvest expected this year.

“This upgrade will provide easier and more efficient ways for farmers to transport their goods ahead of what is expected to be a bumper grain harvest,” said Pulford.

“The line has already been put to good use since re-opening in April, and this investment will make it even better.”

The 66km line from Rainbow to Dimboola was reopened in April after a $1m investment to replace 5,000 sleepers. So far, 38 freight services have used the re-opened line, carrying 100,000 tonnes of grain and replacing 5,700 truck movements.

Heavy use of the line has led farmers to previously call for further reopening of freight lines servicing grain growers and other primary producers throughout regional Victoria.

freight

Get the freight basics right and benefits will follow

To make the most of infrastructure investments, the playing field for rail freight needs to be evened out, writes Caroline Wilkie, CEO of the ARA.

The confirmation of funding for the Port of Melbourne direct rail line to South Dandenong in August was welcome news for business, industry, and residents in the region.

The direct rail connection to the port forms part of the wider Port Rail Shuttle Network and will make it easier and more cost effective for businesses to access port facilities.

The Federal and Victorian government funding will deliver tangible benefits to businesses in Dandenong’s manufacturing sector and improve the efficiency of port operations.

Ultimately, the project will also take 100,000 trucks off the road, helping give local residents their city back in the process.

In the same month, the NSW government fast tracked approvals for the Botany Rail Duplication and the Cabramatta Rail Loop, putting its support behind greater use of rail within its freight network.

The projects will not only deliver this critical new infrastructure to meet the state’s freight needs but will take 54 trucks off busy city roads with every additional freight train travelling on the Botany line.

That will make a crucial difference as the Port of Botany’s freight task increases by 77 per cent in the 20 years to 2036.

As Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole observed when announcing the approvals, these new connections are so important because the more freight is moved on rail, the less congestion there is with fewer trucks on the roads.

These projects are great examples of the difference rail freight can make, and why continued investment is essential to the continued liveability of our cities and towns.

But while the benefits of projects like these are obvious, more needs to be done to ensure the rail sector can meet our increasing freight needs.

While Australia’s freight task is growing – and will continue to grow – the role rail freight plays in meeting this demand has actually declined.

Recent years have seen the rail industry’s share of the freight task eroded by policy settings that favour other modes of transport and frustrate investment in the sector.

As a result, less than one per cent of freight travelling between Sydney and Melbourne is moved by rail – a far cry from the 40 per cent share the rail network maintained in the 1970s.

While the vast expanses of the country have seen east- west connections hold up better, rail freight’s modal share has started to slip there too, with rail now carrying just 54 per cent of the freight task across the Nullarbor.

It is hard to reconcile the declining role of rail freight at a time where the sector needs more capacity than ever before.

Part of the problem is how we price rail freight when compared to road.

While getting trucks off the roads remains a focus in these busy and often congested urban areas, heavy vehicle road reform has simply not progressed.

So, while rail freight access charges are based on maintaining and operating the infrastructure it requires, the road freight industry is not expected to fully cover the cost of maintaining and operating the roads it uses.

As we hear more about the importance of easing congestion, the sustainability benefits of using more rail services and the value of creating city precincts that make it easier for residents to get around, favourable pricing models for road freight is increasingly difficult to reconcile.

We must have a level playing field for all to ensure rail freight can grow to support the increasing demand for freight across the country.

This, together with harmonisation of standards across the country, could enliven the rail freight sector again and ensure it is ready to support the growth of our economy over time.

After all, the industry has shown how much can be achieved under the right settings.

Australia was the first country to move to fully autonomous freight trains when the mining sector adopted the technology to service iron ore mines in the Pilbara.

This capability has become a hallmark of mining in the region and the significant benefits the industry delivers to the broader economy.

Use of rail for bulk commodities has increased, bucking the trend of the broader sector.

With a level playing field and certainty of standards across the country, there is no telling what additional benefits further innovation in the sector could deliver.

But first, we need to get the basics right so that rail freight can compete equally and fairly.

After all, we cannot allow new investment in rail infrastructure that busts road congestion in our cities to be eroded by a policy environment that only encourages business and industry back to the roads in the end.

Lilydale

Works beginning on level crossing removal and parking upgrades on Lilydale line

Work to remove two level crossings on the Lilydale Line in Melbourne’s outer east will begin in December, the first of eight level crossings to go on the Belgrave and Lilydale lines.

The two level crossings are at Manchester Road in Mooroolbark and the Maroondah Highway in Lilydale. Thirteen crashes have occurred at the crossings with one fatality in the last decade.

As part of the level crossing removal, new stations will be built at Mooroolbark and Lilydale and a construction blitz will be held from December 11 to 20.

Foundations for new rail bridges will be installed, along with new underground cables. Another week long closure is indicatively scheduled for the end of summer in 2021.

“We’re not wasting a minute getting on with our critical works on the Lilydale line – delivering better transport connections for passengers and important local jobs for workers as we begin to recover from the pandemic,” said Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan.

Early works on a new multi-deck carpark at Mooroolbark station are already underway. The new carpark will add 450 new and upgraded spots at the station. A temporary carpark is now open to replace the existing carpark which is being redeveloped until 2022.

“Across the state we’re building more than 11,000 new and upgraded commuter parking spaces to make catching the train easier for everyone – and our new carpark at Mooroolbark will double the station’s current capacity,” said Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll.

The new carpark includes lifts, CCTV, and better lighting, with community feedback providing input to the final design.

Once works are complete, the 53,000 vehicles that use the crossings each day will no longer have to wait while boom gates are down for up to a quarter of the two-hour morning peak.

The existing Mooroolbark station will be moved to the Yarra Valley Railway to continue the rail history of the heritage building.