ARTC and Victoria clash over millions needed in rail cash for North East train line

 
Topic moved from News by bevans on 27 Feb 2018 15:44
  nswtrains Chief Commissioner

AS far as I am concerned Victoria came within a hairs breadth of competely destroying the West line and therefore they SHOULD come up with the funds to repair the damage THEY CAUSED.

No; the issue is a great deal more subtle than this. I well remember speaking to a friend about this at the time. He was involved at a senior level in the negotiations, but not from either of the railways.

The core problem was the unexpectedly long period between the in principle agreement for ARTC to take over the West line and the actual formal agreement, and then the actual commencement of work.

The plan always was a complete rebuild of the West line from the roadbed up. This meant that as soon as the in principle agreement was struck, State expenditure on renewals and heavy maintenance on the West line ceased. Any money spent on this would have been an absolute waste, since it would all be thrown away when the line was rebuilt. This meant no sleeper renewals, no tamping, nothing. Only day to day maintenance was performed to correct track faults.

The West line deteriorated rapidly from this point, of course. Unfortunately, the negotiations dragged on for far longer than expected. This meant that the line deteriorated further than originally planned. V/Line managed this by progressively reducing the speed of the passenger trains. Once the track had deteriorated too far, they replaced the trains with buses and closed the line.

From the point of view of a Victorian taxpayer, I find it impossible to fault this logic or approach.

The story since then is, in a sense, exactly the same, but with the shoe on the other foot.

From ARTC's point of view they are maintaining a railway to run freight trains. There is no economic benefit to them to maintain the line to a higher standard than required to run their freight trains at a commercial speed.
historian
'From ARTC's point of view they are maintaining a railway to run freight trains. There is no economic benefit to them to maintain the line to a higher standard than required to run their freight trains at a commercial speed.'

Totally agree with the above. Australia cannot afford to maintain rail networks that can run passenger trains smoothly at high speed. The same problem exists in the USA. I have traveled quite some distance on AMTRAK in all regions of the USA, except the SW corner, and travelling at 80 MPH is quite an experience. Standing on the gangway between 2 cars you get a good idea how much the rolling stock bounces around. Obviously the track is safe enough but optimized for freight only. The NE is somewhat better because the passenger train speeds are higher.

By the time high speed rail becomes viable in Australia a technology such as Maglev might be the go or the Tesla Tube. In the meantime air travel will be the best high speed travel available, cars next and then trains providing a social service role.

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  mejhammers1 Deputy Commissioner

AS far as I am concerned Victoria came within a hairs breadth of competely destroying the West line and therefore they SHOULD come up with the funds to repair the damage THEY CAUSED.

woodford

The Victorian government did no such thing...perhaps blame can be apportioned to VicTrack or another entity at that time whose charge it was to keep the track in a serviceable condition...but to blame the Victorian government at that time is simply nonsense.

Moreover ARTC have also had over 10 years to get the track 'right' and it's FAR from right even now and IF the apparent 'no fool' John Fullerton travelled on the XPT on either line from Albury as I have at 130KPH AND HE thinks the track is 'fit for purpose' he should RESIGN immediately, because he has no idea what he's talking about...and he should not be telling untruths to the Senate Estimates Committee.

I'm saying this quite clearly and with evidence as I travelled on the XPT to Albury and return before Christmas last year...the standard of the ride whilst travelling on the XPT at 130kph as it literally lurches and sways through the holes and undulations of the track...compared to any of the RFR lines in particular is  CR AP.

PLease comprehend people...BOTH TRACKs RIDING QUALITIES IN SIGNIFICANT SECTIONS between Craigieburn and Wodonga at 130kph....is still CR AP Exclamation

*** END OF RANT***
The Vinelander
Wow. The mess that is now the NE Line lies squarely on Successive Victorian Governments who let the infrastructure wither away. The Bracks Government at the time went for the cheapest option and handed over the line to the ARTC. The ARTC is a freight Operation, they are not going to optimize that line for passenger operations.

Of course the RFR lines compare favourably to the NE line, because they have had loads of money thrown at them. Enough money to completely rebuild from the base the infrastructure. The ARTC did not have that luxury. They had to make do with what the Feds have given them and money they have generated.

Just accept that if it was not for the ARTC, there would be no NE Line, end of. Successive Victorian Governments were not prepared to properly fund maintain the line. Use some of that rage and tell the Vic Government to direct some of that money from useless road schemes like the Western Distributor to the NE line.

Michael
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Hmm...interesting comments contrasting with Historian's comments above...

M.
  mejhammers1 Deputy Commissioner

Hmm...interesting comments contrasting with Historian's comments above...

M.
The Vinelander
Vinelander, I am no fanboy of the ARTC, I do however they are making a good fist of providing a Network for the NE Corridor with the limited budget they have at hand.


Michael
  BrentonGolding Chief Commissioner

Location: Maldon Junction
Hmm...interesting comments contrasting with Historian's comments above...

M.
The Vinelander
WHAT? 2 people on RP with contrasting views on the NE Line?

Well knock me down with a feather!

BG
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
2 people on RP are giving somewhat detailed accounts of their views on the history of how the NE mess started...the views don't quite correlate.

M.
  woodford Chief Commissioner

AS far as I am concerned Victoria came within a hairs breadth of competely destroying the West line and therefore they SHOULD come up with the funds to repair the damage THEY CAUSED.

No; the issue is a great deal more subtle than this. I well remember speaking to a friend about this at the time. He was involved at a senior level in the negotiations, but not from either of the railways.

The core problem was the unexpectedly long period between the in principle agreement for ARTC to take over the West line and the actual formal agreement, and then the actual commencement of work.

The plan always was a complete rebuild of the West line from the roadbed up. This meant that as soon as the in principle agreement was struck, State expenditure on renewals and heavy maintenance on the West line ceased. Any money spent on this would have been an absolute waste, since it would all be thrown away when the line was rebuilt. This meant no sleeper renewals, no tamping, nothing. Only day to day maintenance was performed to correct track faults.

The West line deteriorated rapidly from this point, of course. Unfortunately, the negotiations dragged on for far longer than expected. This meant that the line deteriorated further than originally planned. V/Line managed this by progressively reducing the speed of the passenger trains. Once the track had deteriorated too far, they replaced the trains with buses and closed the line.

From the point of view of a Victorian taxpayer, I find it impossible to fault this logic or approach.

The story since then is, in a sense, exactly the same, but with the shoe on the other foot.

From ARTC's point of view they are maintaining a railway to run freight trains. There is no economic benefit to them to maintain the line to a higher standard than required to run their freight trains at a commercial speed.
historian
A couple of points, to a great extent this agrees with what I have been told by people in VLines engineering department. THe end result though was a line in really terrible condition and in the end the track condition its STILL Victoria's fault for letting negotiations drag out so long. In my humble opinion VLIne only finalised negotations when it cam apparent that they would have to suspend the Albury BG service entirely because of such poor track condition.
A small point is as far as I am aware from what VLines drivers have told me the speed limits on the line were th drivers own idea.

The other main point is ARTC was NEVER given funds to totally rebuild the West line the work done during the regauging was.........

New concrete sleepers
regauge the  BG track
Replace all remaining track circuit level crossings with Harmon speed predicting controlers.
Upgrade the line's bridges, somethng like 35 bridges got new decks, one bridge at Longwood was replaced entirely.
Completely new signalling installed to Victorian standards.
After major complaints from the drivers, the West line through Benalla was straightened out to allow a speed of 80kph through Platform 2. This ended up a VERY serious issue as it required a great deal of work and ARTC had no funds  avialible, where the funding ended up coming fro I do not know, probably NSW north coast line lost some upgrades, see below.

As soon as traffic came back on the West line, the ballast started to fail in a very serious way. ARTC to there great credit immediatley put crews on to fix this. I have been told from multiple sources that the funding for this came from suspending track upgrades in NSW North coast line.

ARTC was finally given some funding to fix the ballast, the funds supplied were NOWHERE near enough to do a complete job.

I have over the years watched them many times fixing holes in the ballast and the teams have consistently done an excellent job, they have however only all done less then 1/3 rd of the track distance between Seymour and Albury.

woodford
  hbedriver Chief Train Controller

1. The ARTC model (Government "owns" the tracks, anyone with accreditation can access) is an excellent one. Very similar to the roads, where VicRoads "owns" the roads and anyone with accreditation (licence, registration) can access. Rail Operators are clearly at a disadvantage as they pay track access fees on a mileage/weight basis  where trucks don't, but that is another matter which ARTC/Vicroads cannot change.

2. As a driver, I think ARTC gives all Operators a fair run. Controllers are prepared to speak to us and discuss where crosses are to be made, altered running, etc. Every issue I have encountered has been dealt with well.

3. ARTC have had about 10 years now, which some might say is sufficient to re-set the meters (credit ARTC alone for their work, or stop blaming others). In that time, ballast trains have vanished, foliage growing affecting the railway has become a big problem, long speed restrictions have increased, signals are failing for days or weeks at a time, and major maintenance is either not apparently being done, or fails soon after (think the Kilmore East grade crossing, back to 20km/h less than two years after renewal). The track seems to be sinking into the ground, in places becoming lower than surrounding earth, or sleepers sticking up well above ballast. Proper shoulders are rare. The signs to me as a long serving railwayman are of a cheap and nasty maintenance regime (and I thought the old VR on lines like Orbost were good at saving money!) And after 10 years, the question of how the "mess" started is probably no longer really relevant, apart from remarking that the old BG line has been an ARTC track for a little less than 10 years (I think there last BG steam was November 2008, others may know more), while the original SG line has been ARTC track for well over 10 years.

4. Given that around half of all rail movements in Victoria are passenger moves (and similar quantity in NSW, at least north of Goulburn), it seems fair to assert that ARC have to maintain for passenger trains, not just freight. As to the contractural matters (access fees, whether freight pays more than pass, etc), I have no knowledge. The corridor (both old SG, and former BG line north of Seymour) was always good for 130km/h and driver-only operation and it seems that ARTC should be maintaining that standard; any lowering would demonstrate they are not.


5. Yes, passenger trains ride terribly along here. I suspect (but don't know) that the track condition contributes to rolling stock failures. People with expertise may be able to advise further.
  emmastreet Train Controller

Location: Goulburn Valley
One of if not the main sticking point in negotiations between the Vic Govt  and ARTC was the Wodonga by-pass. Whether there would be one or not and if there was to be one who who would pay for it.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
One of if not the main sticking point in negotiations between the Vic Govt  and ARTC was the Wodonga by-pass. Whether there would be one or not and if there was to be one who who would pay for it.
emmastreet

Which in the way it was delivered drove traffic off the rail network and onto road.
  Fatty Assistant Commissioner

Location: Melbourne

Hi M..t, welcome to Melbourne. I for one appreciate your comments however I believe many posters in these pages have no idea how rough riding loco's are as a matter of course.

My rant was among other things, specifically regards the riding qualities of the XPT over some of the holes and undulations of the East track in particular. Staff actually made an announcement that they are frequently walking through the cars and that anyone wishing to order from the buffet, particularly for infirm and unsteady pax that the staff would provide 'at seat' service.

Mike.
"The Vinelander"


Hi Mike. Good to be in Melbourne. Smile

The XPT does seem to give a particularly bad ride. If it was travelling substantially faster than a freight train I could understand the difference but it shouldn't be that rough going only 15km/hr faster. There's a few spots where if I'd had that sort of ride in a loco I'd be calling control to report a track fault.

It's interesting how much better the track is in NSW given it is maintained by the same organisation. It's seems very weird for someone who hasn't driven across state borders before that the same track maintainer has different standards for their infrastructure according to state boundaries.I understand that it goes back a long way and is due to all sorts of politics but to an outsider it's just bizarre.
  BDA Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
Funny how the Hume wasn't built to low standards to save money ...
  wobert Chief Commissioner

Location: Half way between Propodolla and Kinimakatka
Or the Newell.
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
As has been said we have gone through all of this before.  We know it takes money and that was the limiting factor but TAKE NOTE OF THIS>   ARTC very carefully considered two options for the NE upgrade as part of the North-South Alliance Project.   Rehabilitate the east main which it had oversight of for nigh on a decade and enhance that with a series of long passing lanes as done north of Albury and south of Seymour OR take control of the broad gauge west track and create a double track railway with intermediate crossovers.

That process of reviewing options was commenced as early as late 2006 going into 2007.   ARTC new exactly what were the implications of doing either option and that long lengths of entirely new construction for the passing lanes like it has done at Donnybrook and Tallarook etc cost big dollars.   ARTC decided that to take the second (western main) was the better option because generally speaking especially in relation to formation the west track was in that sense better than the east main.   It was as part of its entire strategy going to fully concrete sleeper whatever new or rehabilitated track it took on.

So knowing as early as 2006 that these options were on the table why would anybody even consider rehabiltation of the west main pending the above decision being made.

Now let's talk of V/Line's position.   What V/Line wanted was to continuing operating broad gauge to Albury and put forward a proposal that the state should fund an ongoing rehabilitation program on the track of roundly $700 million to end up with a broad gauge track still at around class 2 standard.   Train sets would not have been upgraded and all the issues that we see on the Bairnsdale, Swan Hill, Warrnambool in terms of a disgraceful, neglected, unreliable InterCity service as it really is today.

From the outset V/Line didn't want broad gauge, and it probably still has that attitude but show me the well run, reliable broad gauge Intercity operations to demonstrate why going to SG was wrong.

An earlier generation of VLine operated and managed a well run standard gauge operation on the NE with the Southern Aurora, Spirit and Intercapital Daylight in addition to its extesive broad gauge operations!!!
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
From the outset V/Line didn't want broad [sic] gauge, and it probably still has that attitude but show me the well run, reliable broad gauge Intercity operations to demonstrate why going to SG was wrong.
Did you mean SG here, perhaps? Or have I read it wrongly?
  DalyWaters Chief Commissioner

Funny how the Hume wasn't built to low standards to save money ...
BDA
Oh yes it was.

When the Hume Freeway opened between Kalkallo and Seymour back in the late 70s or early 80s, the pavement broke up within two weeks.  The whole length of the freeway had to be resurfaced.
  DalyWaters Chief Commissioner

Those who believe that the problem is that the west line was neglected by Victoria before being handed over to ARTC need to explain why so many restrictions and mudholes exist on the east line and also on the ARTC track between Melbourne and the South Australian border.

The damage done by side insertion of concrete sleepers will continue to cost money for many years to come.

The idea of having the AK cars being the only recording of track faults which are then programmed for future attention, sometimes up to a year away, must be causing many of the old track gangs to spin in their graves.
  PE2010 Station Master

Location: Newcastle
Those who believe that the problem is that the west line was neglected by Victoria before being handed over to ARTC need to explain why so many restrictions and mudholes exist on the east line and also on the ARTC track between Melbourne and the South Australian border.

The damage done by side insertion of concrete sleepers will continue to cost money for many years to come.

The idea of having the AK cars being the only recording of track faults which are then programmed for future attention, sometimes up to a year away, must be causing many of the old track gangs to spin in their graves.
DalyWaters

3-4 years ago, I've seen how muddy parts of that North South track is in Victoria.
Has ARTC done much ballast cleaning or formation rebuild since then ? Or it's in the too hard basket ?
  BDA Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
Some people will tell you that the segment in the chain occupied by ARTC is fantastic .
Some claim that ARTC has no responsibility in maintaining these lines in a sound state .
Some claim ARTC is NOT an attachment of the Federal Government at all so no blame for the non performance of these lines can be aimed at the Feds .
Bloody brilliant how the lines non performance faults and causes are clearly known yet accountability doesn't lie with the Feds the Vic Govt or ARTC .

The blame goes around in endless circles and the result is continuing chaos .
  woodford Chief Commissioner

Those who believe that the problem is that the west line was neglected by Victoria before being handed over to ARTC need to explain why so many restrictions and mudholes exist on the east line and also on the ARTC track between Melbourne and the South Australian border.

The damage done by side insertion of concrete sleepers will continue to cost money for many years to come.

The idea of having the AK cars being the only recording of track faults which are then programmed for future attention, sometimes up to a year away, must be causing many of the old track gangs to spin in their graves.
DalyWaters
The East line is the old SG line built in the late 60's, sadly it was built very cheaply and suffered drainage problems for many years. At THAT time the line had dedicated track maintence teams resposible for a particular section of track. From exeperience these guy's KNEW where the problems were and kept these sections up to standard. THis is why at this time mudholes were not a real problem, Eventually these teams were removed to save costs, thats when the track started to go down hill. When ARTC took over they even sold off all the lines maintence gear. ARTC at this time (15 or so years ago) apparently did  not even understand the need for top quality supplies (this is from the manager of a quarry suppling ballast to ARTC). They (ARTC)  did eventaually work out the requirements for a good track but they do not have the required finding to achieve such a guality result.

It appears that around Australia both major parties do not understand the need for a decent railway system (hence ARTC's and VLines poor funding), or even an overall decent transport system(Note 1), They do need to start thinking of the long term future and start supplying proper funding for both rail and road.

Note 1: The long term mantence of our road system is in almost as sorry a sight as it is for rail.

woodford
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting for the sky to fall, the seas to rise... and seeing a train on the SSFL!
... It appears that around Australia both major parties do not understand the need for a decent railway system (hence ARTC's and VLines poor funding), or even an overall decent transport system(Note 1), They do need to start thinking of the long term future and start supplying proper funding for both rail and road.

Note 1: The long term mantence of our road system is in almost as sorry a sight as it is for rail.

woodford
woodford
In NSW and later Victoria NE, sleeper condition was ARTC's greatest concern. The feds were convinced to fund mega purchases of concrete sleepers because it played well politically, creating manufacturing jobs in regional centres. They didn't pay up to reconstruct these lines. What ARTC inherited is well documented in several accident investigations, and a NSW report into its use of steel sleepers.

As I said previously ARTC was wise to procure millions of concrete sleepers when it could. That's because I didn't believe the feds would ever treat road and rail funding equitably. The feds haven't put much into the DIRN over the past 5 years whilst receiving dividends from ARTC, precious funds that could have gone back into the network.
  BDA Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
I think the current situation exists because often what Governments needs to hear is exactly what they don't WANT to hear .
There is no simple cheap solution with rail infrastructure , to have it work properly you need to see and speak to people in the Iron Ore industry or the private North American operators . They provide own and manage their infrastructure and if they don't maintain it their business suffers accordingly .

I also think a big issue that's crept into many industries here is the mindset that a management team need not have any time or experience in a specific field - but management teams can manage anything because management is the focus not the specific operation .  
Sadly because upper management teams often can't or won't be told the facts of life they make decisions based on using "The Force" ...

Rail Transport is a highly specialised field and from what I can gather providers of infrastructure and services need to be profit driven . If they aren't then accountability is by no means a certainty and the industry can and will continue to suffer until some motivating force changes the playing field .
  DalyWaters Chief Commissioner

I think the current situation exists because often what Governments needs to hear is exactly what they don't WANT to hear .
There is no simple cheap solution with rail infrastructure , to have it work properly you need to see and speak to people in the Iron Ore industry or the private North American operators . They provide own and manage their infrastructure and if they don't maintain it their business suffers accordingly .

I also think a big issue that's crept into many industries here is the mindset that a management team need not have any time or experience in a specific field - but management teams can manage anything because management is the focus not the specific operation .  
Sadly because upper management teams often can't or won't be told the facts of life they make decisions based on using "The Force" ...

Rail Transport is a highly specialised field and from what I can gather providers of infrastructure and services need to be profit driven . If they aren't then accountability is by no means a certainty and the industry can and will continue to suffer until some motivating force changes the playing field .
BDA
Well said.

With regard to the iron ore lines, I hear that BHP and FMG motor along with quality tracks but Rio stands out for having tried to save too much cash and now has a lot of speed restrictions on their track. Anyone working up there may be able to confirm or deny this.

It is all too true about the management mindsets that are causing so much damage.  Track maintenance was once done by a ganger with his gang of track labourers.  Maintenance was done whenever a fault was made known. (formerly done by a driver wrapping a note around a lump of coal and throwing it out to the gang when passing). Various courses were available to these guys to rise up the ladder to become a ganger or works foreman, etc.  

The modern era sees the title of engineer being someone who has graduated from university and therefore is capable of reading up about something such as track maintenance and being able to oversee plant operators to carry out planned projects from time to time.

Upper management took the advice that side insertion of concrete sleepers is a cheap and effective way of resleepering.  They refused to listen to any contrary advice.  The quality of the track will continue to suffer until many billions of dollars are found to rectify the damage.
  woodford Chief Commissioner

I suppose I will be "shot at dawn for writing this next piece...........................sigh Sad

I watched them changing sleepers both during the actual regauging and latter when they were fixing mud holes and the "side insertation of sleepers" did NOT damage the track base in any of many instances I saw. In most cases I was allowed to get a good look at the track base. One thing needs to be remembered, the West line is the old BG and in the old days this was maintained to a very high standard and had something like 250 to 300 mm of ballast under the sleepers.

There was quite a few base failures on the SG track both north and south of Seymour, but this can be directly traced to the initial poor construction of the line.

woodford
  Fatty Assistant Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
I suppose I will be "shot at dawn for writing this next piece...........................sigh Sad

I watched them changing sleepers both during the actual regauging and latter when they were fixing mud holes and the "side insertation of sleepers" did NOT damage the track base in any of many instances I saw. In most cases I was allowed to get a good look at the track base. One thing needs to be remembered, the West line is the old BG and in the old days this was maintained to a very high standard and had something like 250 to 300 mm of ballast under the sleepers.

There was quite a few base failures on the SG track both north and south of Seymour, but this can be directly traced to the initial poor construction of the line.

woodford
"woodford"


The difference in track quality is significant either side of the river. I'm surprised the geology changes so much.

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