International bodies urge continuity in public transport

An international group of transport organisations have issued a statement urging that public transport services must run despite coronavirus (COVID-19) mitigation measures.

The group includes the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), the International Union of Railways (UIC), United Cities and Local Governments, and the International Transport Workers Federation.

In the statement, the group calls for continuity in public transport, particularly so that key workers can keep getting to and from work.

“Ensuring continuity of public transport and local mobility services is essential for society and the economy. This will ensure that the health crisis does not turn into a social one.”

The statement identifies measures that need to be taken to ensure that services continue, including the provision and supply of protective equipment for transport staff and operators. This will ensure the health and safety of staff and passengers.

The statement notes that in some cities, patronage has dropped by 90 per cent, and this can have a devastating impact on operators which rely on passenger revenues.

The authors call upon governments to rapidly adopt measures including financial support which supports the preservation of jobs and the industries which supply the transport networks.

Some best practice measures outlined in the statement include providing accurate and up to date information, conduct regular deep cleaning and disinfection, adapting service levels to passenger demand while ensuring continuity, and providing dedicated services for healthcare personnel. The implementation of these measures is of benefit not only to the networks themselves, write the authors.

“Bearing in mind that passenger transport systems are vital to the regular functioning of the economy, these measures would not just support the sector in question but the whole of society.”

Digital innovation with a customer focus

Rather than seeing digitialisation as an end in itself, rail projects are using signalling technology to answer pressing questions.

Driving the digital transformation of industry are four levers – digital data, connectivity, automation, and digital customer access – according to global consultancy Roland Berger.

In the rail industry, these levers are being pulled, however instead of being an end in itself, the move towards digital rail is an enabler of a host of other improvements to services.

These outcomes were on display at the Train Control and Management Systems summit, held in Sydney from February 19 to 21. While each individual project used its own combination of data, connectivity, automation, and digital customer access, the end outcome was driven by the industry need.

One of these projects is the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) Advanced Train Management System (ATMS). Although begun over a decade ago in 2008 with a proof of concept trial, as ARTC operation readiness manager – ATMS, Gary Evans described, the technology has been driven by its outcome and is nearing its first deployment in 2020.

“ATMS will bring improvements in our network rail capacity, operational flexibility, train service availability, transit times, and rail safety, and it will replace trackside signalling by providing precise locations of trains.”

While adopting virtual block authority management similar to other advanced train control systems, ATMS retains the trackside infrastructure.

“Trackside infrastructure is something ARTC does very well and the project monitors the environment, the occupancy of the points, so our system has track circuits over the switches,” said Evans.

Across the ARTC network of 8,500km of track, interlocking between sections of signalling and track will be centralised.

“It’s a high-fidelity track database, it’s rated to Safety Integrity Level (SIL) 3 and it enables virtual block authority management. The blocks within which the trains operate are usually a physical block and they are separated by signals, what we do with this system is that we can break it down into virtual, electronic blocks and currently, for the proof of concept we ran about 200m electronic blocks, the ones that we are using at the moment are 500m in length,” said Evans.

The new virtual block system will allow a granularity of control not previously possible.

“In terms of train operation, a train will go through a physical block today every 20 minutes. A train that will go through this same infrastructure will probably consume in the order of eight of these electronic blocks but as it is moving through it will report back at 15 second intervals,” said Evans.

“ATMS is rated for four minute headways for 1,800m trains travelling at 115 km/h.”

While the technology in itself is a step forward for the control and management of train systems, the implementation of the ATMS and the use of the four levels of digital transformation is ultimately about delivering a service for the customer, in this case, freight operators across Australia. This has led to ATMS’s unique features. Having to serve a number of freight operators at various points throughout the freight network that stretches from Kalgoorlie to Newcastle, has led to interoperability being a key facet of ATMS. Retaining trackside infrastructure allows for unequipped train traffic to use the system, and the trainborne interface was developed in consultation with operators.

“We did a lot of work with the operators on the driver interface unit. The first one that was put in front of them was a European-style one, which was a dial type set up and we almost had a walkout of the operators because it didn’t give them a lot of information and it required them to be fixated with that dashboard whereas they wanted something that didn’t require that. We worked together collaborative to come up with the current system.”

The resulting interface gives drivers a 10km look ahead, and relays information on train speed and speed limits in real time. Using location determination systems onboard the train, the system can alert a driver, operator, and controller if the train is exceeding limits.

Evans summarised the benefits of the ATMS system.

“Improved safety authority and speed level enforcement, improved trackside safety for trackside workers, increased rail capacity, improved service reliability, improving the structure of maintenance costs, more flexibility in the network, and safer management of trains.”

While Australia’s rail industry has been plagued by different technologies and standards in each state, the ARTC regards ATMS as a technology to synchronise rail control and management, for the benefit of the end user.

“ARTC’s customers traverse three states so it’s very important for us to take the lead and ATMS provides us a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually have a harmonised rule set,” said Evans.

Having this in place will allow for further innovations driven by the digitalisation of rail control.

“Future enhancements that we will work through is a path to semi automation or automation of operational systems, and integration with fuel and energy management systems.”

Having data on how a train is travelling will allow operators to more efficiently plan routes while identifying driving behaviours that increase fuel costs.

For example, rather than running at full speed through a section of track before coming to a complete stop at a signal, freight drivers can be told the optimum speed to travel to reach that signal as it turns green. Looking further afield, ATMS could lead to driver-only operation. In these cases, digital rail is not so much about the technology itself, but the enhancements that can come from its implementation.

“ARTC wants to be an enabler for its customers and not a disabler,” said Evans.

DIGITALISATION AS A SOLUTION TO DEMOGRAPHIC, ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES
As Australian rail infrastructure managers and operators adopt their local digital systems, international examples provide guidance on the motivations and outcomes of digitalisation programs. Perhaps none are more comprehensive than the digital rail system being rolled out across all of Germany’s 33,000km of rail. Beginning with the trans-European corridor, the Stuttgart S-Bahn and specified high speed lines, Joern Schlichting, head of the ETCS program at Deutsche Bahn (DB), outlined the significance of the project.

“In terms of automatic train operation (ATO) and ETCS, this is the future. That means fundamentally, a new rail system.”

According to Schlichting, Germany’s existing rail control system was performing sufficiently, and not reaching obsolescence. This made the attractiveness of the business case for adopting ETCS, however penalties within the agreement with other EU member states overcame that.

“The projected penalties would have been at least €1 billion if we didn’t equip these corridors. So, the German government said if we have to spend €1bn on penalties or equipment, let’s spend it on equipment.”

This presented an opportunity for DB and its rail infrastructure arm, DB Netz to rethink how the adoption of ETCS could be a further enabler for other issues the rail network was facing.

“Why not stop to think about how could we make the best out of it?”

This approach enabled DB to utilise the digital rail technology to confront two critical issues facing the sector – a demographic exodus and a modal shift from road to rail to reduce carbon emissions.

“What we found that is as long as we talked about ETCS as a technology issue in terms of replacing one thing by another thing there was no business case. As soon as we started to think about what the real business drivers are – what are our threats – then we found out our demographic issue is one of the worst,” said Schlichting.

In 2011, DB estimated that in the next 10-15 years, 50 per cent of mission-critical staff will retire. Replacing this staff cohort with a younger generation would require a rethink of the type of work train operators would be doing, particularly in regards to legacy systems such as interlockings.

“With these old interlockings, we have one maintenance area where we have 18 generations of interlockings, so you can imagine it’s a nightmare for people working there to be able to maintain them.”

Moving to digital systems would overcome this legacy issue and enable a younger, digital-native generation to easily fit into the systems and ways of working.

“Actually ETCS is more of an enabler. ETCS is a tool in order to bring about a completely new redesign of the rail system,” said Schlichting.

The other element that digitalisation could go towards is the relative carbon footprint of transport in Germany. Although Germany has committed to a 95 per cent carbon reduction by 2050, transport has been a sector that has been stubborn in reducing its emissions, falling by only 0.6 per cent between 1990 and 2018, compared to energy which dropped by 33 per cent. The magnitude of the task is not lost on Schlichting.

“We have to move transport from road to rail, so that means we need to create the capacity, but in the past our network has been shrinking.”

Driven by cost cutting directives, DB has reduced its workforce from 120,000 to 40,000 in the past 15 years and has also torn up tracks and points. However, now the system is required to double passenger traffic by 2030, and cargo traffic by 30 per cent. Digitalisation and the improvement of signalling thus becomes a way to increase the shrinking system’s capacity.

“How can we do this with an existing network that has been shrinking in the past and without having any money at the time for loads of new lines?” asked Schlichting.“Digitising it is the chance to create more traffic.”

At the core of this digitalisation push is the adoption of ETCS technology, common across Europe, which with a focus on outcomes, Schlichting describes as a “language”. Once the system and vehicles are talking to each other in this language, then further technology improvements can be introduced when the users demand it, just like new vocabulary.

An artist’s impression of Sydney Trains’ Rail Operations Centre.

DESIGNING A CUSTOMER FOCUS INTO RAIL OPERATIONS
In some ways, Sydney Trains is experiencing a similar issue to DB, albeit on a smaller scale, as population pressures and urban development cause more Sydneysiders to use the network. As the acting executive director, Digital Systems Business Integration (DSBI) at Sydney Trains, Andrew Constantinou sees these impacts in the operations of the network.

“Increased patronage effectively translates into our ability to create more services and our ability to create reliable services and that’s where the ROC plays into.”

The Rail Operations Centre (ROC) is a new, purpose-built building in Alexandria, Sydney which has brought together the rail management centre, the infrastructure control centre, security monitoring facility and two signal boxes, covering most of the geography of Sydney Rail. A customer and operator demand for precise, accurate information has led to the streamlining of operations into one centre and finding a way to simplify communications.

“Part of the scope is to develop a new concept of operations,” said Constantinou. “We have introduced a new incident management system that took away a lot of those phone calls, and developed a dashboard so that all areas in the ROC can understand what is the mission for that particular incident and who is dealing with what priorities.”

In this case, the digital systems that were built into the ROC had to be designed with the end user in mind, the rail operator, and to minimise disruptions on the network.

“It really starts with bringing all your people together. We started with seven design principles and I focus on the top two – collaboration and communication – because if you can build a high-performing control room floor that fosters good communication and good collaboration, you start ticking the other boxes which are underneath it,” said Constantinou.

While individual controllers’ roles were driven by the train systems they were operating, the human demands of communication were paramount.

“We looked at what communication happened. So what communication happened face to face, on the control room floor, over the telephone, and through various subsystems?

“We did that two-fold. We did that in normal mode and we did that in degraded mode. That gave us an idea around who spoke to whom and when did they speak to whom,” said Constantinou.

Ahead of designing the space, Constantinou’s team conducted a role matrix to see where the patterns in operations were, particularly in degraded mode.

With the Sydney Trains network compressing from 15 lines across the suburban network into six in the CBD, getting those critical staff together would be key for functional communication.

“We were able to say 50 roles in network operations were similar and should be sitting next to each other,” said Constantinou. “We quickly worked out which ones were the more critical to operations, which of those roles needed more supervision, which should be configured in a way that they have more supervision around them, and that led to a functional link analysis to understand if there were any functional commonality in the roles.”

With these findings, operations staff were then given a VR headset so that they could inspect the draft design and see how it fitted with their behaviour.

“We set up outside every control centre with a basic fit out where people would come in and put on the masks. They would walk around the desks and the control room floor and we would take every comment down to see how we could respond to it,” said Constantinou.

Following this was trial runs in defined scenarios, such as a tree falling over a rail corridor and a train colliding with the tree.

“You can see the phone calls that go in from the driver to the area controller and the different colours are typically people who would’ve been located in different control centres,” said Constantinou.

“They would’ve, through situational awareness, overheard the conversation because they’re sitting at the right proximity, or they would’ve been able to swing around and talk to these people.

“If you start doing the maths, it’s all the way from a two minute to a 10-minute saving threading through that scenario, so it’s good to know we can save time,” said Constantinou.

At the newly designed ROC, which opened in mid 2019, data, connectivity, and customer access came together, however with the outcome determined by the end user, not the technology itself.

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.

ARA receives latest industry gender diversity figures

CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Caroline Wilkie talks about how far gender diversity has come in the rail industry.

The ARA has just received the results of the 2018-19 Gender Diversity survey of the rail industry. The results are encouraging in that they show an improvement in gender diversity since the last survey, but that there is still more to do to meet national workforce averages.

The ARA last conducted this survey two years ago for the 2016-17 year. Survey data was collected at the organisational level to report on employees throughout rail and its supply chains. All information was de- identified with only high-level aggregated data made available.

The results show:

  • Women make up 27 per cent of the rail workforce, a 6 per cent improvement from 21 per cent reported in 2016-17;
  • Women hold 22 percent of managerial positions, up from 19 per cent in 2016-17 but substantially lower than the national workforce average of 39 per cent;
  • Women make up 21 percent of the full-time workforce – up from 18 per cent in 2016-17, but well below the national full-time workforce average of 38 per cent;
  • Women make up 60 per cent of the part- time workforce – up from 56 per cent in 2016-17 and substantially higher than the national average of 25 per cent;
  • Women make up 25 per cent of the casual workforce – well below the national average of 56 per cent;
  • Women made up 31 per cent of new appointments around the same level as in 2016-17; 28 per cent of all promotions, up from 20 per cent in 2016-17; and 25 per cent of resignations, down from 29 per cent in 2016-17.

From these figures we can conclude that improvements have been made in women’s level of participation in rail overall, in management and full-time work since the last survey, but still lags well below national averages on women’s employment in these categories.

The survey also asked about women’s representation on governing bodies.
Women made up on average 16 per cent respondents of governing bodies. Ten per cent of respondents indicated that they have set targets to increase women’s representation on their governing bodies.

A key issue then is what has caused these improvements.

Eight-six per cent of respondents have formal policies or strategies in place that specifically support gender diversity. Over half of all respondents have specific recruitment policies or strategies to improve the gender balance in their organisation.

Seventy-four per cent of respondents have formal policies for flexible working arrangements, and the availability of flexible workplace arrangements increased considerably for respondents in rail from 2016-17 to 2018-19.

Improving gender diversity in the rail workforce has been an increasing focus of rail companies in recent years. The reasons are varied. For some it is about recognising that it is the right thing to do, and that a workforce should represent the society in engages with, whilst to others is about improving organisational performance.

For many rail operators it is necessary to address the impacts of an ageing and male-dominated workforce in an era of skills shortages and for others it is about being perceived as an “employer of choice”, recruiting and retaining talented employees.

The significant growth that the Australian rail industry is now undergoing provides the perfect opportunity to advance this change, and companies are taking advantage.

In 2017, the ARA developed a Women in Rail Strategy in collaboration with member companies to support gender diversity in the industry. The strategy has four focus areas.

The first is related to the attraction and promotion of women in rail. Under the premise that “You can’t be what you can’t see,” during 2019 ARA gathered and publicised on our social media channels a number of empowering stories of how women and men working in our industry promote gender diversity in their spheres of influence.

The second is improved networks. The ARA has been hosting a number of Women in Rail lunches to member companies and their employees, offering opportunities to hear from experts and industry leaders while offering networking opportunities. These have been well attended and offered women new networks.

The third focus area is retention. The link between the mentoring programs and staff retention has been well established. In 2019, ARA piloted a Women in Rail Mentoring Program, offering mentoring and leadership support to over 40 women working throughout the industry and around the country. The program review received extremely positive feedback, and the program is being held again this year.

The final area was National Benchmarking. The ARA conducted a gender diversity survey in 2016-17 to collate diversity data to provide a greater understanding of the nature of gender diversity in rail.

A full report and summary Report Card is available at ara.net.au

Many rail organisations are at different stages along the diversity and inclusion journey, and while much of the responsibility and initiatives are at an employer level, the ARA is seeking to support its members where it can provide value at a whole of industry level.

The ARA will take the results of the survey and engage with member companies to inform the next iteration of its strategy.

Preliminary report into Jumperkine collision released

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released its preliminary report into a freight train collision at Jumperkine in Western Australia.

The collision occurred on 24 December, 2019, when a Pacific National freight train travelling towards Perth collided with the rear of a stationary grain train, operated by Watco. The driver of the Pacific National train, Greg Reid, suffered fatal injuries.

Prior to the collision the freight train passed a signal set at caution, then a temporary speed restriction ahead sign warning of a 30km/h speed restriction. The preliminary report then establishes that the freight train passed a signal set at stop when travelling at 72km/h.

Roughly 60 metres after the stop signal, the freight train passed a temporary speed restriction start sign, and the driver applied the brake three seconds later. This slowed the train down as it travelled around a left hand curve and then onto a straight section of track. The report then notes that the rear of the grain train would have come into view, leading the driver to apply the emergency brake. 13 seconds after the brake was applied the freight train collided with the grain train.

The collision occurred at 2am and the driver was acknowledging the vigilance system alerts. Before the collision a network controlled had attempted to contact the driver, but there was no response.

ATSB director transport safety Stuart Godley said that further investigations would be undertaken.

“In the coming months transport safety investigators will examine the functionality of the locomotive’s braking and vigilance control systems and undertake further analysis of event data recorders and video recordings,” said Godley.

A spokesperson for Pacific National said the company acknowledges the report.

“At Pacific National the safety of our employees and contractors is our highest priority and as a business we are devastated by the loss of our train driver Greg Reid in this very unfortunate incident.  We continue to offer support to Greg’s family.”

Arc Infrastructure, the operator and manager of the accident site, also noted the report.

“Arc Infrastructure fully cooperated with the ATSB in their investigation including providing an internal investigation report into the Jumperkine incident. Arc Infrastructure remains committed to working with industry to continue to improve the safety of the rail industry,” said an Arc Infrastructure spokesperson.

“We wish to thank the ATSB for the detailed factual information contained in the report and for their ongoing commitment to safety in our industry.”

Proactive safety actions have been taken by both Pacific National and Arc Infrastructure and cover operations carried out between midnight and 6am, the calling of train routes, and processes for when a train has stopped.

Proportion of women in rail growing: ARA Survey

More women than ever are participating in the rail industry, survey results released today show.

The Australasian Rail Association’s (ARA) 2018-2019 Gender Diversity Survey has recorded a six per cent improvement in the percentage of women in the rail workforce. Women now make up 27 per cent of the rail industry workforce. 22 per cent of management roles are now held by women, a 3 per cent increase.

Announcing the results, ARA CEO Caroline Wilkie said that while the figures are positive, there is more that can be done.

“While it is great to see these improvements across the industry, women’s participation in rail remains below the national average and shows there is still more work to do.”

The sector also saw a dramatic jump in the number of organisations that have employer funded paid parental leave, rising from 16 per cent in 2016-2017 to 62 per cent in 2018-2019.

The survey builds upon the ARA’s Women in Rail Strategy, which was launched in 2017. The Strategy focuses on attraction and promotion, improved networks, retention, and national benchmarking to encourage gender diversity in the rail industry.

The survey has highlighted organisations within the rail industry that are making a concerted effort to have a gender diverse workforce. 86 per cent of organisations have formal policies or strategies to support gender diversity, and over half have specific recruitment policies or strategies to improve gender balance. Furthermore, three quarters had policies in support of flexible work arrangements in place.

“We have seen a really strong push to attract more women to the industry and retain those already in the industry since our last survey and expect to see further improvements on these outcomes in the near future,” said Wilkie.

The survey included responses from 42 organisations working in the rail industry, which combined represent over 50,000 employees.

The sector with the highest proportion of women were consultants, with 38 per cent. Consultants also had the highest proportion of respondents with gender diversity policies or strategies, with 100 per cent of respondents reporting a policy or sector.

Women made up a lower proportion of non-manger roles such as clerical and administrative roles, and sales roles in the 2018-2019 survey, however the proportion of women in technicians and trade and labourers roles rose. There were jumps in the proportion of women in key management personnel, other executives/general managers, and senior managers.

 

Stimulus a welcome boost for rail industry

Yesterday, federal Treasurer Josh Frydenburg and Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the $130 billion wage subsidy package.

The announcement goes well beyond previous stimulus packages by giving 6 million workers a flat payment of $1,500 per fortnight, through their employer.

The assistance is available to businesses with a turnover of less than $1 billion and have had a reduction in revenue of 30 per cent or more in a month since March 1, 2020. The expansion of eligibility means that many more companies will have access to these funds than previous measures.

For companies in the rail industry, such funding could be a lifeline to hold onto staff who may have otherwise been let go said Dennis Mah – strategy and commercial development – at Sonaray, which supplies lighting to rail projects.

“We will be taking advantage of all the government packages to retain all staff as long as possible. Luckily our over heads are not that high but when there is no or limited cash flow it hurts the bottom line,” said Mah.

Announcing the measures, Morrison noted that the funds will help businesses survive through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“This is about keeping the connection between the employer and the employee and keeping people in their jobs even though the business they work for may go into hibernation and close down for six months,” he said.

“When the economy comes back, these businesses will be able to start again and their workforce will be ready to go because they will remain attached to the business through our JobKeeper payment.”

According to Mah, however, there is further room for companies in the rail sector in particular to complete works now that would otherwise not be done.

“This could be the ideal time to access a lot of areas where normally it is restricted due to high pedestrian traffic.”

European states asked to reduce border checks for freight

The European Commission (EC) has requested that all European member states implement ‘green lanes’ on border crossings for freight transport.

The measures follow the disruption of European supply chain networks following border closures implemented to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19). The EC hopes that the green lanes will allow for freight to continue moving through the EU.

Guidelines for the implementation of the green lanes stipulate that no checks and health screenings should take more than 15 minutes, and procedures should be minimised to what is strictly necessary. This involves checks and screening being carried out while drivers remain in their vehicles.

“Our guidance document is intended to protect the EU’s supply chains in these difficult circumstances, and to make sure both goods and transport workers are able to travel to wherever they are needed – without delay. A collective and coordinated approach to cross-border transport is more important today than ever before,” said commissioner for transport, Adina Vălean.

The ‘green lanes’ are encouraged to be implemented across all the border crossing points on the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), the continental network of rail, road, and waterways connecting European countries.

While the measures are designed to speed up the movement of goods, the EC also hopes that reducing unnecessary stops help improve the health of transport workers.

“The green lanes are also specifically designed to protect transport workers at the frontline of this crisis. This set of recommendations will ease their already stressful mission and it will bring more safety and predictability to their work,” said Vălean.

The EC has also encouraged that enhanced hygiene measures should be undertaken at railway stations and transport hubs.

Major projects

Infrastructure works an “essential service”

Major infrastructure projects are ensuring the safety of their staff while continuing to progress upgrades and significant works while COVID-19 mitigation measures close down other sectors.

The Cross River Rail Delivery Authority (CRRDA) is adhering government guidelines and advice by implementing new safety measures at its sites.

Segregated work zones, restricted access for non-essential workers, and a ban on non-essential access is enabling the 1,500 people working on the Cross River Rail project to continue.

Major works contractors are strengthening their own health and safety procedures while CRRDA office staff are working from home, or only attending the office when essential tasks cannot be completed remotely.

In Perth, construction on the Metronet project is continuing, business as usual, with no restrictions on works being conducted.

In Victoria, the Corey Hannett, director-general, Major Transport Infrastructure Authority, which delivers projects including the Level Crossing Removal Program, the Metro Tunnel project, and the Regional Rail Revival program, among others, told Rail Express that the Authority is ensuring that construction continues with no impact to projects.

“The construction sector is currently considered an essential service and we are working closely with industry partners, unions, employers and workers to protect both their safety and jobs,” said Hannett.

A safety team of 70 is ensuring workers and sites comply with social distancing requirements.

“Project sites have strict rules in place around social distancing, increased industrial cleaning, provisions of personal protective equipment,” said Hannett.

Additionally, an alliance of construction unions and employers groups have united to ensure that safe practices are adopted to keep construction sites open.

In New Zealand, works have been temporarily suspended on the City Rail Link project, however the delivery team is ensuring that when lockdown measures are lifted, teams can get back to work immediately.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that we are well placed to come out of the blocks very fast when the restart call is given,” said CRL chief executive Sean Sweeny.

Freight continues as borders shut

With states closing their borders to interstate travel, those needing to continue to travel, including rail freight operators, into Western Australia and the Northern Territory are being asked to complete an arrival form.

The respective forms for WA and the NT can be found here and here.

From today, March 25, Queensland has also closed its borders. This has affected passenger rail services from NSW, which are now terminating at Casino, rather than continuing to Brisbane.

Due to the extensive connections between Queensland and New South Wales along the border at Tweed Heads/Coolangatta, local movements for shopping, work, medical appointments and travel home are not affected.

In addition, to limit the spread of the virus train and tram services in South East Queensland are only accepting pre-paid tickets to avoid the handling of cash.

While these measures have been put in place to ensure community safety, the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has continued to press for freight services to be allowed to continue unaffected, due to their critical nature delivering food and supplies around Australia.

CEO of the ALC, Kirk Coningham, has said that he is happy with the measures put in place so far.

“It is pleasing that states and territories have all recognised the essential nature of the freight task by exempting freight and logistics from border closure arrangements,” he said.

“We now need states and territories to ensure that exemption is given practical effect, and make certain freight vehicles are not delayed for lengthy periods at border check points.”

Freight operators have been putting in place extra social distancing measures and cleaning measures to ensure that freight vehicle operators cannot spread COVID-19. With this in mind, delays at borders should be minimised, said Coningham.

“Those operating freight vehicles have rigorous restrictions around the number of hours they can work. Significant delays at border check points could end up producing delays of 24-hours or more in the movement of freight,” he said.