15 November 2021

No issues with the light rail fleet, but the Government will report on contingency plans in case of cracking

| Lottie Twyford
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The Gungahlin Light Rail terminal

Shadow Minister for Transport Mark Parton called on the government to report on the risks facing the light rail fleet. Photo: Damien Larkins.

The ACT Government has moved to quell concerns that the ACT’s light rail vehicles (LRVs) could experience cracking similar to that experienced in Sydney’s fleet.

Last month, cracks were discovered in 12 light rail vehicles in Sydney, all of which were the same model the ACT uses, leading to the inner-west light rail service being decommissioned for 18 months.

Cracking has also been identified in LRVs in Belgrade, Serbia, France and the UK.

This prompted Shadow Minister for Transport Mark Parton to call for the government to report on the risks facing Canberra’s light rail and provide contingency plans in case any similar cracking does occur.

Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel told the Assembly on Wednesday (10 November) that following information from Sydney, the ACT’s light rail operator, Canberra Metro, and manufacturer CAF had undertaken inspections of the vehicles and had not detected any cracking to date.

Chris Steel

Minister for Transport Chris Steel says there’s nothing to worry about with Canberra’s light rail fleet. Photo: File.

While Mr Steel said inspections for cracking would be ongoing alongside usual maintenance, he also listed a number of ways in which Canberra’s light rail is different to Sydney’s.

For example, the ACT’s system operates on a different track and has differences in its operating profile in terms of geometry and vibration and braking and speed, he said.

“The Canberra fleet is also significantly younger than the Sydney fleet, with the LRVs only having travelled 190,000 kilometres,” Mr Steel said. In comparison, Sydney’s inner-west fleet has travelled between 350,000 and 500,000 kilometres.

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Mr Steel also pointed out the national regulator had not yet detected any problems with this particular model.

A motion moved by Mr Parton calling on the government to report on any risks facing the light rail fleet and advise what contingency plans are in place passed with amendments from Mr Steel.

The ACT Government will now report back to the Assembly on the outcomes of safety inspections undertaken on the light rail fleet by the end of the year and will present its contingency plans in case any cracking occurs.

Mr Parton said his office had been examining the issue of cracking in wheel arches of these vehicles in other jurisdictions for some time even before the Sydney issue had arisen and that issues associated with the Urbos 3 vehicles date back to 2014, “well before” the ACT had purchased its fleet.

“I’ve sort of become a bit of a light rail nerd,” Mr Parton said.

He asked Mr Steel in a question without notice if the government intended to procure these same vehicles for the next stage of light rail.

On this, Mr Steel said this particular procurement process was currently underway, and any future light rail vehicles procured would meet the safety standards in place at the time.

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Mr Parton also raised concerns about the weight of the battery packs, which will need to be installed for the light rail to operate in the parliamentary triangle in the future.

Again, Mr Steel said he was aware of the need for this matter to be addressed in the next procurement process and that it would be considered.

Mr Steel accused the “Canberra Liberals [of taking] any opportunity to attack light rail”.

Mr Parton has long been outspoken on the government’s light rail plan. Earlier this year, he said the construction and congestion associated with the next stage of the project will hurt local businesses.

Last month he tried to move a motion calling on the Assembly to establish another select committee to examine the next stage of light rail. This ultimately did not pass.

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Capital Retro8:47 am 13 Nov 21

According to this report, CAF trains will soon be servicing Canberra and regional NSW areas: https://www.railtech.com/rolling-stock/2019/02/14/caf-gets-new-order-in-australia/?gdpr=accept

This is news to me – haven’t heard anything from the ACT Government about it.

JC, what’s happening?

Why would you hear from the ACT Government?

Last time I look NSW TrainLink was run by the NSW government. (Strange hey). And they announced this a few years back now. As for what’s happening can I suggest you read the article you linked to.

Scott Anthony8:13 pm 11 Nov 21

My experience as an engineer is that before cracks happen, there is NO evidence of cracking… They usually have to crack first….

These cheaply made foreign trams are defective and Canberra trams WILL crack in time.. Thats how this stuff goes..

So what expensive Australian made model would you choose?

Here is a hint there are no Australian designed and made models on offer. Even in Melbourne their E class whilst modified to suit Melbourne are based on an off the shelf European model. And they paid about double what the CAF Urbos cost. End guess what they have lots of issues. The first version the E1 had windscreen glare issues which caused dead spots in the drivers view and both the E1 and. E2 have excessive power consumption.

Melbourne has just gone to market for a new model which will most likely be built overseas and be an off the shelf design. (Like their C and D) class trams.

JC,
Regardless of your unwavering support of the light rail project, this risk clearly needs to be monitored and controlled.

It would be truly disastrous if what has happened in Sydney occurs here.

Almost like someone should have identified the clear risks of locking in such an inflexible public transport option……

I agree 100% chewy. It is an issue that does need careful monitoring and I am sure it is being monitored.

As for identifying the risks at a higher project stage if such an inflexible (to use your words) project again I am sure they did.

JC,
I would definitely agree with you there. Whatever we both think of the light rail projects, I think we can agree that the people looking after it generally know what they are doing.

Including the risks involved with any option, I don’t want to pretend there is a risk free option, they all have positives and negatives.

When the Minister defends our Light Rail by saying it is significantly younger than Sydney’s and then quotes our 190,000 km vs theirs 350,000 and 500,000 kms, what he’s really telling us, is that in about 160,000kms time, we can start to expect some problems!

And Yes, Mr Steel, the Canberra Liberals have been attacking Light Rail, because it is their job to keep the Government accountable for it’s expenditure, of which the growing Light Rail stages represent a significant financial burden to the people of Canberra.

Scott Anthony8:14 pm 11 Nov 21

Yep, spot on mate.. The Oposition’s job is to challenge the government over spending TAXPAYERS money… Governments have no money but ours.. and these trams are clearly defective..

There are over 30 cities that operate this model and only 5 have experienced cracking.

And of those 30 cities there are cities that have had this model much longer than Sydney with no cracking. So I would not automatically assume that the ACT ones would start to experience the same issue when ours get to the same age as Sydney’s.

There are a lot more factors at play here. How they are operated is one and the type of track. In Sydney for example they run on the inner west line which is mostly an old railway alignment. The track geometry on those is far different to the tramway track used in Canberra. This is also something the 5 cities with this issue have in common.

Also reading it seems the issue is related to stresses when cornering. This model tram, like most modern light rail vehicles as a fixed bogie, so coupled with the geometry differences of railway line is contributing to the cracking.

Capital Retro10:06 am 12 Nov 21

You are remarkably well informed on this subject, JC. One has to assume you work for the ACT Government, or you are a light rail enthusiast extraordinaire, maybe both.

Capital we have been over this many a time, I don’t work for the ACT government, nor any political party. But you are right I am an enthusiast not just of light rail but most forms of public transport including cars.

I do read a lot and I have experienced a lot of public transport world wide which is why this is the topic I comment on the most.

ChrisinTurner1:37 pm 11 Nov 21

Mark Parton is doing a good job keeping the Light Rail debacle on the agenda. $billions of taxpayer funds are being diverted to LR, away from city services, hospital, police and schools etc. This is to provide replacement public transport to Woden that will be double the journey time, half the frequency, half the seats and double the subsidy per boarding to operate.

lol
Chris Steele has no background in engineering, he studied education.

I would assume the minister would be getting his advice from those who run the line, which is a consortium made up (amongst others) of CAF and DB (German railways). I put it to you that as they only get paid if the service runs they would be taking the issue very seriously.

Oh and do you know what Mark Partons engineering experience is? He is mostly known as an attention seeking muck racker even from his radio days.

I came to Canberra in 1969 and will likely die here. Neither of us commute as we are retired.
We have two or three return trips per week. Including maybe two-three social trips per month. The AWD SUV we bought in 2015 has less than 60, 000 km on it and will probably outlast us both, even with trips into our National Parks. And an occasional trip within NSW and to Qld.
I would guess – even with population growth that there are a fair few ACT based petrol vehicles here that get such low usage. Given us boomers are now retiring, as well. Being GREEN? Our 14.9 Sq house runs due East-West and faces North. The reasons we bought it, along with the state it was in, which meant it took a good while to sell. Within a decade it got a wide and deep >90% shaded, plastic roofed deck running East-West and also facing North. The house is fully insulated as well. Even the floors! R4.0 plus over the ceiling All of that, since the 90s!

Houses are ‘on’ 24/7, so I rather think we’ve more than done our bit, global-warming wise.

When I was working, I rode to work on a chain-geared touring bike, unless it was raining ( bus or car).
To Barton for two decades or more, and then to Tuggeranong, for much the same period.

Yes, Light Rail is NOT a great idea. Could have been done better.

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