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Subject: Fri.24.9.21 daily digest
Fri.24.9.21 Metro Twitter
Aircraft: No ramp access to platforms until late 2021 (pedestrian-underpass works).
Flinders St: still with a lane closed for tunnel works.
Mooroolbark: Station closed until late-2021 (level-crossing removal). A shuttle bus will operate Croydon - Mooroolbark - Lilydale, connecting with trains. There will be no access to station platforms or facilities during this time.
Edithvale/Chelsea/Bonbeach: Stations closed until late 2021 (level-crossing removal). A shuttle bus will operate Mordialloc - Carrum, connecting with trains. There will be no access to station platforms or facilities during this time.
The level crossings at Argyle Avenue, Bondi Road and Edithvale Road are closed until early-October. Chelsea Road is closed permanently. See http://levelcrossings.vic.gov.au/projects/chelsea-road-chelsea
Buses replace trains on sections of the Frankston/Stony Point lines until the last train of Sun 31 Oct (level-crossing works).
Buses replace trains between Newport and Williamstown until the last train of Friday 12 November (level-crossing removal).
Maroondah Highway, Lilydale closes in both directions at the train line for one month, as level-crossing work ramps up on Friday night. John Street will also be closed at this time. See http://levelcrossings.vic.gov.au/disruptions/maroondah-highway-and-john-street-lilydale-road-closure. ; Buses will replace trains for 6 weeks.
Buses replace trains Ringwood - Lilydale until the last train of Sun 24 Oct (level-crossing works). Opening the new Mooroolbark and Lilydale stations on Monday 25 October
Owing to the AFL Grand Final public holiday, public transport will run to a Saturday timetable.
Night Network remains paused this weekend to support the 9pm to 5am curfew. The only reasons to leave home during these hours are for authorised work and urgent medical care or caregiving. Outside of these reasons, you must stay at home.
10.27 Pakenham/Cranbourne Lines: Major delays after a police action.
Pakenham/Cranbourne lines: All trains will terminate/originate at Caulfield from 21.00 until 20.00 Sun 26 Sep (works).
How the V/Line outbreak unfolded and what it means for the rail system. Timna Jacks September 20, 2021
The week started like any other. V/Line driver Mike James*, based at Southern Cross Station, signed in at the drivers’ depot, yarned with colleagues and took his seat in the cabin of a V/Locity train, alongside a trainee.
He drove trains for two days with the trainee in tow – neither were required to wear masks in the cab – then discovered last Thursday that he had caught COVID-19. He had been at work for four days and was asymptomatic when he returned the positive test.
The V/Line rail system has been largely shut for more than a week, with about 300 drivers isolating over several days. CREDIT:DARRIAN TRAYNOR
The trainee, three drivers and a station assistant caught COVID-19 from Mr James, who had interacted with colleagues at the Southern Cross depot nicknamed the “Tissue Box”.
A conductor also caught the virus from the community.
What followed was a shutdown of Victoria’s regional rail network: thousands of services spanning 3500 kilometres of track, stretching right across the state.
Hundreds of drivers went into isolation. By Sunday, the number of V/Line staff with COVID-19 was at seven. State COVID-19 response commander and former public transport chief Jeroen Weimar has described the tea rooms where people remove masks to eat and socialise as a “dangerous place”, prompting a statewide ban in the construction sector.
As cases started to rise in the construction and rail industries, Mr Weimar warned efforts to minimise the spread of COVID-19 would be “destroyed ... if we’re all going to sit together and have lunch together every day”.
But day in, day out, for the past year and a half, this is more or less what train drivers have been doing at Flinders Street and Southern Cross. Hundreds based at the city stations sign in, eat lunch and socialise in rooms described by drivers as “tight” and “cramped”.
Drivers use these facilities for meal breaks, while some pass the time during “standby shifts” – back-up shifts to plug holes when drivers call in sick. Without anywhere else to go during lockdown, the drivers use the gym and showers in these areas, watch TV or find a spot for a snooze.
There are sometimes up to 50 drivers in a small room, drivers say. Social distancing is not enforced. Often, only about half of the drivers wear masks. A photo sent by one shows people gathering in a drivers room in Flinders Street on Tuesday last week, just days after the outbreak.
Former deputy chief health officer Allen Cheng said these were challenges facing many workplaces, particularly hospitals. He said the key was ensuring tea rooms were ventilated, with limits on the number of people who could enter and widespread use of QR codes. Having workers operate in “bubbles” to reduce the risk of transmission would help, he said.
“Tea rooms are very well recognised as a place where transmission occurs and that’s in every industry,” the infectious diseases expert and Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation co-chair said. “It’s a pretty high-risk area.”
V/Line is now in the throes of a disaster scenario. The rail system has been largely shut down for 10 days, with about 300 drivers isolating over several days. Disruptions are expected for weeks.
Drivers say they are receiving texts at midnight from V/Line instructing them not to come to work. Many miss the texts on their company phones, which they switch off at home or leave in their lockers.
Word of the outbreak has spread quickly among drivers. A closed Facebook page for drivers blew up with the news and people who were in the Tissue Box with the infected driver started isolating before they were contacted by the Health Department and V/Line.
Metro chief executive Raymond O’Flaherty said the company had “learnt lessons” from the V/Line outbreak, which could “easily” have happened at Metro.
Both Metro and V/Line are looking to add more meal rooms, segregate workers and ramp up antigen and temperature testing.
Metro wants to roll out antigen tests for its 125 train controllers, who are crucial in running the network. Controllers can work from a secret “disaster” site if their room becomes an exposure site. Metro also ran scenario planning last week amid the V/Line outbreak, requiring managers to respond to a situation in which six front-line staff test positive to COVID-19.
The company realised it needs to train more people to do contract tracing and is developing a bespoke training program.
Mr O’Flaherty said he did not believe a full shutdown of the suburban network was likely due to the high number of drivers who were on standby. But the closure of one or a group of lines during outbreaks was conceivable.
“We’ll never be able to remove all the risk we are exposed to, but if something does happen, I want to avoid a scenario where I have to shut down the entire network. We want to make sure if there is an outbreak at Metro, it would be a scaling back if we have to do something, so we’d be able to contain the outbreak to a bubble of people. That’s the objective here.”
Both operators will look to buses to fill gaps when trains are down due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Bus drivers are more exposed to commuters than tram and train drivers, due to the vehicle’s smaller size and the lack of a separate compartment with ventilation system. But a key factor shielding the bus network from total shutdown is the lack of any centralised depot for drivers and fleets, with many bus companies operating separate facilities across the state.
There have been few COVID-19 cases in the public transport sector, despite thousands of workers continuing to show up on the railways throughout the pandemic, mixing with commuters and colleagues. Of the more than 16,000 employees at Metro, V/Line and Yarra and in the bus network, there have been only 45 cases since the start of the pandemic.
But in the face of the highly infectious Delta strain, operators must constantly rethink policies, with Metro’s Mr O’Flaherty signalling he believes mandatory vaccines have merit in the sector.
The regional rail operator has suspended one-on-one training activities and is reviewing its training and COVID-safe procedures.
The Transport Department’s head of transport services, Nick Foa, said operators’ COVID-safe plans “continue to evolve” and commuters could be assured public transport was safe, “with strong protection in place such as deep cleaning, hand sanitisers, mandatory masks, QR codes, extra services and information on capacity ... keeping them safe as they make their essential journeys.”
*Not his real name.
RELATED ARTICLE Premier Daniel Andrews has announced Melbourne will regain some social and economic freedoms. Victoria’s road back from restrictions: What are the new coronavirus rules?
* Right under the noses of the public service mandarins, this happens. It's been 18 months and Dan and crew talk about the dangers of this scenario. Don't the Metro managers watch the daily health briefings and take note??????
* So was there a written "Covid plan" as every other business still operating is supposed to have?
Union claims pregnant Metro worker forced to take wage cut. Timna Jacks September 24, 2021
A pregnant authorised officer at Melbourne’s suburban rail operator Metro Trains has told the Fair Work Commission she was deprived thousands of dollars in penalty payments after being assigned a “safe” office job due to her pregnancy.
In an application to the commission, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union claimed the authorised officer missed out on nearly $1000 a month in wages when she was pregnant after being assigned to a “safe job” — an entitlement under the Fair Work Act for pregnant women who feel unsafe in their ordinary role. The union believes she is owed under $3000 in total.
A woman waits at an almost-empty Southern Cross station.CREDIT:LUIS ASCUI
Under the RTBU’s pay deal with Metro, pregnant women who are reassigned are entitled to the same conditions as their previous role.
When the authorised officer, who asked not to be named, fell pregnant in 2019, she was relocated to the security and surveillance department on a Monday to Friday shift, according to the claim. While she didn’t receive a pay cut to her hourly rate, she ceased receiving penalty rates for weekend work.
In June this year, when the officer was pregnant for a second time, she was transferred to a Monday-Friday office job again, but received $986 a month less without weekend shifts.
RTBU has now taken Metro Trains to the Fair Work Commission on the officer’s behalf, warning this was not an isolated case.
“Regrettably this is likely the tip of the iceberg, as there are already numerous other cases that have come forward,” the union’s Victorian secretary Luba Grigorovitch said.
“Everyone is doing it tough and workers are already under other immense pressures without the need for management to make it harder to access their very own legal entitlements.
“Unions have fought for such measures over many years so we won’t be rolling over and accepting this or any other similar case. No stone will be left unturned as now more than ever employees on the front line deserve to get what’s in their agreement.”
The state government pays Metro $330 million a year to run the city’s trains. Metro was paid an extra $65 million in relief money to keep the trains running last year and secured $12 million in bonuses for exceeding performance targets amid a 91 per cent drop in patronage.
Ms Grigorovitch said she had broader concerns about Metro cutting back on worker entitlements during the pandemic, with workers required to take personal leave for most of the 14-day isolation period.
Metro has previously confirmed to The Age that workers were asked to take personal leave when isolating.
Pandemic leave is available to workers needing to quarantine who have exhausted their personal leave, but the union argues this serves as a deterrent and is less generous than the conditions at regional rail operator, V/Line.
“We continue to see management forcing employees to use personal leave if required to quarantine, but in this difficult time companies should be supporting people to follow and comply with the public health response, not scrape up change to top up their bottom line,” Ms Grigorovitch said.
Economist at the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, Mark Dean, said there were ”plenty of examples of businesses that have done it tough in COVID and still managed to ensure that workers are paid properly”.
“Considering the fact that all workers have a right to be safe at work, but also travelling to and from work, I think that puts a fair bit of onus and responsibility on the employer to make sure that they’re also covering the costs of workers, particularly if they’re at risk of being exposed to COVID-19.”
Deakin University’s chair of epidemiology Catherine Bennett said she believed workers should not be forced to take personal leave if they are exposed to COVID-19 at the workplace, but different rules would apply if they were exposed outside of work.
“If, by the nature of their work, someone may be exposed, and through that exposure, then they need to be asked to quarantine, it seems, an absolute problem, if they then have to do that on their leave whether it be sick leave or other forms of personal leave,” Professor Bennett said.
Metro said would not comment on the case as it was before a tribunal.
RELATED ARTICLE The Victorian government hopes real-time public transport information will attract commuters back to the city. Trains and trams empty but operators given millions in bonuses during COVID
RELATED ARTICLE Metro boss says there is merit in mandatory vaccines. Metro Trains boss sees merit in mandatory vaccinations
RELATED ARTICLE The V/Line rail system has been largely shut down for more than a week, with about 300 drivers isolating over several days. How the V/Line outbreak unfolded and what it means for the rail system
Riverfire 2021 guide: Fireworks, vantage points, transport options. Toby Crockford September 24, 2021
Brisbane Festival’s Riverfire is back and has a new artistic director at the helm, who has injected an Indigenous influence and new “banging soundtrack” for her debut in charge of the fireworks.
Despite the borders keeping interstate tourists out, Brisbane Festival 2021 – which started on September 3 and wraps up on Saturday – has been the fastest-selling in terms of tickets.
The Riverfire fireworks are back this year, after being replaced by a laser and light show last year.
Last year’s Riverfire was changed due to COVID-19 restrictions, with the fireworks replaced by a laser and light show, which was beamed into the night sky from CBD rooftops.
This year’s fireworks extravaganza will start at 6.45pm on Saturday and run for 20 minutes.
Artistic director Louise Bezzina, whose first year in charge of the event was derailed by COVID in 2020, looked forward to debuting her first full Riverfire bonanza.
“One thing I really wanted to do was to think about how to integrate an Indigenous aspect throughout the program of events,” she said.
“Traditional owner [Yuggera and Turrbal man] Shannon Ruska has created 90 seconds of a beautiful smoking ceremony with big red flares that will be an amazing live opening on the Goodwill Bridge.
“Then it goes off into a really banging soundtrack because I wanted it to be upbeat, fun, engaging and accessible. We’ve had enough complexity in our world, so lets keep it really fun and bright.”
The fireworks display will use more than two tonnes of pyrotechnics that will be fired off five barges, eight rooftops and two bridges.
The C-17A Globemaster doing a practice run over Brisbane City on Thursday afternoon.
This year’s viewing sites include South Bank Parklands, River Terrace at Kangaroo Point, Service Road at Kangaroo Point Cliffs, Captain Burke Park in Kangaroo Point and Wilsons Outlook in Fortitude Valley. The Victoria Bridge is unavailable.
“Because we are still delivering an event in a pandemic, we’re asking people do wear a mask and maintain social distancing,” Ms Bezzina said.
“There are so many vantage points, but you might have a little local lookout, so go there with your nearest and dearest. Also, you can watch Riverfire from home on Channel Nine.”
There will also be a low-altitude flyover by an RAAF C-17A Globemaster at 5.10pm and an aerial display by two Army Taipan helicopters and two Army Tiger helicopters at 5.30pm.
An Army during a rehearsal above the Brisbane River on Thursday afternoon.
TransLink head Sally Stannard said there would be extra buses and trains on Saturday for the Riverfire crowds, but face masks remained mandatory.
“Free travel is available on all outbound buses running from Woolloongabba, Mater Hill, South Bank, the Cultural Centre, Queen Street, King George Square, and Roma Street, and all outbound trains from South Brisbane, South Bank, Roma Street and Central Station,” she said.
“We will also have extra buses available to help manage the numbers of people getting to and from the event, as well as 25 additional train services.”
A full list of road closures and changes in Brisbane CBD, South Brisbane, New Farm, Fortitude Valley, Kangaroo Point, Mt Coot-tha and Mt Gravatt can be found here.
Maritime Safety Queensland acting general manager Andrew Mahon said the Brisbane River would be closed to non-permit vessels between Kinellan Point, New Farm and the Go Between Bridge, (West End to Milton) from 5pm to 8.30pm.
Ms Bezzina said other Brisbane Festival events still happening were the Boy Swallows Universe show at QPAC and the Street Serenades events at Nundah, South Brisbane, Banyo, Archerfield, Mt Coot-tha and Hendra.
Full details of the remaining Brisbane Festival events can be found here.
SEPTEMBER 24 2021 Intending to travel by rail on Saturday? Plan ahead! Greg Ellis
Picture: Anna Warr
Rail users will need to plan ahead before any travel on Saturday with services being heavily impacted by planned industrial action.
Services on the Southern Highlands line have been completely cancelled and the South Coast line will experience reduced frequency.
There will be a single return coach service for Canberra, Griffith and Albury journeys.
NSW Trains chief executive Dale Merrick said in the Illawarra services won't run to a Saturday timetable and will be less frequent.
There will be no express service so trains will stop at all stations and terminate at Waterfall where customers will need to transfer to a suburban service heading into Sydney.
Some buses will also replace trains but they won't run to a timetable and there will be a limited capacity.
The changes come after the Rail, Tram and Bus Union warned commuters they should prepare for delays as rail workers prepared to take protected industrial action in response to what it said was an attack attack on safety and conditions and complete disrespect from the NSW Government.
The union said the planned action included a go slow this Saturday when trains would reduce speed to 60km/h. A full network stoppage is also planned for Tuesday between 9am and 1pm.
RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens said workers at Sydney and NSW Trains are presently negotiating for a new enterprise agreement, but the NSW Government was refusing to come to the table with a fair offer.
"The very least workers deserve is the right to be safe at work and to be paid fairly for the work they do," he said.
"After the government heaped us with praise for putting ourselves and our families in harm's way during COVID in order to keep the community moving, we've now entered enterprise agreement negotiations.
"Workers are fighting to prevent a drop in safety and hygiene standards on our trains, as both Sydney and NSW Trains are trying to cut cleaning jobs and force the dangerous New InterCity Fleet trains into service before its numerous safety issues are resolved.
"We have chosen our actions in an attempt to minimise the disruption to essential workers using our public transport networks."
Mr Merrick said as a result of the action planned for Saturday all regional rail services will be cancelled and delays of around one hour will be seen on all intercity lines.
He said customers are advised to plan their journey ahead by visiting transportnsw.info.
"We are working to minimise impacts to customers, including replacement coaches, but we do encourage customers to find alternative travel arrangements at this time," he said.
Mr Merrick said there will be major service changes to all lines on the Sydney Trains network, with a reduced timetable on Saturday.
"It is disappointing customers are paying the price during what is an already challenging time for the state and I thank customers for working with us throughout the pandemic," he said.
"NSW TrainLink is committed to negotiating an enterprise agreement tailored to our workforce's specific needs and the needs of the customers and the communities we serve," he said.
"RTBU wants to see bargaining roll out exactly as it has in the past but we want our people to have a louder voice in deciding their future and how we serve regional NSW.
"NSW TrainLink employees tell us they are excited about the chance to have a say and we will stick by our commitment to this process."
RTBU has also notified us of planned industrial action which will disrupt the network again on Tuesday 28 September. Customers and our communities will be provided with updated service impacts early next week.
Lines affected by the disruptions, reduced speed and frequency and cancellations on Saturday include;
Blue Mountains Line
Cancelled, buses replacing trains due to planned track work
Cancelled, buses replacing trains due to planned track work
Central Coast and Newcastle Line
Reduced frequency, services to stop all stations and terminate at Hornsby
South Coast Line
Reduced frequency, Services to stop all stations and terminate at Waterfall
Southern Highlands Line
Reduced frequency, trains replaced by buses between Maitland Singleton, Scone and Dungog.
Regional rail services
A single return coach service for North Coast, North West, Canberra, Griffith and Albury journeys.
Several cases of COVID-19 recorded in the Southern Highlands and Goulburn, one new exposure site and virus fragments found in sewage
"It reeks of a system that needs urgent attention": Liz Hayes
Fri.24.9.21 Melbourne 'Herald Sun' Earthquake aftermath. IAN ROYALL, MITCH CLARKE, JOHN DAGGE
The clean-up on Chapel St, Windsor, continued with crews cleaning away bricks and debris from the Betty’s Burgers building at the comer of Green St.
No decision has been made yet on whether the 1881 building would be repaired or demolished.
Tram lines were still being repaired late on Thursday, with Chapel St closed between Union and St John streets.
The Covid testing and vaccination centres at Prahran and Malvern town halls were reopened after being closed as a precaution for structural checks.
Building inspectors gave both 19th century town halls the all clear and the Star Health run clinic was operating as normal on Thursday.
Insurance assessors were also continuing checks on several buildings on the popular shopping and dining strip.
Engineering experts also examined Melbourne’s key infrastructure and transport projects in the quake’s aftermath.
Inspectors have reviewed key sites including the West Gate Bridge, Bolte Bridge, the Burnley and Domain Tunnels and the Metro Tunnel construction site.
All were given the all clear. The Metro site was closed because of the construction lockdown.
Department of Transport spokesman Chris Miller said the road and transport net- work had held up well.