Road trains carting rubbish across Melbourne

Last week the Monash Freeway was closed for hours thanks to a crash between two massive trucks and four cars, that thankfully resulted in no serious injuries. But for me the interesting part was the truck stuck in the middle of the pile-up – a massive A-double truck operated by Cleanaway.

Cleanaway started operating their fleet of massive A-Double trucks from May 2017, following the opening of the South East Melbourne Transfer Station in Dandenong.

Outside Cleanaway's South East Melbourne Transfer Station in Dandenong South

The facility acts as a consolidation point for rubbish collected from residential and commercial customers in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, where it is compressed into semi-trailers.

Cleanaway rubbish truck on the West Gate Freeway in Brooklyn

Then trucked 60 kilometres across Melbourne.

Cleanaway rubbish truck on the West Gate Freeway in Brooklyn

Eventually ending up at Ravenhall, where it is dumped into the Melbourne Regional Landfill.

Cleanaway semi-trailer return after dumping another load at the Ravenhall tip

On opening the South East Melbourne transfer station accepted a total of 580,000 tonnes of waste per annum, and has EPA approval to increase to a peak of 650,000 tonnes by 2029.

Assuming 286 operational weekdays per year, this means 2028 tonnes of rubbish needs to be moved per day – increasing to 2273 tonnes per day once the transfer station reaches design capacity.

Transported by A-double vehicles with an average load of 43 tonnes per truck, this give as weekday average of 47 trucks per day, increasing to 53 trucks per day at the peak – or six trucks per hour!

Cleanaway A-double truck heads through the rain, returning to Dandenong South for another load of rubbish from the South East Melbourne Transfer Station

No wonder pedestrians avoid the road to Caroline Springs station like the plague.

One hardy passenger walks along the narrow footpaths to reach Caroline Springs station

A short history of these ‘monster’ trucks

Back in 2009 VicRoads commenced a two year trial of bigger ‘High Productivity Freight Vehicles’ serving the Port of Melbourne.

'High Productivity Freight Vehicle' at the Port of Melbourne

But with plans to introduce them elsewhere:

The use of next generation High Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFVs) on key dedicated routes has the potential to reduce the number of trucks by almost a third, and reduce emissions and the cost of travel by up to 22 per cent on these routes.

With Victoria’s freight task forecast to approximately double by 2030, next generation HPFVs will be an important way to mitigate increasing congestion, emissions and the cost of our goods.

The trial of next generation HPFVs is an important step in the implementation of a Performance-Based Standards approach to heavy vehicle regulation in Victoria and the broader introduction of new, safe and efficient freight vehicles.

In 2013 the number of roads available to these massive trucks was expanded, following the adoption of the ‘Moving More with Less’ plan, and the types of trucks expanded to include 30-metre long A-doubles in 2017 thanks to the Performance Based Standard (PBS) scheme for trailers.

Midfield Meats A-double refrigerated truck displaying 'Road Train' signage on Kororoit Creek Road in Laverton North

But is there another way?

Travelling from the Cleanaway transfer station at Dandenong South to the tip at Ravenhall is a 60 kilometre long trip across Melbourne, that takes around an hour via the Monash Freeway, CityLink, West Gate Bridge, Western Ring Road, and Deer Park Bypass.

But the Boral quarry next door to the Ravenhall tip already has a railway siding.

T373 and T369 stabled at the Boral siding at Deer Park

Which branches off the Ballarat line at Caroline Springs station.

VLocity VL48 leads a classmate past the new Caroline Springs station

With just a 1.3 kilometre drive between it and the tip.

The South East Melbourne Transfer Station is also near a rail siding.

Disused cement siding at Lyndhurst

Located on the Cranbourne line at Lyndhurst.

EDI Comeng on a down Cranbourne service passes the disused cement siding at Lyndhurst

It may be a 7 kilometre long drive across Dandenong South.

But the siding is the site of a future inland port:

Salta’s Lyndhurst terminal is located near Dandenong
• 50,000 m/3 warehouse constructed for Bunnings
• Terminal yet to be constructed
• PRS shuttle trains would use:
• Broad gauge Pakenham & Cranbourne suburban rail lines
• Broad gauge V/Line & ARTC lines between Southern Cross and the Port

So why wasn’t the South East Melbourne Transfer Station built at the Lyndhurst intermodal terminal, with rubbish loaded into containers then transferred by train across Melbourne to Ravenhall, then trucked the last leg of the journey to the tip face?

Sydney proves it works

In 2004 Sydney ran out of space to bury their rubbish, so the Woodlawn open-cut mine near Goulburn was converted into a rubbish tip. Rubbish is loaded at the Clyde transfer station in western Sydney, but instead of a fleet of trucks, it is loaded onto a train.

Each week six 55-carriage trains make the 250-kilometre journey, carrying 1200 tonnes of rubbish each time.

And back to Melbourne

Think moving bulk freight across Melbourne by rail won’t work?

Well, every weekday 1500 tonnes worth of worth of gravel roll through Flinders Street, loaded at a quarry in Kilmore East and bound for Westall.

Empty wagons on the Westall to Kilmore East run at Southern Cross

As does 2000 tonnes of containers headed from Gippsland to the Port of Melbourne.

Up Maryvale train rolls through Flinders Street Station

And 3000 tonnes of coil steel, headed for Hastings.

Coil steel wagons leading butterbox containers on the down Long Island steel train

All three trains have been running since the 1970s – which proves that if there is a will to get freight onto rail, there is a way.


Melbourne Regional Landfill – Ravenhall.

Bigger trucks.

Rubbish trains in Sydney.

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16 Responses to “Road trains carting rubbish across Melbourne”

  1. Paul says:

    Unfortunately, there is little incentive to replace trucks with trains in Victoria. In fact, it is the opposite.
    The Mildura rail line stuff up would not happen for roads. Now we have trains taking a huge amount of time to get to and from Mildura, with increased crew costs for the rail companies.
    It is obvious that there is no future for freight trains (or V/Line passenger trains) on the tracks to the east of Melbourne. The track layout and signalling that is being introduced for the new suburban trains is in no way designed to encourage anything but suburban trains. The fact that skyrail was built with only two tracks instead of four bears testimony to freight rail not being welcome.

    NSW leads the way with rubbish trains operating quite successfully and rigorous enforcement of commercial road vehicles at weighbridges. Victoria turns a blind eye to road vehicle enforcement, just taking cheap revenue from speed cameras. Has anyone seen a Vicroads weighbridge in operation in the last five years?

  2. Michael Angelico says:

    The rail industry hasn’t exactly bent over backwards to help companies like Cleanaway to move to rail.

    The first hurdle they face is the regulatory framework, which is so complicated that no company in another industry (which sees transport as a means to an end) would ever be able to justify the investment in dollars, people and boardroom attention to get to the point where they could run their own trains. Even a dedicated transport company like SCT has to really believe in it (and have its own land speculation business) to be able to get off the ground.

    And if they try to contract the job out to an existing operator, they have a choice of Pacific National, who don’t care about anything that isn’t coal or interstate container traffic, or one of the small operators who don’t have the cash to buy peak time paths so they won’t be able to move the freight at the time Cleanaway want it moved.

    The second hurdle is the cost. Building a hardstand for loading freight into trucks is a known thing and plenty of building contractors can do it. But building a siding for loading trains means getting permission from Victrack, complying with a bunch of standards that aren’t exactly in every builder’s top drawer, putting in signalling and interfacing with ARTC’s control centre in Adelaide, and spending millions of hours dealing with a massive bureaucracy which is extremely risk averse and sees new operators as a big risk.

    Then there’s the cost of rollingstock. An operator can choose to hire it or buy it, but either way they have to pay for a hundred million dollar loco instead of a quarter million dollar truck, and there’s a similar difference with wagons and trailers. Even the premium they’d have to pay for A-doubles being a fairly new and experimental concept won’t make the cost comparable to rail vehicles.

    The third hurdle is the horrible condition of our track. It cuts down transit speed which means lower productivity. Plus Metro hate having their trains delayed by a freight that’s doing 5km/h across the points from the main line into Lyndhurst siding. The extra wear and tear on the rollingstock doesn’t help the economics of the project either.

    The only way we’ll ever see freight moving from road to rail is with some massive investment, bureaucratic reform, and quite a number of brave pioneers who are willing to sacrifice their short term profitability and make things happen.

  3. Sir Thomas Bent says:

    Yeah, funny that Google then cut/paste “research” missed that
    a) the Lyndhurst siding’s closer than you think but
    b) Even with 2 sidings going in, goods trains won’t have the paths in the near future ex DNG even with moving block.

    That’s based on actual events, but hey…

    • Marcus Wong says:

      The current sidings at Lyndhurst are:
      – secured by Annett key, which means you’re blocking the world to get a train in,
      – only ~350 metres long, which is nowhere near enough for the trains you would need to run, and
      – right up against the main line and surrounded by trees, so nowhere to build a hardstand.

      The South East Melbourne Transfer Station was built from scratch in 2017 – if you built it to be rail served it would be beside a new rail siding, so reachstackers could move containers direct from rubbish compactor to the train.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Peak and sholder peak won’t work, but the Westall and Maryvale freights currently fit between the hourly V/Line services and a 10 minute suburban service – plus there is always evenings, assuming no trackwork.

  4. mich says:

    They keep making the claim that “the road freight task will double by 2030” all over the place.

    Maybe the population will rise 15%, so that’s part of it, right there. Where’s the rest coming from ? More food ? More cars ? More junk for our houses ?

    It might be more exports. But the “double by 2030” is often claimed for thinks like road freight from Melbourne to Brisbane. How many exports get sent that way ?

    • Marcus Wong says:

      A move towards ‘just in time’ logistics where more frequent but smaller deliveries are made to anywhere and everywhere, plus the growth in online shopping orders?

  5. Philip says:

    Freight keeps increasing because people consume more than they used to. And an increase in population will cause a disproportionate increase in freight initially, as their houses are built. After that, there should be less freight for them to actually live, but the construction takes a lot of movement of stuff.

    And road freight is the easiest way to move things, partly due to the reasons very well explained above by Michael Angelico.

    And PBS trucks are much safer than the alternative conventional trucks, so you will see many more of these 30 m A-doubles on roads that can accommodate them. They are especially suited to specific tasks where their payload can be anticipated.

  6. […] And the only footpath out of there filled with a fleet of rubbish trucks. […]

  7. […] skirt the massive rubbish tip located at Boral’s quarry in […]

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