David Loneragan

KiwiRail to build intermodal freight hub in Palmerston North

New Zealand rail operator KiwiRail is developing plans for an inland freight hub in the Manawatu-Whanganui region, following the government’s allocation of $40 million for the project.

The government’s investment, part of its Provincial Growth Fund, will see KiwiRail purchase land for an intermodal rail and road freight hub near Palmerston North.

KiwiRail will relocate its operations from its Palmerston North Fright Yard to the new hub following its completion.

Palmerston North is already a critical freight distribution point for goods coming from the upper North Island, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay and Wellington.

KiwiRail’s acting chief executive Todd Moyle said that freight volumes were expected to increase significantly over the coming decades.

“To best manage this growth, it’s crucial that we make the most of multiple forms of transport.  With an airport nearby and NZTA planning a freight ring road and a replacement road for the Manawatu Gorge, there is a need for a distribution zone near the city. Rail is a vital part of that development,” Moyle said.

“Every tonne of freight carried by rail has 66 per cent fewer carbon emissions than heavy road freight. Getting more freight on rail also reduces road congestion and road maintenance costs and improves road safety.”

Moyle said that the inter-modal freight hub would better enable the rail and road freight networks to meet rising freight demand in central New Zealand.

“KiwiRail is now beginning detailed plans for the freight hub, which will include identifying potential sites and seeking resource consent to designate land for rail use,” he said.

“We will work with key customers on major infrastructure requirements to encourage freight businesses into the area.”

Airport. Photo: Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development

New Western Sydney Airport authority established

A new authority to guide the design and delivery of the Western Sydney Aerotropolis has been established.

Federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population Alan Tudge said the Western City and Aerotropolis Authority (WCAA) will lead the master planning of the massive infrastructure project.

“Over the next 20 years, the eight council areas within the Western Parkland City will collectively grow by 500,000 residents –  as a result we are working to deliver a new city with a population of 1.5 million – bigger than the current size of Adelaide,” Tudge said.

“The Aerotropolis will provide employment and lifestyle opportunities for generations to come.”

The Authority will begin by designing and overseeing delivery of the metropolitan centre of the Aerotropolis, to be established on 114 hectares of Australian Government land at North Bringelly.

The Authority will identify and complete masterplans for sites that kick-start development of the Aerotropolis and support growth of the Western Parkland City, creating vibrant and connected places to work and live. The specific roles played by the Authority will be:

  • Master-planning and master-developing
  • Placemaking, precinct activation and precinct management
  • Infrastructure planning, prioritisation and coordination
  • Securing both national and foreign investment

The Authority will also a have key role in delivering on NSW strategic plans, including:

  • The Western City District Plan (Greater Sydney Commission)
  • The land Use and Infrastructure Implementation Plan (LUIIP) for the Western Sydney Aerotropolis (Department of Planning and Environment)
  • Future Transport Strategy (Transport for NSW).

Health Infrastructure NSW CEO Sam Sangster has been appointed as CEO of WCAA with the Western Parkland City Chief Coordinator and Greater Sydney Commission Deputy Chief Commissioner Geoff Roberts in place as interim Chair.

NSW Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said the Aerotropolis will drive employment growth in the metropolitan centres of Liverpool, Penrith and Campbelltown, Camden and the broader Western City.

“The Aerotropolis will be the catalyst for the 200,000 jobs that the three levels of government committed to creating in the Western Parkland City through the Western Sydney City Deal,” Ayres said.

The federal and NSW governments are working together to develop the Western Sydney Rail Needs Scoping study, which is to identify a feasible rail option to link the airport to Sydney’s rail network.

Kaikoura rebuild effort recognised with engineering award

New Zealand’s rail operator KiwiRail, NZ Transport Agency and the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) alliance have been named the winners of Civil Engineers People’s Choice Award 2018 for their work to repair and reopen the Main North Line and State Highway One following the Kaikoura earthquake in late 2016.

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is a professional membership body for civil engineers worldwide who work across government and industry. This year is the first year the award has been open to entrants from outside the UK, to mark ICE’s bicentenary.

Other finalists included the 2.7 km long Forth river replacement bridge in Scotland; an innovative offshore wind farm generating electricity for 34,000 household near Newcastle, England; a new metro rail system in Hyderabad India; and a Hong Kong Harbour area waste water treatment scheme.

“This is an amazing win for New Zealand and highlights this country’s expertise in civil engineering and earthquake recovery,” KiwiRail’s acting chief executive Todd Moyle said.

“KiwiRail, our partners NZTA and the NCTIR alliance brought together the best civil engineering and construction capability in New Zealand to deliver what was a massively complex project. This award is for everyone who worked on that project, and the communities who supported us over the two years it took.”

The Main North Line, which runs between Picton and Christchurch, is a major link in New Zealand’s transport supply network, with over 1 million tonnes of freight travelling between the North and South islands every year before the earthquake left over 150 kilometres of its length damaged.

Intense repair works allowed an initial restricted re-opening of the line in September 2017 for low-frequency freight services running five nights a week to allow repair and rebuilding work to continue. However, these were quickly suspended after exceptionally high levels of rain in Kaikoura, followed by another limited reopening of the line in November.

After being hit by Cyclone Gita in late February, freight services were once again briefly closed down for track repairs.

Despite the setbacks, the efforts of work teams from KiwiRail, NZ Transport Agency and the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR), have meant that freight trains have been able to return to the line, with tens of thousands of tonnes of freight now being delivered via the Main North Line once again. KiwiRail is also looking forward to reintroducing its iconic Coastal Pacific scenic tourist train service in December this year.

Victorian communities to be consulted on Inland Rail projects

ARTC’s Inland Rail team will be returning to the Broadford and Wandong communities in Victoria this month to provide updates and solicit feedback regarding works that will take place along the north-east rail corridor to support the running of double-stacked freight trains.

There are sixty-three sites in Victoria where Inland Rail will need to make room for the taller trains, which will use the direct rail link being built between Melbourne and Brisbane, by either lowering the track, making changes to an existing structure or replacing that structure.

Four bridges in the Broadford and Wandong area will be affected by the works: the Broadford-Wandong Road bridge, the Hamilton Street Bridge, the Short Street bridge and the Marchbanks Road bridge.

Inland Rail teams previously met with community members in consultation sessions during June and July, presenting early designs.

Inland Rail’s Victorian stakeholder engagement manager, Lauren McKenzie, said that investigations and testing had been done since then.

“Currently, replacing the Hamilton Street, Marchbanks Road and Broadford-Wandong Road bridges is our preferred option. Lowering the track at Short Street is the preferred option there,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie said that the community would be presented with the plans and their questions and concerns addressed.

“We’re also keen to share how that early feedback has influenced our design development, particularly around pedestrian and cycling access,” she said.

“There is still work to be done to find the best solution for delivering these works, but we are conscious that maintaining access during construction, which is not due to start until 2020, is important to the community.”

The project will be hosting two community sessions. The first is this Saturday 10 November at the Wandong Public Hall and then on Thursday 15 November at the Broadford Golf Club.

Sydney Metro’s second TBM gets digging

Another mega tunnel boring machine (TBM) has begun its tunnelling work under Sydney as part of the city’s Sydney Metro project.

The TBM, called Mum Shirl, is the second of five TBMs that will work on the rail project. It was launched at Marrickwille this week and will work alongside TBM Nancy launched two weeks ago.

“We now have two TBMs operating, bringing us one step closer to delivering this game changing public transport system for Sydney,” NSW transport minister Andrew Constance said.

“These machines are underground factories, mechanical worms designed to dig and line the tunnels as they go so that Sydney Metro can be delivered as quickly as possible.”

TBM Mum Shirl and Nancy are currently working on the 8.1 kilometres of twin metro tunnels from Marrickville to the new Sydney Metro station sites at Waterloo, Central, Pitt Street, Martin Place and on to Barangaroo, where they will be removed from deep underground.

Two more TBMs will dig 6.2 kilometres from Chatswood to the edge of Sydney Harbour. A fifth machine has been specially designed to deliver the twin tunnels under Sydney Harbour.

The five TBMS will eventually dig 31 kilometres of tunnels between Marrickville and Chatswood.

The TBMs are approximately 150 metres long specially designed for Sydney’s hard sandstone geology. TBM Mum Shirl is specially designed to cut through sandstone and shale and will tunnel an average of 120 metres a week.

The TBM is named after Colleen Shirley Perry, an Aboriginal (Wiradjuri) woman. She was involved in establishing the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Aboriginal Medical Service, the Aboriginal Black Theatre, the Aboriginal Children’s service, the Aboriginal Housing Company and the Detoxification Centre.

Perry was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1977 and received the Order of Australia in 1985. She died in 1998.

Sydney Metro Northwest will open in the second quarter of next year, featuring 13 metro stations, 4,000 commuter car parking spaces and 36 kilometres of new rail.

By 2024, the Metro system will extend to the Sydney CBD and beyond to Bankstown, and will feature a total of 31 metro stations and a 66-kilometre railway.

Vic Opposition pushes for road under rail level crossing removal on Frankston Line

In the lead-up to the state election later this month, Victoria’s Liberal Nationals opposition have committed to removing level crossings on Glen Huntly Road and Neerim Road in Glen Huntly road level crossings with rail under road.

Liberal MP for Caulfield David Southwick claimed that rail under road solutions were preferable to the elevated SkyRail solution that the Labor government has rolled out along the Caulfield to Dandenong line.

“Businesses, commuters and drivers are all calling for these crossings to go,” Southwick said.

“Only the election of a Liberal Nationals Government will remove the Glen Huntly and Neerim Road level crossings and guarantee Glen Huntly is not permanently disfigured by Daniel Andrews’ ugly and intrusive Skyrail.

My community has spoken. They want rail under road and only the Liberal Nationals can be trusted to deliver it.”

Victoria’s Level Crossing Removal Authority has removed 29 Melbourne level crossings and is on track to remove a further 21 by 2022.

Ahead of the state election next month, premier Daniel Andrews recently announced Labor would add another $6.6 billion and 25 crossings and build two more sections of elevated rail, extending the project timeline to 2025.

Queensland’s Tilt Trains celebrate 20 years of operation

Queensland Rail is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their distinctive Tilt Trains, which have been in operation since November 1998.

Queensland’s Tilt Trains have travelled almost twelve million kilometres over the past two decades and today carry more than 200,000 customers each year between Brisbane to Rockhampton.

Tilting trains are designed to counteract the effects of centrifugal force usually experienced when trains travel around curves at speed, such as loss of balance. Tilt trains carriages tilt towards the inside of the curve, thus compensating for the g-force.

“The Tilt Train fleet was a real hit when it launched,” said Queensland Rail tilt train driver Jonathan Limpus.

“Gone were the days of the slow, bumpy commute; now there was a fleet of trains that could travel at speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour and get the entire family from the south east to Rocky faster than a car and without any hassle.

“What made it so special compared to traditional trains is that it used ground-breaking technology from Japan that allowed it to approach curves at a higher speed without making passengers feel like they were going to roll out of their seats.

The tilt train set the Australian rail speed record on 23 May 1999 clocking in at 210 kilometres per hour. Within two years of its launch, more than half a million people had travelled on the Tilt Trains.

Queensland Rail recently invested more than $28 million to refurbish its entire Tilt Train fleet, giving the trains a mid-life mechanical overhaul and bringing in technology like Wi-Fi and USB charging ports.

“The Tilt Trains offer a seven-and-a-half hour journey between Brisbane and Rockhampton, which is comparable to car travel, but with the added relaxation of on board meals and beverages, as well as in-seat visual and audio entertainment,” Queensland’s transport minister Mark Bailey said.

Inland Rail Condamine floodplain crossing draft design presented to landowners

A preliminary design for the Inland Rail project’s Condamine floodplain crossing in southern Queensland has been released and will be presented to communities in the region over the next two weeks.

The draft proposal for the crossing was first presented by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to the Southern Darling Downs Community Consultative Committee (CCC) at Brookstead on Wednesday.

Inland Rail project director for the North Star to Gowrie section, Rob McNamara, said that numerous design options and their potential impact on flood levels and water behaviour at individual properties within the floodplain had been examined.

“Our preliminary design was selected because it minimises impacts downstream and upstream and has minimal impact on existing water flows,” McNamara said.

ARTC consultatants developed a flood model that was used to assess design options for the crossing of the floodplain.

“A detailed flood model of the Condamine floodplain catchment area has been developed using data from different sources, including Toowoomba Regional Council, the Bureau of Meteorology and government databases,” McNamara said.

“We then undertook a program of validating the flood modelling through meeting with individual landholders on-farm to discuss historic flood events and property flood markers.”

The initial presentation to the Darling Downs CCCl is to be followed by a further two weeks of information sessions across the Darling Downs to communicate details about the crossing proposal with local community members.

“We will be presenting the preliminary design to the wider community to give them the opportunity to provide feedback. We want as much feedback as possible and I really encourage people to come to our sessions in November, so they understand how the Condamine floodplain crossing is taking shape,” said McNamara.

Federal infrastructure and transport minister Michael McCormack said that both ARTC and the government were taking steps to ensure communities in the region were listened to and engaged with the planning process for the route.

“Last year the Australian Government made a firm commitment to communities in the Darling Downs to focus on the floodplain crossing as a priority and we’ve followed through on that pledge,” McCormack said.

“After months of consultation and work with landowners and stakeholders, a preliminary design has now been presented to the community for their feedback on a workable solution.

“Over the next two weeks, the ARTC will be presenting this preliminary design proposal to the wider community and I encourage everyone to participate in this process.”

Albo slams Gold Coast funding ‘re-announcement’

Federal shadow transport and infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese has criticised the Coalition government for what he said was a mere “re-announcement” of already established funding for Stage 3A of the Gold Coast Light Rail project.

Albanese said the Morrison government was engaging in “time-wasting” and “needless politics” by announcing $112 million in funding for the light rail extension from Broadbeach to Burleigh Heads, a project he said had already been allocated with funds.

“This stage of the project, which the prime minister ‘announced’ on the Gold Coast today, was actually funded in the 2018 Budget in May when Malcolm Turnbull was Prime Minister. The news was leaked to the Herald Sun newspaper,” Albanese said.

“But the Coalition deliberately chose to delay releasing the funding as they waited for a political campaigning opportunity like Mr. Morrison’s current bus tour of Queensland.”

Albanese also claimed that the Coalition had not been an ally of the Gold Coast light rail project in the past.

“In 2009, when the former Labor government provided $365 million for Stage I of the project as part of our economic stimulus package, the Coalition opposed the investment at the state and federal level,” he said.

“Five years later, when Stage I opened, shameless Gold Coast Coalition MPs including Defence Industry Minister Steven Ciobo fell over each other to pose for media photographs seeking to claim credit for the project they had campaigned against.

“If it had been left to them, Gold Coast Light Rail would never have been ready for this year’s successful Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.”

The 6.4-kilometre extension from Broadbeach to Burleigh Heads is to include eight new light rail stations, upgraded pedestrian and cycling facilities and an upgraded bus interchange facility at Burleigh Heads.

Trams will run in the centre of the Gold Coast Highway with planning for up to eight stations and a journey time of 16 to 17 minutes.

Stage 3A is expected to be complete by 2023. The detailed business case is being prepared by the state government in partnership with the City of Gold Coast and will reportedly be completed by the end of 2018.

Pacific National class 92 locomotives hauling a coal train over a rail bridge crossing the Hunter River at Singleton, NSW. Photo: Creative Commons / Bluedawe

FORG calls on governments to prioritise rail freight

The country’s largest rail freight operators and infrastructure owners have called on Australian governments to do more to help move freight off roads and on to rail, ahead of the Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC) meeting of the state and federal transport ministers this week.

The Freight on Rail Group (FORG), which represents the industry, called on the TIC to give higher priority to rail freight efficiency and productivity, and deliver a program of works next year to streamline state regulations to allow the benefits of rail freight to be fully utilised across Australia’s transport supply chain.

“To develop polices to deliver new innovations and efficiencies, the rail freight sector is simply asking for an equal playing field,” FORG chair and Pacific National CEO Dean Dalle Valle said.

“This can only be achieved by a new era of closer collaboration between government agencies, which regulate rail networks, and private companies which operate on those networks.”

Dalla Valle said that it was concerning that government policies were geared towards helping the roll-out of heavier and longer trucks at a time when Australians want safer roads and less traffic congestion.

“As a case in point, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator recently approved the roll-out of a 105-tonne 36.5-metre b-quad truck on select routes between Victoria and Queensland,” Dalla Valle said.

“Don’t get me wrong: I see the obvious freight productivity benefits, but how much bigger and heavier do we want trucks on our roads to get? What’s the upper limit?”

Dalle Valla said that while the trucking industry had been successful in extracting major concessions in efficiency, productivity and road access, the rail freight industry, in contrast, had become “tangled in nests of technical jargon” and had focused too much effort on perceived safety risks that have largely been eliminated by modern technology.

NSW freight train drivers, he said, can be subjected to up to 18 months of extra training to operate on a similarly configured rail corridor in another state or territory.

“In stark contrast, a NSW truck driver can move from operating a semi-trailer for a year to handling a b-double or road train in just two days at minimal cost with immediate access to thousands of kilometres of road across every jurisdiction in the country,” said Dalla Valle.

Dalla Valle said that FORG was also requesting that governments make efforts to harmonise operating procedures and training requirements for freight train drivers and crews across state and territory borders by 2021.

“In the last decade, advances in communication and signalling technologies like sophisticated global positioning systems and state-of-the-art network control systems can now be deployed to help dramatically improve the safe running of trains,” he said.

“To improve rail freight productivity in this country – which directly impacts the cost of transporting goods and commodities to domestic and global markets – it’s time to consign outdated and contradictory cross-border rules to the dust-bin of history.”

The full set of initiatives called for by FORG also include changes to the purview of the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) to advance of efficiency and productivity initiatives in the rail freight sector, an investigation by the Productivity Commission into the impacts of mandated train driver hours on the rail freight sector, and more recognition to the rail freight sector’s contribution to reduction in accident costs and carbon emissions.

Dalla Valle said that it was a disappointment that the benefits of rail freight over road freight were not being fully recognised or embedded within government policy.

“More worryingly, policies aren’t keeping pace with the delivery of upgraded rail infrastructure of the range of new and improved technologies available to the sector,” he said.

“A single 1,800-metre freight train hauling containers is equivalent to removing 70 b-double trucks from our roads. These compelling facts put rail freight firmly on the right side of every debate.”