Early in the morning of Wednesday, June 18, the Miniature Electric Staff (MES) system of safeworking in operation between Kiama and Bomaderry was suspended and replaced with Pilot Staff Working (PSW) to permit the miniature electric staff instruments to be removed, with the system of safeworking to be replaced with Rail Vehicle Detection (RVD). This would be the final step in replacing all MES sections on the Sydney Trains (formerly RailCorp) suburban and intercity network. Continue reading “Staff and Semaphore”
On June 5th, The NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell announced that Bathurst would have a daily return rail service to Sydney from October 2011. The announcement was greeted with enthusiasm by local lobby group (Rail Action Bathurst), as well as the Bathurst Business Chamber. The train is timetabled to depart Bathurst at 0540, with a 0925 arrival into Central. The return journey will depart Central at 1755, arriving into Bathurst at 2130. Tickets will be that of the current CityRail coach service, rather than the higher CountryLink prices paid for the XPT service.
However, what has really been accomplished here, and at what cost? There is no denying that a direct train service to Sydney is preferable to using a coach to interchange to an electric train service at Lithgow or Mt Victoria (especially for passengers with limited mobility). However, this is one service per day – perhaps the money would have been better spent providing a regular coach service between Bathurst and Lithgow or Mt Victoria, and transferring to existing trains. While the travel time would slightly increase (given the change of mode), this would provide improved flexibility for passengers travelling to Sydney – more services would mean a better choice of arrival and departure times.
Waratah “A1” Begins Testing on The CityRail Network
After delivery on the 28th of July, the first 8-car Waratah Train or “A Set” commenced its testing on the CityRail network in August. A historic test occurred on the night of August 13th, when A1 made a trip between Camelia and Carlingford under its own power. This test seemed unusual to some, as the Waratah trains will not be used on the Carlingford Line in revenue service. The testing was done on the Carlingford Line due to the isolation of the line (thus making it easy to close for testing), and because of the steep gradient of the line providing a good test for some of the other steep grades in Sydney. This marked the end of the testing period with the PPTV (Pre Production Trial Vehicle), which will be returned to Cardiff at a future date. The motor cars from the PPTV will be used in one of the future Waratah trains, while the driver trailer units will be used as spares to replace damaged rolling stock in the event of an accident or derailment.
The main criticism of the Waratah train to date is it’s late introduction, although this is due in part to the extensive testing and quality control being imposed on the train before it is accepted into service. The seamless introduction of the OSCar trains to the network was due to the rigorous testing program imposed on them before they were accepted into passenger service.
The 78 8-car Waratah trains are being supplied by Reliance Rail, a consortium of Downer EDI Limited, AMP Capital Investors, Royal Bank of Scotland and International Public Partnerships Limited. The trains will be maintained by Downer EDI, on a 30-year contract to Reliance Rail. As reported in the July news, these trains will be leased by RailCorp and used for CityRail services. This is a dramatic shift in the previous method of rolling stock acquisition, where RailCorp would purchase the rolling stock outright from a manufacturer.
The first 8-car set is due to enter service by December 2010, with at least four sets expected to be in service by March, 2011.
Endeavour/Xplorer Refurbishment Program Complete
The Xplorer railcars were introduced in 1993, as part of a project to re-introduce a daylight service to North Western NSW, as well as to allow the removal of the older, locomotive hauled passenger trains from the regional rail network. The Endeavour railcars were a follow on from the Xplorer design, albeit being modified to better suit commuters rather than booked seat passengers. The first Endeavour railcar would enter service in 1994.
Although minor changes had been made to the fleet of both the Xplorer and Endeavour cars over their operating lives, no major overhaul had yet been performed. By May 2005, a number of changes had been made to the CityRail and CountryLink networks since the cars entered service. The most notable was the introduction of the new CountryLink colour scheme on the refurbished XPT locomotives and cars, as well as the introduction of the Hunter Railcars for use in the Newcastle and Hunter Valley region. By the end of 2006, a number of companies had been shortlisted to tender for the refurbishment of both the Xplorer and Endeavour railcars. The contract would eventually be given to Bombardier Transportation Australia in January 2008.
The first railcars to undergo the refurbishment process would be TE2804 and LE2864, transferred to Bombardiers workshops at Dandenong (Melbourne, Victoria) on the 4th of March, 2008. Initially, the railcars were hauled down by an 81 class locomotive, although later transfers were often made under their own power. Once the cars to be refurbished had arrived at Dynon Freight Yard, the railcars were lifted from their bogies and placed onto broad gauge transfer bogies for the final leg of the journey. Due to the setup of the points at Dandenong, all transfers were run in push-pull configuration by Pacific National locomotives and crews, using surplus log and cement wagons to provide braking power for the railcars. The railcars then repeated the same process in reverse when they were to be returned to Sydney.
The final transfer run would run from Dandenong to Dynon on Monday the 23rd of August, 2010, comprising cars TE2808, LE2858 and EA2508. These three cars marked the end of the refurbishment process, with all of the Xplorer and Endeavour cars now back in service at the time of writing.
Something that often goes unreported in today’s media is when something is delivered on time – RailCorp pledged to have all of these railcars back in service by October 2010, under their 2010 Customer Charter, and they achieved this with over a month to spare.
2010 CityRail Timetable – 10.10.10
The 2010 CityRail Timetable is set to begin on the 10th of October, 2010, bringing with it a number of service improvements to Illawarra and South Coast Line commuters who felt they “missed out” in the 2009 Timetable.
The completion of the Cronulla Duplication is the main trigger for the new timetable, allowing an increase in services between Cronulla and Bondi Junction during morning and afternoon peak hours, as well as during the off-peak times and on weekends.
Another major change is that most weekend South Coast Line services will now terminate and commence from Bondi Junction, rather than Sydney Terminal. This will have the added bonus of “isolating” the Illawarra and South Coast Lines from the rest of the network, ensuring that any problems elsewhere in the network will not flow on to disrupt Illawarra and South Coast services.
Finally, South Coast Line services previously performed by Endeavours will be replaced by electric trains where possible, with the Endeavours to be restricted to running between Bomaderry and Kiama (with the exception of positioning moves to/from Wollongong Yard, and empty car runs to/from Port Kembla to decant). Under the current timetable, a number of morning services between Kiama and Wollongong are provided by Endeavour sets running to/from Bomaderry. These services would normally connect with an electric train at Dapto, Unanderra or Wollongong, although now these services will terminate at Kiama, connecting with either a Sydney or Thirroul bound train at Kiama.
Finally, one other change is the increase in services on the South Line (Campbelltown via Granville) on a weekend from two trains per hour to four.
The sale of QRNational (the largest public float since Telstra was sold) is set to proceed, with pre-registration open for interested parties to receive a pre-allocated offer of shares. Advertising has saturated both television and print media, with statements as “Australia’s largest coal hauler” being used to generate interest. However, this tactic might indeed scare off potential investors who are fearful of the company’s dependence on export coal for income. With global coal demand tipped to peak by 2020, it is questionable if QRNational can continue being a major player should the demand for coal from nations such as China be reduced. While QRNational has been making steady inroads in intermodal transport, it is still competing with companies such as SCT and Pacific National, especially on the lucrative east-west corridor.
SSR Newstan Coal Contract
Further to the report in the July News, Southern Shorthaul Railroad have continued to make their presence felt in the business of coal transport, cementing their contract with Centennial Coal for transport of export coal from Newstan Colliery to Kooragang Island (Newcastle) and Inner Harbour (Port Kembla). To increase reliability and efficiency of the service, SSR has supplemented their two G Class locomotives (G513 and G514) on the train by obtaining G511 on long-term lease from CFCLA (which was recently painted into SSR colours at Bradkens Braemar Workshop prior to closing – see below). Following a period where G511 was used to allow G513 and G514 to return to EDI at Cardiff for maintenance, G511 replaced the two B Class (B61 and B65) on the train during August. For a short time the train ran as triple G Class, although in recent days C503 (also on lease from CFCLA) has been seen on the train.
Watch this space!
Freightliner in NSW
A number of new XRN Class locomotives have broken cover, undergoing trials in the Hunter Valley for X-Rail. X-Rail is a joint venture between Xstrata and Freightliner to provide additional export capacity for Xstrata mines. This is in addition to the current services already run for Xstrata by Pacific National. Three XRN Class are currently in service, XRN001 to XRN003. The X-Rail colour scheme is yellow, blue and grey.
In addition, the first GL Class in Freightliner livery has been sighted in Adelaide, awaiting transfer back to NSW to work North Western export container services. GL111 is on long term lease from CFCLA, and has been repainted into the Freightliner corporate scheme accordingly.
Bradken Closes Braemar Workshop
Bradken Rail closed their Braemar Workshop in mid July of this year, with at least 50 employees out of work. The Braemar plan has been notable for a number of repaints for CFCLA and SSR, as well as having done the refurbishment on the ex-DSB MZ III Class for Independent Rail. Bradken had just completed a major project providing coal hoppers for Pacific Nationals Hunter Valley and Queensland operations, with parts of the wagons imported from China and assembled locally. Management has placed the blame squarely on increased competition from overseas companies, notably rolling stock manufacturers in China.
Authors Note: I’m aware that the October news is rather light on interesting photos, however it has been a busy couple of months. Please watch this space!