Auckland City Rail Link project cost swells to $2.97bn

18 April 2019

Rail link to Melbourne airport receives government approval

14 March 2019

The Victorian and Federal Governments of Australia have approved the rail link to Melbourne airport, which is estimated to cost between A$8bn and A$13bn ($5.67bn-$9.21bn).

A Heads of Agreement has been signed between the federal and state government to build the rail project.

The Melbourne Airport Rail Link (MARL) will connect the airport at Tullamarine to the central business district.

Both governments have committed to invest A$5bn ($3.54bn) each towards the project. The agreement encompasses strategic objectives, governance arrangements and information sharing processes for the joint commitment.

The Melbourne Airport Rail Link project is expected to mitigate traffic congestion on the Tullamarine Freeway, the main road connecting the city with the airport.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “For decades Victorians have talked about a train line to the airport. We are delivering it. In last year’s budget, we made an A$5bn investment in the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, it was the biggest infrastructure commitment in the Budget.

“Melbourne is truly a global city that deserves world-class infrastructure. The Rail Link is part of our plan to bust congestion across the city and get people home faster and safer.”

Various ecological, traffic and geotechnical investigations associated with the rail link are underway.

Government agency Rail Projects Victoria has also hired technical and commercial advisers to devise the business case.

A reference group comprising representatives from the community, industry and local government will also be formed to offer guidance.

The business case is scheduled to be delivered next year.

Construction works are due to begin in 2022 and will take up to nine years to complete.

Network Rail blames helium balloons for rising train delays

18 April 2019

A rising number of straying helium balloons has been blamed for causing hundreds of train delays across the UK every year.

Highlighting the issue, Network Rail said that it has recorded 619 balloon-related incidents in the last year across England, Scotland and Wales.

Balloons that become tangled around high-voltage overhead wires cause delays and disruptions in services as the electricity on the line needs to be turned off to remove them.

A similar incident occurred at Smethwick Rolfe Street Station in the West Midlands when a helium balloon tangled around the overhead wires. The incident is said to have delayed hundreds of train passengers.

Besides threatening operational safety and causing delays, the problem is estimated to cost the exchequer around £1m annually.

Network Rail London North Western route chief operating officer James Dean said: “If you’re on a railway station platform with a foil balloon filled with helium on a string and it comes in contact with the overhead wires carrying 25,000V, that could cause huge injury or death.

“Ideally, we’d ask people not to bring balloons into our stations at all. Alternatively, carry them in bags so the risk of them floating upwards is minimised.”

The National Association of Balloon Artists and Suppliers (NABAS) also voiced its support to the concerns raised by Network Rail. It has launched a campaign to ban flying foil balloons, sky lanterns and similar aerial objects with plastic string or ribbons attached.

NABAS chairman George Oustayiannis said: “Balloons bring fun and colour and a sense of celebration to any event, but please dispose of them responsibly, and never release balloons into the atmosphere. Respect the environment and prevent unnecessary danger and delays.”

Canada to fund 136 new projects to improve rail safety

17 April 2019

The Government of Canada has announced plans to support 136 projects and initiatives in a bid to increase rail safety across the country.

The programme, announced by Canadian Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, focuses on safety improvements on rail property, encourages technological research and closing of accident-prone crossings.

It includes improvement works at 104 grade crossings and other railway infrastructure.

Overall, the projects will receive a combined funding of C$16.5m ($12.39m) under the Rail Safety Improvement Program.

Garneau said: “Rail safety is my top priority. We have taken many steps to strengthen rail safety and will continue working on ways to make our railway system safer for Canadians.

“Our renewed commitment to the Rail Safety Improvement Program demonstrates our dedication to modernising the railway system so that Canada continues to have one of the safest rail systems in the world.”

In Canada, most rail-related fatalities and serious injuries are due to grade crossing and trespassing accidents.

These projects are expected to increase safety at grade crossings and strengthen public confidence in Canada’s rail transportation system.

In the last four years, Canada has invested more than C$71m ($53.31m) to promote rail safety.

Member of Parliament for Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe Ginette Petitpas Taylor said: “We’ve always been focused on protecting the citizens of our community from the hazards of railway crossings and through the Rail

Safety Improvement Program our government is working with railway companies and other governments to enhance safety at all crossings in our communities.”

Last month, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released a report which found that rail accidents in the country increased by 7% last year.

UK launches interactive map to make train stations disabled-friendly

17 April 2019

British rail industry membership body Rail Delivery Group has launched an interactive map that will enable passengers to procure information on accessibility at train stations.

The Access Map is specifically launched to boost disabled passengers’ confidence to take the train.

The map has accessibility information about all railway stations in the country. Passengers can search for any specific station or scroll through to get the details.

It will offer information on step-free access at the stations, facilities including toilets and changing places, helpline numbers and alternative accessible stations.

Currently, the map can be accessed through iPhone, Android smartphones and computers, while a dedicated app is expected to be launched soon.

The membership body developed the app in collaboration with the Department for Transport (DfT) and other train companies.

Rail Delivery Group Regions & Nations director Robert Nisbet said: “Our new map will help to boost passengers’ confidence when they travel by train, eliminating the element of surprise and giving them the reassurance that comes with planning a journey and knowing what to expect.

“We know we need to go further and the rail industry is driving bigger changes to make the railway accessible for everyone.

“We’re investing billions of pounds into thousands of more accessible carriages, developing an app to speed up booking assistance, and upgrading infrastructure to make stations across the country more accessible.”

Since 2006, the rail industry has carried out more than £500m worth of accessibility improvements across the country. Currently, 75% of journeys are made through step-free stations.

Earlier this month, DfT unveiled plans to invest £300m to improve disability access across 73 stations in the country.

DB Cargo and VTG complete freight wagon research project

15 April 2019

Mauritius light-rail to begin operations by September

11 April 2019

The development of the Mauritius light-rail system is the first phase of the Metro Express Project, which is expected to become operational by September.

Mauritius Minister of Public Infrastructure and Land Transport Nandcoomar Bodha made the announcement while providing details about the status of work.

Currently, 70% of construction work pertaining to phase one of the project has been completed, including the 13km-long run between Rose Hill and Port Louis.

In the second phase, the light-rail system will be extended from Rose Hill to Quatre Bornes.

Minister Bodha added that the first light-rail vehicle (LRV) is expected to reach Mauritius in July, with a total of six LRVs will be procured by October 2019.

Overall, Spanish rolling stock manufacturer CAF will deliver a total of 18 Urbos light-rail vehicles for the Metro Express light-rail line.

Each 50m-long vehicle will comprise five wagons and seven compartments. They are designed to operate at a speed of 20-25km/h up to a maximum speed of 50km/h.

The government aims to extend light-rail to Quatre Bornes by 2020. Minister Bodha added that there will be four stations within the area of Quatre Bornes and the journey time from Port Louis to Quatre Bornes will take around 28 minutes.

Overall, the 26kmlong Mauritius Metro Express will extend from Curepipe to Immigration Square in Port Louis and will include 19 stations.

In August 2017, Indian firm Larsen & Toubro (L&T) secured the contract to build the rail system, which is estimated to cost around $565m.

Siemens deploys signalling system in three South African stations

10 April 2019

Siemens Mobility has deployed and operationalised an intelligent signalling system at three railway stations in South Africa.

The three stations are Johannesburg Park Station, Braamfontein and Pretoria station.

Johannesburg Park Station is one of the largest stations in Africa, comprising 114 sets of points, 129 signals and 16 operational platforms.

Braamfontein consists of 87 signals and 67 sets of points, while Pretoria has 105 signals and 69 sets of points.

Siemens noted that all three stations went live with the new system with minimal disruptions to commuter service.

Installation of the signalling system forms part of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA) project to deliver an improved commuter railway system.

To date, the signalling system has been installed in 40 of the 92 stations in South Africa’s Gauteng, the most populated province in the country.

The modern signalling and interlocking systems will increase operational capacity, the frequency of operations and reduce delays.

Siemens Mobility CEO Michael Peter said: “Since 2011, Siemens Mobility and PRASA have been working together to commission and install new signalling and control systems throughout the Gauteng region.

“The latest installations are in three of the country’s busiest stations and will help the transit operator improve passenger experience and guarantee availability.”

In Gauteng, Siemens Mobility built a control centre for rail traffic in 2015. This Gauteng Nerve Center will be supervising the signalling systems and address operational issues.

In February, Siemens received a €42m contract to deliver advanced rail signalling technology for Line A on the Medellin metro system in Colombia.