CRL links Auckland to its volcanic past

Construction of the City Rail Link (CRL) in Auckland has uncovered a link to the region’s pre-historic past.

A tree fragment uncovered during tunnel boring has been dated to 28,000 years ago.

The fragment was found when CRL’s small tunnel boring machine, Jeffie, was excavating for a stormwater drain under Mt Eden. The machine was tunnelling through an ancient lava field 15 metres below ground.

After being extracted from the site, the tree fragments were sent to volcanologists for radiocarbon dating. This confirmed that Maungawhau/Mt Eden erupted roughly 28,000 years ago, said Elaine Smid volcanologist at DEVORA.

“We have used other techniques to date this eruption, with similar findings. This new radiocarbon result removes any lingering doubts about the age of Maungawhau/Mt Eden.”

The finding allows for scientists to confirm that Mt Eden erupted during the Ice Age, and connects the current rail tunnelling program to similarly significant geological events in Auckland’s past, said Gabriel Kirkwood Kaitiaki for Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki – Taiaomaurikura.

“Both events in their own way are creating dramatic changes to the landscape of Tāmaki Makaurau and the way we interact with it for generations to come,” said Kirkwood.

The tunnelling is part of excavations to connect CRL tunnels with Auckland’s existing rail network at Mt Eden. While the CRL will enable Aucklanders to travel around their city without the need to get into cars, the excavation has helped in other ways to keep Auckland safe, said Smid.

“DEVORA scientists use volcano ages to identify eruption patterns and to better understand how the Auckland Volcanic Field has behaved in the past – it’d like a big puzzle,” she said.

“This age is another piece in that puzzle, now slotted firmly into place. Every piece we add tells us a little more about how the volcanic field may behave in the future, making Auckland a safer place.”

Utility excavation work starts in Parramatta CBD

Parramatta Light Rail is progressing significant works in the Parramatta CBD. From 8pm, Thursday, April 9, until 5am, Monday April 27, the intersection of Phillip and Church streets will be closed to allow utility works.

The works involve replacing an existing water pipe with a concrete covered pipe. The work will allow for water service operation to continue during light rail construction and operation.

Works to be done at the intersection include excavation, isolating and draining the existing water main, covering the water main and reinstating the roadway.

Buses, cars, and pedestrians will be diverted around the construction site.

Other works on the Parramatta Light Rail project are also continuing, such as the change from heavy rail to light rail on the former Carlingford Line. The project is considered an essential service and is therefore progressing as scheduled.

Meanwhile, the project is encouraging locals and subcontractors to continue to support local eateries whose foot-traffic has been impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdowns.

Underground utility work plagued the construction of the Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail line, with Transport for NSW settling for $576 million with contractor Acciona due to extra costs involved in underground utility work. Although the Parramatta CBD is not as dense as the Sydney CBD, early work was done to identify utilities that are owned by 15 different providers and the program has used an underground 3D digital model to find where utilities are located.

Incorporating sustainability across the rail supply chain

An innovative solution to level crossings and sleepers is one step towards making the entire rail supply chain sustainable. Rail Express finds out.

Since mid-2019, the rail industry has seen a bump in passenger numbers as the flight shame movement has spread from Sweden to Europe, and then the globe.

Rail’s sustainability credentials are well known, in both the passenger and freight sectors. A freight train’s carbon dioxide emissions are one eighth of a truck, and one quarter of a freight barge, according to Ecotransit. Similarly, for a 1,000km journey from Berlin to Paris, a train emits a quarter of vehicle CO2 emissions and a fifth of plane CO2 emissions.

However, rail industry leaders are also recognising that the sector cannot rest on these laurels. The Railsponsible initiative, an alliance of procurement officers at major European rail organisations, aims to turn the entire rail supply chain green. Their vision to have a “global railway industry where all suppliers have in place good ethical, social, environmental and business practices” is enabled by product innovators who can supply sustainable solutions at each point in the rail lifecycle.

One product putting this into action is STRAIL, distributed in Australia and New Zealand by Phoenix. The level crossing panels are made from a mixture of recycled and new rubber and are manufactured in Germany by rubber specialists KRAIBURG. Andrew Roseman director and civil engineer at Phoenix explains how the products limit their impact on the environment.

“The goal to being sustainable in rail should be with economy, in material choice, and how materials are made. KRAIBURG prides itself on re-use of material whether it be processing rubber for panels or plastics for the sleepers. Limiting the use of new materials in production ensures a smaller footprint that the product is making on the environment,” he said.

In addition, when they reach the end of their life, the panels can be recycled and then reused in the rubber production process. These qualities make for a sustainable whole-of-life solution, which does not shirk on innovative design features.

“Being re-processed at the end of life essentially closes the loop fully, which is often missed by some products as their recycling is processed by third parties into alternative products, which have less or no demand,” said Roseman.

Able to be manufactured for any range of gauges, STRAIL is a modular system that can withstand high-frequented crossings and extreme weather conditions. The system has been used globally since 1976 and in Australia for 30 years, with Australia having the largest number of crossings installed outside of Europe. It is designed to be easy to install, enabling track maintenance without significant effort. One facet of the product is its corundum-embedded surface and bevelled edges, which maintains high skid resistance through whole of life and reduces noise and increasing comfort and safety for traffic using the crossing.

“The surface provides high levels of skid resistance with STRAIL’s unique process of embedding mineral grit into the panel surface, not just relying on surface texture than can wear down over the life of the crossing,” said Roseman.

Within the STRAIL range, in addition to the eponymous product, are the innoSTRAIL, and veloSTRAIL versions. The larger inner and outer panels in innoSTRAIL, which are independent of sleeper spacing, provide an economical solution. veloSTRAIL removes the flange groove, for the benefit of cyclists, wheelchair users, and pedestrians. The veloSTRAIL system is suitable for train speeds of up to 120km/h and the flangeway element can be replaced without removing the inner panel, improving the sustainability of the system. The veloSTRAIL and innoSTRAIL products also include the patented lock-tight system that ensures position stability in the case of diagonal traffic and prevents gaps from forming between the panels.

In addition to the level crossing products, STRAIL also produces a sleeper made from secondary raw materials, STRAILway. The product continues the company’s commitment to the sustainable manufacturing of railway products and is 100 per cent recyclable.

Compared with traditional wooden sleepers, the STRAILway does not leak chemicals such as creosote into the environment, and can last for at least 50 years, compared with a 14-15-year life for hardwood timber sleepers. In addition, unlike other moulded sleepers, the STRAILway is extruded, allowing for any length required, ideal for applications such as bridge transoms and turnout bearers. Furthermore, the STRAILway sleepers can be handled and processed at site almost like timber sleepers, as they are able to be sawed, drilled, or plated without the risk of exposure to harmful fibres.

For each of their environmentally sound solutions, STRAIL and its partner in Australia – Phoenix Australia – supplies technical installation and maintenance training.

Rail R U OK?Day updated with COVID-19 resources

The importance of looking out for friends, colleagues, and mates in the rail industry has only been further highlighted this year with the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

As routines are upended and social distancing is adhered to, loneliness and isolation can be further compounded, while obligations to look out for family members, partners and, friends outside of work can increase.

With these factors in mind, the TrackSAFE Foundation has reaffirmed that Rail R U OK?Day will continue as scheduled on Thursday, April 30. In addition, TrackSAFE has released additional materials relevant to the current working environment.

Resources that TrackSAFE have collated include updates to the RailRes App, as well as support and counselling services provided by Lifeline, Beyond Blue, and the National Mental Health Commission.

Additionally, R U OK? CEO, Katherine Newton has released a special message to encourage people to stay connected and give practical tips to stay in contact despite physical distancing laws. This messages has been supplemented by Connection Cards, which can be distributed without contact.

Materials to encourage electronic communication and online events have also been uploaded to the TrackSAFE website.

Ahead of this year’s Rail R U OK?Day organisations and participants can draw on the five years of successful R U OK?Days since 2015, with 55,000 rail employees participating in 2019. Over 70 rail companies are registered for the initiative and 105 Champions will facilitate the day.

This year, the two interactive question marks, Quentin and Quinn, departed from Canberra, with Major Projects Canberra, Canberra Metre Operations and Transport Canberra and City Services hosting the beginning of the seven week journey. This year was the first time that organisations in Canberra had participated in the Rail R U OK?Day.

Plans to re-open the Murwillumbah rail line

Rail services to Murwillumbah in New South Wales were discontinued in 2004, but now there are plans to re-open the rail line.

Byron Shire Council is moving forward with planning for a rail link connecting Mullumbimby and Byron Bay as part of a multi-use activation of the rail corridor.

Five of the seven councillors who attended the council meeting on Thursday, March 26 voted to start the planning process to establish a project framework and to progress a business plan. 

Councillor Basil Cameron said it’s time to take a significant step forward in meeting the transport needs of the shire.

The motion follows a $330,000 study for multi-use activation of the corridor, the Arcadis Multi-Use Rail Corridor Study (MURC). 

Findings from the study identified two multi use options with positive benefit cost ratios, which were Hi-rail – vehicles that can run on tracks as well as roads – with active transport or very light rail with active transport.

Cameron said for the section between Mullumbimby and Byron Bay the estimated costs for Hi-rail with walking and cycling are $12.6 million.

He stated that Hi-rail is the lower cost option with the lightest axle weight therefore requiring minimal upgrades to the disused lines. It is also very flexible as the Hi-rail vehicles can switch from rail and road in 15 seconds. 

“Typically a Hi-rail vehicle is a small bus able to service a more flexible route or on demand type service. Travelling along the rail corridor provides a faster entry to town centres during peak time and assists in reducing vehicle numbers on the road network,” Cameron said.

Andrew Pearce, traffic engineer, infrastructure services Byron Shire said in the notice for motion that background research undertaken for the Integrated Transport Management Strategy acknowledges the Multi Use Rail Corridor Study identified a Hi-rail system within the rail corridor in combination with active transport is the best rail corridor option.

“Staff see the merits in beginning conversations with potential operators/community groups and organisations,” Pearce stated.

If the council proceeds with the Hi-rail option there is likely to be the need to construct a new, accessible rail station.

Pearce said council needs to consider the economic viability. 

“Given the full rail corridor length is 38.5km and the Mullumbimby to Byron section is 15.6km (54.7 per cent of the total length) would a partial activation of the corridor between Mullumbimby and Byron result in 54.7 per cent of the estimate economic benefit outlined in the MURC study?” Pearce stated.

“If it does, does the Hi-rail option remain the most viable given the MURC identifies an 35 ongoing maintenance cost of approximately $950,000 per annum for the Hi-rail option.”

Council will now provide notice of the intention to establish a rail link to Infrastructure Australia, Infrastructure NSW, Transport for NSW and other relevant agencies to seek advice on funding criteria and project development.

In a notice of motion prepared prior to the meeting of council, Cameron wrote that  activating a rail link within the Ewingsdale corridor provides an affordable alternative to start shifting demand from ever bigger, busier, and more expensive roads. 

As part of the planning process, council will investigate Federal, NSW and other funding bodies to identify funding sources including, but not limited to tourism, infrastructure, transport and climate change mitigation/adaption grants with a priority focus on funding vegetation removal within the rail corridor.

Heritage-listed tree saved at a Melbourne train station

Metro Trains has confirmed that urgent works will commence at Newmarket Station in Inner Melbourne, including saving the river red gum and peppercorn trees.

Catherine Baxter, Metro Chief Operating Officer said works will commence next week to secure the station’s structure and protect the historic buildings into the future.

“We’ve listened to community feedback and are working closely with Council on plans to protect the heritage station and improve the precinct for years to come,” she said.

Moonee Valley City Council said it has worked with Metro to save the heritage-listed river red gum and a peppercorn tree at Newmarket Station.

“Metro has listened to our concerns and will save the significant tree, working around it to make the station and platform safe,” the Council said in a statement.

One pittosporum tree will be removed under the Rail Management Act. Council and Metro have agreed this needs to happen straight away for platform upgrades to take place.

Metro stated that the ageing Newmarket station platforms and retaining walls will be rebuilt. Works will take place over the next six weeks.

A bespoke engineering solution has been designed to save the two trees so they continue to provide shelter, amenity, and biodiversity for the local community.

Metro said in a statement that they have agreed with Council that following further detailed arborist and engineering assessments, one pittosporum tree, which is an invasive weed species, on the eastern side of the station must be removed to allow for the urgent works to proceed.

Moonee Valley City Council said Metro will apply for planning approval to remove any other trees at the station in order to maintain safety or do key works.

Metro stated that it advised Council that no other trees will be removed without planning permission unless it is determined that a tree poses an immediate safety risk to users of the station precinct.

Further analysis is being done by Metro in relation to trees and platform safety on the Pin Oak Crescent side of the station.

Metro and Council continue to work on landscaping and replanting plans for the Pin Oak Crescent side of the station and will work together to implement additional safety measures based on expert advice as required.

“The safety of the community and our passengers remains our absolute priority,” Baxter said.

3D printing expertise called in for fight against COVID-19

The skills and expertise of the rail industry have not only been demonstrated in ensuring that the movement of people and goods is uninhibited during the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In Barcelona, railcar and signalling manufacturer Alstom has been utilising the knowledge of its industrial prototyping team to build visors for face shields and ventilator valves which are being delivered to hospitals.

The initiative is in partnership with 3Dcovid19.org which has been coordinating additive manufacturing facilities to provide parts for the healthcare sector in Spain.

“3D printing has gained prominence due to its particular usefulness for creating equipment to protect against COVID-19, as it can be used to manufacture materials currently suffering severe shortages such as face masks, mechanical respirators and even door openers, among others,” said Jaume Altesa, who heads Alstom’s 3D printing hub in Santa Perpètua, Barcelona.

“The aim is to help the healthcare community by manufacturing parts that meet appropriate quality and safety standard.”

Due to the rapid modifications enabled by 3D printing, developers and designers that previously produced parts for new trains have pivoted to making in-demand medical supplies.

At the same facilities, computer aided design (CAD) experts are working on portable personal protectors for door handles and incorporating new anti-bacterial materials in masks.

When not working on products to equip front-line health workers, Alstom’s 3D printing division works to make prototypes and 3D printed parts quickly and cost-competitively for new trains and for customers who require spare parts, while also facilitating manufacturing and maintenance operations. The company’s “Industry of the Future” programme is part of the Smart Operations initiative. Internally, 3D printing is used to make tools for factories, prototypes for design validation, rapidly made mould and series parts with roughly 70 references in plastic and metal.

Transporting cars by train cuts emissions by 75 per cent

Automaker Volvo Cars has found significant emissions reduction by shifting the movement of cars from road to rail.

The company has utilised rail to transport vehicles from a production plan in Ghent to a depot in Italy, and reduced CO2 emissions by 75 per cent. On a separate route from Ghent to Austria, emissions were cut by half.

The Swedish-headquartered carmaker, owned by Chinese company Geely, was previously using trucks to transport the newly made cars within Europe. However, internationally, Volvo cars uses rail to transport vehicles in the US and China.

Two trains per week take Volvo cars made in China to Europe. Trains are also used to move cars within China and to Russia.

In the US, cars assembled in Charleston, South Carolina, are moved by rail to depots around North America.

“When we said we planned to significantly reduce emissions across all our operations, we meant it,” said Javier Varela, senior vice president of manufacturing and logistics at Volvo Cars. “Our logistics network is just one piece of that puzzle, but an important one nevertheless. This is one example of our commitment to reducing our impact on the environment through meaningful, concrete steps.”

The move to rail forms part of the company’s wider strategy to cut carbon emissions by 40 per cent per car between 2018 and 2025. The plan involves a 25 per cent reduction in operational emissions, which covers logistics. The company overall aims to be climate neutral by 2040.

Deutsche Bahn sees investment pay dividends

Deutsche Bahn (DB) has released its results for 2019, passing a major passenger milestone.

In 2019 the Germany rail operator and infrastructure owner carried 151 million long distance passengers, more than any other year and for the first time surpassing 150m passengers.

The achievement follows a sustained investment in rail in Germany and by DB, as governments, passengers, and industry seek to move more people onto rail due to its environmental and social benefits.

DB CEO Richard Lutz said that investment in the rail network will continue, following the largest investment program in its history in 2019.

“Investment in the future of rail will take priority in the coming years, which will be visible in our bottom line in the medium term.”

DB is a private joint-stock company with the government of Germany being the sole shareholder. Revenue for the company rose in 2019 to €44.4 billion ($80bn).

In 2019, DB invested in rail network, stations, and trains. Capital expenditure rose in 2019, with a focus on infrastructure. DB has been undertaking a major expansion and modernisation of the Germany rail system. The company aims to boost quality and reliability and add new trains and hire additional staff.

“DB’s aim is to substantially increase the performance of rail in Germany,” said Lutz.

Patronage figures also grew at a regional level, increasing by 1.6 per cent to almost 2 billion passengers. DB’s regional subsidiary, DB Regio had its first year on year increase in its order book in 2019.

“We are seeing clear signs of a modal shift towards rail, an environmentally friendly mode of transport,” said Lutz.

Freight volumes suffered, falling 3.7 per cent, however DB Schenker, the freight arm of DB, had a record result of EBIT of €538m ($9.75m).

The effect of extreme weather on rail and track infrastructure

As severe weather events become more intense and frequent, rail infrastructure owners and mangers are responding to this new reality.

Documenting the risks that climate change poses to the Australian rail sector, the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) listed six types of impacts. These were: track failures due to extreme temperature days, increased risk of flood and storm damage to track infrastructure, sea level rise flooding coastal tracks, yards and other infrastructure, wind damage to overhead lines, track failure due to decreased soil stability and increased erosion, and increased bushfire damage risk.

During the summer of 2019-2020 the rail industry experienced almost all of these impacts.

In New South Wales, bushfires closed multiple major train lines, including the Main Western Line through the Blue Mountains, the Southern Highlands Line between Goulburn and Macarthur and the Unanderra Line between Moss Vale and Unanderra.

Rail infrastructure owners around the country felt a number of these impacts, and Arc Infrastructure, the manager of the WA rail freight network, was no exception.

“This summer we have seen bushfires in the South West, Mid West (Mogumber) and Kalgoorlie/Esperance cause interruptions to rail traffic, heavy rainfall impacting track infrastructure, and an electrical storm in the Mid West affect signalling and communications infrastructure on the Eastern Goldfields Railway,” said an Arc Infrastructure spokesperson.

Sydney Trains also acknowledged how the weather can impact infrastructure.

“Extreme weather events, such as high temperatures, strong winds, lightning, bushfires, high rainfall, and flooding, can have a significant effect on the performance, efficiency and operation of Sydney Trains’ infrastructure,” said a Sydney Trains spokesperson.

With these increasingly severe and frequent weather events recognised as constituting a new normal, rail network managers and infrastructure owners are having to grapple with what this means for their assets.

BUILDING RESILIENCE

In Infrastructure Australia’s Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019, resilience was a key theme. The report acknowledged that although Australia’s extremes have been well known – floods, drought, fires, and cyclones being an almost yearly occurrence – resilience, the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, was not reflected in planning processes.

Resilience takes a different kind of thinking than had been previously reflected in planning documents. Although methods and protocols to repair damaged infrastructure were established, the data to be able to predict future events was not always available.

“Timely access to evidence that aids the evaluation of likelihood and consequence can help the planning of construction, maintenance and resilience. However, evidence about the scale of risks, their impacts and the costs of addressing them is often weak or not accessible,” write the authors of the report.

In this context, climate change becomes a compounding factor. The modelling of risks is based upon events that have happened in the past. When events start becoming more frequent and outside the historical range of severity, these models have to be re-evaluated.

“In a rapidly changing environment, risks shift in nature and severity, complicating assessment. This can lead to reactive, rather than proactive, responses to both short- and long-term risks to networks,” write Infrastructure Australia.

The report notes that there is much to be done.

“Australia’s infrastructure sector lacks clear, publicly available guidance on how to manage risk and plan for greater resilience in the future.”

Image credit: Sydney Trains.

THE RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE OF 2100, BUILT NOW
While Infrastructure Australia’s assessment was made for Australia’s infrastructure as a whole, rail itself has some key challenges. Rail networks are expected to last for up to 100 years, with some track in use today laid in the early 20th century.

The longevity of rail infrastructure presents a critical issue, as the cost of relocating infrastructure has been so high as to be prohibitive. However, as noted in Building resilient infrastructure prepared by Deloitte Access Economics for the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience & Safer Communities, the increased cost of natural disasters will lead to the replacement of damaged assets becoming equivalent to the entire cost of large infrastructure programs, suggesting that resilience building is a nationally significant infrastructure project on its own.

Within this context, the rail infrastructure being built now has to account for changes expected to occur in the next 100 years. In the best-case scenario of global temperature rise being kept to between 1.5 and 2O°C, sea level rises of up to a metre are predicted. The knock on effects of this on rail track infrastructure have been catalogued by the ARA.

Sea level rise will directly impact low lying sections of track, particularly those freight lines that carry bulk cargo for export. Increases in extreme rainfall, leading to flooding, can cause assets to be inundated and landslides. With sea level rising, coastal and inland areas will be vulnerable to inundation, and increased frequency and severity of heat waves will cause track buckling and brownouts and blackouts.

With these risks in mind, the ARA calls for the industry to look at mitigating risks via a long-term program of activities. Whether collaborative or led by individual organisations, the ARA notes that successful planning will require the embedding of adaptation and continuity into planning, development, maintenance and improvement programs of all major rail infrastructure owners.

Some infrastructure owners are already planning of how to respond to this changed environment.

Sydney Trains, whose network was significantly affected during the summer of 2019-2020, is building resilience into the physical nature of the network.

“In recent years, Sydney Trains has undertaken a number of initiatives to protect the network from weather events. These include replacing timber sleepers with concrete to reduce the likelihood of significant rail head movement, tension- regulated overheard wiring, improved lightning and surge protection at assets like control centres and substations and improving advanced weather warning systems,” said a Sydney Trains spokesperson.

These works are part of a $1.5 billion annual program of routine and periodic maintenance across the network.

In Western Australia, Arc Infrastructure is currently looking into how to build in resilience to its network, as Arc Infrastructure CEO Murray Cook, told Rail Express.

“We have an innovative research project underway across our network to prevent the risk of derailment through the use of research, data and technology, supported by the deep knowledge and experience of our people.”

Arc Infrastructure is currently in the process of building a system to predict, detect, and prevent derailments that occur as a result of track section washaways, said an Arc spokesperson.

“In order to predict washaways, we are using various sources of information (including historical track washaway data, historical rainfall data and topographical data) to understand and quantify the potential damage caused by various intensities of extreme weather across our network. This data is then being correlated with realtime rainfall data to generate alarms for probable washaways on specific sections of track.”

So far, the project is being tested on historical events, with results showing that of the washaway events that occurred in February 2017, 47 per cent of the locations were predictable, based on the analysis.

Across Australia, a combination of planning, technological innovation, and consistent maintenance will be required to ensure that the rail netowrks laid down today can be used safely and efficiently in 2100.