Over the past few months I have been following the progress of work on the Regional Rail Link project, which is constructing two new railway tracks for V/Line trains to enter and exit Melbourne. Running from Southern Cross Station in the CBD to Sunshine station in the western suburbs, and then across to the outskirts of Werribee to connect to the Geelong line, the route passes through a mix of established inner-city suburbs and empty paddocks.
The one thing that stuck me as odd was the vast proliferation of diesel generator sets at site offices along the route.
The above photo is at West Footscray, where the site compound for the relocated railway station is only a short distance from the street. On a greenfields site away from any existing services, it is common to use a portable generator due to the cost involved to bring mains power to a temporary building that will be demolished in a few months, but in the case of Regional Rail Link many of their offices are right next door to existing infrastructure.
Over in Sunshine the site compound at the KG Chaplin Reserve is next door to an existing sporting pavilion, and is another example of using a diesel generator instead of mains power.
Things start getting weird on the other side of the tracks at Sunshine, where a mystery building in the railway station carpark has a cable running out of the wall into a trailer-mounted generator.
But the least logical deployment of a portable generator on the Regional Rail Link project is at the Footscray station site office, where the diesel engine is running 24 hours a day despite mains power being available a few metres away on Irving Street.
The most logical explanation for the site compounds ignoring mains power is simple urgency – why bother doing a survey of each site to see if power is available nearby, then call up the local electricity utility so they can hook up mains power sometime in the next few weeks, when you can call up a hire company and have a diesel generator on site and ready to go the next day.
Whatever the reason for their proliferation, using generators makes a mockery of the ‘sustainability’ motherhood statements that are so popular on construction projects these days, and the cost of fuelling those generators for months on end can’t be cheap either.