What wonderful news… within a year we’ll have full mobile telephone coverage in the Melbourne underground loop.
Travellers on Melbourne’s City Loop will finally get mobile phone hook-up after deal to eliminate “dead zones”.
Since day one, the loop has not had coverage and any calls we’re on as the train enters the tunnel simply cuts out. But that is all about to change.
Part of the Melbourne Underground Rail Link will see cabling laid in a joint effort between VicTrack, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.
Melbourne Metro is a priority project for the Victorian Government to further progress planning and development work for the proposed nine kilometre rail tunnel project, which includes five new underground stations.
Line to open for mobile Loop hole
People using Melbourne’s City Loop will have full mobile telephone coverage within a year.
The breakthrough came after the state rail authority struck a deal with Australia’s three main mobile carriers, promising to end years of frustration for people plagued by mobile “dead zones” .
The new uninterrupted service has been made possible in large part by the upgrade of train driver communications systems from analogue to digital.
Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said the installation of 3G mobile infrastructure meant passengers would no longer have to ‘‘ truncatea telephone’ ’ call or put up with constant disruption while in the City Loop.
The project, officially known as the Melbourne Underground Rail Link, is a joint effort between the state rail authority, VicTrack, and the three service providers – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.
Once activated, about 130,000 daily commuters should benefit from the new underground network . The City Loop accounts for more than half of all train trips heading in or out of the CBD.
As many as 9600 people could be connected to the network at any one time, based on the City Loop’s capacity of 12 trains carrying a maximum of 800 passengers each.
The project is being coordinated by Optus on behalf of the other mobile carriers.
A spokeswoman for Vodafone, Carolyn Swindell, said that Optus, as lead carrier, was responsible for the design of the infrastructure and the timetable for launching the expanded mobile network.
Mr Mulder confirmed that works had already begun. “Over 12 kilometres of coaxial cable has been installed inside the City Loop’s four tunnels,” he said. “This cabling will serve as the backbone for uninterrupted mobile telephone coverage.”
The cabling system is technically known as a “leaky feeder” and is the reason many of the world’s undergrounds– including Hong Kong’s MTR, the London Underground and, most recently, Sydney’s City Circle Line – have seamless mobile phone coverage.
James Howe, corporate affairs spokesman for Telstra, said the technology’s “proven success” was the reason the system was implemented in Sydney and was now being installed in Melbourne.
“The key reason for using the ‘leaky feeder’ system in Australia is that it just works,” he said.
Lachlan McKenzie, of Transport for New South Wales, was also positive : “There have been no complaints about poor mobile service on the City Circle Line since the expanded mobile network was launched in April 2013.”
The move is possible because of the continuing work to replace the existing analogue train driver communications system with a unified digital radio system.
According to a Metro Trains spokeswoman, Larisa Tait, a side benefit of the driver communications upgrade was that the mobile service providers could install and operate 3G infrastructure inside the City Loop without the risk of interfering with driver communications.
“In short, the upgrade makes it possible for commuters to gain access to full 3G mobile services,” she said.
Mr Mulder said the government’s most important operational transport priority had been to ensure that commuter tunnels such as the City Loop employed up-to-date technology to maximise safety.
The president of the Public Transport Users Association, Tony Morton, welcomed the mobile phone infrastructure, but said the continued upkeep of Melbourne’s rail network should take a higher priority.
“There is no question that improving the reliability of Melbourne’s train network should take priority over the installation of mobile infrastructure,” he said.
“But if the mobile service providers are footing the bill for this project with little or no contribution from the Victorian government , then the outcome will be of great benefit to public transport users.”
No official date has been set for the launch of the City Loop’s expanded mobile network but Telstra’s Mr Howe said the network was expected to go live “within the next 12 months” .