Agree that the RFR is probably the major change of operating conditions especially if the Geelongs go into/from 15/16 at Spencer Street generally avoiding by the NM flyover to some extent at least.Thinking about it and discussing with a few colleagues, it would be a number of things that have combined to catch them out.Some more info on the political machinations behind the level crossing drama:But what has the level crossing issue to do with the flange and rail wear problem? What is causing the rail and flange wear problem? Excessive bogie hunting, wheels pressed onto the axle out of gauge or rail out of gauge or a combo of all 3. That is what you get using a weird gauge no one uses any more.
The root cause is lubrication, or lack of, to have such wear. The bit to figure out is what happened to the lubrication. The hot topic of attention is the tight curves on the North Melbourne fly over. The curves there are tight and are not lubricated when they need to be. However, the opening of the new Regional Fast Rail (RFR) metro bypass for the Geelong traffic is also a step change. This is important.
The trains originally going via Newport would have seen the wheels sets of the Geelong traffic pick up lubrication on the Metro system through places such as Newport. This would also apply to Ballarat and Bendigo trains operating through Footscray, Sunshine, Albion etc. There would be some carry of lubrication. Enough to do the job on curves a long distance away with the flanges maintaining a cover of grease. The distribution of grease on the Metro system must also be understood that most their lubrication is on the eastern side of the city. The grease is distributed across the system via the electric trains and that in turn is picked up by the VLine trains.
The opening of the RFR would have seen a large % of V/line traffic removed from Metro tracks and with that the lubrication they would be getting would effectively cease for all trains servicing the west of Victoria.
I will also throw in a potentially contributing issue at the North Melbourne fly over where trains frequently have potential to travel under the equilibrium speed of the curves due to signals. This is a bit complicated to explain here but the result is high flange pressures due to the loss of steering characteristics. These high pressures are high enough to exceed the film capacity of the grease – ie remove what grease is present. The wear at that location is horrendous. It can also set up wear/damage for areas seemingly not related. Taking off what grease was present would mean the damage will be contributed at any tight radius curve on the system. For example I would expect wear on the curves at Geelong too that otherwise have behaved up until the change in traffic.
The solution in simple terms is to re-establish the opportunity to have the curves lubricated. I would also study the track set up at North Melbourne to determine exactly what is going on with the train speeds and adjust the superelevation accordingly.
Also, don’t discount issues with the wheel materials and maintenance practices. The change is traffic may also have changed the throughput for the workshops and wheel maintenance. They could also be caught out with the frequency and volume of servicing exceeding their capacity and having to deal with a back log. They could have change wheel suppliers and they are not lasting as long.
Also flange worn wheels are usually thrown in the bin as they wont take a wheel turn. Soon quickly eats into available stock.
Do we actually know whether the new RRL (whatever it is called) has also been built to tight gauge as was the RFR? One would hope not, but.....................?
Apparently the wheels all come from Comsteel who have made millions of wheels for donkeys years. I hope that no one has been importing dodgy Chinese wheels.
Also agree that flange wear will destroy a wheel much quicker than just tread wear and minimal flange wear.