Photos from ten years ago – July 2006

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – July 2006 was a month were I didn’t photograph much of historical note.

I must have been on my mid-semester break from uni, as I drove out to the Blue Circle Southern cement works at Waurn Ponds to photograph a cement train.

A78 shunting empty hoppers into the sidings

I also spent a day photographing trains on the Geelong line at North Shore, where I saw this short freight service bound for the Shell oil refinery at Corio.

Y171 heads through North Shore bound for the refinery at Corio

Both sources of freight have since moved to road transport – the last fuel train ran in Victoria in early 2008, while the final cement train ran in December 2015.

However one thing that looks pretty much the same is Southern Cross Station.

Football crowds at Southern Cross

Suburban trains haven’t changed much, other than the branding changing from Connex to Metro Trains.

Football crowds at Southern Cross

But the big difference is escalator reliability, if the recent spate of breakdowns is anything to go by.

Footnote

Here you can find the rest of my ‘photos from ten years ago‘ series.

Victoria’s sham ‘new station name’ contests

There seems to be an ongoing theme every time a new railway station is built in Victoria – fake community engagement with a station naming contest.

VLocity VL32 and classmate pass the future Caroline Springs station on an up Ballarat service

The tradition of sham naming contests started back in 2004 with the announcement of the new railway station at Grovedale, in the southern suburbs of Geelong.

The Minister for Transport, Mr Peter Batchelor today announced Marshall would be the name of the new train station to be located in the southern suburbs of Geelong.

Mr Batchelor said it was an appropriate name for the station, which was located on Marshalltown Road, in the locality of Marshall.

“There were some very compelling entries submitted into the naming competition for this station. We received the most nominations for the name Marshall and it has received positive backing from the local community,” Mr Batchelor said.

“Marshalltown Road was previously the site for a station named Marshall, so this name is really in keeping with tradition.”

Marshall wasn’t exactly an imaginative name, but it did differ from the original ‘Grovedale’ working title for the station – so the naming contest actually achieved something.

The pretence of community engagement rose again in 2007, when a new railway station was announced for Wendouree, on the outskirts of Ballarat.

Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky today reminded Ballarat residents that entries for the new Ballarat Station naming competition closed soon.

“Entries for the competition close on April 16, so there is still time to send in your ideas,” Ms Kosky said.

Ms Kosky said the entries would be judged on their relevance to the local area as well as ensuring the name was easily recognisable for both local residents and visitors. The winner will be asked to attend the official opening of the new station in 2008 and share in the festivities of the day.

The obvious name of ‘Wendouree’ was the winner – being both the name of the suburb, the name of the large lake located nearby, and the name of a railway station that occupied the site decades ago.

We now skip forward to 2010, when the “community engagement” sham reached new heights with the launch of two naming contests – one at Caroline Springs.

Public Transport Minister Martin Pakula was today joined by the Member for Kororoit Marlene Kairouz to turn the first sod at the site of the new station which is part of a $220 million package for new stations in Melbourne’s growth areas.

“The Brumby Labor Government is taking action to ensure people in Melbourne’s west have good access to public transport services,” Mr Pakula said. … “The station, due to open in 2012, will serve current and future public transport needs and help people access jobs, study and also stay connected with family and friends.”

Over 200 suggestions were received following a competition to name the new station. The name of the station will be announced later this year.

And a second for Cardinia Road station:

Residents in Melbourne’s growing south-east will have access to improved rail services with the start of construction of a new station at Cardinia Road.

Public Transport Minister Martin Pakula was today joined by the Member for Gembrook Tammy Lobato to turn the first sod at the site of the new station which is part of a $220 million package for new stations in Melbourne’s growth areas.

Over 200 suggestions were received following a competition to name the new station. The name of the station will be announced later this year.

New stations are also being built at Williams Landing, Caroline Springs and Lynbrook.

The level of consideration given to the above naming contests is apparent when you take a look at the media releases for both projects – the same “200 suggestions” figure appears in both!

In any case the suggestions went nowhere – no follow up media release was ever issues to announce a winner, and both Caroline Spring and Cardinia Road stations retained their original working titles for the entire life of the project.

Finally, we arrive at 2015 where Public Transport Victoria appear to have learned the lesson of their predecessors and dropped the entire idea of running a naming contest – with the new Southland station on the Frankston line, PTV just calls out “feedback from the community” as the driver behind the name.

We have considered the feedback received from the community, public transport users and stakeholders about the name of the new station and can confirm that it will be called ‘Southland Station’ as it makes the location of the station easily identifiable for visitors and emergency services.

I wonder what names the new Melbourne Metro stations will be given?

Photos from ten years ago – June 2006

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – June 2006.

On the La Trobe Street bridge I spotted a green liveried W class tram on a route 30 service.

W7.1019 on La Trobe Street

Today the skyline has been filled out with apartment blocks, and the W class trams are gone – withdrawn from route 30 in December 2014.

Meanwhile on the edge of Docklands I swung past the front gate of the Melbourne Steel Terminal – here large gantry cranes were used for transhipping loads between broad and standard gauge freight trains, on their journey between Hastings and the rest of Australia.

BL34, BL32, BL30 and BL29 shunting wagons beneath the Mi-Jack crane used for transhipping loads

The area is also known as ‘E Gate’ and is proposed for high density development – the freight terminal itself closed in mid 2015.

I also went past the South Dynon locomotive depot, where I found a collection of rusted out Y class diesel locomotives in storage.

Rotten road Y classes at South Dynon

There they sat for many years, until they finally got the chop in 2015.

Still on the hunt for freight trains, I made my way out to the ‘Rising Sun’ footbridge at Middle Footscray station.

8173 and 8160 on a grain train chase a down Sydenham service at West Footscray

Said view is no longer possible, with the massive 1 McNab Avenue tower in Footscray dominating the skyline, and the footbridge itself was demolished in 2013 to make way for the additional Regional Rail Link tracks.

I also stopped by at East Richmond station, where a number of Comeng trains passed me by.

Alstom Comeng on the up at East Richmond

2006 also marked the end of widespread usage of ‘half sized’ trains on off-peak suburban services, such as this three car long Werribee line service.

3-car Siemens on the up at Newport South

In the past decade order upon order of new X’Trapolis trains have been delivered and deployed onto the Burnley and Clifton Hill groups of lines, resulting in the Comeng fleet being sent elsewhere in Melbourne, and six car long trains being the norm.

Another outing during June 2006 was a trip with the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre from Seymour to Geelong and return.

T378 at Southern Cross, with N class in the background

The lead locomotive was T378 – then last active diesel still wearing the V/Line orange and grey livery from the 1980s.

At Southern Cross I also saw something much shinier – VLocity unit VL31 soon after entering service.

VL31 soon after entering service

Footnote

Here you can find the rest of my ‘photos from ten years ago‘ series.

Western Bulldogs ride the St Albans line

Back in April 2016 the Western Bulldogs pulled out a rather clever banner for their game against North Melbourne – the rail theme is what caught my eye.

Western Bulldogs banner - "The only place North Melbourne should be ahead of Footscray is on the St Albans line"

The banner read:

The only place North Melbourne should be ahead of Footscray is on the St Albans line

In case you haven’t memorised Melbourne’s railway map, North Melbourne is located two stops before Footscray when headed out of the CBD.

Nitpickers corner

The “St Albans line” came into being when the Bendigo line was electrified as far as St Albans in 1921, but the name was changed to “Sydenham line” in 2002 when electrification was extended north to Watergardens station, and then to “Sunbury line” in 2012 when suburban services were extended further north to Sunbury.

'St Albans' destination still displayed on a non-PSR service to Watergardens

A handful of trains continued to terminate at St Albans station until March 2015, when the turnback platform was removed from service as part of the Main Road grade separation project.

Footnote

Local comedian Danny McGinlay is behind the banners – here is a selection of rejected slogans.

Freight trains and Regional Rail Link

Regional Rail Link connects Southern Cross Station to the outskirts of Werribee, allowing V/Line services to Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong to avoid the congested suburban railway tracks. However the new section of track via Wyndham Vale and Tarneit has also found a second use – a diversionary route for freight trains.

BL32 and XR554 lead the Geelong bound 'hospital train' wagon transfer through Truganina

Planning the new railway

During construction of the new railway, the Regional Rail Link Authority was selling a “no freight trains” message to interested parties, such as former PTUA president Daniel Bowen:

Freight will not be permitted on the new line between Manor and Deer Park – sounds like the relevant authorisations under noise standards only cover passenger trains.

The Regional Rail Link Authority “Noise Impact Management Report” dated 9 December 2010 intentionally ignored rail freight, as freight trains were not intended to use the new railway (bold is my emphasis):

This Noise Impact Management Report is for Section 2 of the RRL, from the Deer Park
Bypass to West Werribee Junction. This section of the RRL is predominantly a greenfield
corridor, with no existing railway infrastructure, except near the tie-ins to existing track
infrastructure at each end.

Rolling stock that will use the RRL alignment will include:

  • VLocity and Sprinter diesel multiple units (DMUs)
  • N class locomotives
  • P class locomotives

It is expected that newer VLocity type rolling stock will eventually replace the older N and
P class locomotives and carriages that are currently being used. Freight is not proposed for the RRL and has not been considered as part of this study.

The noise impacts of the project was also examined during the planning and approval process, with an advisory committee was established by the Victorian Minister for Planning. Their final report dated 23 January 2012 raised a number of concerns:

The Draft Noise Management Plan does not provide an appropriate response to operational noise impacts; planned future stabling yards have not been accounted for. The noise consequences of possible freight traffic on RRL2 received only scant attention.

Four submissions to the committee referenced rail freight noise, with the submission from the Dennis Family and Davis Family stating:

The community investment in this rail infrastructure carries the reasonable expectation that it would be used efficiently in order to maximise its utility. It will not always be just a regional service.

Activities and operations that have the capacity to operate on the RRL2 without further approval (for example, metro and freight trains, and increase in frequency) will increase the noise levels experienced and should be addressed

A submission from the Wyndham City Council also held concerns:

The operation of freight trains along the RRL corridor cannot be prevented and rail freight noise mitigation measures need to be considered in the Noise Management Plan, given that Section 251B of the Victorian Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983 does not apply to any noise emanating from freight rolling stock.

However the Regional Rail Link Authority still dodged the subject of rail freight noise:

The RRLA expressed the view that it is important to distinguish between what is currently proposed and the reservation of capacity by the RRL2 designers for possible future rail infrastructure and submitted that:

  • The EES referral explains that RRL2 ‘makes provision’ for the future construction of two freight tracks between Deer Park and Truganina but to ‘make provision’ only means to ensure capacity within the rail corridor
  • RRL2 does not include freight train infrastructure nor was such infrastructure included in the EES referral

But the advisory committee called them out, quoting the RRLA’s own Environment Effects Statement referral document:

It is noted that the above description indicates that:

  • The works required to extend the metropolitan train service may be completed after the initial construction but there is no suggestion that such an extension will not occur
  • The works required will be within the project area and will include construction and use of rail tracks, a station, stabling facilities and depot facilities
  • The level of detail provided is equal to, if not greater than, that provided on the proposed regional passenger train infrastructure and services
  • The construction of additional tracks for freight at the northern end of the
    project area is likely.

In light of the above, we are convinced that a reasonable reading of the project description would lead to a conclusion that the extension of the metropolitan train service and the additional tracks for freight trains are part of what is being proposed.

Again, these are facilities that might be constructed and used without the need for further planning permission. While the RRLA has suggested that this could only occur if a revised or new noise management plan was prepared and approved, as we have said, we do not believe that the provisions of the Incorporated Document guarantees this. We are therefore of the view that the extension of the metropolitan train service and the additional track for freight trains should also be considered to be part of the project.

Following the advisory committee report recommendations, the Minister for Planning issued a set of directions to the Regional Rail Link Authority to revise their noise management plan, but the requirements didn’t touch on rail freight at all:

The Noise Management Plan was required to:

  • Identify the locations where future predicted noise levels at residential dwellings exceed an average of 55 decibels (LAeq,9h) at night or 80 decibels (LAmax) from the loudest train movement and
  • Identify the noise treatments required to mitigate noise.

As a result approval came easy – the “Regional Rail Link Update to Noise Impact Management Report” was published in February 2013 and then approved by the minister in June 2013.

V/Line commenced operating test trains via Tarneit and Wyndham Vale in October 2014, with Geelong line passenger services switching to the new route in June 2015.

VLocity VL09 headed along the RRL tracks at Deer Park Junction

And the freight trains roll

On 30 March 2016 saw the first freight train use the Regional Rail Link tracks, when the Pacific National operated a Warrnambool to Melbourne service passed through Wyndham Vale and Tarneit just before midnight on the Wednesday, followed by the return movement a few hours later in the early hours of Thursday morning.

These services are normally operated by a single ~3000 horsepower diesel locomotive, leading around twenty container wagons.

The pass has gone, and X49 is powering out of Camperdown

Pacific National ramped up their usage of Regional Rail Link a month later, when in the early hours of 20 April 2016 they commenced driver training operations along the route, sending a light engine consist on three return trips between Sunshine and Little River, with a number of freight train drivers onboard to learn the new line.

X44 leads X41 through Wyndham Vale station on a Pacific National driver training run from Sunshine to Little River

In the months since, a number of other freight trains have used the Regional Rail Link tracks, including empty wagon transfers between the Port of Melbourne and North Geelong Yard in daylight.

VLocity VL00 and classmate heads for Melbourne outside Tarneit

Given the Regional Rail Link Authority instance that freight trains would not use their new line, on 30 April I emailed Public Transport Victoria a list of questions:

  • are freight trains currently authorised to use the Regional Rail Link tracks via Tarneit and Wyndham Vale?
  • between that report dated 2010, and completion of the project by the Regional Rail Link Authority in 2015, was a decision made to permit freight trains to use the new railway line via Tarneit and Wyndham Vale?
  • if the decision was not made before the line opened, has such a decision been made since, and by who?
  • was the freight train I saw a one off event, or will it be a regular occurrence?
  • if freight trains are going to use the Regional Rail Link tracks via Tarneit and Wyndham Vale on a regular basis, how many freight trains will there be, and at what time of day?
  • if freight trains will be using the track on a regular basis, will any enhancements be made to the existing noise mitigation infrastructure?

A week and a bit later, I got my response:

I forwarded on your feedback to our Network Product Development team and ave been informed that:

The freight service was using the RRL for locomotive transfer purposes, although the move was also designed to keep the knowledge of this route by freight drivers up-to-date.

There is no intention to regularly run freight trains via the RRL, although it may be necessary on occasions to direct them via the RRL when the Werribee line is out of action due to trackwork or incidents.

It should be noted that this was not the first time that this type of irregular locomotive move has taken place, and that there may be occasion in the future when it will occur again.

So in the end it appears that common sense has prevailed, with freight trains being able to use the new railway line if there is a need to do so – and the Regional Rail Link Authority has been exposed as telling porkies.