Level crossings replacing level crossings

It might seem strange, but as the Level Crossing Removal Project separates road and rail across Melbourne’s railway network, a new kind of level crossing is appearing in their place for a specific purpose – road rail access pads for maintenance vehicles.

Siemens 780M on the up at Corrigan Road, Noble Park

Road–rail vehicles

Many different kinds of road–rail vehicle exist, ready to assist with every kind of construction or maintenance task.

RFW all-wheel-drive overhead line maintenance truck, outside Altona station during an occupation

Trucks to transport materials to work sites.

Hi-rail work platforms working on the overhead wires on the Glen Waverley line at Burnley

Some able to drag a ‘train’ of wagons.

John Holland hi rail Unimog tows a 'train' of wagons loaded with overhead gantries at Sunshine

Excavators for digging.

Excavator digging out the old road surface at the Station Street level crossing at North Shore


Hi-rail excavator transports a pile cap to a freshly bored overhead stanchion hole

Tamping ballast.

Hi-rail excavator mounted tamping attachment

Unloading sleepers.

Unloading an 8-pack of concrete sleepers

And laying them.

Relaying the track at North Melbourne platform 1

Big tip trucks to deliver ballast.

Backhoe loading ballast into the hi-rail truck at North Shore

And small.

Hi-rail excavator loads a hi-rail dump truck with fresh ballast from a works train

Piling rigs to bore foundations.

Boring a hole for a new overhead stanchion at Albion

Cranes to put in the overhead stanchions.

Erecting additional overhead stanchions at the up end of Sunshine station

Cherrypickers to reach the overhead wires.

Hi-rail truck at work readying the overhead for trains south of Ginifer station

Along with boom lifts.

Hi-rail boom lift working on the overhead wiring on the up line at West Footscray

4WDs refitted for weed spraying.

Nissan Patrol hi-rail spraying weeds along the ARTC tracks at Sunshine

Testing level crossings.

Hi Rail on the up at Lardners Track, Warragul

Using ultrasonic sensors to look for rail flaws.

Speno ultrasonic rail tester truck FL17 and accompanying hi-rail 4WD on the goods line at Brooklyn

Trucks to chip trees.

Chopping down trees from the railway cutting near Malvern

And suck up gunk.

Suction excavator removing ballast at Darling station

Even tunnels aren’t enough to keep them away.

Hi-rail truck with cherry picker parked in the Burnley Loop tunnel at Parliament station

So how do they get onto the tracks?

Traditionally road rail vehicles would just head to the nearest level crossing, turn 90 degrees to line up with the tracks, and lower their rail wheels.

Putting down the rail wheels

But level crossing removals mean access points are few and far between.

Tracks still in place beneath the new elevated tracks at Moreland Road

Sometimes gravel will be dumped across the tracks to provide access to a worksite.

Ballast provides as access point to the work site at West Footscray

Allowing heavy equipment to access the rail corridor.

Dump truck removes another load of old ballast from the Middle Footscray work site

But the long term solution is “Road Rail Vehicle Access Pads” – level crossings to nowhere.

Hi-rail access pad on the Clifton Hill Group tracks at Richmond Junction

Essendon received one after the level crossing removal at Buckley Street.

Hi-rail access pad at the down end of Essendon

As did the Sunbury line between Ginifer and St Albans station following the upgrades there.

Hi-rail track machine access pad between Ginifer and St Albans station

And the brand new Mernda line extension doesn’t have any level crossings, so needed them too.

Hi-rail access pad outside the Mernda stabling yard

With the list of locations growing each time a level crossing is removed.

But there’s one problem

Ballast piled up between the rails can cause another problem – derailments.

Prohibition of Ballast Pad Hi-Rail Access Points

On the 9th January, 2019 an incident occurred where a tamper derailed as it passed through a ballast pad. Due to this incident and combined with the inability to inspect the Track Asset beneath the ballast (which is a requirement of the Track Technical Maintenance Plan), a number of measures require implementation.

Effective immediately:
– The construction of new ballast pads is prohibited across the MTM network;
– A plan for the removal of ALL existing ballast pads across the MTM network will be compiled by Infrastructure;
– All new hi-rail access points must have their construction type and methodology agreed by the Track & Structures Delivery Manager for all locations.

And asphalt between the rails makes inspecting the trackbed impossible.

Due to track conditions below the Curtin Street road-rail vehicle access pad at Ch.16.818km between Ginifer and St. Albans, a restriction on the speed of trains has been applied through the affected location.

In order to return train traffic to line speed, Infrastructure are required to remove the asphalt in situ at the RRV pad in order to perform rectification work.

In accordance with L1-CHE-INS-079, MTM Design Practice Note Road-Rail Vehicle Access Pads, section 6. vii. – Infrastructure will not return this RRV pad to an asphalt construction but instead utilise type-approved removable panels.

As the type-approved removable panels require procurement, there will be a period of time between when the geometry rectification works are completed and the access pad is returned to use for RRV access.

The geometry rectification works are planned for 25/08/2019 and the removable panels will be available for installation in late November.

So existing access pads have had to be upgraded.

New hi-rail access pad replaces gravel at North Melbourne Junction

Using the same rubber panels used at level crossings.

Hi-rail access pad covers three of six tracks at North Melbourne Junction

Network upgrades never end!

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3 Responses to “Level crossings replacing level crossings”

  1. Paul Westcott says:

    Great work Marcus, as usual.

  2. […] But thankfully the driver wasn’t stupid enough to drive onto the road-rail vehicle track access pad. […]

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