Brittany Coles

Inland Rail to boost regional Australia by $13.3b

Regional communities across Australia are set to benefit from $13.3 billion in gross regional product due to the Inland Rail project.

According to an eight month study by EY, Inland Rail can add up to $13 billion in today’s terms to the value of goods and services produced over its first 50 years of operation.

The report was undertaken throughout 2019 and released by the Deputy Prime Minister in March 2020. The report builds on the projected 16,000 jobs and $16 billion boost to the national economy outlined in the 2015 Inland Rail Business Case

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development said Inland Rail is going to draw industry to regional Australia where the enhanced freight rail network will connect companies and consumers both domestically and internationally

“What the EY report is assessing is the additional benefit to communities from the opportunities that arise for local businesses and people from the completion of Inland Rail,” he said.

“For example, it might be a cereal manufacturer whose freight costs drop by 30 per cent allowing the employment of additional staff, or it might be the expansion of regional processing that takes advantage of Inland Rail’s lower cost and greater capacity and connectivity.”

EY looked at case studies, international examples, and local knowledge to determine the potential for investment, employment and growth along, and beyond, the alignment.

“The benefits of this project are going to be felt across generations. Right now, young people from regional areas are directly benefiting from working on Inland Rail’s construction including the 656 locals who have worked on the project in the Parkes region and the more than $75 million spent with local businesses,” he said.

“Inland Rail gives these communities new ways to grow and rebuild with better connections to interstate and international markets, new jobs and a stronger case for attracting public and private investment,” he said.

Mathias Cormann, Finance Minister said the first wave of developments are taking shape.

“We are very confident that many other regional towns in and around the Inland Rail corridor will secure further significant investment, development and job creation opportunities for their towns on the back of this exciting project,” Cormann said.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communication said in a statement that this work was tested with industry, governments, and communities with the study team heading to Narrabri, Toowoomba, Wagga Wagga, and Wodonga to get people’s views. 

That input shaped the forecasting and tested the study’s early findings. 

“We thank the communities, industry groups and local government who helped shape this work with local data and evidence,” the department stated.

The report followed another week of speculation on the impact of flooding on the regional rail link’s route via the Condamine floodplain. Shadow Member for Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Development Catherine King said that the government needs to consider hydrological modelling commissioned by farmers close to the alignment.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) released a statement standing by its own modelling, which it said showed that the selected route is the right one.

“The science tells us there is no premise to change the route based on flood modelling and the economics tells us that this route was the most viable, cost effective option,” said ARTC Inland Rail chief executive Richard Wankmuller.

Local concerns have been incorporated into the design of the route, said Wankmuller.

“It’s important governments and the community have confidence in the engineering and science that allows countries like Australia to deliver world-class infrastructure.”

As part of the deal signed between the federal and Queensland governments which gave the Border to Gowrie section the go-ahead, an international review panel will review the floodplain modelling.

Sydney business community want more funding for Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2

David Borger, executive director of the Western Sydney Business Chamber said Stage 1 of Parramatta Light Rail is at risk of being a “white elephant” due to funding concerns for future stages of the line.

The Western Sydney Business Chamber is urging the NSW government to allocate funding in the NSW budget to get the next stage of the Parramatta Light Rail ready for construction.

Borger said the NSW government committed to building a Parramatta Light Rail network and the business community don’t want to see Stage 1 put at risk of being a “white elephant because the NSW Government has shelved the next stages”.

“We understand that Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 is awaiting an ‘investment decision’ by the NSW cabinet. My message to government ministers is give the project the green light and let’s get on with connecting Sydney’s central city with its surrounding suburbs,” he said.

Borger said stage 2 of Parramatta Light Rail ticks so many boxes when it comes to a good public transport project and it builds on the taxpayer investment in Stage 1.

In a Business NSW’s NSW Budget Priorities report, released as a pre-budget submission this month, Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 is listed an infrastructure priority.

Business NSW executives stated in the report that Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 has reached the point in its development where further meaningful work needs to be sustained by a government commitment to move forward with the project.

“This budget should allocate funding to allow the next stage of project development to be completed, with an eye to moving towards construction as Stage 1 is completed,” Business NSW executives said.

Infrastructure Australia has also noted the importance of public transport to Parramatta CBD, but Business NSW executives said the next major deliverable that can improve matters has been stuck in a holding pattern since the completion of early business case development.

Connecting hubs of major activity at Parramatta and the Sydney Olympic Park, and joining up the heavy rail, Metro and ferry transport networks, Light Rail Stage 2 serves a fast-growing part of the city. 

Borger said the true value of light rail is when it is a network.

“The NSW Government may very well be needing some economic stimulus projects towards the end of the year. Getting Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 shovel ready would be a common sense decision,” he said.

A spokesperson for Parramatta Light Rail said a final Business Case for the second stage of Parramatta Light Rail is currently being considered by the NSW Government, with an investment decision to follow.

Planning work is currently being further developed and informed by consultation with the community, stakeholders, other NSW Government agencies and transport projects including Sydney Metro West.

In October 2017, the NSW Government announced the preferred route for the second stage of the Parramatta Light Rail, which will connect Stage 1 and Parramatta CBD to Ermington, Melrose Park, Wentworth Point, and Sydney Olympic Park.

It will have 10-12 stops over a ten-kilometre two-way track, with travel times of around 25 minutes from Sydney Olympic Park to Camellia, and a further eight minutes to Parramatta CBD.

WA transport minister defends railcar manufacturing in Bellevue

Liza Harvey, leader of the opposition in Western Australia, has labelled railcar manufacturing as a practise from a bygone era.

In a speech to the state’s business community at the Business News Politics Breakfast on Wednesday morning, Harvey said “we don’t know the total cost to the state of the McGowan Government rail car experiment” and claimed that railcar manufacturing should not be a focus for WA.

“What we will not do is heavily subsidise industries where the State has no comparative advantage, nor bring back industries from a bygone era,” Harvey said in her speech.

Harvey said the opposition has been trying to scrutinise the decision by the McGowan Labor government to determine if this decision delivers value for money for the taxpayer of Western Australia given that this is a $1.3 billion investment.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said that building railcars in WA was cheaper than other options.

“The cost of WA-made railcars is cheaper than the cost of the previous procurement of B-Series from Queensland that was ordered when she was Deputy Premier,” Saffioti said.

“The cost per railcar under the last order of B-Series trains was $4.05 million, while the cost under the new C-Series contract is around $2.97 million.”

The spokesperson from the office of Liza Harvey said Saffioti has refused on many occasions to provide any transparency regarding this contract.

“The Minister has refused to provide any breakdown regarding the various cost elements of the contract such as the cost of maintenance,” she said.

“The Minister has refused to table the contract or provide a business case.

“The Leader of the Opposition indicated that a future Liberal Government would not be subsidising uncompetitive industries however, we will not do what the current Government does and create sovereign risk by ripping up contracts,” Harvey said.

Saffioti denied Harvey’s claims including a comment that WA’s facility was going to “fit out trains from Victoria”.

“Victoria builds its own trains – as do many modern economies around the world. WA will also be building its own trains,” she said.

Saffioti said train manufacturing involves modern skills that are easily transferable to other industries.

“The Opposition Leader’s embarrassing attack on WA workers shows the Liberal Party hasn’t moved on from their fundamental opposition to rail and local jobs,” she said.

“Our vision for WA is to build a modern train manufacturing and maintenance hub, that not only builds and maintains our public transport trains, but creates further opportunities for the freight, agricultural and mining industries.”

Saffioti said these industries are major users of rail and rolling stock, and the railcar contract provides growth opportunities throughout the state.

“The question for Ms Harvey is: If Western Australia should not build our 246 C-series railcars, and six Australind railcars, then who should?”

Victorian Transport Department chief steps down

Former CEO of Public Transport Victoria (PTV), Jeroen Weimar has resigned from his current role in the Department of Transport.

After under a year as the Victorian Department of Transport’s head of transport services, Weimar will step down from his position.

Weimar was appointed to the position last July when PTV and VicRoads merged with the department.

Weimar was CEO of PTV for more than five years before his role in charge of Victoria’s transport operations.

Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan said in a social media post on Thursday that she thanks Weimar for his leadership and support.

“Jeroen has led the way as we continue to build a more accessible and inclusive network and keep people moving as we get on with our big build,” she said in a tweet.

Weimar was former Chair of Board for V/Line following roles at the British Transport Police Authority, the Greater London Authority, and KPMG.

Originally from the United Kingdom, he has had experience working at Transport for London for almost a decade.

Weimar’s replacement has not yet been announced.

UAE Etihad Rail awards locomotives contract to a US-based company

The United Arab Emirates’ national rail operator Etihad Rail has signed a contract to procure 38 locomotives from a US-based Progress Rail Locomotive, a Caterpillar company.

Etihad Rail became operational in 2016, and the company’s current fleet of seven locomotives will be expanded sixfold, bringing the total number of locomotives in 45.

Etihad Rail contracted Progress Rail, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of diesel-electric locomotives, to design, manufacture, test, and ship 38 EMD locomotives especially designed to withstand the high temperatures and humidity of the Gulf region.

The expansion will increase the network’s annual capacity to more than 60 million tonnes, compared to the current annual capacity of approximately 7.2 million tonnes.

H.H. Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed said the cutting-edge fleet of locomotives will raise the bar in the transportation system and logistics services in the country.

“We are moving forward in completing all the necessary components for this national project that contributes to the UAE’s progress and enhances the country’s prestigious global position,” he said.

The locomotive fleet will be equipped with a state-of-the-art air filtration system that filters sand from the air intake and pulse cleaning systems, ensuring effective operations while passing through desert areas throughout the country.

The locomotives feature powerful motors and will be supported by advanced emission reduction technology, reducing carbon emissions by 70-80 per cent and they are designed to haul a 100-wagon train, which can replace 5,600 on-road truck trips per day.

The agreement increases the fleet of Etihad Rail to 45 heavy 4,500 HP locomotives, which are among the most powerful locomotives in the region.

The signing of the contract follows the awarding of all civil works contracts for Stage Two of the national railway network, the launch of construction works of Package A of Stage Two, and the award of a contract to build a series of freight facilities for the rail network, underlining the company’s performance to complete one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the country. 

Council hopes to return express trains to Liverpool

Express trains are being called to return to Liverpool on the Inner West Line in Sydney’s south west.

Liverpool City Council in Greater Wester Sydney is supporting the restoration from City to Liverpool via Regents Park.

The T2 Inner West Line’s City to Liverpool via Regents Park train service was removed in October 2013, followed by express services removed due to the Leppington Line via Granville no longer running fast trains to the City Circle in 2017.

Sydney Metro Southwest from Sydenham to Bankstown will replace the current City to Liverpool via T3 Bankstown Line in 2024.

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) are seeking feedback on proposed rail service options for train stations west of Bankstown once the South West Metro project is complete and operational.

Nathan Hagarty, a Liverpool City councillor proposed a motion on February 26 this year for the council to send a submission to TfNSW to vocalise its endorsement to option 2, the restoration of the City via Regents Park line as the council’s preferred option. 

The council agreed to pass the motion and will also state in the submission that Option 2 be implemented, not in 2024 with the Metro opens, but as soon as the existing Bankstown line is closed.

A spokesperson for TfNSW said over the next ten years the More Trains, More Services program will roll out world class technology to transform the rail network.

More than $4.3 billion is being invested in the More Trains, More Services program, which has already delivered more than 1700 additional weekly services across the rail network since 2017.

The next stages of More Trains, More Services will focus on delivering improvements for the T4 Illawarra, T8 Airport and South and the South Coast lines.

The program includes infrastructure improvements across the network. These include modifications to track, signalling, stabling facilities, and station platforms.

Liverpool City Council joins Strathfield Council, Auburn City Council/Cumberland Council, and Canterbury-Bankstown Council in supporting the restoration of the Inner West Line (City to Liverpool via Regents Park) train service.

Last minute calls for funding to save Overland

A Victorian MP is urging the state government to commit further funding to the Overland rail service that will stop running on March 31.

The South Australian government withdrew its funding in 2019 and for the past three months the Victorian government took over subsiding the service.

The 828km long service between Adelaide and Melbourne has been running since 1887. 

Stuart Grimley, Victorian leader of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party stated in a speech to parliament that Overland should be jointly funded by both Victorian and SA state governments.

However, if SA doesn’t agree to joint funding then the Victorian government should consider long term funding to guarantee the longevity of the service.

“Rail is vital for rural and regional towns,” Grimley said.

He is calling on the Minister for Public Transport, Melissia Horne to back the service to rectify perceived differences in funding between regional and metro projects, following investments in the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project, countless level crossing removals and forward planning on the Suburban Rail Loop. 

“No-one argues that these projects are not of significant importance, but we must be conscious of striking a better balance between funding for metropolitan and rural rail projects,” Grimley said.

With airports few and far between in the Wimmera area and buses not accessible for all those with physical impairments, a long-term rail transport option should be guaranteed.”

Grimley said he understands that there are a number of demands on the state budget in terms of rail already, however, they should not come at the expense to services in regional areas. 

“Given this, the action that I seek is for the transport infrastructure minister to commit to long-term funding for the Overland train service to continue,” he said.

A spokesperson from Journey Beyond said last year that Overland has consistently required government support, which has heavily subsidised significant ­operational costs to ensure ­affordability for commuters.

Edwin Michell, an aerospace engineer, told IN Daily that for $50 million or less, commissioning new, state-of-the-art tilting trains such as the Spanish-made Talgo XXI could save the line, as at present the service is too slow.

Talgo’s dual gauge capability will allow seamless operations on the broad-gauge suburban networks of Melbourne and Adelaide, as well as on the standard-gauge interstate railway, meaning no changes to the track would be required.

Michell said the current railway is well maintained and its concrete sleepers and heavy, continuously welded rail is well suited for high speed operations.

“Using the dual-gauge system to take the shorter broad-gauge route via Ballarat, instead of the current standard-gauge route via Geelong, would save a further half-hour,” Michell said to the IN Daily.

“Assuming a 25 per cent speed increase on the highly curved sections through the Adelaide Hills and on approach to Melbourne, and a 160km/h cruise speed through the long, flat and mostly straight run between Murray Bridge and Ararat, about 3.5 hours would be cut from the journey.”

Michell is calling on private sectors to take advantage of the Overland as a business opportunity.

He estimated to the IN Daily that annual revenue would be $33 million from an average fare level of $150 and financing costs of 5 per cent, interest on capital would be $2.5m and if track access were charged according to the ARTC’s present price schedule, such charges would come to about $1.8m per year.

“Therefore, the break-even level of direct operation and maintenance costs would be $28.6m, or roughly $0.17 per passenger-kilometre, O&M costs would need to be kept below $0.11 per passenger-km.” Michell said

“This should be achievable, even with no subsidy.”

At this stage, the Overland is set to retire by the end of the month. 

Girder installations now 70 per cent complete on Flinders Link Project

The Flinders Link Project in South Australia has now completed 70 per cent of girder installations, with a total of 14 steel beam bridge girders being installed over the last three months.

A spokesperson from the SA Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) said construction works for the new Flinders Station is well underway.

The Australian and SA Governments are jointly funding the $141 million Flinders Link Project to construct a 650-metre extension of the current Tonsley rail line, including an elevated single track over Sturt Road, Laffers Triangle and Main South Road, linking Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders University to the passenger rail network.

A DPTI spokesperson said the girders form the base of the bridge deck as part of the elevated rail bridge structure and 180 pre-cast concrete deck panels are installed on top of the 20 steel beam bridge girders. Concrete is then poured over the pre-cast concrete deck panels to complete the bridge deck.

Installation of the steel beam bridge girders across and adjacent Sturt Road were recently installed from 21st to 24th February.

Installation of the steel beam bridge girders across Laffer Drive will be occurring this month, whilst the remaining steel beam bridge girders will be installed within the construction areas over the coming weeks.

Following completion of the girder installation, pre-cast concrete deck panels and concrete pours the new railway tracks will be installed directly on top of the concrete deck along the elevated bridge and approaches in the second quarter of 2020. 

Gateway South, a joint venture between Fulton Hogan and Laing O’Rourke was awarded the design and construct contract for the Flinders Link Project.

A DPTI spokesperson said there are approximately 88 suppliers and 59 subcontractors working on behalf of the project. 

Design of the new Tonsley Station is progressing and the entire project is expected to be completed in the second half of 2020.

Queensland’s newest train fleet deployed to the Sunshine Coast line

On Monday, March 2, Queensland’s newest trains, the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) fleet, were deployed to the Sunshine Coast line for the first time.

The NGR fleet has been deployed to Nambour on the Sunshine Coast to replace older train models to operate more than 40 existing weekly Sunshine Coast line services, Monday to Friday.

The final NGR train entered service for the Queensland Government in late January this year.

Manufactured by Bombardier, the NGR trains have travelled over eight million in service kilometres, and 150,000 passenger journeys, since December 2017.

Maintenance of the fleet is being carried out by Bombardier at Wulkuraka, near Ipswich, for 32 years, where testing and commissioning has been occurring.

The NGR trains are 147m long and weigh 260 tonnes and have a total passenger capacity of approximately 964 people, including 454 seated and 510 standing (depending on conditions).

Queensland Rail has also added an extra 32 weekly services to its South East Queensland (SEQ) timetable each week from March 2.

In addition, five services will extend on the SEQ timetable including extending an existing Caboolture service to start from Nambour at 5.38am weekdays, providing an additional morning peak train for customers between Nambour and Elimbah stations.

Queensland Rail said in a statement that the company has reviewed its operations across SEQ and have identified an opportunity to deliver these service improvements, within existing resources that are available.

“These changes will also reduce empty train running across the region by 1,460 kilometres per week, delivering extra services for our customers instead,” Queensland Rail said in a statement. 

“These improvements will deliver the largest number of weekly train services ever offered across SEQ and follows the introduction of 462 extra weekly services and 200,000 extra seats to our timetable in 2019.”

New rail bridge in Melbourne almost completed

The Level Crossings Removal Project team has installed major L-beams that make up a new rail bridge, with 60 per cent of the bridge now complete.

The Toorak Road level crossing in Kooyong will be removed six months ahead of schedule by April this year.

Over the past few weeks, the team at the Toorak Road level crossing removal project have been installing 24 of the 40 L-beams that make up the new rail bridge.

The largest beams spanning Toorak Road are 31 metres long and weigh 128 tonnes.

The beams are lifted into place by two cranes weighing up to 550 tonnes and then stitched together to create the U-trough, which the trains will travel on.

Each beam is made in Kilmore, Victoria and delivered overnight 87km to Toorak Road.

Project director Steve Brown told the Herald Sun the rail bridge was taking shape at record pace.

“We’ve installed more than half of it in under a week, and the project is on track to be finished six months ahead of schedule,” he said to the Herald Sun.

Services on sections of the Glen Waverley line throughout March will not run and be replaced by buses, due to works at Toorak Road, Kooyong.

Following ongoing level crossing removals across Melbourne, Hurstbridge Station located in the city’s north-east has started construction on the $2.8 million project to upgrade commuter car parks.

Ace Infrastructure will build the government funded project which will include new and upgraded car park spaces along Graysharps Road west of Hurstbridge Station.

Other improvements coming up on the Hurstbridge line include a new station at Greensborough and the duplication of three kilometres of track between Greensborough and Eltham, and 1.5 kilometres between Diamond Creek and Wattle Glen.

Melburnians face a city- wide construction blitz this autumn, including major shutdowns of the Frankston and Upfield lines.