Real-time data on crowding being trialled

Similar technology is being rolled out in the Netherlands, Spain and China as transport operators across the globe face dramatic drops in patronage due to infection fears and working-from-home arrangements.


Victoria’s public transport use dwindled to 9 per cent of normal levels at the height of the second lockdown, with the Andrews government understood to have paid Metro $56 million as part of a COVID-19 rescue package.

Monash University’s chair of public transport, Graham Currie, welcomed the trial, saying it was in line with international practice in managing public transport use during the pandemic.

“This is about building confidence in the network to make people feel reassured that they can avoid crowding,” Professor Currie said.

Commuters would be more able to make an informed decision about whether they wish to use public transport if they can access the network’s crowding levels, he said.

Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll said the trial would meet the needs of commuters looking to use the network as restrictions ease.

“The coronavirus pandemic has presented an opportunity for us to rethink how we travel around the state – we want these passenger modelling trials to help people travel more reliably and safely,” Mr Carroll said.

Four private technology providers are involved in the trial, Telstra Purple, Consat Telematics, Sage Technology and NTT data, which operates the Myki ticketing system.

The state’s PTV app was revamped on Monday, enabling users to manage their Myki cards through the app rather than queuing for over-the-counter transactions or top-up machines. It would also provide instant updates about disruptions as well as bus and train locations.

The Andrews government has separately said that it will spend $26 million on life extension works for A and Z-Class trams, as part of a $328 million investment in critical transport maintenance and upgrades announced earlier this year.

The works would maintain electrical, braking and traction systems on the trams running on 17 routes across Melbourne and making up a third of the city’s fleet.

The government has ordered 50 E-Class trams since 2015, with 89 of a total order of 100 trams now on the network.

Z-Class trams on Swanston Street.Credit:Eddie Jim

It follows $145 million spent on 10 new E-Class trams and upgrades to 10 Z-Class trams allocated in the 2019/20 state budget.

The high-floor A and Z-Class trams were built by Comeng in the 1980s and can fit 105 and 112 passengers respectively, compared with 210 on the newer E-Class trams.

The Z class trams built in the 1970s – the Class 1 and 2 vehicles – have been retired, leaving 111 Z-Class 3 trams on the network. Victoria is currently running 69 A-Class trams.

Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen said some of the older trams were getting “pretty rundown” and required ongoing maintenance work.

But fresh orders for more low-floor, accessible and air-conditioned trams were needed to boost the quality of service while also providing more space for commuters to socially distance, Mr Bowen said.

“The challenge with public transport over the coming months is to make sure there will be enough capacity for people to stay physically distanced as they travel,” he said.

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Banned drinkers register to be trialled in Pilbara

A trial to curb alcohol-fuelled violence in Western Australia’s north will officially start in December.

Under the banned drinkers register (BDR), anyone who wants to buy take-away liquor in the Pilbara will be required to produce ID which will be scanned by staff.

The BDR technology will assess the person’s identification in real time via a remote server and determine whether the person is on the register. 

Minister for Racing and Gaming Paul Papalia said the two-year trial, the first of its kind in WA, had been pushed back due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“We’ll be able to decide whether it works and we’ll be able to determine that through an independent study,” he said.

The trial will be assessed by the University of Western Australia.

Preventing harm in the community

Mr Papalia said 15 people in the Pilbara were currently on the register and that he hoped more people would be added.

“I think there’s an opportunity now to apply this in a more robust fashion,” he said.

“It’s about identifying people who are a risk to themselves and to the community … and they cause a lot of harm, and trying to prevent them from having easy access to alcohol and get them towards services, that’s the whole objective.”

There will be a number of avenues through which authorities can add people to the BDR.

“The director of liquor licensing can put someone on there through a prohibition order,” Mr Papalia said.

“Alternatively, the police commissioner can use a barring notice, and finally the third option is people can voluntarily put themselves on it.”

Police say alcohol is a big driver in domestic violence and anti-social behaviour.(ABC Kimberley: Erin Parke)

Local liquor accord welcomes decision

Mr Papalia said the BDR was not being forced on the industry.

Brent Rudler, chairman of the Port Hedland Liquor Strategy, said it was superb that the BDR would be trialled in the Pilbara.

He said it was another tool the community could use.

“Thirty years I’ve been in the industry, and I’ve been waiting for something else other than just 64 inquiries and restrictions imposed.”

He said the community and Government needed to also focus on how it could get people off the register and work out why they were added in the first place.

Police and liquor outlets in the Pilbara are already working together on the Hedland Liquor Strategy.

Outlets receive daily text messages with an updated list of people and vehicles that are banned from buying alcohol in the town or someone who may be trying to buy large quantities of alcohol to sell for profit.

five people including two police officers in a liquor store, looking at camera, bottles infront
Paul Papalia (left) with local MP Kevin Michel and Senior Sergeant Jeremy Marklew announcing the start of the trial.(ABC Pilbara: Laura Birch)

South Hedland Police Acting Officer-in-Charge Michelle Cornwall said the strategy would continue and work in conjunction with the BDR when it started on December 1.

“[It’s] very similar to the strategies we employee already but it’s more official and it’s a quicker way to check if people are on a banned register,” she said.

“Alcohol is a big driver in domestic violence, anti-social behaviour and violence in general.”

She said the Hedland strategy had reduced domestic violence and alcohol-fuelled violence in the community.

Privacy will be secure, Minister says

WA company Scantek has been selected to supply the technology for the trial.

Mr Papalia said personal information on the BDR would remain confidential and no records would be kept by licensees about the purchaser.

“The operators won’t have access to the database; it’s being held remotely by the department,” he said.

“All of the privacy measures afforded normally to people placed on any database which the department manages is afforded to them.”

Mr Papalia said there might be a trial in other parts of the state.

“It’s actually looking as though there might be a voluntary trial in the Kimberley, and they’re looking towards commencing one at the same time,” he said.

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Coronavirus: Outdoor arts and sports events to be trialled in Wales

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During lockdown many people have been running in parks and on beaches

A number of small-scale outdoor theatres and sporting events will be trialled in Wales as coronavirus restrictions are eased.

Races and events were cancelled when lockdown began in March, and mass gatherings were banned.

Now First Minister Mark Drakeford has said three outdoor events, with up to 100 people, would be held in the hope more would be allowed.

But Mr Drakeford said more events would only be held if cases did not rise.

Under the trial, outdoor performances run by Theatr Clwyd, in Flintshire, will be allowed from 27 August.

The Return to Racing triathlon at Pembrey Country Park, Carmarthenshire, will also go ahead, but without spectators, and a car rally at Trac Mon, on Anglesey, has also been allowed.

Mr Drakeford said parents and pupils could have confidence schools would reopen “successfully” in September.

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First Minister Mark Drakeford says the safe reopening of schools was “right at the top of our agenda”

Speaking at Friday’s press briefing, he said Wales had a “unique experience” in the UK from the way schools were able to reopen before the summer break and “we have learned a great deal from that”.

“We are putting the successful and safe reopening for schools right at the top of our agenda,” he added.

But he stressed that if coronavirus did not “remain at the very suppressed level it currently is”, keeping schools open would be the priority when deciding on measures to combat the virus.

Mr Drakeford said the aim of holding the arts and sports events over the coming weeks was to “learn from how we can safely hold outdoor events while maintaining social distancing”.

“We will trial three small-scale events, in partnership with the events organisers, local authorities and other stakeholders, to see if they can be carried out in a safe way, with a view to supporting the sector and making the most of the remaining summer months where we can spend time outdoors,” he said.

The Welsh Government said the events would be subject to strict risk assessments.

Earlier, Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast: “In three weeks’ time, if these events have been successful and the virus remains effectively suppressed, I hope I can say those sorts of events can become more routinely available in Wales.”

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Indoor visits to care homes are set to be allowed from a week Saturday

Relatives will be able to visit their loved ones in care homes from 29 August, under “strict” rules to be set out in guidance.

Mr Drakeford said this was one of the “most serious decisions” taken by Welsh Government.

“I know that there will be many families and many residents that this will make and enormous difference,” he added.

“But care homes are such vulnerable places that it’s right we take a different level of caution before we allow those visits to take place.”

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PA Media

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Casinos will also be able to reopen on 29 August provided cases remain low

Casinos will be allowed to reopen on the same date, with both moves subject to coronavirus remaining under control.

Mr Drakeford confirmed that up to four households will be able to join together in an “exclusive extended arrangement” from this weekend.

Currently an extended household can only be made up of two households, but from Saturday that cap will double – a plan that was announced last week.

A meal following a wedding, civil partnership or funeral will also be allowed for up to 30 people indoors, if social distancing can be maintained, from 22 August.

‘Being careful, being cautious’

Mr Drakeford told Friday’s press briefing 500 businesses had been closed since March after breaking coronavirus regulations.

He said incidents had been witnessed and reported to the police and local authorities “which are plainly not within the rules”.

Earlier he said things “continue to improve” in Wales, but that the picture across the UK was “challenging”.

Asked about the difference in infection rates between Wales and England, Mr Drakeford said population density was “part of the explanation” but “it may not be the whole of the explanation”.

“I do think that some of what we are seeing is the result of the way that we have done things in Wales,” he said.

“I’m not going to claim that it’s the whole of the reason, luck comes into this as well as good planning.

“But the way we’ve tried to do things in Wales, step-by-step, trying not to do too many things at once, trying to make sure that you can have a sense of cause and effect in what you are doing, being willing to do it in a cautious, controlled way.”

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Media captionNearly one-fifth of residents at the home died in the space of a month

Karen Healey, general manager of Tregwilym Lodge nursing and residential home in Rogerstone, Newport, said she was “slightly tentative about” opening the care home to visitors, as 21 residents had died from Covid-19 up to the end of June.

“Although we will be opening our home up, we will have to do in a staged approach because, quite clearly, what we can’t afford is to open up the home and to cause another pandemic,” she said.

“We are also very mindful that there could be a second wave coming.

“I have a duty to protect my staff and, more importantly, my residents.”

Lee Dirkzwager, 72, from Cardiff, who has been shielding, said: “I did venture out on Sunday, very tentatively, quite nervous actually.

“I didn’t enjoy it and came back to what I now call the norm, which is isolation. I think it’s going to take a long time to adjust.

“I’m nervous to meet even family… I suppose I’ve become somewhat institutionalised being on my own,” she said.

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Shared community battery may be trialled in solar-powered Canberra suburb to stabilise energy supply

Australia is home to the planet’s biggest battery. It is also the world’s leading market for household batteries.

But Canberra researchers suggest medium-sized batteries — shared between several hundred homes — could be just as crucial for the energy grid’s future.

The ACT Government is considering giving residents of a new suburb shared access to such a battery, which would be about as big as a shipping container.

The proposal would benefit up to 500 homes in Jacka, a community that will have solar cells on every roof.

If it goes ahead, it will store households’ unused energy, earning them more money and preventing their excess electricity from destabilising the power grid — a problem of growing concern to the grid’s operator.

It will also allow more people to benefit from battery technology, which to date has been used almost exclusively by wealthy households.

Community battery concept
A concept image of a residential community battery.(Supplied: ARENA/Synergy)

‘Cheaper and more efficient’

Community-scale batteries are not yet used in Australia’s biggest energy network, which includes South Australia and all eastern states.

However, modelling by Australian National University (ANU) researchers shows the mid-sized batteries can be cheaper and more effective than household batteries.

A research leader of the ANU’s battery and grid integration program, Marnie Shaw, says Australia has the world’s highest rate of rooftop-solar generation, and needs ways to store that electricity.

“Batteries save households money because they allow you to use solar energy that you produce during the day later in the evening when you need it, and that energy will be cheaper than buying energy from the grid,” she said.

“So having any kind of battery storage will be cheaper for households.

A woman in a lab smiling.
Dr Marnie Shaw’s modelling suggests community batteries can save households more money and better protect the power grid.(ABC News)

An ANU simulation of a battery linked to 200 homes suggested each household would save about $15 a month in power costs in today’s energy market.

But one of the main beneficiaries would be the power network itself, as the battery would substantially reduce the amount of solar energy flooding the grid during daylight hours.

Batteries can stabilise the grid

Last month, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said it needed the power to stop households exporting their excess electricity at critical periods, to avoid damaging the grid.

Its chief executive, Audrey Zibelman, said AEMO would do this only during emergencies.

“This is very temporary, very limited and, really … a last-resort control we need if we were worried the system would otherwise go black,” she told 7.30.

However, the growing use of batteries is already beginning to solve this problem.

Dr Shaw’s early modelling suggests household batteries can lessen potentially damaging energy flows during peak periods by about 25 per cent, while a community battery can be up to twice as effective.

But she says all types of power reserves — home, community and large-scale — are important for the network.

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One of the Hornsdale Power Reserve’s biggest successes has been in protecting the grid from voltage surges.(ABC News)

Government keen, but deal not yet done

The ACT passed a milestone last year when its entire electricity use was matched by purchases from renewable sources.

This means Canberra is now effectively 100 per cent powered by green energy, though still reliant on Australia’s main grid.

Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry said suburban planning was an important part of fighting climate change.

However, the Jacka battery remained a proposal at this stage, which the Government was examining with the ANU and power utility Evoenergy.

“There’s a lot of work to do in that space, because innovation is happening every day in battery storage and solar energy,” she said.

“So we want to make sure we get it right.

The Government is also trialling other ways to improve green energy use and efficiency in new suburbs.

In Whitlam, for example, it is subsidising home owners who buy rooftop solar, electric vehicle charging points and efficient appliances.

However, Dr Shaw said one of the main advantages of a community battery, compared with other initiatives, was it could benefit a wider range of people.

“This is one of the problems with household batteries — they require a large upfront investment and that’s out of reach for some people.”

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