Regional Rail Link and diesel generators

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.

Site huts and diesel genset at the West Footscray compound

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.

Works compound at KG Chaplin Reserve: running off a diesel genset 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.

Genset supplying power to a mystery building in the eastern side carpark

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.

Diesel genset running 24 hours a day at the Footscray site office, despite mains power being a few metres away

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.

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9 Responses to “Regional Rail Link and diesel generators”

  1. Ben Courtice says:

    Maybe a rort in the tendering process? Who are the generators hired from? Diesel power for electricity is very expensive!

    • Marcus says:

      After posting this entry, I was told of another reason a generator might be preferred – the $ sum charged by the power company for a connection to run a large site compound is up around the five digit mark: that buys a lot of diesel.

  2. Matt says:

    Constant power shutdowns & isolations for the actual works?
    Constant site compound change due I fluctuating work force sizes?
    Power authority refused connections?

    • Marcus says:

      All good theories there – in the case of these compounds power shutdowns shouldn’t be an issue, but changes to the compound could happen. The RRL project consists of so many different contracts, there are stations being rebuilt on the suburban tracks before the actual RRL tracks can be laid, and so on.

  3. Andrew S says:

    Not unusual – I worked in a site office on the Northern Expressway in Adelaide and it ran of a diesel generator for the first month or so before mains power was connected. The office was on the corner of Curtis and Frisby roads near the new freeway interchange and still has couple of buildings seen on Google Street View.

    The issues are urgency and awaiting a connection, and sometimes no low voltage supply available, as was the case in Adelaide. Looking on Street view on Curtis Road you can see a 66kV line, 22kV line but no 240V line so a transformer was required to be installed.

    Interestingly the last photo of Irving Street DOES show a 240V line nearby (you can tell by the 4 wires on small insulators – 3 phases plus earth). The 22kV are the three lines above it on larger insulators which are not present along Irving Street.

    • Marcus says:

      I can imagine getting a transformer installed on the 22kV line would cost a couple of $k to start with, let alone the bigger 66kV lines. With a large air conditioned site compound, the little dinky transformers you see for rural households wouldn’t cut it.

      As for the Footscray compound on Irving Street, it seems in the latest Nearmap imagery that the generator has been removed – presumably to be replaced by the 240V mains outside.

  4. Marian says:

    Odd, and most unpleasant for residents near the works that have to listen to the noise from these things during the frequent night works on the lines. The RRL Project might be saving a few dollars but we are losing sleep.

  5. Michael says:

    The notion of electrification of the country lines is well beyond this or any other state government. Too afraid of spending money, as usual.

  6. enno says:

    The prime contractor probably wrote a clause into their contract with the Government, which allows them to charge the cost of hiring generators onto the Government, with a 300% markup.

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