Hopes for improved punctuality on Victorian public transport

With an in-principle agreement signed between the Rail Tram and Bus Union and Yarra Trams, there are hopes that tram punctuality in Melbourne will improve, following a below target result in February.

Yarra Trams recorded a punctuality rate of 81.5 per cent, with major disruptions due to industrial action occurring on February 17 and 20. This met the punctuality target of 79 per cent, however a reliability figure of 96.2 per cent fell below the 98 per cent target.

Other factors impacting on the result included a derailment of a Route 12 tram on Saturday, February 1, and a truck bringing down overhead wires on Swan Street on Friday, February 28, which impacted Route 70 trams.

The in-principle agreement between Yarra Trams and the RTBU will contribute towards improvements in punctuality in the coming months, highlighted Victorian Department of Transport head of transport services Jeroen Weimar.

“It’s pleasing the parties have come to an agreement that will end any further disruptions for our tram passengers.”

Other transport operators also had lower than targeted results. V/Line services had a punctuality result of 86.8 per cent and a reliability result of 88.8 per cent. V/Line has a target of 96 per cent reliability and 92 per cent punctuality.

Events affecting this result included the train derailment at Wallan on Thursday, February 20. This led to trains on the Seymour, Shepparton, and Albury lines being suspended while investigation and repair works were underway.

“All parties worked together in the wake of the tragedy to support the recovery and investigation and ensure the line could reopen once certified for passenger services to return,” said Weimar.

Bright spots for the regional operator included the Gippsland and Warrnambool lines, which experienced a boost to punctuality and reliability of roughly six per cent, the largest improvement on the regional network.

Metro Trains had a positive month, by delivering 98.6 per cent of scheduled services, above its 98.5 per cent target. Punctuality just fell short of the 92 per cent target at 90.3 per cent.

During February, heavy rain, track and signal faults and police operations disrupted the network.

“We continue to work with Metro Trains to ensure punctuality improves in line with what passengers expect from our metropolitan network,” said Weimar.

Additional $2 billion investment to put Melbourne’s airport rail on track

A private consortium involving Melbourne Airport and Metro trains are offering to invest an extra $2 billion to build a dedicated track from the CBD to Melbourne’s West as part of the airport rail project.

IFM Investors, a fund manager owned by 27 superannuation funds, as part of the AirRail consortium are proposing to build a 6km tunnel between Melbourne and Sunshine, 12km west of Melbourne’s CBD.

IFM Investors have written to the Victorian and federal government on Thursday last week to offer a further $2 billion investment on top of the $5bn initially proposed in 2018.

IFM are proposing a market-led solution to the new track, calling for a new rail tunnel in a letter sent to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“A project option that includes a tunnel between the CBD and Sunshine delivers the best airport rail solution particularly when compared with a MARL that utilises the Melbourne Metro Project,” wrote IFM.

The Age reported that federal and Victorian government plans for an airport rail line will involve a route via the Metro Tunnel to Sunshine, with a new track to be built between Tullamarine and Sunshine.

In 2016 a Metro Tunnel business case rejected a 2012 Public Transport Victoria plan to run airport trains through the $11bn metro tunnel, currently under construction until 2025.

The federal and Victorian state governments had previously agreed to a $10bn joint commitment to the Melbourne airport rail link.

A Victorian government spokesperson said in May last year that part of the budget also includes additional tracks between Sunshine and the CBD that would be part of Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

Every airport rail option being assessed would include a stop at Sunshine to connect to Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo services, according to a Victorian government spokeswoman.

The AirRail consortium, that also includes Metro Trains, Southern Cross Station, and Melbourne Airport will request that the State Government is charged a toll every time a Metro or V/LIne train runs through the new rail tunnel for operating and maintenance purposes.

IFM says it wants to operate the tunnel over a 40-year concession period.

According to the letter, the access payment from regional trains that use the tunnel would recoup an appropriate share of the significant capital cost of building the tunnel.

IFM have stated they do not wish to constrain regional or metro services due to frequent airport trains and decisions on service, pricing, and timetabling would remain wholly with the Victorian government.

AirRail Melbourne has been ready to commence construction on the infrastructure project since 2019 and IFM is waiting for the green light to start the build. Australian rail suppliers have also contacted IFM to propose their interest as potential contractors for the project.

In June 2019 the Victorian government announced that Rail Projects Victoria (RPV) will be developing a detailed business case for Melbourne Airport Rail.

The Victorian state Government said the business case will be delivered by 2020 and will assess station and procurement options, value capture and creation opportunities, and economic analysis of the recommended solution.

AirRail Melbourne proposed in a 2018 blueprint that 20-minute travel times will be expected to the city, using dedicated rollingstock.

“Our ambition is to have a train journey to the airport from the city that is fast, affordable and meets the needs of travellers,” a spokesperson for federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge was quoted by The Age last year.

V/Line

Slower trains to improve network performance, says Victorian government

A newly announced timetable change will mean 93 trains a day will run slower, on two overcrowded Melbourne lines, to make way for other faster services.

Cranbourne and Pakenham lines will see services delayed between one to up to five minutesfor the 160,000 people who rely on those line services on weekdays, when a new Metro timetable is released on Friday.

The timetable will come into effect in December on nine routes along the two lines, and are designed to account for the extra time trains spend stopped at stations while people get on and off.

Public Transport Victoria boss Jeroen Weimar explained that trains were spending longer at each station because more people were now using the rail network.

Due to the 93 slower trains, nine services will get Cranbourne and Pakenham commuters there two minutes quicker, while 10 services will run a minute faster.

Further changes will include Southern Cross Station opening earlier on Sunday mornings allowing people to transfer more easily between Night Network, metro and regional services to get home sooner.

The Geelong line will also have an extra Saturday morning service added to the timetable. To make room for this, the existing Warrnambool service will run express from Geelong to Footscray. Craigieburn and Upfield lines will use the station, where previously they ran express through to Flinders St early on Sunday mornings.

“Many Victorians work shift work to keep our city and state running while most of us sleep – we’re making it easier for them to get home by opening Southern Cross Station earlier,” said Public Transport Minister Melissa Horne.

Metro train. Photo: RailGallery.com.au

Victorian transport performance poor in September

Metro Trains, Yarra Trams and V/Line will pay compensation to Melbourne’s commuters for poor public transport performance during the month of September, according to Public Transport Victoria.

As part of the state’s contracts with transport operators, tough performance standards need to be met to operate Melbourne’s train network.

Metro Trains delivered 89.9 per cent of services on time in September, for failing to deliver 90 per cent of on time services. It also failed to meet its 98.5 per cent reliability target by 0.1 per cent.

This means the operator will pay compensation to passengers for the fourth time this year for falling short by 0.1 per cent.

Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne directed the Department of Transport to work closely with Metro Trains to improve their performance. As such, a dedicated team was created by the department to work closely with Metro’s management to improve performance.

“Metro Trains is expected to deliver a train service that Melburnians can rely on and there were a number of times during in September that did not happen,” said Department of Transport Head of Transport Services Jeroen Weimar.

Our train passengers deserve better.”

According to the government statement, several incidents impacted punctuality during the month of September, including one wherein an overhead power fault near East Richmond trains on four lines over several hours.

“There were more than 320 incidents involving police operations, trespassers on train tracks and near misses, which delayed a total of 955 trains.”

The 2019 AFL Finals series was also on in September, for which 300 extra services were delivered to help transport 250,000 fans.

Yarra Trams surpassed its 82 per cent punctuality target with 86.3 per cent, but achieved 97.9 per cent reliability which is under the 98 per cent compensation threshold and, as such, will pay compensation. Excluding an industrial action which meant work stoppages, says Public Transport Victoria, Yarra Trams averaged 98.9 per cent reliability throughout September.

Operational staff at Yarra Trams are planning another strike in October over its demands for wage increases. The Rail, Tram, and Bus Union is also engaging Metro Trains in court over the right to launch industrial action as well as seeking a new agreement with V/Line.

V/Line achieved 96.8 per cent reliability and 87.7 per cent punctuality. However, it will pay compensation to passengers for falling short of their targets on some individual lines.

“It’s pleasing to see V/Line deliver a consistent regional service this year,” Mr Weimar said. “We’re currently delivering a series of regional rail infrastructure upgrades, which will improve services across multiple regional lines.”

Melbourne Metro Train. Photo: Creative Commons / Zed Fitzhume

Metro Trains’ May performance impacted by wire collapse

Public Transport Victoria’s reliability has suffered a drop for the month of May across its Metro Trains, Yarra Trams and V/Line services.

PTV chief executive officer Joroen Weimar called May a challenging month for Melbourne’s train network, citing an overhead power issue at Laverton Junction that impacted Werribee line services over a four-day period. A small segment of wire that fell from a corroded section of the overhead power structure became tangled in a passing train, which removed a further section of wire.

The incident led to PTV’s decision to replace all insulator connection on the Werribee line on top of its existing routine maintenance.

This incident led to Metro Trains falling short of its monthly reliability and punctuality targets, with reliability defined as the number of scheduled trains that ran and punctuality the number of trains that ran on time.

Metro Trains achieved a 90.4 per cent punctuality rate and 98.2 per cent reliability rate in May, short of the targets by 1.6 per cent and 0.3 per cent, respectively.

Yarra Trams and V/Line fared better, however. Yarra Trams exceeded its monthly reliability target in May, delivering 98.7 per cent of all scheduled services but missed on punctuality, delivering 79.2 per cent of services on time compared to an 82 per cent target.

Yarra Trams received a boost in May in the south east of the city due in part to the temporary closure of the Sandringham rail line to accommodate works on the ongoing Metro Tunnel project. Yarra Trams delivered 215 additional peak weekday services on three routes from May 22-31 to help compensate for this.

V/Line delivered 86.5 per cent of its services on time and 97.1 per cent of its scheduled services in May. In particular, the Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo lines all showed significant year-on-year improvements, according to Weimar, with Bendigo securing the biggest leap at 87.3 per cent, up 10.3 per cent from may 2018.

“We continue to work hard to deliver a service that our regional passengers can rely on while maintaining the network improvements we have seen over the past 12 months,” Weimar said.

“We’re working with all operators to improve their punctuality and reliability as well as enabling the major program of essential infrastructure upgrades to the state’s public transport network to be delivered.”