Melbourne’s rail network emergency response vehicles

If something ever goes wrong in Melbourne’s City Loop tunnels, emergency responders need a way to get to the scene of the incident.

Siemens train in the City Loop, waiting for the platform at Flagstaff station to clear

The first problem

Walking along the tracks will take forever – each section of concrete slab track has a hole in the middle!

Signals at the east end of Flagstaff station on the Burnley Loop

So emergency trolleys were provided at each entrance to the loop, ready to be clipped together and then pushed down the tracks.

MURL emergency trolley at the Caulfield Loop portal at Southern Cross

But it’s a long way to push a trolley between stations.

Glow in the dark emergency exit signage in the Northern Loop between Parliament station and the portal

And a better solution

So in 2009 the first motorised Rail Network Emergency Response Vehicles were delivered.

Ambulance Victoria photo

The Department of Transport wrote about the new vehicles in their 2009-10 Annual Report (dead link).

Victoria now has 12 Rail Network Emergency Response Vehicles (RNERVs) located at stations along Melbourne’s underground rail loop and other strategic locations. The vehicles are used in emergencies to ferry emergency personnel and aid to the scene of an incident. Nine of the vehicles were purchased in 2009-10.

To test the vehicle’s capability, a simulated emergency exercise – Exercise Orpheus – was held in April 2010. In the exercise, a major emergency was constructed based on a train stranded between Flagstaff and Melbourne Central Stations. To test their performance and suitability, the response vehicles were sent from both stations, transporting emergency services personnel from Victoria Police, Melbourne Fire Brigade and Ambulance Victoria.

Ambulance Victoria also wrote about their first test run.

Welcome to a training exercise involving Melbourne’s emergency authorities that aims to test their preparedness and response to an attack on major infrastructure.

The recent exercise also tested a mobile platform developed by the Department of Transport that can quickly be assembled, then take emergency workers into the Loop and be used to carry patients to safety. The platform, known as the Rail Network Emergency Response Vehicle, is assembled and operated by members of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

‘The Loop presents unique challenges because it is not a road and there are only limited access points, which makes it difficult for paramedics to access,’ said Jon Byrne, from Ambulance Victoria’s
Emergency Management Unit.

‘This new platform had been tested in the rail yards, but this was its first use in a training exercise. We wanted to ensure it could take us there and back, plus bring out patients and we were pleased with the results.’

Each vehicle is stored in a cabinet.

'Rail Network Emergency Response Vehicle' (RNERV) stored in a cupboard at Parliament station

Then moved in pieces to the track.

Ambulance Victoria photo

Bolted together.

Ambulance Victoria photo

And driven along the tracks to the incident site.

Ambulance Victoria photo

Battery powered, the British developed Bance motorised hand trolley weighs 121.75 kg, with the heaviest section weighing 53.5 kg, and capable of carrying 1000 kg of loading at 8 km/h up to 25 km.

R. Bance and Co. photo

Now skyrail

Fast forward to today, and Melbourne now has elevated rail tracks – another difficult to access location.

Life extension EDI Comeng 335M approaches Hughesdale station on a down Pakenham service

But the solution is the same – a portable battery powered trolley.

Rail Express photo

But advanced in technology have seen the weight of the trolley drop, while performance has improved.

In December 2018 Rail Express wrote about this Australian-developed rapid deployment trolley.

Rail equipment manufacturer and distributor Melvelle Equipment has developed a cutting-edge rapid deployment rail trolley, manufactured in Australia and already in use on the busy Melbourne Metro network.

The self-propelled trolley can travel up to 100 kilometres with a full payload of 700 kilograms. At its maximum speed, it can travel up to 80 kilometres.

Despite this impressive range, the machine is just 160 kilograms including batteries, and can be assembled by two people in just three minutes, with no tools required. Four people can assemble the machine in just two minutes.

The machine can be removed from the track in three minutes by two people, or as little as 90 seconds by four people. Its heaviest component weighs just 40 kilograms.

The first units of the trolley were delivered to Metro Trains Melbourne in March 2018.

“The Level Crossing Removal Authority approached us regarding the need to have emergency response vehicles at every train station for the overhead [skyrail] system, because you can’t drive a truck up there,” Melvelle explains.

“The machine is stored at the stations, and if there’s an emergency the responders can wheel it out of the storage area, set it up on track, and travel down the track to the emergency, bringing all their service gear – for example a stretcher – and their people.”

Hand throttle via joystick including horn, traction control, regenerative braking, dead-man pedal, emergency brakes, and full interlocking of all parts of the assembly, meaning if a wheel or a handrail is not correctly installed, the trolley will not move and a light panel will display the location of the error. There are two sets of controls on the trolley, but only one joystick, which must be moved by the operator in order to change direction, up or down the railway.

Melvelle says his company plans to export the product, with interest already registered as far away as UAE and England for the system.

“The trolley is designed manufactured in our factory in Newcastle and I it is the lightest and safest trolley on the market,” he says.

Who said Australian innovation and manufacturing was dead?

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2 Responses to “Melbourne’s rail network emergency response vehicles”

  1. Andrew says:

    I had no idea about these. I hope they see little use but it is comforting to know they are there and ready.

  2. Iain says:

    Good to know!

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