Parramatta Station

Network struggles force Baird to offer only modest rail promise

NSW premier Mike Baird and transport minister Gladys Berejiklian have promised two extra express services in the morning on the train line between Parramatta and the City, but say they will have to upgrade the network before that can be delivered.

Baird and Berejiklian on Monday vowed to invest in new infrastructure, signalling and power supply in Western Sydney, allowing for the extra train services, but Berejiklian later told the media that this would likely mean the extra services – two each morning; totalling ten a week – wouldn’t be online until 2016 or 2017.

“We’re focused on improving the lives of people across NSW and a priority is delivering fast, reliable and convenient public transport services,” Baird said.

“Labor slashed hundreds of rail services in government and left public transport in a complete mess.”

Baird explained that “significant infrastructure” is needed to deliver the additional train services, including upgrading signalling between Westmead and Granville, power upgrades and more tracks at Parramatta for extra trains. Work is expected to take two to three years.

Berejiklian said these projects make up the first stage of the Western Sydney Rail Upgrade Program, a multi-billion dollar project promised by the Baird Government which will deliver more trains services to Western Sydney.

“The additional express services are just the beginning of benefits that will be realised through the government’s plans,” Berejiklian said.

“A fast-tracked Second Harbour Crossing and Western Sydney Rail upgrade will allow us to deliver a 60% increase in capacity throughout the network, moving an extra 100,000 people per hour.”

Member for Parramatta Geoff Lee said the extra express train services from Parramatta to the CBD will no doubt be extremely popular with locals.

“This is fantastic news for the Parramatta community – I know so many people will benefit from these express services and have more time to spend with family and friends,” Lee said.

“The Baird Government has delivered major improvements across public transport and we are listening to the community and will continue to deliver what they want.”

Melbourne Tram

Horror month for Melbourne’s trams

Melbourne’s tram system has had its worst month for punctuality in at least a year, with 12-month lows in punctuality both throughout trips, and at the final destination, recorded in February.

Public Transport Victoria (PTV) announced late last week that the average metropolitan tram in Melbourne arrived at its final destination ‘on time’ just 66.2% of the time.

In terms of punctuality over the entire trip, which takes into account the timeliness at a selection of stops along each line, trams arrived at their stops ‘on time’ just 78.9% of the time.

By the PTV’s definition, any tram arriving at a stop or final destination within four minutes and 59 seconds of timetable is considered ‘on time’.

That means 20.1% of all tram stops were made in Melbourne at least five minutes late in February, and 33.8% arrived at their final destination at least five minutes past schedule.

Both figures were the worst recorded by PTV in the last 12 months.

Over the last 12 months since February 2014, trams have arrived at their stops within five minutes of schedule 83.6% of the time, making the February 2015 figure 4.7 percentage points below the 12-month average.

And Melbourne trams have arrived at their final destination ‘on time’ 73.9% of the time in the past 12 months, making the February 2015 figure 7.7 percentage points below the 12-month average.

Yarra Trams, which operates Melbourne’s metropolitan tram network, put the poor result down to “a high number of special events, major tram improvement projects, traffic congestion and third party incidents.”

Major infrastructure upgrades included building a new level access stop in Elgin Street in Carlton, tram power upgrade work on St Georges Road in Thornbury, and track renewal on Toorak Road, Toorak.

“These projects caused a total of two weeks’ disruption to trams on the busy Swanston Street and St Kilda Road corridor, as well as on Collins Street.”

Significant special events included the Pride March, the St Kilda Festival, the ICC World Cup and White Night.

In better news, PTV announced the fifteenth consecutive month of an ‘on-time’ rate of 90% across the Melbourne Metro train network, hitting 92.3% in February 2015.

PTV also announced that V/Line delivered a 90.7 on-time record in February.

“After a period of improved results, it’s great that these improved performance levels have been maintained across our rail network,” Victorian Public Transport chief executive Mark Wild said.

“With services running on-time more often, customers can enjoy the stability and reliability of knowing they have services that will get them where they need to go.”

Warren Truss

Albo asks, Truss answers: New IA chief named

Infrastructure and regional development minister Warren Truss has named the new chief executive of Infrastructure Australia, a fortnight on from his opposition minister, Anthony Albanese, questioning why the government body had been without a formal leader for over 12 months.

Truss named Philip Davies as the new chief executive officer of IA on March 5.

Davies, currently the leader of AECOM’s infrastructure advisory practice for Asia Pacific, will take over as chief executive in April from acting chief Stephen Alchin, who himself replaced John Fitzgerald in the acting role.

Fitzgerald was hired as acting CEO following the departure of former head Michael Deegan, who left IA in February 2014 to join South Australia’s Planning, Transport and Infrastructure Department.

A year on from Deegan’s departure, former (and now shadow) minister for transport and infrastructure Anthony Albanese asked why no formal replacement for Deegan had been announced.

“It is extraordinary that more than 12 months later there is still no head of Infrastructure Australia,” Albanese said on February 17.

“While Mr Truss has dithered over appointing a new head of Infrastructure Australia, Tony Abbott has recklessly ignored accountability by funding a range of new road projects without cost-benefit analysis – a direct breach of his explicit election promises.”

Just over two weeks on from Albanese’s comments, on March 5, Truss announced Davies as chief executive of IA, relieving Alchin from the acting role.

“Mr Davies is an expert in infrastructure and transport planning,” Truss said.

“The government has reformed the governance of Infrastructure Australia to free it of the ministerial meddling which abounded under the previous Labor Government to make it a truly independent board.”

Truss is calling Davies the ‘inaugural’ chief executive of IA. Deegan was known as the ‘IA coordinator’ during his tender. In mid-2014 the Infrastructure Australia Act was amended to create an independent board which could appoint its own CEO.

“Under the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments Infrastructure Australia was not allowed to appoint its own CEO,” Truss said.

“Worse still, the then infrastructure coordinator reported solely to the [infrastructure] minister… never to an independent board.”

Prior to his current role at AECOM, Davies was an executive at Transport for London. He has previously advised the federal government on high speed rail, and has also advised state governments on various transport projects.

As well as leaving AECOM, Davies will conclude his roles as board member of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and for the Committee for Sydney.

“Mr Davies is a highly qualified engineer and infrastructure expert and has valuable experience in both the public and private sectors,” IA chairman Mark Birrell said.

Davies said he was excited to work in a role which would help “shape the long term plan for Australia’s infrastructure”.

“We can develop the evidence base to support the investment priorities for nationally significant infrastructure,” he added.

‘Near miss’ videos aim to shock

British Transport Police has made waves online with its new YouTube series featuring near misses around rail level crossings in the UK, as part of a new campaign to raise awareness to the dangers of rail.

‘Operation Look’ is the BTP’s program aimed at reducing the amount of accidents and near misses that occur every year at level crossings in Britain.

BTP’s YouTube channel has received thousands of views so far this week, as it has uploaded a number of videos from CCTV and other cameras, which have captured nearly catastrophic near-misses at rail crossings.

The series can be viewed here.

Also as part of Operation Look, BTP officers will be carrying out additional high-visibility patrols at a number of locations this week, but it’s BTP’s YouTube channel which is getting more attention.

During 2014, 337 motorists failed to obey warning lights or lowering barriers at level crossings in Scotland alone – where the BTP is focusing its awareness operation.

“Many of these drivers had got into the habit of deliberately misusing crossings, with figures showing people of all ages willing to risk their lives to shave a few minutes off their journey,” BTP said.

BTP’s inspector Becky Warren said: “All too often people get into the habit of taking risks at crossings and our message is simple. Use crossings safely.

“It may be tempting to jump a light to shave a minute or two off your journey, but every time you do, you endanger your life and the lives of other road and rail users. Fail to obey the signals and you may also end up with a driving ban or a criminal record. Is it really worth the risk?”

“Level crossings create a risk for people that we want to remove. Where possible we close them, and we have already closed more than 900 in the past five years,” said Darren Furness, head of level crossings for Network Rail, which is joining BTP in the awareness campaign.

“Those we cannot close we aim to make safer and awareness events like these mean we can meet and talk to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians about the dangers and how to stay safe.”

Tertiary students get their Opal cards

They had to wait their turn, but Sydney’s university students are getting their concession cards under the city’s new Opal smart card scheme.

More than two million Opal cards have now been sold, and tertiary students attending the University of Sydney and the University of NSW able to purchase concession cards from February 2.

University of Notre Dame and Australian Catholic University students will be able to buy concession cards from February 9, while University of Wollongong students will be eligible from February 16.

Macquarie University students will be able to buy concession Opal cards from February 23, and the last institution on the schedule at the moment, Navitas English, will come online on March 5.

When it was initially advertised, the Opal scheme included a card for tertiary students. Closer to the launch date of the first Opal card, however, tertiary cards were not present in advertising brochures, or for pre-purchase on the promotional Opal website.

A source explained to Rail Express that this was due to technicalities regarding the interface between each individual university and Sydney Trains’ system.

State minister for transport Gladys Berejiklian thanked the universities involved for their cooperation in setting up the system for tertiary students, and said the seven participating tertiary institutions had worked closely with Transport for NSW to ensure they were ready for electronic ticketing.

“I’m delighted we have been able to start the rollout of the Concession Opal card in time for the start of classes, so students can immediately start taking advantage of Opal’s benefits,” Berejiklian said.

“Eventually more than 250,000 tertiary students will be able to apply for the Concession Opal card and get a 50% discount on the already cheaper Adult Opal fares for trains, buses, light rail and Sydney Ferries.”

‘Pave over the tracks’, think tank says

A British think tank has suggested commuters could pay 40% less for their journeys if the UK government ripped up some railways and replaced them with dedicated bus roads.

The Institute of Economic Affairs this week released a report, ‘Paving over the tracks: a better use of Britain’s railways?’

“The reluctance of policy makers to consider more efficient forms of public transport has led to expensive fares and sardine-like conditions for commuters across the country,” the IEA said on Tuesday.

According to the IEA’s report, above-ground commuter railways transport a quarter of a million passengers into London during the morning peak hour.

That works out to about 10,000 commuters per track, “many of whom have to stand during their journey”, the IEA said.

“150 express coaches, each seating 75 individuals would be able to carry the same number of commuters while occupying one seventh of the capacity of a one-lane busway, of a similar width to that required by a train,” the IEA said.

The British think tank said the busways could offer comparable, if not shorter travel times, and could do so at a cheaper cost than existing railways.

The IEA said rail had received a “disproportional” amount of funding compared to alternate modes of transport, and that this needed to be fixed.

“Individuals in the UK are far more likely to travel by car than train, with 90% of passengers and 70% of freight traffic carried by roads,” the group said. “Despite this disparity, state funding of railways is just 30% lower than that spent on roads.”

Report co-author and IEA transport head Dr Richard Wellings said politicians were to blame.

“Ongoing interference by politicians in the rail industry has led to everyone getting a raw deal,” Wellings said.

“Passengers face increasingly expensive fares only to fight their way onto trains during peak times and taxpayers continue to prop up an industry whose importance to the country is disproportionally small relative to the level of resources it receives.

“Adopting more efficient methods of transport could offer considerable benefits to passengers and the taxpayer alike. But only when the sector is liberalised from rigid state control, will we see such alternatives being seriously considered.”

The report can be viewed here.

 

5 most important storylines from Queensland election

The scrapping of government plans to help fund a proposed shared railway through Queensland’s resource-rich Galilee Basin is just one of the major storylines for rail and resources industry to monitor in the fallout of Queensland’s election.

Shared Galilee infrastructure on knife’s edge

Campbell Newman’s plans to set aside a portion of taxpayers’ money for the development of a shared rail line and associated infrastructure through the Galilee is on the ropes, with its future dependent on the balance of power in parliament.

Prior to the election Newman said a re-elected LNP Government would work to provide miners in the Galilee Basin with a shared rail line that would connect their proposed mining projects with Abbot Point, or another export facility, on the coast.

The now ex-premier said his party would provide at least some of the funds for the development of that infrastructure.

But Annastacia Palaszczuk, leader of the opposition going into the election, and likely the next premier of Queensland, is against the funding.

Palaszczuk said in the lead-up to Sunday’s election that Galilee miners should have to be viable to succeed without government support, and that such financial assistance for a shared piece of infrastructure would not come from a Labor Government.

However, without a majority in parliament, Labor would need to ally itself with smaller parties and independents.

Katter’s Australia Party, led by Rob Katter – the son of polarising former federal politician Bob Katter – could be key to Labor getting its policies through parliament, should the party not hold the majority vote.

At time of writing (with roughly 85% of all votes counted), predictions have Labor winning 44 or 45 seats. With 45, the party would have all the power it needs to get its legislation through parliament.

But with just 44 seats, Labor would need to ally itself with Katter’s party (2 seats), or Nicklin independent Peter Wellington (1 seat), or with all three seats, to form a majority vote.

If Labor holds 44 seats after the election, and the LNP holds 42, however, the LNP could strike a deal with Katter’s party and the independent Wellington, giving it the 45 voting seats it needs to have its way in parliament.

If the LNP holds the balance of power, it could still go through with its plans for the Galilee. And experts are predicting that in order to strike a deal with Katter’s party, Labor might have to commit to a similar level of funding for the Galilee project.

Sydney Train

Rolling stock defect detector wins award

Sydney Trains has won an award for an innovative system that is installed on the track to provide early detection of rolling stock defects.

The Project Management Achievement Award, in the Developmental Projects category at the 2014 Australian Institute of Project Management’s NSW Chapter, was awarded for Sydney Trains Third Generation Hot Box Detector Systems Project.

The awards were opened by NSW governor Marie Bashir.The Third Generation Hot Box Detector Systems Project was delivered by the Sydney Trains Maintenance Directorate’s Operational Technology team.

Part of a suite of condition monitoring systems, Hot Box Detector systems are installed on the track to provide early detection of rolling stock defects, so they can be rectified before they damage rolling stock and infrastructure, or pose a risk to public safety.

The Third Generation Hot Box Detector Systems project was particularly complex as it involved the introduction of new technology, was multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder, had safety and operational impacts, and was industrially sensitive, Sydney Trains said.

Nonetheless, the project was delivered on time and under budget, a factor the state government agency said demonstrated its capability in project managing the procurement, trial and rollout of the latest technology to enhance network safety and service reliability.

Project manager Codruta Bastucescu accepted the award on behalf of Sydney Trains.“I was very grateful for the opportunity to manage this project. Like all disciplinary projects, it was a great team effort involving over 100 people over the course of five years. I was honoured to accept the award on behalf of Sydney Trains,” Codruta said.

Berejiklian boosting fare evasion squad by 35%

NSW minister for transport Gladys Berejiklian has announced plans to expand the state’s squad of transport officers to more than 200, in an effort to crack down on fare evasion.

Recruitment has begun for 65 new transport officers, set to add to the 150 officers who already work alongside Police Transport Command to target fare evasion on public transport, Berejiklian said last week.

Officers checking tickets on trains, buses, ferries and light rail have issued more than 111,000 fines since May 2013.

“Our existing 150 Transport Officers are issuing the same amount of fines as Labor’s whole squad of old RailCorp transit officers,” Berejiklian said.

“Transport Officers work closely with the Police Transport Command, who in addition have issued more than 100,000 infringements on the transport network for offences including fare evasion.

“Fare evasion costs taxpayers millions of dollars a year, and while the majority of customers do the right thing, it’s frustrating when others don’t pay their way. It also means less money to spend on extra transport services and new infrastructure,” Berejiklian said.

The boost in numbers means transport officers will be able target Sydney hot spots and outer suburban areas, including Wollongong, the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast, the minister added.

“Transport officers are now equipped with a handheld smart device which automatically sends infringement notices in the post, meaning less time on administration and more time helping customers and reducing fare evasion,” she said.

“Transport officers also use hand-held Opal readers to scan customers’ Opal cards and ensure people have tapped on correctly – another important way we’re tackling fare evasion.”

Transport for NSW has also introduced an initiative to turn off concession sales at ticket machines at selected stations, ensuring customers need to show proof of entitlement.

“Since the move, concession sales have dropped by 10% and full price tickets increased by the same amount, meaning 4 million extra full price tickets will be purchased this year,” Berejiklian said.

“We are sending a strong message to those who might normally travel without tapping on with their Opal card, or carrying the right ticket or concession, that the days of getting away with fare evasion are over.”

Training for the additional transport officers will start in January and the first of the new officers will be on the job by April 2015.

Recognising 40 years of railway innovation

Australia’s premier applied research centre in railway technology last week celebrated four decades of innovative solutions in mining and commuter rail systems.

A Celebration of 40 Years of Railway Research andTechnology was held last Thursday at the Park Hyatt, Melbourne, to celebrate the 40 years of railway research and technology by Monash University’s Institute of Railway Technology (IRT).

Originally part of research activities undertaken for the companies now known as BHP Billiton Iron Ore and Rio Tinto Iron Ore, IRT is now an applied research centre at Monash University. It provides technical assistance to the world’s three biggest iron ore producers, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Vale (Brazil), and more than 90 other railway entities, including leading commuter rail authorities.

IRT, which has clients in several countries, specialises in providing comprehensive solutions to technical issues in existing rail systems, whether they transport iron ore, freight or commuters. IRT is also a leader in remotely monitoring tracks and rolling stock using cutting-edge technology to detect faults before catastrophic failures occur.

Monash University’s senior deputy vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor (research) Professor Edwina Cornish, congratulated IRT on leading the Australian railway technology field for four decades.

“The Institute of Railway Technology is a great example of how universities and industry can collaborate to develop solutions that drive technology forward,” Prof Cornish said.

“IRT was born out of industry need and now real-world problems continue to drive its agenda.”

Director of IRT, Ravi Ravitharan, said the institute was set to build on its success.

“IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements of the rail industry,” Ravitharan said.

“Being part of Australia’s largest university, IRT is well-placed to continue to lead the railway research and technology needs of the rejuvenated railway industry.”

The Victorian minister for public transport Terry Mulder, delivered the keynote address at the gala dinner and general manager of infrastructure at the Hong Kong rail authority MTR, Richard Keefe, and rail engineering manager at Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Leland LeBreton, both long term clients of IRT, also spoke at the event.

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | Newcastle City Hall
www.informa.com.au/heavyhaulrail