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VICTORIA'S regional fast rail project — already behind time
and over budget — has suffered another embarrassing setback
after recent testing of new V/Locity trains built for the project
found they were too noisy.
The Age believes that all of the completed trains will
need to be returned to the Dandenong workshop of manufacturer
Bombardier for significant modifications, after testing showed
unacceptable noise levels — said by one source to be the
equivalent of 80 decibels — inside carriages during normal
The noise level is similar to that experienced in an older-style
"red rattler" train. Hearing specialists generally agree that
damage to hearing can occur after repeated exposure to decibel
levels above 85.
The State Government is paying $535 million for the delivery and
maintenance of the 38 V/Locity trains that will link Melbourne with
Ballarat, Geelong, Bendigo and Traralgon. The 11 models so far
completed are being tested and must be cleared by the independent
rail safety regulator before they come into service.
A spokeswoman for V/Line said the noise problems had been
uncovered during the testing. "The whole point of testing is to
identify issues so that they can be addressed," she said. "Noise
was one of the issues identified and Bombardier has a program in
place to address this … This is not unusual in developing a
Those trains yet to be built will also need to be modified. The
cost, which is unknown but is said to be substantial, will be
picked up by the manufacturer.
The Age believes the noise relates to the "concertina"
joins that link the carriages together. To reduce noise, one source
said, the "superstructure" of the carriage may have to be
dismantled and insulation installed along the walls and floor.
The problem is the latest glitch for a rail project that has
been dogged by mistake and misfortune. Originally mooted as a
public-private partnership, the fast rail links were a key 1999
election promise for incoming Premier Steve Bracks and were
supposed to cost the Government $80 million.
But after private backing could not be found and following a
string of cost blow-outs, including the need for an improved safety
system, the project cost is now $750 million — a figure that
does not include the bill for the Bombardier trains.
The trains, due to begin operating late next year, are expected
to offer a considerable advance in passenger comfort and will
travel at 160 km/h — 30 km/h faster than current maximum
The Department of Infrastructure's website says of the V/Locity:
"They are unsurpassed in design, excellence and innovation and also
add significant value to Australia's cultural and design
Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder asked why the
problem had not been rectified earlier given that testing had been
under way for more than a year. "When will these new trains start
to carry Victorians and will earmuffs be compulsory?" he said.
Bombardier yesterday refused to comment, referring all questions
to V/Line. The Government was also reluctant to confirm details of
the noise problems, referring questions to Bombardier.
A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Peter Batchelor said the
testing would continue and the Government would not bring the
trains into service until they had been cleared by the safety
Off the rails
$80 million to $750 million
From 2005 completion date until at least mid-2006
Not so fast
Only the Geelong trip, at 45 minutes, will be as fast as originally
Other times: Ballarat 64 minutes, Bendigo 84, Traralgon 95.
Only one express service will run in each direction per day,
meaning average time savings will range from 2.5 to 4.5 minutes
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