Works beginning on Hallam Road level crossing removal

Early works have begun on the Hallam Road level crossing in Melbourne’s south-east.

Once complete, a rail bridge will replace the level crossing and a new station will be built to serve passengers in Hallam and the surrounding suburbs.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that the level crossing removal would complement other transport works occurring in the area.

“We’re freeing up Melbourne’s booming south-eastern suburbs – with the Hallam Road Upgrade, level crossing removals and the Metro Tunnel, we’re busting congestion on busy roads and slashing travel times on trains.”

Early works include the erection of fences and the installation of site offices. Major works are expected to begin at the end of the year. A temporary commuter car park will open to replace spaces lost to the site office which will be located in the station’s southern car park.

Community feedback has so far been included in the updated station design, with a second entrance added to allow access from either side of Hallam Road. Additional bike parking has also been added.

Further community feedback is being south through the Hallam Road Level Crossing Removal Construction Liaison Group, said local member Luke Donnellan.

“We’re excited to see early works get underway on the level crossing project and the new station – and I’d encourage all locals who want to get involved in the project to consider joining the Construction Liaison group.”

The nearby community will be able to notice the effect of removed level crossings with the nearby Evans Road bridge opened in the next week, replacing the level crossing on that road.

The boom gates at Hallam Road are closed for a third of the two-hour morning peak, delaying 20,000 vehicles. In addition, the crossing has had 14 near misses in the past 10 years.

Need for proper processes highlighted in latest ATSB investigations

The need for proper processes to be established and followed to ensure rail safety has been highlighted in two recently completed rail safety investigations by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

In an investigation into how a passenger train passed through a level crossing in North Geelong in January 2019 without activating flashing lights and boom gates at the level crossing, the ATSB found a lack of supporting instructions contributed to the error.

“The contractor undertaking the work did not provide signalling testers with specific instructions detailing the scope of work to be conducted at each stage of a project, but rather, only provided packaged isolation plans for the entire project,” said ATSB director transport safety Kerri Hughes.

Work to upgrade signalling required the level crossing for the broad and dual gauge tracks, managed by V/Line, at Thompson Road, North Geelong to be isolated. The adjacent standard gauge tracks, managed by the ARTC, were to be operating as normal.

The contractor, UGL Engineering, which was undertaking the work on behalf of VicTrack, had incorrectly isolated the level crossing for all of the lines. Fortunately, no vehicles were on the crossing at the time.

“Work instructions are step-by-step guides on how to perform a specific task or activity, in support of a process or procedure. They are important defences within a safety system for ensuring work is performed safely and as intended,” said Hughes.

VicTrack has updated their processes to include specific work instructions for each task associated with level crossing isolation plans.

In a separate incident in November 2019, thirty freight train wagons rolled unattended for 1,425 metres along a siding in Bordertown, South Australia. In its investigation, the ATSB found that a misunderstanding led to the wagons being uncoupled before a full application of the train’s air brakes.

ATSB director transport safety Stuart Godley said the incident highlighted the need to follow procedural steps and processes.

“The non-application of handbrakes increased the train’s reliance on the full application of wagon air brakes to prevent a runaway,” he said.

“However, a slight out of sequence implementation of the air brake process resulted in only partial application of the wagon air brakes and the subsequent runaway of unattended wagons.

“It is essential that all procedural steps are undertaken when uncoupling wagons for run-around movements.”

Rail operator, Bowmans Rail issued a safety alert in response, and the rail track manager, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has also since installed an arrestor bed at the Bordertown dead end.

Rail Safety Week

A national face for rail safety

Introducing a new mode of transport to the city takes time, planning, and requires a skilled delivery team. But even with all these in place, how the general public will react and learn to live with the transport mode remains an unknown until the day of opening.

This was the case in Canberra, as the city prepared for the introduction of the new light rail line. While the city is served by a train service to Sydney, for many Canberrans, having a rail corridor through the northern spine of the city was a new experience, and one that would take some time to adjust to.

Paralympian Vanessa Low, who moved to Canberra after growing up in Germany, could see what this would mean for the city.

“When I saw that the light rail is getting introduced I realised pretty quickly that this is something new to Canberrans and that there’s probably going to be some problems around people understanding that this is a change that they have to be aware of.”

Low’s concern was safety. With light rail interfacing with drivers along Northbourne Avenue and pedestrians at crossings and stations, Canberrans needed to be alert to the risks and hazards associated with such a transport system. Low got in contact with staff from the Canberra Metro operations team and began working on a plan to keep Canberrans safe.

“We talked about, instead of waiting for something to happen, how we can put in some measures for raising awareness around the safety issues and raising awareness about what the consequences may be if you don’t pay attention.”

Like any rail transport mode, the Canberra light rail came with warning signs about crossing the tracks, and lines on the platform which passengers should not cross while waiting for their service. However, beyond the physical infrastructure, Low saw the need to connect with future passengers.

“It’s not just about the rules on a piece of paper or officials saying, ‘You shouldn’t do this.’ or ‘You should do that.’ It is connecting the everyday situation to feeling because, in a way, people easily forget what you said but they never forget how you make them feel,” said Low.

More than most, Low knows what it rail safety feels like. When she was 15 years old, Low fell from a train station platform in her hometown of Ratzeburg and was struck by an oncoming train. Following the accident, doctors had to amputate both of Low’s legs.

“I really realised that it’s not just about the loss of the legs, it was the impact on my family and friends and their families and how a lot of people suffered through the situation and a lot of people never really realised that this was ever going to happen to themselves or to someone they knew,” said Low. “That’s when I realised that a lot of people aren’t quite aware of the issues that arise in all sorts of traffic and that it’s really up to us to make the conscious decision to change that and not let it become a problem. I really wanted to get involved in helping people understand these things before something happens to them or someone they knew.”

In 2019, Low was the ACT Rail Safety Week ambassador and conducted workshops and seminars with school students and the commuting public about staying safe around the new light rail. Low’s experience enabled her to share with Canberrans the importance of staying safe around rail.

“It’s about raising awareness and then naturally people understand what they need to do. Crucial to that is to encourage others to be rail safe, pay attention and have an awareness of not just yourself but understanding what impact this action or non-action may have on everyone around you.”

This year, Low will take on the role of the inaugural national rail safety ambassador, with a particular focus during Rail Safety Week. Just as rail might be novel to Canberra, Low also notes that around Australia, more people are coming into contact with rail environment.

“I grew up in Europe where being around trains is very normal, everyone takes the public transport to go to work and it’s ingrained from being young, but in Australia because cars are the main transport and everything is quite far away it’s quite unusual to be crossing train tracks, a lot of people don’t do that on a daily basis.”

Low sees a role for awareness in encouraging those who may come into contact with rail less frequently to still understand the risks involved.

“All of a sudden they’re exposed to a situation that they aren’t familiar with and they aren’t aware of the dangers. That’s why these safety programs are needed because people aren’t quite that used to being around trains as much.”

While being safe around trains is an individual responsibility, it is also important for people to be aware of others. Being alert to one’s surroundings is therefore key.

“My biggest slogan is just pay attention if you participate in traffic, whether you’re a pedestrian or on a bike, or in a car, there are other participants in traffic and unfortunately trains do not have the option to merge out of the way. They take a very long time to stop because they are so heavy.”

Giving a face to the rail safety message will be a new and important initiative for Rail Safety Week 2020, said Low.

“I really hope that we can make this a very personal message so that people can feel like it’s up to each one of us to take action and be aware.”

Morley Station

WA developing concept master plan for Morley Station

The West Australian government is using the construction of a new station and rail line as a way to guide development in Morley. The government is working with local residents and businesses to develop connections between the future Morley station and the surrounding area.

Over 200 residents and businesses have given their feedback, which has shaped the Morley Station Precinct Concept Master Plan, which is being developed in consultation with the City of Bayswater. Once complete, the master plan will guide planning and infrastructure delivery around the station.

Morley is a new station that will be located on the Morley-Ellenbrook line, being built as part of the Metronet project. The station is the first on the line that begins at Bayswater station.

According to WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti, the construction of a new rail line allows for a rethink of the development of the surrounding suburbs.

“The significant investment in the Morley-Ellenbrook Line provides the opportunity to continue to grow the Morley Activity Centre as an important social and economic hub for the north-east corridor.”

A high-frequency bus service will link the station to the Morley Galleria to provide access to shopping and services.

Morley MLA Amber-Jade Sanderson said that the plan would also shape private investment in the area.

“This concept plan will provide vision and clear direction for the private sector and help stimulate much needed new investment in the commercial precinct,” she said.

“We want the many private land holders to develop their land for the revitalisation of Morley.”

The plan will inform the development of a local structure plan, which will go into more depth on infrastructure, zoning, and development to complete the design vision.

Work is on track to award the contract for the construction of the line later in 2020, with two shortlisted proponents, Ellenbrook Alliance (CPB Contractors and Downer EDI) and MELconnx Consortium (Laing O’Rouke Australia Construction).

Elevated rail preferred for Inner Armadale Line

Up to six level crossings between Carlisle and Beckenham will be replaced with a rail bridge to improve safety and ease movement in the area.

As part of the works, Wharf Street level crossing was to be removed or replaced with an elevated rail option, however a third option is now being considered, involving rebuilding Queens Park station. The option to close the Wharf Street crossing is no longer being considered.

The WA government is continuing to seek feedback of the final design.

Plans to remove level crossing in Carseldine, Brisbane fully funded

Plans to remove another level crossing in Brisbane’s suburbs have been backed by funding from all levels of government, with work to begin in 2021.

The Queensland state government will contribute $128 million to deliver the plans to remove the Beams Road level crossing near the Carseldine train station in Brisbane’s north. The federal government is contributing $50m and the Brisbane City Council $70m.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that the plan would outline designs to reduce congestion and increase safety.

“Every time that boom arm goes down at the Beams Road level crossing, that means more time for people waiting in traffic.”

Local MP Bart Mellish said that the plan would also cover improvements to the station precinct and surrounding area.

“There are also opportunities ahead to build new public spaces and upgrade the road network as part of Carseldine Urban Village, so this project will build on that and transform how are community connects.”

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said that a business case for the level crossing removal will be completed early next year, with construction to start later in 2021.

“With funding committed in Brisbane City Council’s budget and federally, we have a solid commitment to upgrade roads, remove the rail level crossing and build more parking spaces at Carseldine train station,” he said.

Designs for an expanded park n’ ride at Carseldine station have already been finalised and work will begin on that project before the end of 2020, said Bailey.

The announcement of funding for Beams Road is in addition to level crossing removal projects at Boundary Road, in Coopers Plains, and Lindum.

Local rail advocacy group Rail Back on Track welcomed the news that these level crossing will go, however cautioned that with increases in frequency once the Cross River Rail project is complete, more crossings will have to go.

“A potential catastrophic situation awaits as frustrated motor vehicle drivers are tempted to race boom gates,” said group administrator Robert Dow.

“Unless there is a commitment from both sides of the political fence to step up the rate of level crossing elimination (grade separation) there will be increasing impacts on the road transport network and the reliability and safety of rail itself.”

The group called for a commitment to remove two or three level crossings a year and the establishment of an authority similar to the Level Crossing Removal Project in Victoria.

Lindum level crossing

Federal-state study identifies improvements to dangerous level crossing

A study into a notorious level crossing and station precinct in Brisbane’s east has attracted community input, with 300 surveys completed and 180 ideas shared in an online feedback portal.

The input was garnered as part of a community feedback process into the Lindum Station Precinct Study. Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said that the community feedback would inform the final design outcome.

“We will be looking at a range of options for the level crossing, including at-grade solutions or alternative locations,” he said.

In 2019, a woman was killed at the level crossing and the crossing has been a source of community and commuter frustration as it crosses a major regional road.

Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey said it was essential the community was involved in the station precinct’s redesign.

“Lindum Station and its surrounds are a crucial part of the local community. That’s why it’s vital we prioritise the community as part of the study.”

Bailey said that a new station, crossing, and precinct would safely cater for commuters, road traffic, nearby businesses, and create active transit connections.

Member for Bonner Ross Vasta said a range of options are being considered.

“Options to be explored to improve safety for motorists and pedestrians include grade separation, upgrading the existing level crossing and relocating the level crossing,” he said.

“The project will also consider station and parking upgrades.”

Community feedback will inform the development of a technical study, which will identify the best way to make the improvements to the station precinct.

The study is jointly funded by the federal and Queensland governments, with the federal government having committed $85 million to the construction of an upgrade to the Lindum Rail Crossing.

Work about to begin on level crossings in Werribee

Site establishment works are about to get underway to remove two level crossings west of Melbourne near Werribee.

This month, site office and are preparation works will begin at the Werribee Street level crossing and at the Old Geelong Road level crossing in Hoppers Crossing.

At Werribee Street, the Level Crossing Removal Project will construct a new rail bridge over Werribee Street. Works in April and May will involve setting up site offices on Cottrell Street, locating utilities including electricity and water and removing trees and vegetation within the project area. Work will then begin on piling for bridge foundations and a temporary track, to ensure freight services can continue running on the Geelong Line.

Similar works will get underway at the Hoppers Crossing Site to prepare for the construction of a road bridge and pedestrian overpass above the rail line. The Hoppers Crossing station carpark will be relocated while works are progressing.

These works notifications following the confirmation of designs for the two level crossing removals. McConnell Dowell, Arup, Mott MacDonald, and Metro Trains Melbourne will be delivering the work, in addition to the Cherry Street level crossing work nearby.

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.

Three level crossings to be upgraded North East Rail Line

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has confirmed that works will continue over the Easter weekend to upgrade the North East Rail line in Victoria.

The three level crossings upgraded over the long weekend are at Racecourse Rd, Chiltern, Federation Way at Bowser (Wangaratta North), and Bourke Rd at Bowser (Wangaratta North).

These improvements are on top of the 19 level crossings already upgraded in regional Victoria, including at West Wodonga, Wangaratta, and Barnawartha. Additionally, 16 rail bridges have been improved as part of the $235 million project.

“Teams have worked systematically south after major work started in Wodonga with four more level crossing renewals scheduled for April,” said ARTC general manager major projects Ed Walker.

“Work will start at 6pm on Sunday 12 April to improve these level crossings and we thank the community for their patience with changed traffic conditions in place and increased vehicle movements in the area.”

The project has focused on having benefits during the construction phase flow through to regional communities, with a major site office located in Wangaratta employing locals and engaging 32 North East Victorian suppliers.

Over 100,000 tonnes of ballast have been added to the track for depth improvement, mudhole removal, bridge works, and level crossing renewals.