Another look at the V-Line Wheel and Metro Track Problems

It all started with two V-Locity trains running through level crossings in the Metro area without setting off the boom gates.  This is understandably a VERY serious thing, the potential for a crash involving the deaths of hundreds should be cause for extreme alarm.
V-Line investigated the two trains and discovered that the wheel flanges were worn down to a very dangerous state.  They announced the problem once it was discovered (as any responsible company should do.)
Metro jumped onto the bandwagon and agreed that it was all the fault of the V-Line wheel flanges.
Velo wheels 10c - thin flange - car number not stated

Wheel flange worn down to a dangerous width.

POSSIBLE CAUSES OF THE V-LOCITY WHEEL WEAR

Shrinkage of Concrete Sleepers

In Darwin, there was apparently a situation where the concrete sleepers that were laid shrank as they dried.  As they shrank, they compacted and the gauge (The distance between the inside edge of the rails) decreased in places.

 

Inadequate Flange Lubrication

The Metro network have track mounted grease pots, V-Line do not have installed enough/any track mounted grease pots and/or bogie mounted oilers or grease sticks.

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Metro Network Track Greaser

Concrete Sleepers have no ‘give’

Concrete sleepers do not allow the track gauge to change as much as wooden sleepers.  In the past, track gangs would lay tight curves to a wider gauge to minimise wear and tear on wheels, flanges and rails.  Has this been done on the newer RRL tracks?  Rails laid on concrete sleepers have previously had 20 years ‘life’ ground out of them to allow this ‘easing’ of gauge.

 

 

Increased Mileage and ‘deferred maintenance’

With increase of service and a lack of rolling stock comes a policy of ‘maximum fleet utilisation’ and a program of ‘deferred maintenance’.
Rumour has it that Bombardier (the maker of V-Locity) now refuses to honour their ‘warranty’.  Why?  Because V-Line have stretched the maintenance intervals so much – partly deliberate, partly incidental and partly ‘due to operational requirements’.
Deferred maintenance (one of Theo’s innovations) is always a false economy, always causes more problems than it solves and is always dumb.
But ‘can do’ bureaucrats will always take the line of least resistance, and deferred maintenance is a winner because by the time ‘the chickens come home to roost’, they’ve moved on to their next high level, highly paid appointment!

 

Non-Standard Modifications

A modification was introduced fleet-wide to ‘stiffen’ the lateral control of the bogies in order to combat body-roll in high cross-winds.
Yes it achieved that, but it also causes the flanges to bite into the gauge face of the outside rail in (uneased) corners, causing exactly the unintended consequence we have seen.

 

Rigid Wheelbase

The rigid wheelbase (axle centre to axle centre distance) on the V-Locity bogie is also longer than ‘normal’ because it’s designed for high speed stability, and so is more resistant to cornering sharply.
These things are authorised for 160km/h.
Imagine a derailment caused by a broken wheel, broken flange or ‘splitting points’ at that speed!
(3 axle bogies on the N class etc are of a longer rigid wheelbase, but are engineered differently & run at vastly lower speeds.)

 

Cant or Super-Elevation

“The cant of a railway track (also referred to as superelevation) is the difference in elevation (height) between the two edges. This is normally done where the railway is curved; raising the outer rail providing a banked turn, thus allowing trains to maneuver through the curve at higher speeds than would otherwise be possible if the surface was flat or level.

On railways, cant helps a train steer around a curve, keeping the wheel flanges from touching the rails, minimising friction and wear.

The main functions of cant are to:

  • Better distribute load across both rails
  • Reduce rail- and wheel-wear
  • Neutralise the effect of lateral forces
  • Improve passenger comfort

The necessary cant in a curve depends on the expected speed of the trains and the radius. However, it may be necessary to select a compromise value at design time, for example if slow-moving trains may occasionally use tracks intended for high-speed trains.Generally the aim is for trains to run without flange contact. Allowance has to be made for the different speeds of trains. Slower trains will tend to make flange contact with the inner rail on curves, while faster trains will tend to ride outwards and make contact with the outer rail. Either contact causes wear and tear and may lead to derailment. Many high-speed lines do not permit slower freight trains, particularly with heavier axle loads. In some cases, the impact is reduced by the use of flange lubrication.” (1)

Has there been a compromise situation where curve speed is reached on a V-Locity that is not reached on other locos, where the cant of the track is set for the lower speed trains?  If this is the case, it would explain why the V-Locity trains are experiencing excessive flange wear, while the other trains aren’t.

 

V-Line Wheel Testing

In recent days a special camera was set up on a Velocity bogie.

A special bracket was made so that it could film the wheel and the flange to see where the wear was taking place.
The wheel flange was measured before the journey from S.C to Ballarat. The camera was filming the entire journey.
Sometime into the journey the lens was covered with metal dust.
Up to that point nothing unusual was noted.
At the completion of the journey the same wheel flange was measured and it was found that 1.2mm had been worn away on the round trip.
The usual wear rate for Velocity wheel flanges is less than 1.5mm per MONTH.
Currently, GPS locators are being used to try and pinpoint the exact location where the dust was seen to blow onto the lens.

The REAL problem with the boom gates not going down

Boom Gates not going down on approach is a serious problem, the potential loss of life involved with a train running into a truck or car (or bus!) at a level crossing is tremendous.  Imagine the possible loss of life if a fully laden Metro train ran into the back of a stationary fully laden V-Line Service?

If the V-Locity trains aren’t setting off the track circuitry that operates the boom gates, there is a VERY real chance that they aren’t setting off the track circuitry that operates the signals (What is called a ‘wrong side failure’).

As a train passes a signal it completes a track circuit, telling the signal behind it to place itself at ‘stop’.  If the V-Locity train didn’t complete the track circuit and the signal behind it didn’t revert to ‘stop’ there would be a possibility of a Metro Service going past that signal and running into the back of the V-Line train!

The Current Situation at V-Line

Replacement bus drivers are telling passengers that they have been booked for between 6 weeks and 6 MONTHS.
However, this business – wheels, crossings, truncated services and bus replacements, etc., – will likely continue for up to 6 months, possibly longer.
They can’t source & change 650+ wheels that quick, and the crossing issue is already stated to be a 6 month ‘fix’ anyway.
 V/line staff are worried that Metro is going to be given the contract to run country services sometime this year.  And they should be – Metro are making a concerted effort to paint themselves as the white knight of the piece.
Watch this space after the completion of parliamentary inquiry into public transport.
To show their total incompetence they have lost half of the V/line fleet so some fool thought that it was a good idea to offer free rides on all country trains for the foreseeable future.
Ballarat and Geelong trains are so full that people were standing before the trains had left their destinations. Pushbikes, prams, strollers and feral parents crammed into trains at Geelong and Ballarat leaving NO room for anyone else to board at intermediate stations.

The Government Situation

The State Government are advised by PTV.

V-Line change their maintenance priorities in order to make themselves look better.

PTV are meant to be ensuring that V-Line maintain the system.

PTV advise the State Government.

Someone at Public Transport Victoria has obviously not been doing their jobs properly, but Government Policy of running the railways like a business instead of a Public Service is surely to blame.

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6 comments

  1. Ernie Nelson

    As a V/Line Driver, I can tell you that if exceed the Speed limit for any section of line or class of rolling stock, you would be placed on a final warning or worse. Check your facts mate.

    Like

  2. David

    That’s right. The 10% is to allow for speedo inaccuracy and wheel wear. The trains are tested as being safe up to 10% over service speed, not to allow drivers to run at that speed.

    Like

  3. Jacinta L. N.

    160km/h or 176km/h – Is that really the point?
    If something went amiss at either speed it couldn’t have a good outcome could it?
    The questions I have are; How could such obvious, and obviously serious mechanical faults get past the pre-trip inspection? – There is a pre-trip inspection of some kind – isn’t there?
    Who does this inspection?
    Surely they’d be trained and experienced people, focussed on safety?
    Or are they bullied and browbeaten into understating, or not reporting these things, because it suits the company better that way?
    Because if THAT’S the case, the company and the government, have a real problem, and some difficult questions to answer,

    Like

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