1 May 2020
PERTH The rail network is to be upgraded and expanded. Bayswater station 7km north east of the city centre on the Midland Line will become the junction for the Airport branch which is now being built. Also it will be the junction for the 21km long Ellenbrook branch. Other expansions of the network include the Yanchop extension, and the Thornlie – Cockburn branch. Alstom Transportation Australia is the preferred bidder to supply 252 additional emu coaches that will be needed to operate the growing number of trains.
MELBOURNE Rail access to the docks is being improved so that containers will be able to move from the Docks by rail as well as by lorry. Swanson Dock East will be the first part of the Docks to have improved access.
NEW SOUTH WALES The first two trains of the new inter-city fleet have completed trials and can now operate under their own power on any of the main routes from Sydney – Central Coast, Newcastle, Blue Mountains, Southern Main Line, and South Coast. On the Blue Mountains route passengers between Springwood and Lithgow will see the first major improvements since the 1980. The new trains are arriving from South Korea, one ten-car train at a time every month.
21 April 2020
SYDNEY A 3.2km branch to Juniors Kingsford was opened on 3 April 2020 completing existing plans for the light railway system. Work on the construction of the Metro West line will begin during 2020 at an estimated cost of $A 6.4bn.
1 April 2020
VIRUS CUTS In measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus various service reductions have been enacted by several of the States. Long haul passenger services have been reduced across Queensland but have not been eliminated entirely since many rural communities rely on the train as their only form of transport. The following named trains have been suspended – “Spirit of the Outback”, “Westlander” and “Inlander”. In New South Wales trains between Sydney and Brisbane are not allowed to cross the border into Queensland and so terminate at Casino. Service along the North Coast Line has been halved.
13 March 2020
SYDNEY A maintenance train was derailed between Wynyard and Circular Quay stations in the downtown area on the morning of 2 March 2020. The result was major delays to almost every local line across the city and literally hundreds of trains were cancelled before a simplified revised service could be introduced avoiding the Circular Quay route. The evening peak on 9 March 2020 had long delays on most routes due to a signalling equipment failure and then repairs being performed at Town Hall in Sydney city centre
1 March 2020
ACCIDENT The day train between Sydney and Melbourne formed by an XPT set was derailed at Wallan, Victoria, 45km north of Melbourne on 20 February 2020. The train was running two hours late due to signalling problems at an earlier stage of its journey. Two crew members in the cab were killed and ten of the 160 passengers required hospital treatment. The XPT stock is based on the UK HST trains and is to be replaced by new trains from CAF in 2023.
SYDNEY DELAYS A series of incidents ranging from a faulty fire alarm going off, a passenger fainting in the crowded concourse, and minor faults on trains (doors sticking etc) resulted in virtually total chaos across all of the urban network during the morning peak on 25 February 2020.
AUCKLAND The heritage tramway was closed in November 2018 but the city council has advertised for a new operator from 2020.
2 February 2020
NAPIER The mothballed line between Napier and Wairea has been reopened for timber traffic. At present about 50 large lorry/railway wagon loads are being produced but this is likely to increase significantly over the next few years.
WELLINGTON The suburban line between Trentham and Upper Hutt is to be double tracked in order to cope with growing traffic.
SYDNEY AREA The Sydney light rail service was halted for around 90 minutes after a car ran through a red traffic light and hit an almost brand new tram. A consortium including Laing O’Rourke and Hochtief has won the contract to build the new light rail system around Parramatta in the western suburbs.
MAJOR BUSH FIRES The dreadful bush fires sweeping across parts of NSW and Victoria disrupted rail services in both States. The Sydney – Melbourne main line was closed several times for short periods while the main line from Sydney to the west was closed for three weeks until 20 January 2020. The Lithgow – Mount Victoria branch sustained such severe damage that it was expected that it would not reopen until well into February 2020. The Zig-Zag Heritage Railway was closed at times but there was no damage to the preserved carriages. However an office building was engulfed and many historical records stored there were destroyed.
20 December 2019
SYDNEY The massive bush fire in northern New South Wales now forms a wall of fire only a few miles from the outskirts of the city. The fire is proving to be virtually impossible to put out since there has been no rain for weeks, the ground is bone dry, and the air temperature is as high as 40′ on the hottest days.
SYDNEY LIGHT RAIL The first phase of the light rail line between the CBD and the south east suburbs was inaugurated on 14 December 2019 with a weekend of free travel.
SYDNEY METRO Contracts have been issued for the construction of the second phase of the new Driverless Metro that will take over part of an existing heavy rail route and create a line running deeply into the south west suburbs. When completed the Metro will operate between Rouse Hill in the north to Bankstown in the south – a distance of 66km. There will be 31 stations. Rouse Hill Depot will be enlarged and a completely new depot will be built at Sydenham.
MELBOURNE A prolonged series of rolling one-day strikes affecting workers on the tramways, local suburban heavy rail services, and longer outer suburban railway routes has disrupted travel around the Victoria capital. The staff seek a 6% pay rise but have been offered only 2%.
PERTH Alstom has been awarded contracts to supply, maintain new rolling stock, and to operate services radiating from the Western Australia capital. They will supply forty one 6-car emus to operate suburban services, and two 3-car dmus for the twice daily service south to Bunbury.
9 December 2019
SYDNEY METRO The first section of the driverless Metro North West was opened on 26 May 2019 The first section of the 36km route from Chatswood to Epping follows a former heavy rail branch and the new route then travels through a twin bore tunnel before emerging on an elevated alignment before terminating at Tallawong. Eight new stations have been built and five old ones have been upgraded to the new standard. All have lifts, platform screen doors, and video help points. Alstom supplied twenty two 6-car driverless Metropolis for the initial section and will be adding a further twenty three train sets for the second section of the Metro. They are being built at the Sri City factory in India. Urbalis 400 CBTC signalling is being used and Alstom will provide maintenance for 15 years. Contracts for the Second phase of the Metro have now been issued and the City and Southwest extension will take the route from Chatswood through the city centre and on to Bankstown. Much of the route will be on a new alignment with seven new stations. 13 km will be converted from an old heavy rail line on which are eleven stations. Rouse Hill Depot will be expanded and a second Depot will be provided at Sydenham. This second phase may open in 2024. In the long-term there will be a second line to Parramatta and the new Western Sydney Airport.
23 November 2019
BUSH FIRES Fierce bush fires spread across the northern half of New South Wales and southern Queensland in early to mid November 2019 – a time often referred to as “The Bush Fire Season”. The flames came to 9 miles of the outskirts of Sydney on 12 November 2019. Many homes in surrounding towns and villages have been destroyed but there were few deaths or serious injuries among the inhabitants.
8 October 2019
PERTH Alstom is to supply 252 emu coaches to operate on the suburban network around Perth, Western Australia.
MELBOURNE The 39.5km inner section of the Bendigo main line – to Sunbury – is to be upgraded in a $215m project that will greatly increase commuter services to and from the new tunnel under the city centre.
WELLINGTON NZ On instructions from the Police all services to and from Wellington Station were cancelled from late afternoon on 2 October 2019. The Police had been notified that a bomb had been planted at the station but a search revealed nothing.
NEW COMMUTER SERVICE Commuter trains will commence operations between Auckland and Hamilton in mid 2020 following a $92.4m grant by the NZ Transport Agency. The service would run to Hamilton Station which is on the edge of the town but with space for car parking. The service would not run on to the city centre station which is below ground and had become much used by young people who had caused significant damage to the infrastructure.
NORTH LINE Provincial Funds have been granted to repair the line from North Auckland to the city of Whangarei and save it from almost immediate closure. When last seen by this writer in 1999 the railway was in poor condition with worn rail and broken sleepers. There is a good express bus service between the cities but the repair of the railway is so that a significant amount of freight can be taken off the roads which would otherwise require costly rebuilding.
AUCKLAND LIGHT RAIL A 23km long light rail line is planned between Auckland city centre through Mount Roskill, Onehunga, and Mangere before terminating at the Airport. Two engineering organisations that could plan, build, and operate the line have been chosen by the Government, and a decision s to which will be chosen is expected by early 2020.
26 September 2019
SYDNEY Plans have been announced for four new Metro lines which will serve 39 new stations. Journey times to the Central Business District will be slashed with residents in the north eastern and far western suburbs benefiting most. The downside is that it may be four decades before this network is completed.
24 July 2019
CANBERRA Operation of the new tramway is settling down satisfactorily. The service opened on 20 April 2019 and on the first week when no fares were charged 106,279 passengers rode the trams. On the second week when fares were charged 77,688 people used the service – more than expected.
VICTOR HARBOR The South Australia Government repaired the causeway allowing the horse tram service to Granite Island to resume operations before the end of June 2019 – the end of the holiday season. Further information can be found at the following link:
7 June 2019
SYDNEY. The Sydney Metro Northwest project is one of the largest current civil engineering jobs in the nation. It comprises a new 36km long railway extending into the growing north west suburbs and will cost A$ 8.3bn. A new generation of fully automated trains will be used and there will be a total of 4000 parking spaces at the eight new stations.
22 May 2019
BRISBANE AREA Bombardier is to undertake upgrade work on the fleet of emus so that they may attain modern standards. In particular the toilets will become suitable for passengers with disabilities.
SYDNEY The Sydney Metro Northwest is to open on 26 Mat 2019. The driverless trams will operate a five minute frequency service for the first six weeks and thereafter a peak hour frequency of a service every four minutes will be introduced. The line runs from Tallawong station (in Rouse Hill) to Chatswood. By 2024 the line will have been extended to Bankstown. An aim of the line is to attract people out of their cars by providing a very good alternative.
MELBOURNE The long-planned rail link to Tullamarine Airport took a major step forwards with a recent agreement made with the National and Victoria State Governments regarding the finance involved.
16 April 2019
NSW/VICTORIA Australia has had a good year financially, and in his pre-general election budget speech the Australian Chancellor announced finance that will allow a start to be made on the long delayed high-speed railway between the nation’s two largest cities – Sydney and Melbourne (550 miles). At present there is a single daytime train and one overnight train between the cities to compete with multiple air services and several through bus services each day though many travellers prefer to drive in their own cars. The building of the high-speed rail line is expected to reduce overall carbon emissions.
CANBERRA The light rail line between the City Centre and Gungahlia (12 km) is to open on 20 April 2019. Free rides are being offered to the public during the few days before the official opening.
31 March 2019
MELBOURNE Planning for a rail link to Tullamarine Airport has won the agreement of both the Federal and State Governments and the link will cost between A$ 8 – 13 billion depending on the options chosen. Construction will commence in 2022 and take 9 years to complete. The new railway will run SW from the Airport to join the suburban network at Sunshine where connections will be available to Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo. The Airport train will then run into the central area joining the Cross-City Metro Tunnel (which is under construction).
NEW SOUTH WALES The State Government has ordered an additional 42 double deck carriages for longer distance services radiating from Sydney. The total being built is now 554 and this will enable the trains on the South Coast Line to be 10 carriages long. The plan to introduce the new trains will see the new stock on the Newcastle route in late 2019. The Blue Mountains line will have the new trains in 2020, while the South Coast Line will be re-equipped in 2021.
11 December 2018
MELBOURNE Sixty five high capacity six-car emus are being obtained to operate on Melbourne’s 1600mm gauge suburban rail network. They are based on CRRC’s Type A design and will hold 1380 passengers compared with 900 on the present fleet. The Evolution Rail consortium comprising Plenary, CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles and the Downer Group are supplying the new trains and will maintain them for a 30 year period.
NEW ZEALAND The use of electric locomotives on freight services on the North Island trunk line between Palmerston North and Hamilton is to continue. Because the fifteen Brush Class EF locomotives from 1986-8 were becoming unreliable a decision was taken in December 2016 to replace them with diesel locos. However moving back to diesel traction is seen as a retrograde move so the locos are to be refurbished and upgraded in the company’s Hutt Workshops creating work and new jobs there.
14 November 2018
OBITUARY: TONY BAILEY Anthony Bailey, Editor of the magazine “Transit Australia” (TA) for the past twelve years, passed away on 18 September 2018. Tony was a major source of news from “Down Under” for ERS, and his interests spanned the full range of transport modes – rail, tramway, bus, ferry, and aeroplane. Sadly falling circulation for TA meant that the magazine planned to cease publication at the end of 2018, and Tony’s untimely death means that the September 2018 issue will be the last. Tony was stricken by polio as a child and he spent the rest of his life confined to a wheelchair.
31 October 2018
BRISBANE A 17.7km long light rail line, mostly segregated from road traffic, is being actively planned between Astoria and Red Moat via Williamsburg. The cost is expected to be $2.7bn around half of which will be met by Federal funds. The remaining $1.3bn would come from “value capture schemes”. A considerable increase in population and work places is likely to follow the opening of the line and the line will be built of short-term debt that will be paid off using the hoped-for massive increase in revenue from the incoming activities.
SYDNEY Downer EDI Waratah is supplying twenty four double deck suburban emus to Sydney Trains. The first of these entered service on 6 September 2018 with the other twenty three being delivered by early 2019.
NEW ZEALAND Plans to abandon electric traction for the haulage of heavy freight traffic on the North Island Main Line have been abandoned. It had been planned to haul freight all the way between Wellington and Auckland by diesel power but electrification exists for over 80% of the line and it has been decided that to switch to diesel power for the entire route (avoiding two locomotive changes) is not appropriate since electric traction is better for the environment.
10 September 2018
MELBOURNE The largest ever civil engineering project in Victoria has been proposed and is very likely to be given the go-ahead. A 56 mile long underground double track railway would link all the radial suburban railways in the middle suburbs and would allow travellers between suburbs to make their journey without needing to travel via the city centre. It is estimated that 400,000 travellers would use the new line every day taking 200,000 cars off the roads. Planning is advanced, and a physical start to construction could begin in 2022 with completion uncertain but perhaps as late as 2050. For more information please click on the link below.
27 August 2018
CANBERRA Test operations are under way on the new light rail line between the city centre and Gungahlin (7.5 miles). CAF are supplying 14 LRVs for the line.
29 June 2018
AUSTRALIA The extensive tramway network in Melbourne no longer needs to use its historic W Class tramcars. No fewer that 237 of these trams have been stored at Newport Railway Workshops for several years and the time has come to decide what to do with them. 134 of the trams have been offered to local museums or groups but the removal of asbestos from each tram will be the responsibility of any organisation that is donated a tram. 25 trams are considered suitable for restoration as Class W8 and could be used in passenger service on the network.
7 May 2018
AUSTRALIA In Sydney the first of 24 eight-car Waratah 2 double-deck emus has been delivered. They are similar to 78 trains ordered from Downer EDI in 2011 but actually built by CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles. The recent batch was built by Downer and includes air conditioning with “advanced temperature control” capable of operating in an extreme temperature range.
NEW ZEALAND The NZ Government has announced the investment of $8.4bn in transport improvements in transport around Auckland. Two light rail lines are to be built – one south to the International Airport and the other into the north west suburbs. 25kv AC electrification will be extended south along the Wellington Main Line from Papakura to Pukehole and will be served by new CAF emus that have already been ordered.
20 April 2018
SYDNEY METRO NORTHWEST. The twenty thousand daily commuters that use the Chatswood – Epping branch will have to use a network of replacement bus routes from 30 September 2018 for a period of seven months until the line reopens as part of the new Metro route continuing beyond the present branch to Castle Hill and Rock Hill. The restored service will be provided by driverless single deck trains.
MAJOR BUSH FIRE A massive bush fire in the south western suburbs of Sydney on 14 – 15 April 2018 damaged many homes and halted services on the Airport line as the flames jumped the tracks.
2 March 2018
CANBERRA Testing of the CAF Urbos 3 LRVs is to start along the newly completed track in April 2018. Deliveries of the new trams are being made at the rate of one per week. Public services on the 7.5 mile route are to commence by the end of 2018.
CYCLONE GITA This tropical storm swept towards New Zealand on 20 February 2018 and brought down power cables plunging areas of Wellington into darkness. Very low cloud accompanied by torrential rain and winds of up to 140 km/hour resulted in the closure of Wellington Airport on the 20th and the replacement of some trains on the Upper Hutt and Johnsonville lines by buses. The “TranzAlpine” service between Christchurch and Greymouth was cancelled on 19 and 20 February.
16 January 2018
NEW ZEALAND Greater Wellington Rail Ltd is seeking expressions of interest from any firms that might purchase the 26 Ganz Mavac emus that remain stored on the system. They were built in 1982-3 but were retired from regular service in 2013, and fully retired in May 2016. A few of the trains were sold to other railways in 2013. The 3’6” gauge 1500 V dc trains have not received any maintenance since 2013 but could be used as hauled coaches by a new owner. Their most likely fate however is to be scrapped.
28 December 2017
BRISBANE Seventy five 6-car emus are to be obtained to replace most of the present ageing fleet. Each set will have the ability to carry 964 passengers. It is hoped that at least 18 sets will be in use by the time of the Commonwealth Games in April 2018.
CANBERRA Fourteen CAF trams are to be supplied to operate on the 14km long route from the city centre to the northern suburb of Gungahlia.
MELBOURNE Rail Systems Alliance (Bombardier with two local organisations) is to install Bombardier’s next generation, high-capacity rail control system on the Sunbury to Cranbourne and Pakenham line. It will be possible to operate trains as frequently as every two minutes. An alarming incident shocked many in the city on 21 December 2017. A motor car was driven deliberately into a queue of intending passengers outside the city centre Flinders Street Station. Nineteen were injured including a four year old child. It was thought that the man had a history of drug use and mental health problems.
8 November 2017
AUCKLAND CAF has been awarded the contract to supply a further 15 emus with the extra feature – a battery package – allowing trains to operate beyond Papakura to Pukekohe over a section of the Wellington Main Line that has not yet been electrified. These emus will be maintained by CAF for eight years after delivery. In 2011 CAF supplied 57 emus together with a twelve year maintenance arrangement. The were delivered in 2014 and extra traffic has been attracted to the suburban service which now carries 20m passengers per year.
26 October 2017
PERTH The Western Australia Government has included in its budget for 2018-21 AUS$34bn for the construction of suburban railway extensions Thornlie – Cockburn (10.9 miles) and Jondalup – Yanchep (8.7 miles). An ATC System is to be introduced on the entire network to reduce headways and boost peak frequencies.
MELBOURNE A substantial section of the Pakenham suburban route is to be placed on an elevated structure immediately above the present tracks so that no new land is needed for the work. There will be five stations between Carnegie and Hughesdale along this elevated structure which will enable nine level crossings to be eliminated.
SYDNEY The Government of New South Wales has started Stage 2 of planning the 9 km extension of the Parramatta light rail network to Sydney’s Olympic Park.
WELLINGTON Trolleybus service in the New Zealand capital, threatened for at least a decade, finally ended on 08 October 2017. Diesel buses have now replaced the last electric vehicles.
26 September 2017
PERTH A major expansion of the suburban railway network has been agreed and most of the required funding is in place. The plans include a line between Forestfield and the Airport (8.5km), which will open in 2020. A major new line will run between Thornlie and Cockburn (17.5km) and link the Armadale and Mandurah lines. It will be completed by 2023. A 14km extension of the Jondaloop line will run to Tanchip. Detailed planning for the Morley and Ellenbrook line, and Byford extension is underway while Midland Station is to be relocated for an extension to Bellevue. Finally, an automatic train control system to allow increase service frequencies is to be planned.
ADELAIDE Major disruption will be caused to services on the suburban lines to Outer Harbour and Gawler as work begins to construct an underpass for freight trains at Bowden, a little north of the city centre. The disruption will continue until the end of 2017.
NEW ZEALAND Seventeen three-car battery powered trains are to be supplied by CAF to operatre through trains between Auckland’s Britomart city centre station and Pukehoha replacing the dmu shuttle from Papakura where passengers must change from emus to/from Britomart. The line from Papakura will be electrified by 2025 after which the battery trains will be used to reach further out termini – north to Huapai, west to Kumani, and south to Pakeno. The batteries will be recharged as the trains operate over the electrified section from Britomart.
5 September 2017
NEW SOUTH WALES A fleet of 512 double deck carriages has been ordered to transform the intercity services operated across the State. This very large order costing $231bn has been placed with the UGL consortium of South Korea where the coaches will be built. This has dealt a blow to the rival bidder, Swiss firm Stadler, which would have built a factory in Wollongong to assemble the coaches. Youth unemployment in the Wollongong area is at least 17%. However a new plant is to be built for the maintenance of the new carriages and this will employ 200 people.
NEW ZEALAND A new railway, “the third main line”, has been proposed between Wiri Yards in the southern suburbs of Auckland, and Westfield, which is closer to the city centre. At present freight traffic to the Auckland Docks (near Westfield) is held up by the relatively frequent emu suburban services operating over two routes south from the Britomart terminus. The existing railway is being extended in tunnel from Britomart under parts of the city centre at present not served by rail and when completed it is hoped to increase services significantly with six trains per hour on both routes to the southern suburbs, and twelve per hour over a short part of the North Island Trunk Line making it difficult to find paths for the heavy freight traffic. The Wiri – Westfield line will take the freight traffic away from the congested passenger routes and will allow additional freight to be handled taking 400 trips by heavy freight lorries off the roads each day. An improved passenger service would be possible to Middlemore Hospital which has 4700 employees which could take some private car trips off the roads.
5 August 2017
BRISBANE Additional station staff are being recruited to assist mobility impaired travellers to board the new six-car emus. A power supply failure to the radio tower that enables Control to contact every train driver failed at 1700 on 28 June 2017 which meant that all trains had to come to a stand. It took nearly two hours to get the trains moving again.
SYDNEY RAILWAY: Twenty four 8-car emu trains are being ordered to boost services across the network, especially in the south west suburbs. Travel to Blue Mountains localities has been rising sharply and a new express service is being added from Sydney to Lithgow in the morning returning to Sydney in the late afternoon. A network of connecting bus services will reach numerous popular destinations in or beyond the mountains.
SYDNEY METRO: Work is continuing on the creation of a metro line operating from the central business district north west to Cudgegong Road, incorporating the railway between Epping and Chatswood with completion expected in mid 2019. Contracts have now been issued for a tunnel under the Harbour to take the Metro far into the south west suburbs incorporating the existing Bankstown heavy rail line with completion due in 2023. Next the city planners wish to see a further Metro line running more or less due west to Parramatta but it may be necessary to trim plans for a light rail network in Parramatta for financial reasons.
MELBOURNE (Vic) On 3 July extensive delays affected virtually all suburban services following an incident at Flinders Street Station in the city centre in the early evening. The Police required trains to stop moving in the station area. Services returned to normal in time for the morning rush hour on the 4th July.
AUCKLAND A new company, City Rail Link Ltd, assumed responsibility for building the Cross-City rail link between Britomart station in the city centre to Mount Eden (3.4km long). The double track tunnel will pass below the heart of the city.
28 June 2017
QUEENSLAND With the population of the area around Brisbane rising steadily the Queensland Government ordered 75 new emus from Bombardier. The trains are being built at the company’s plant in Savli, India. Fifteen of the trains have been delivered but problems have been encountered during testing. The brakes were too harsh but have now been adjusted successfully. More of a problem concerns the sight lines from the cab. The drivers cannot see the stopping points marked on the platforms because their view is restricted by the design of the body. A redesign will be necessary and this is holding up further deliveries from India. The cost of the stock is spiralling upwards and the introduction of the new trains will be delayed significantly. Meanwhile traffic continues to grow – it is estimated that by 2036 there will be 1.2m boarding daily on the local trains around Brisbane – nearly double the level when the trains were ordered.
22 April 2017
MELBOURNE Alstom is to supply a further nine six-car X’Trapolis emus for the city’s 1.5 kV DC broad gauge network.
AUCKLAND Parnell, a new station serving parts of the city centre, was opened on 13 March 2017. It is well placed for the University and Auckland Domain (a 75 hectare park located in the central suburb of Grafton).
27 March 2017
NEW ZEALAND The North Island main line electrification (Palmerston North – Hamilton) will not last much longer. With services requiring to use diesel power on the Wellington – Palmerston and Hamilton – Auckland sections the need to change motive power twice on services (mostly freight) between the nation’s two most important cities has long been recognised as extremely inefficient. New diesel locomotives have been ordered from China and the first are due to arrive soon.
23 December 2016
SYDNEY The cost of operating the new light rail line has leapt 70% to $938m Construction costs for the 12km long north – south line are $2.1bn, a rise of $549m in expected costs. The route runs from Circular Quay dividing into two branches. One runs more or less south to Kingsford, and the other south east to Randwick via Randwick Racecourse. Both branches serve different parts of the University of New South Wales. Trams are no longer to have priority at traffic lights along the route and this will add several minutes to the end-to-end running time.
NEW ZEALAND Kiwi Rail announced on 21 December 2016 that it was to abandon the 25kV AC 50 Hz electrification on a long section of the North – South Main Line in North Island. The 410 km section of the 680 km long Auckland – Wellington trunk line between Palmerston North and Hamilton were electrified in the mid 1980s and heavy freight services between the cities must change locomotives twice on each journey. Sixteen Class EF electric locomotives were obtained from Brush in 1986-8 to work these trains and failure rates have risen recently to an unacceptable level. To work right through with the same locomotive (or more commonly pair of locomotives) will be much more efficient and only eight new diesel locomotives will be required to replace the electrics. The overhead line equipment will be retained and kept in tip-top condition in case an urgent need arises. The short electrified sections in South Island through the Otira Tunnel and between Christchurch and the port of Lyttelton were both dieselised many years ago and the Christchurch suburban service was abandoned at the same time. The network of DC suburban routes at Wellington and the recently AC electrification of suburban routes in Auckland will not be affected.
10 December 2016
SYDNEY The New South Wales Government is planning to build a second Metro line that would link Sydney city centre with Parramatta following a mostly below ground route. It would connect with the first Metro line which is now under construction linking Bankstown and Epping via the City Centre.
29 July 2016
HIGH SPEED Yet another plan to build a high-speed railway between Sydney and Melbourne seems to be making progress. The $200 billion 917km long line would include eight intermediate stops although a majority of the services would run non-stop taking as little as 1 hour 50 minutes. The air service between the cities is the third busiest inter-city route in the world.
MELBOURNE A collision on a level crossing at Pirron Yallock on 13 July 2016 involving a Warrnambool train has given extensive publicity to the level crossing problem in Victoria. This crossing involves a line that is getting steadily busier as suburban services are extended across this crossing. The railway is crossed by a gravel road serving several large and busy farms and the crossing itself has no barriers or warning lights although they were about to be installed. There are many dozens of crossings with similar deficiencies across Victoria and the Government is being urged to rectify the situation rapidly.
5 July 2016
WELLINGTON Suburban services around the capital Wellington are now provided by the fleet of 83 Matangi emu sets obtained from Hyundai-Rotem in South Korea. The last of the 60 year old English Electric sets used latterly only on the Johnsonville branch was retired in 2012. Now the fleet of forty four 2-car sets built in Hungary by Ganz-Mavag in 1982 was retired on 27 May 2016. The last service was strengthened from one unit to two to accommodate the large number of enthusiasts wishing to have a last ride. One Ganz-Mavag set (Motor car 1373 with trailer 3373) is preserved at the Ferrymead Museum near Christchurch on South Island.
26 June 2016
NEWCASTLE (NSW) Construction of the short tramway that will operate from the new Wickham Transport Hub along right of way of the former railway to a point beyond the former railway terminus will commence in 2018. The area around Wickham Interchange is attracting new businesses and new developments are taking place along the tramway route on which there will be five stops. Most of the tram route will be on the old railway right-of-way. But some sections will be in a reserved lane on Hunter Street Five trams will be needed – four to be in service with one acting as a spare.
BRISBANE (QLD) Test operations with the emus are taking place along the new 12.6 km long Moreton Bay branch which leaves the North Main Line at Petrie and will serve five new stations.
WELLINGTON The Karori Tunnel was built to accommodate services worked by single deck trams and now by single deck trolleybuses. Traffic lights control access to the tunnel which is not wide enough to allow traffic to move both ways simultaneously.
AUCKLAND The electrified local railways are building up traffic steadily from 15m passengers carried two years ago to 16m last year. Buses and ferries are also gaining traffic, but at a slower rate so the proportion using rail has crept up to almost 20%.
23 May 2016
NEWCASTLE (NSW). The transformation of public transport feeding into the city centre is under way. The centrally placed terminal station was closed a few years ago and a new terminus established at Wickham about 2 miles out of the central area. Wickham is becoming a hub for railway, light rail, bus, and drop off/pick up facilities. A light rail line is being built from Wickham along the old railway right of way slightly south of the Hunter River with stops along the way to serve various parts of the city centre and with a suggested opening date of 2019. The intermediate stops and places served are as follows, starting from Wickham: Honeysuckle (university campus); Civic (city council offices, court house, major university complex, theatres, TV studios, major museums); Crown Street (Business offices); Market Street (Queens Wharf, Cathedral); then after passing through the site of the old station Pacific Park (Hotels, Custom House). This light rail line is planned to have a 10 minute frequency service for much of the day given by four new LRVs with a fifth acting as a spare. There are potential extensions from this initial route including one continuing back from Wickham along the railway to Broadmeadow.
WELLINGTON Traffic on the suburban services totalled 11.9m in 2015 – a rise of 5.2% compared with 2014 including an exceptional 16% on the Kapiti Line which runs to the north coast. Traffic is the highest ever and a fare increase in the immediate future has been avoided. Greater Wellington Regional Council, Transdev, and Hyundai-Rotem entered into a 9 year agreement on 17 March 2016 for the operation of the suburban services. Depending on results it is extendible by up to a further six years. The first of the new 2-car Matangi emus has arrived and being tested before entering service. They are manufactured by Hyundai-Rotem at their factory at Changwon, South Korea. The unreliable oldest stock (English Electric) has been withdrawn and reliability of the services has risen sharply. Time keeping was affected for a time by storm damage to the sea wall near Petone on the Kapiti Line but repairs have been completed.
20 April 2016
WELLINGTON The Greater Wellington Regional Council has awarded the contract to operate the suburban rail services in the city to Transdev Wellington Ltd with Hyundai Rotem. Transdev already operates the commuter services around Auckland while Hyundai already maintains the Matangi emu fleet that works the Wellington services. The new contract comes into force on 1 July 2016 and is for a nine year period with two three year extensions dependant on performance during the initial period of operation.
8 April 2016
BRISBANE A new ten road emu depot – the Wulkuraka Maintenance Centre – was opened on 13 February 2016. It will be possible to undertake routine maintenance there and also wheel re-profiling using the Centre’s wheel lathe. New emus for the city’s network are being assembled at Bombardier’s Savli Depot in India.
SYDNEY Patronage on the light rail lines rose by 60% during 2014-5 compared to the year earlier. 6.1m passengers were carried compared with 3.9 in the earlier year. Service frequency has been increased during the morning and evening peaks from 10 minutes to 8 minutes. The “evening peak” has been extended by one hour to 1900.
25 March 2016
PERTH A design and build contract for a 5.3 mile long branch to serve Forrestfield Airport has been awarded to a consortium including Impreglio and NRW. The following link gives more information.
12 March 2016
NEW SOUTH WALES The proportion of operating costs for Sydney suburban and commuter services recovered from fare receipts is a dismal 19.1%. The average Sydney citizen makes only 135 trips on any form of public transport during a year compared with 400 in Zurich or 500 in Vienna. Any major fare increase would produce an adverse reaction from the travellers but local politicians feel that if much more use was made of the trains, buses, and ferries then the high amount of subsidy required would be felt to be better value for money. It has been proposed that season tickets at attractive low fares be offered in order to increase the number of users who might also use public transport for evening trips and might encourage other people to travel with them. Coupled with renewed efforts to identify and eliminate wasteful working practices might result in the level of subsidy being considered to be good value for money.
MELBOURNE Up to 50 level crossing throughout the city are to be replaced during a long period of years. In most cases the railway will be lowered under the road and an adjacent station will be relocated on the new underpass section. The first where work has been completed is at Gardiner Station where the level crossing with Burke Road has for long been a cause of troublesome delays to road users. Work on the new section of railway together with the new Gardiner Station was completed on 13 January 2016. The next two crossings to be tackled will be the crossing with High Street and the adjacent Reservoir Station, and the crossing with Bell Street with Bell Station in suburban Preston.
22 February 2016
NEW SOUTH WALES A light rail line 22km long is planned to link Westmead Hospital with downtown Parramatta continuing to West Sydney University, Olympic Park and terminating at Strathfield. The heavy rail branch to Carlington will be converted to light rail and become a branch of the new light railway network. Very good news is the fact that fare evasion on all types of public transport – train, light railway, bus and ferry, has been slashed by over 50%.
WELLINGTON The City Council has decided to replace the entire modern trolley bus fleet with conventional buses. A network of new high density bus routes will be established and the aim is to ensure that at least 75% of the city’s population will live within one km of one of the new routes.
22 December 2015
AUCKLAND Patronage on the suburban railway network rose by 21.7% during September 2015 compared 2014. Pukekohe station is to be rebuilt as a transportation hub with six bus bays for interchanging passengers, a car park with 80 spaces.
2 November 2015
SYDNEY An arson attack on a storage barn on 23 October 2015 destroyed several historic trams and buses all of which had been awaiting restoration at the Sydney Tramway Museum. An 1898 tram that had been used as an engineering department car for many years was about to be transferred to the museum to be converted back to its original condition. Two trams from 1911, and three from the 1930s were also lost. Four buses from the 1940s and 1950s were also destroyed.
MELBOURNE The construction of a transport hub at the totally rebuilt Frankston station together with the electrification of the line to Baxter will cost an estimated $63m. Meanwhile contracts have been issued for the removal of four extremely busy level crossings in Blackburn and Mitcham.
PERTH Going against nation-wide tends the number of fare passengers has dropped two years running. The loss in 2014-5 was 1.5% against 2.6% in the previous twelve months. However the total number of passengers carried has actually risen by 0.8% due to the large number of passengers with entrance tickets to major events whose ticket gives them free travel to the exhibition site.
AUCKLAND The usage of suburban rail services rose by 22.7% during the past year to reach a total of 14.4m.
1 October 2015
GOLD COAST The Queensland Government is seeking expressions of interest from civil engineering firms in building the next 7.3 km section of the light railway from Gold Coast University Hospital to Helensvale.
4 September 2015
ADELAIDE The plans to extend the tramway to Outer Harbor, Port Adelaide, Semaphore, and West Lakes seems to have been dropped in favour of the original plan to electrify the railway Outer Harbor and build branches to the other destinations. A significant pro-light rail lobby is still pressing for tramways. Comprehensive plans for the development of all forms of transport across Greater Adelaide have been announced. In addition to the electrification of the Outer Harbor group of lines, electrification is also proposed to Gawler. New light rail/tramway lines are proposed east to Magill, and west to Henley with a branch to the airport. A new city centre loop line would be built to connect with the heavy rail station and all the radial tramway routes.
NEW ZEALAND The national railway system, Kiwirail, is very short of money and attempts to increase the volume of freight traffic have so far failed. It is now considering the sale of various major station complexes, most of which see very little use today, and the first to be put on the market is Wellington Station. There is heavy suburban traffic but this can be handled in about one third of the site and the solitary long-distance train needs little space.
3 August 2015
WELLINGTON Because there is only a single platform at Upper Hutt station where the inner suburban emus terminate, trains from Masterton forming the Wairatara service may have to sit for ten minutes waiting for the platform to become free. There are no immediate plans to enlarge the station.
AUCKLAND During the past year patronage of the local rail services has risen by 22%. However the outer section of the Western Line between Swanson and Waitakere was closed during July 2015 and replaced by a bus shuttle service. The difficulties and eventual cost of enlarging the Waitakere Tunnel to provide space for the overhead power cables was considered too costly. Freight services to the north of North Island will continue and a dmu service to Waitakere and beyond may eventually be provided. Severe congestion at the city centre Britomart terminus is a direct result of the rising traffic and has highlighted the need for the City Rail Link that would spread the traffic out over additional city centre stations. Britomart can handle only 20 trains per hour but with the Link is use there could be up to 48 trains per hour.
1 July 2015
GOLD COAST The new light railway carried its 5 millionth passenger on 6 May 2015 – well under a year after the opening of the line on 20 July 2014. Currently 17,800 passengers are carried each day.
SYDNEY Construction of the Central Business District light rail line is to begin on 23 October 2015 between King and Market Streets. The initial section will run along the central spine from Central to Circular Quay and then to the south east through Moore Park and on to Randswick. Costing $2.2bn, the project will cause three years of massive disruption and “pain” for users of the CBD. At times civil engineering work will be under way at up to 31 different locations but the worst period of difficulties will be between August 2016 and May 2017 when there will be major works at seventeen locations. Special bus services will be introduced to help people get around the engineering sites and tolls on some roads around the city centre may be removed in recognition of the total disruption to normal travel.
PERTH Three consortia have been shortlisted to bid for a “design and build” contract for a planned 8.5km long underground rail link to the Airport and adjacent suburbs. Leaving the Midland line at Bayswater Junction the route will pass below the Swan River then will serve three stations. First will be Airport West serving the suburb of Belmont, then Perth Airport underneath the redeveloped airport hub, then finally Forrestfield serving suburbs along the foothills of the Perth Hills. For more information please click on the link below.
Perth Airport link
AUCKLAND The entire suburban rail network became electrically worked from 16 May 2015. Services are worked by a 57-strong fleet of three car CAF emus.
4 June 2015
NEW ZEALAND The 25kV AC electrification along the North Island main line completed between Palmerston North and Hamilton in 1988 may be abandoned. Twenty two class EF locomotives were supplied by Brush for this route of which two have been scrapped following crash damage while three are out of service awaiting expensive repairs. With the extension of the Wellington suburban electrification over a section at the south end of the main line and the near elimination of passenger services over the Palmerston North – Hamilton section it is considered that just twelve powerful diesel locomotives (from China) will be able to handle the relatively heavy freight traffic over the route. Traffic carried on the Auckland suburban network has risen by 33% during the past two years.
10 April 2015
MELBOURNE An additional five six-car Xtrapolis emus have been ordered to fill a gap in train availability. In addition the order will keep the Alstom train building plant in Ballarat open since it would otherwise have had to close with the dispersal of an experienced staff that would be difficult to replace from scratch.
25 March 2015
CHRISTCHURCH The extension to the city centre tramway was finally given a ceremonial opening on 12 February 2015 – just four years late due to the extensive damage caused by a massive earthquake that occurred shortly before the planned date. A ceremonial parade of vintage trams that are normally kept at the Ferrymead Museum toured the new route.
9 March 2015
MELBOURNE The long planned rebuilding of Flinders Street Station may not go ahead because the business case for the work is weak.
AUCKLAND The first electrically worked services on the Southern Main Line commenced operation on 15 January 2015. Initially the emus are operating as far as Papakura and during the off-peak hours only.
16 January 2015
NEW SOUTH WALES The State Railway went ahead with its planned closure of the excellently placed Newcastle station on Christmas Day 2014. There had been very loud protests against the closure which sees trains stopping well short of the city centre forcing passengers to change to buses (or their private cars) since the planned light rail line is nowhere in sight. A Court Order was issued in a bid to halt the closure but all that this does is to prevent the railway authorities from lifting the track or disposing of the site. The reason for the closure is to prevent major hold ups to road traffic at level crossings but the immediate effect of the closure appears to be a significant increase in the number of vehicles on the roads resulting in even more delays.
1 December 2014
BRISBANE Southern Queensland was struck by a devastating storm on 28 November 2014 with winds up to 140 mph and hailstones of remarkably large size. There was considerable damage to structures and overhead power cables. As a result the entire Brisbane suburban rail service was at a standstill. During the G20 Summit of world leaders held in Brisbane on 14-16 November 2014 public transport was modified. Rail services were diverted away from the city centre while bus services followed a special public holiday timetable.
BENDIGO This Victorian outpost is growing so rapidly that suggestions have been made that suburban rail services may soon be required in order to prevent serious road congestion.
AUCKLAND Traffic on the suburban routes in Auckland rose by 17.5% during the past year and the total number of passengers is now almost identical to those using the Wellington system – 12m passenger journeys in a year.
7 November 2014
QUEENSLAND In an effort to attract people out of their cars fares on State-wide public transport were cut by 5% from 03 November 2014 and will remain frozen throughout 2015. The new Gold Coast light railway was gaining traffic steadily and was being used by 18,500 passengers each weekday by mid October 2014.
NEW SOUTH WALES Construction work on the new North West Rail Line (NWRL) is progressing well and adhering to the planned timetable. As part of the work the Epping – Chatswood railway will be closed for up to six months for extensive upgrade work before it is joined to the NWRL and it will require 75 buses to provide the necessary road replacement services during this work. Amid loud protests and much controversy the Sydney to Newcastle main line which includes the main line north towards Queensland, and quite heavy suburban traffic is to be cut back 4km to Hamilton from 27 December 2014 to ease congestion caused at a key level crossing. The land occupied by Newcastle Station would be available for redevelopment. A new tramway from Hamilton to take railway passengers through the city centre is planned but cannot be in service for at least two years.
VICTORIA Suburban rail services from Melbourne (Southern Cross Station) to the Geelong line were extended to a new station at Waurn Ponds from 12 October 2014. Many trains on the route terminate at Geelong itself but others go one station further to Marshall. Now most of the Marshall terminators have been extended to Waurn Ponds and some connecting bus routes that fed the railway at Marshall now do so at Waurn Ponds instead to which there is now a roughly hourly off peak and half hourly peak service. Waurn Ponds station has a 292 space car park with 100-150 other spaces nearby.
AUCKLAND The use made of the improved suburban rail services rose by 16% to 11.7 million in the year to August 2014. Electrification work on the west line is now virtually complete and the debate continues on where extensions to the network might be built.
28 August 2014
PERTH An unusual incident during the morning rush hour on 6 August 2014 happened at Stirling Station on the Joondalup line which runs north west from Perth Low Level station. Stirling is the third station from Perth just 9 km from the city. Joondalup is 26km from the city and this line has been extended to Clarkson (33.2km) and soon will reach Butler (40.7km). A crowd was boarding their city-bound train when one passenger slipped and a leg became jammed between the platform edge and the coach side. Ironically there was a “mind the gap” warning on the platform at this location. The passenger could not free himself and a request that all passengers move to the far side of the coach to try to tilt the body failed. Then came the solution. Everyone got out of the coach and all pushed the coach together. It worked! The train body moved sufficiently for the leg to be freed and the commuter was able to travel in to work a little later in the morning.
GOLD COAST The G:Link light railway between the Southport railway interchange, Griffiths University, the Gold Coast University Hospital, and Broadbeach/Surfers Paradise was opened on 20 July 2014. The new line attracted massive crowds of passengers and uses 14 Bombardier Flexity 2 trams operating a nine minute frequency service. The trams are in an attractive bright yellow livery displaying a large “G” logo on the end segments. (See link below.)
16 July 2014
GOLD COAST The LRT system in the booming seaside community is to open for public service on 20 July 2014.
For more information please visit the website of GoldLinQ Light Rail:
AUCKLAND The first day of public emu-operated suburban services was 28 April 2014. A unit operated between the Auckland terminus and Onehunga.
2 July 2014
SYDNEY Hill International has been awarded the contract to manage the construction of the new North West Rail Link (NWRL) which is the largest public transport infrastructure project currently under way in New South Wales. Costing A$8.3bn the new railway into the growing north west suburbs will include twin tunnels 15km long (between Bella Vista and Epping), eight new stations, and car parks containing 4000 spaces. The NWRL is the first part of Sydney Rapid Transit – the first fully-automated transit system in Australia. A new fleet of automatic operation emus plus the stabling and maintenance facilities are part of Hill International’s contract.
You can read more at the following link:
3 June 2014
ADELAIDE The first electric trains entered service on 23 February 2014 between Adelaide and Seaford. Electrified at 25kV 50 Hz, this 1600 mm gauge line route had been known as the Noarlunga Line but has been renamed the Seaford Line following the 5.7km extension of the route to Seaford with an intermediate park and ride station at Seaford Meadows.
AUCKLAND Steady progress is being made with the rehabilitation and electrification of the suburban rail routes. The main line runs from the Britomart terminus through a rebuilt Newmarket interchange station then south through Penrose, Papatoetoe, Homai to Papakura. At present suburban trains run beyond Papakura to Pukekohe but this last section is not being electrified and will be served by connecting dmu shuttles. A brand new branch off the southern line to Manukau was opened in 2011. The Eastern Line runs from Britomart through Glen Innes and new new station at Sylvia Park to join the Southern Line at Westfield and services continue along the Southern line to Manukau and Papakura. The short branch off the Southern Line at Penrose to Onehunga was the first section to be served by the new 3-car emus and there are long-term plans to extend the branch to the Airport. The Western Line operates from Britomart to Mount Eden, New Lynn, Swanson, and Waitakere and some trains operate via Newmarket where they reverse to continue westwards. The Western route is being cut back by one station to Swanson since a long tunnel between the two points will cost too much to give the headroom required for the overhead power wire. A shuttle bus will serve Waitakere in future. It is planned to offer services every ten minutes on most sections during peak hours.
13 May 2014
WELLINGTON The fleet of two-car Ganz emus, used until recently on the Wellington suburban lines, have been sold for use on suburban services in South Africa.
28 April 2014
AUCKLAND. Planning for the City Rail Link under the heart of the city has reached the stage where land requirements have now been decided and the next 18 months will take the detailed planning to a stage when contracts to build the line can go out to tender. The City Rail Link is a 3.4 km long line most of which will be in twin tunnels. From the present terminus at Britomart close to the ferry termini, the line will proceed in cut and cover tunnels for 1 km to the first new station at Aotea. This station will be 13m below ground level and close to the Auckland Tower. Beyond Aotea the route will be in bored tunnels for the next 2 km. The second new station will be Karangahape Road 33m below the road of this name. The last new station is Newton Street 42m below ground level and in an area ripe for new developments. The new line then comes into the open to join the Western Line at Mount Eden station. Not only will the City Rail Link stimulate new development along much of the route but it will create extra capacity that will make possible such dreams as a railway to the International Airport or to the North Shore communities.
8 April 2014
SYDNEY The latest extension of the light rail route operating from Central Station has attracted massive traffic – much more than had been expected. The initial short section from Sydney Central Station west to Wentworth Park opened in August 1997 but attracted low levels of traffic. Running along the track bed of an old freight line to the docks this section was never expected to be busy. The next section to Lilyfield opened in August 2000 and although rush hour workings were fairly well filled the level of traffic was overall disappointing. On 27 March 2014 a further extension was opened running west to Leichhardt North then south to Dulwich Hill serving in all nine new stops. This time the route has hit the jackpot and LRVs are running so full that passengers are being left behind at some stops. A ten minute frequency service is operated and four LRVs have been leased to boost the fleet until twelve new LRVs have arrived and been tested. Three new trams are apparently almost ready to enter service but the others have not yet been delivered. Only after these trams have entered service can the service frequency be increased.
5 March 2014
BRISBANE A new town has been developed at Springfield, about 25km south west of downtown Brisbane. In order to accommodate the expected substantial traffic that would move along this corridor, a double track electrified branch was built from Darra on the Ipswich route (the western main line) serving three stations – Richlands, Springfield, and Springfield Central. The line was opened as far as Richlands in January 2011 and completed to Springfield Central in December 2013 (see below). Between Richlands and Springfield stations the new line is carried over a Motorway junction on a 815m long viaduct. Springfield Central station is on an elevated structure and next to a major shopping complex. Bays for numerous bus routes are placed below the railway platforms. Looking up to 30 years into the future, the branch is likely to be extended to form a loop off the Ipswich line.
5 January 2014
BRISBANE Work is to start in 2015 on the construction of a double deck tunnel 5.4 km long under the centre of the city. The upper deck will be for buses while emus will operate along a double track railway on the lower deck. The tunnel will start at Exhibition in the north and emerge at Park Road in the south where it will join the Gold Coast line. There will be intermediate stations at Roma Street (for the main line railway station), George Street, and Woolloongabba. Services are expected to start in 2021. A new fleet of more powerful emus will be required since there are steep gradients at both ends of the tunnel and Bombardier has been selected to supply 75 emus. The tunnel project is the only part of an earlier more extensive set of proposals to upgrade the suburban railway system. Public services on the new 9.5 km long Richlands – Springfield extension commenced on 2 December 2013.
WELLINGTON The Regional Council decided on 21 November 2013 to close the little used Kaiwharawhara station, the first out from Wellington on the route towards the Hutt Valley. Corrosion had been discovered in an access bridge leading to the station and for safety reasons the station had been out of use since June 2013. It was considered uneconomic to rebuild the bridge since the area was very well served by twelve bus routes that pass the entrance to the station.
CHRISTCHURCH The reopening of the tourist city centre tramway finally happened on 15 November 2013.