V/Line’s vandalism problem at Albury

Vandalism is a problem that rail operators across Victoria have to deal with, but the spate of graffiti attacks on V/Line trains at Albury station take the cake. Browsing the archives of The Border Mail shows the extent of the problem.

N464 ready to lead the train back south from Albury

V/Line lambasts ‘mindless’ vandals who graffitied Albury train forcing cancellations on Tuesday
March 29, 2016

A “graffiti attack” caused the cancellation of two train services from Albury to Melbourne today according to operator V/Line.

Coaches replaced the 7.05am Southern Cross to Albury and the 12.45pm Albury to Southern Cross services because of the damage.

A V/Line spokeswoman said vandals spray-painted two carriages of the train when it was stabled at NSW TrainLink’s Albury Station on Sunday night.

See more:
http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3819337/vline-lambasts-mindless-vandals/

Vandals graffiti V/Line’s ageing trains
June 30, 2015

Vandals have targeted V/Line’s ageing trains, covering about 20 metres of a carriage and a section of Albury station in graffiti.

V/Line did not clean the train after the graffiti was found yesterday morning, and it was used for a return service to Melbourne.

See more:
http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3179341/vandals-graffiti-vlines-ageing-trains/

Fresh call on V/Line graffiti vandals
May 22, 2014

V/Line has made a fresh appeal for information yesterday on an Albury graffiti attack on one of its trains after arrests were made over similar incidents in Melbourne.

The rail service operator said several people had been arrested over attacks on V/Line trains in the city.

See more:
http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/2299195/fresh-call-on-vline-graffiti-vandals/

‘Massive’ graffiti mural forces cancellation of V/Line train services
April 23, 2014

A ‘massive’ graffiti mural covering the entire length of a train carriage has lead to the cancellation of two V/LINE services between Melbourne and Albury.

The graffiti, which covers the full length of a 25m carriage, was discovered in Albury this morning.

The carriage continued on its usual 6.35am run but was pulled from the track for cleaning as soon as it reached Melbourne.

As a result, passengers on today’s 5.20pm service out of Albury will now be forced to catch a bus to Seymour before transferring onto another train.

See more:
http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/2235805/massive-graffiti-mural-forces-cancellation-of-vline-train-services/

Graffiti halts V/Line trains
Feb. 4, 2013

Border travellers were on the buses yet again yesterday thanks to a vandalised V/Line train.

Two services were put out of action because of the graffiti attack.

A V/Line spokeswoman said yesterday’s 7.10am service out of Southern Cross Station was the first to be cancelled.

“We have had to in turn cancel the 12.45pm service from Albury,” she said.

“The two services were replaced by buses.

“That is a result of graffiti done in Melbourne.”

The spokesman said it was V/Line’s policy to immediately take a train out of service once it had been damaged.

The paint was expected to be removed from the carriages in time for a return to normal services today.

See more:
http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/1276398/graffiti-halts-vline-trains/

Smashed window on V/Line train
July 23, 2012

Safety concerns have been raised over V/Line allowing train passengers to travel aboard a carriage with a smashed window.
The lunchtime service from Melbourne to Albury-Wodonga ran yesterday with a broken window in the door of the first carriage from the locomotive.

V/Line spokesman James Kelly said the damage was caused by vandals during a stopover in Albury at the weekend and the train, with the broken window, was part of a Melbourne-bound service on Sunday but the affected carriage did not carry passengers.

He said it was allowed to carry passengers yesterday because a temporary fix was in place.

See more:
http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/142193/smashed-window-on-vline-train/

And if a history of vandalism going back to 2012 isn’t enough, here is an example from way back in 2006.

Carriage of V/Line set VN18 covered in a floor to roofline graffiti mural

You’d think after a decade of trains being vandalised while parked overnight in Albury, V/Line might have worked out a solution to the problem – but they haven’t.

Footnote

I’m going to guess those responsible for vandalising V/Line trains at Albury aren’t locals, but visitors on an interstate roadtrip bound for Melbourne – known as one of the world’s graffiti capitals.

Secrecy and Victorian public transport projects

There are many things wrong with transport planning in Victoria, but today I’m going to look at a new theme – the way that the general public are drip fed information about new public transport projects.

Crane finished putting the new footbridge span into place

Melbourne Metro

Melbourne Metro is where I first discovered how poorly those in charge are sharing information with the public – as a result in 2012 I put together my own collection of artists impressions in order to make sense of the project.

CBD South station, cutaway view at Flinders Street end

In the five years since, detail is still sparse – but given the project is still being designed, I can cut them some slack.

An extra platform at West Footscray station

In April 2016 I discovered that an additional platform will be built at West Footscray station as part of the Melbourne Metro project. Again – the details were scarce, with just this artists impression to go on.

Image showing the location of proposed new station platform at West Footscray station, ton the Cross St side

The end result for me was more questions than answers – why weren’t alternatives considered.

Furlong Main level crossing removal project

The removal of the Main Road and Furlong Road level crossings in St Albans is another example of glossy artists impressions, and little actual detail.

LXRA artist impression of Ginifer Station
LXRA artists impression of Ginifer Station.

I ended up having to email the Level Crossing Removal Authority to find out what the actual plans are, and discovers that they are leaving a level crossing behind.

Caulfield to Dandenong corridor

And now for the big one – ‘Skyrail’ on the Caulfield to Dandenong corridor. In early 2016 the government unveiled their elevated rail solution for level crossing removals with a blaze of artists impressions, but instead triggered consternation among local residents, concerned that the new viaduct would overlook their backyards.

Image of the proposed design for the new Murrumbeena Station
LXRA artists impression of the new Murrumbeena station

Since then, the Level Crossing Removal Authority has tried to ease their concerns by sharing information – community consultation, noise reports, studies on rail noise, a fencing and landscaping program, a commitment to open space, and a voluntary purchase scheme, but the damage has already been done – they have lose the trust of the public.

Caroline Springs station

Finally an example of what should be happening – on the PTV page for Caroline Springs Station they go into detail of what they are actually building.

PTV diagram showing design features of Caroline Springs station
PTV diagram showing design features of Caroline Springs station

A first time for everything?

And the gold standard – from Perth

To me the best example of a public transport authority sharing information with the public was the New MetroRail project in Perth.


TransPerth train, photo by DBZ2313 via Wikimedia Commons

Completed in 2007 at a cost of $1.6 billion, the project doubled the size of Perth’s rail network, and along the way the government was incredibly open as to the proposed works, sharing both construction plans and detailed aerial maps with the public.

Footnote from the Frankston line

Early their year the North-Mckinnon-Centre grade separation project kicked into high gear, with new railway stations to be built at Ormond, Mckinnon and Bentleigh on the Frankston line. The problem – the designs are nowhwere to be found online!

To counter that, transport blogger Daniel Bowen had to attend an irregularly held public information session in person, photograph the hard copy plans, and then write up his interpretation of them.

Is there anyone at the Level Crossing Removal Authority who actually considers this a successful community engagement strategy?

Then and now on the Western Ring Road

Today it is hard to imagine getting around the western suburbs of Melbourne without the Western Ring Road, but there was a time it didn’t exist – with the first stage opened in 1992.

New signage citybound on the Tullamarine Freeway at the Western Ring Road

Let us start by taking a look at the incomplete interchange between the Tullamarine Freeway and the Western Ring Road at Airport West.

Tullamarine Freeway / Western Ring Road interchange - circa 1992

The intent of the initial stage of the Western Ring Road was to provide an alternate truck route between the Hume Highway and the Melbourne CBD, so the first section to open linked the Tullamarine Freeway and Pascoe Vale Road in 1992, followed by Pascoe Vale Road to Sydney Road in 1993.

I have hazy memories of childhood visits to Melbourne Airport, where on the way we passed beneath the incomplete freeway interchange.

In the years that followed, further sections of the Ring Road were opened in a piecemeal fashion:

  • 1994: Greenborough Bypass to Plenty Road,
  • July 1995: Ballarat Road to Keilor Park Drive,
  • March 1996: Boundary Road to Ballarat Road,
  • October 1996: Princes Freeway to Boundary Road.
  • December 1996: Calder Freeway to Keilor Park Drive

As you can expect, a ring road that doesn’t form a complete ring isn’t very useful, so for many years the Tullamarine Freeway interchange remained in the state seen above.

Change finally came in 1997 when the ‘missing link’ of the Western Ring Road opened between the Tullamarine Freeway and the Calder Freeway, and the interchange took on a form that lasted just on 15 years.

Tullamarine Freeway / Western Ring Road interchange - 2013

The round of expansion in 1997 added new ramps to/from Melbourne Airport and the Western Ring Road towards Altona, the second of two 40 km/h limited ‘cloverleaf‘ ramps, and a pair of bridges to carry the collector/distributor lanes for southbound Ring Road traffic accessing the Tullamarine Freeway.

In the years that followed, the explosive growth in traffic using the Ring Road overwhelmed the interchange, in 2013 the interchange was expanded yet again as part of the M80 Ring Road upgrade project.

Tullamarine Freeway / Western Ring Road interchange - 2015

Changes to the interchange included:

  • widening the Western Ring Road from two to four lanes in each direction,
  • replacing the cloverleaf carrying southbound traffic from the Tullamarine Freeway to the westbound Ring Road by a new ramp flying over the top of the rest of the interchange,
  • the southbound collector/distributor lane arrangement was replaced by a simpler ‘exit only’ setup,
  • a new flyover was introduced north of the interchange to untangle northbound traffic bound for the Pascoe Vale Road exit from through traffic.

I wonder how long the current Western Ring Road interchange will remain in place, before it too becomes overwhelmed by induced traffic?

Footnote

In 2001 Paul Mees published the paper ‘The short term effects of Melbourne’s Western Ring Road‘ examined the effects of the freeway opening on economic growth in Melbourne’s west.

Esoteric upgrades to the Ballarat railway line

In the 2016/17 Victoria Budget, the State Government has allocated $518 million for upgrade works on the Ballarat line, making the railway system more reliable and marking room for more train services. Track duplication and building additional crossing loops is simple, but some components of the upgrade are a little esoteric.

VLocity 3VL38 departs Ballarat on the down

The easy bits

The government media release details the intended works.

  • 17 kilometres of duplication between Deer Park West and Melton,
  • 3 kilometres of duplication west of Warrenheip,
  • new crossing loops at Bacchus Marsh, Ballan and near Bungaree,
  • removing five level crossings,
  • new stabling facilities at Melton and Rowsley,
  • second platform at Bacchus Marsh and Ballan stations.

Duplication between Deer Park West and Melton is simple – in wide open countryside building a second track along the existing one is simple.

VL14 passes the Melbourne CBD skyline at Rockbank

Rockbank already has two platforms, so the new track just has to tie in at either end.

Another VLocity with a buck tooth - VL19 at Rockbank

At Ballan station, there is plenty of room for a crossing loop and second platform.

VLocity train departs Ballan on the down, passing the remains of the yard and a disused goods shed

History note 1: As late as 1982 Ballan had a mainline track and crossing loop, two freight sidings, a goods shed, and stock yard for loading sheep and cattle onto trains. Today it just has a single platform, and a single track with no passing capability.

Bacchus Marsh station is a little more constrained, with stabling sidings located opposite the existing single platform.

Sprinter arrives on the down, with locos waiting departure from Bacchus Marsh yard

But their existence needn’t block progress – presumably the new stabling facilities at Rowsley, west of Bacchus Marsh, will allow the existing sidings to be decommissioned and a second platform built in their place.

Confused at Warrenheip

We now get get into more confusing territory when we look at the three kilometres of duplication at Warrenheip, east of Ballarat. Two tracks already run between Ballarat and Warrenheip, and you can see trains run on them with your very own eyes.

Starting the climb up Warrenheip Bank, VL14 departs Ballarat East

The problem is that these two tracks operate as two completely separate railway lines – the northern track being used by V/Line trains heading to and from Melbourne.

Bound for Ballarat, VL21 passes the point indicator at the up end of Warrenheip Loop

While the southern track is only used by trains headed between Ballarat and Geelong – which almost exclusively freight services.

Running through the trailing points at Warrenheip

The reason for this complexity is tied up in history.

The first railway to Ballarat

Ballarat’s first railway was completed in 1862 as double track, but was indirect and travelled via Geelong. Today’s direct route to Melbourne came much later, being built from both ends over a 10 year period as a single track branch line serving towns along the way, until 1889 when the two met in the middle to form a through route that now linked Melbourne to Adelaide.

With the new direct line opened, the route via Geelong dropped in importance, so in 1934 it was cut back to single track as an economy measure. The exception was the section from Warrenheip to Ballarat – as the junction of the two routes, the double track was retained to allow for the heavy traffic headed up the hill, with trains using the left hand track in each direction.

This arrangement required signalling staff to attend Warrenheip station on a full time basis to direct trains – a cost considered too high by 1995, when the junction at Warrenheip was decommissioned, and the double track reconfigured as the current pair of two parallel and independent single tracks.

VL07 climbs up Warrenheip Bank on an up service, passing a down grain from Geelong

So what is the three kilometres of duplication at Warrenheip? In reality it is the reinstatement of the operational flexibility removed back in 1995, but without the staffing cost thanks to the use of modern remote controlled signalling.

How do you remove FIVE level crossings?

Given the millions of dollars being spent to remove just one level crossing in metropolitan Melbourne, how can you remove five crossings as part of a $518 million project?

The government media release doesn’t really help.

The new loop near Bungaree will also improve safety for motorists and the local community by removing five level crossings on the existing Bungaree Loop.

It takes an understanding of what exactly the ‘Bungaree Loop’ is for the promise to make sense – there are actually are two parallel sets of railway tracks passing through the area!

So why does one set of tracks run direct between the townships of Millsbrook and Dunnstown, and the other takes an extended detour via Bungaree and Wallace? The answer yet again lies in the history books.

Taking the goat track to Ballarat

The railway through Bungaree was never intended as a main line – it opened in 1879 as a branch line that ran from the main Geelong-Ballrarat at Warrenheip, to the small township of Gordon. Given it was a railway to nowhere, taking the straightest route across the countryside wasn’t top priority – cost was.

As a result, when the surveyors reached the steep Moorabool River valley, they didn’t build a bridge – they sent the railway north for for the flatter terrain of Bungaree and Wallace, then back south to avoid the foothills of Black Hill outside Gordon.

Topographical map - Bungaree, Dunnstown and Millbrook, Victoria

As previously mentioned, this branch line from Ballarat was progressively extended east to serve towns along the way, as did a branch line headed west from Melbourne, eventually meeting in the middle in 1889 and forming the main line from Melbourne to Adelaide.

In the years that followed the number of trains using the railway between Melbourne and Ballarat grew, as did the size of each – but nothing was done about the dogleg via Bungaree.

Pair of B class diesel-electric locomotives haul 1300 ton load up Ingliston Bank, 20 August 1952 (PROV image VPRS 12800/P1, item H 2545)
PROV image VPRS 12800/P1, item H 2545

This changed in 2000 when the newly elected Bracks Government announced Regional Fast Rail – a project to speed up trains between Melbourne and the regional centres of Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Traralgon.

For the Ballarat line a target travel time of 64 minutes was set, which meant that the existing steam-era alignment needed to be rebuilt to allow the new maximum top speed of 160 km/h to be reached.

At Bungaree the solution to speeding up trains was simple – a brand new 8.2 kilometre section of railway joined the two halves of the existing doglegged route, bypassing the numerous tight curves along the way.

VLocity Melbourne bound crossing the Moorabool River on the Bungaree deviation on the Ballarat line

Some impressive civil works were required to build the new line, which had no level crossings:

  • 380,000m3 of cut and fill earthworks,
  • Construction of four road over rail bridges:
    • Sullivans Road (16m span)
    • Spread Eagle Road (12.5m span)
    • Peerewerrh Road (12.5m span)
    • Old Melbourne Road (18.5m span)
  • Two rail over water bridges:
    • Moorabool Bridge: 270m long, 27m high
    • Lal Lal Bridge: 363m long, 40m high

The new deviation joined the existing route at Millsbrook and Dunnstown, but it was decided to retain the old route as a crossing loop, allowing trains in opposite directions to pass each other without stopping.

Junction at Millbrook

But in the years that followed, keeping the old route for the purpose became a false economy – track maintenance expenses are a function of track length, so a far more cost effective option would have been to build a crossing loop on the new track, and abandon the ‘long way around’.

My theory for the inaction – the ‘target travel time’ based criteria driving the Regional Fast Rail project meant that minimising capital expenditure and ignoring future operational costs was the order of the day.

Which now leaves us back at the current $518 million Ballarat line upgrade project – the ‘long’ route (marked in red) and the five associated level crossings is being dismantled, and a brand new crossing loop is being built on the ‘short’ route (marked in green) to retain the ability for trains to pass each other.

If only the Regional Fast Rail project had done the job properly a decade ago!

Footnote 1 – wasted money on level crossing upgrades

Retaining the old route via Bungaree looks even more stupid when I remembered that the five level crossings along the way once lacked boom barriers.

Old Melbourne Road level crossing

VicTrack funded a upgrade of the four level crossings along the Bungaree Loop during the 2012/13 financial year.

  • Lesters Road, Bungaree (Flashing Lights, Boom Barriers)
  • Bungaree-Wallace Road, Wallace (Flashing Lights, Boom Barriers)
  • Old Melbourne Road, Millbrook (Flashing Lights, Boom Barriers)
  • Wescotts Road, Wallace (Flashing Lights, Boom Barriers)

Less than five years after that upgrade, and all four crossings are about to close for good!

Footnote 2 – wasted money on new stations

Last week I wrote about the the forgotten access road to Caroline Springs station – if that wasn’t enough wasted money, now an additional $4.9 million needs to be spent reworking the yet to be opened station in order to provide a second platform on the soon to be duplicated track.

Once again, a lack of planning is burning up yet more taxpayer money.

Reverend Lovejoy, model railroader

Reverend Lovejoy – a recurring character in the animated television series The Simpsons, known for his love of model trains.

Season 7, Episode 3

Reverend Lovejoy on the phone to Ned Flanders, yet again.

Ned, have you thought about one of the other major religions? They’re all pretty much the same.

Next minute.

Reverend Lovejoy model railroader - Season 7 Episode 3

Later in the episode, his model railway is being moved.

Reverend Lovejoy model railroader - Season 7 Episode 3

When disaster strikes again.

Reverend Lovejoy model railroader - Season 7 Episode 3

Oh, why do you hate my trains?

Reverend Lovejoy model railroader - Season 7 Episode 3

Season 8, Episode 22

Marge Simpsons becomes “The Listen Lady” at the Church, and Reverend Lovejoy becomes depressed.

Attention, HO-scale passengers. The dining car is closed. Root beer is still available, but the cost is now six-fifty. If the passengers will look to their right, you will see a sad man. That is all.

Reverend Lovejoy model railroader - Season 8 Episode 22

Season 17, Episode 9

Down in the basement, playing with his model railroad.

Bad news, Ned.
There’s been a horrible train wreck.
So many little plastic Christmases ruined.

Reverend Lovejoy model railroader - Season 17 Episode 9

As a result Ned Flanders has to take over the Christmas sermon.