Aurizon coal wagons. Photo: Aurizon

Aurizon re-opens Goonyella, details lower coal volumes

Aurizon has re-opened the Goonyella system, and announced a 5% decline in Queensland volumes as a result of Cyclone Debbie.

The company told the ASX on Wednesday it had handled 36.9 million tonnes of coal in Queensland in the third quarter of FY17, down 5% year-on-year.

It said the decline was the result of Cyclone Debbie and associated flooding.

The flooding shut all four of Aurizon’s major Central Queensland Coal Network systems, with Goonyella being out of action for the longest period of time.

Aurizon re-opened Goonyella at 10.30am on April 26.

The re-opening ended a four-week outage while Aurizon’s maintenance, engineering and civil teams worked to repair the damaged infrastructure.

Damage included major landslips which damaged track on Black Mountain, west of Mackay.

The clearing-up of this section allowed for coal services to operate from mines across the Goonyella system, to export terminals at Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay.

“Aurizon acknowledges the assistance of customers and supply chain partners as we have worked through the recovery process to restore the network for the safe operation of services,” the company said.

Meanwhile, Aurizon announced an 8% growth in NSW coal volumes in the March quarter, to 11.5 million tonnes.

Together with the lower Queensland volumes, Aurizon achieved a total above rail coal volume of 48.4 million tonnes, down 2% year-on-year.

Aurizon’s freight volumes were down 3% to 9.0 million tonnes in the third quarter.

The company’s less-significant iron ore volumes were down 7% to 5.6 million tonnes.

Rod Sims, ACCC chairman. Photo: ACCC

Watchdog rejects ARTC’s Hunter access rates

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says the Australian Rail Track Corporation is not being realistic with its latest access terms for the Hunter Valley network.

After six years operating the network under the 2011 Hunter Valley Access Undertaking (HVAU), the ARTC is scheduled to replace that scheme with the 2017 HVAU by June 30.

But the ACCC has rejected the ARTC’s proposed 2017 HVAU, saying it disagrees with key figures calculated in the document.

The ACCC issued a draft decision on April 20, and called for public comment by May 12.

Chairman Rod Sims said the watchdog was trying to act in the best interest of all parties involved.

“In making its decision the ACCC has recognised the need to balance the economically efficient operation of, use of, and investment in the Hunter Valley rail network with the legitimate business interests of ARTC and the interests of all access seekers, including passenger trains, coal and non-coal freight,” he said.

Two key issues raised by the ACCC are with the ARTC’s calculations of rate of return (RoR) and weighted average mine life (WAML) figures within the terms of the access deal.

Both sets of figures will be crucial for determining the prices the ARTC can justifiably charge users for access to the network.

The ARTC is proposing a new RoR of 6.51% (real pre-tax) and 7.86% (nominal pre-tax) – a pair of figures the ACCC calls “not appropriate”.

Instead, the ACCC is proposing an RoR in the new deal of 4.60% (real pre-tax) and 7.11% (nominal pre-tax).

As for WAML, the ARTC is calculating 16.5 years – but the ACCC says a WAML between 20 and 32 years would be more accurate, saying the ARTC’s figure is “inappropriately conservative”.

Sims insisted the watchdog was not ignoring the “extensive” work done by the ARTC in determining the proposed figures.

“The ACCC has provided detailed feedback that the ARTC can use to revise the 2017 HVAU,” he said.

More information on the undertaking is available on the ACCC website.

Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

Five Rail Express magazines in 2017

Rail Express will expand its offering in 2017 with five print editions, focusing on Women in Rail, Bulk & Freight, Urban Rail & Civil Contracting, and the AusRAIL PLUS annual conference in Brisbane.

The 2017 print schedule will include four Rail Express magazines, as well as the 6th annual Australasian Rail Directory.

All publications will be distributed throughout the year to thousands of readers in both print and digital formats. Plenty of opportunities are available for advertisers in both formats, and on our website.

Magazines will include up-to-date coverage of news and current affairs in the rail sector, and will also contain a special supplement, highlighting a key topic.

 

Rail Express, Issue 1; Supplement: Women in Rail

The first edition of Rail Express in 2017 will feature Women in Rail. The goal of gender equality is a key focus across all Australian and New Zealand industries, but rail lags behind many others, with women representing less than one fifth of the workforce from top to bottom. The Women in Rail feature will look at the politics, opportunities, barriers and initiatives present in the ongoing push for gender equality in the sector.

 

Rail Express, Issue 2; Supplement: Bulk & Freight

Hundreds of millions of tonnes of bulk and other freight is moved by rail in Australia and New Zealand every year. It is no surprise, then, that some of the great cutting-edge ideas, designs and operations come from the region. The Bulk & Freight feature, which will be included in the second issue of Rail Express in 2017, will cover the latest trends in bulk and freight rail, from operators, engineers, academics and more.

 

Rail Express, Issue 3; Supplement: Urban Rail & Civil Contracting

It’s almost impossible to find a major urban landscape in Australia or New Zealand that is without major ongoing or upcoming opportunities for engineers and civil contractors working in the rail space. Issue 3 of Rail Express will cover the region’s thriving urban landscapes, and the cornucopia of major and minor projects that are planned, ongoing, or recently completed in every major city.

 

Rail Express, Issue 4: AusRAIL Edition

To round out the year, Rail Express will return to produce its widely-read AusRAIL Edition. As the official partner magazine to AusRAIL PLUS, which takes place in Brisbane later this year, Rail Express will provide insight and analysis into the businesses, technologies and individuals on show during rail’s biggest annual event.

 

Australasian Rail Directory 2018

The Australasian Rail Directory, published once a year and launched at AusRAIL, is the definitive guide to who does what in the industry. In its 6th year, the directory is distributed to the project managers, engineers and decision makers across the rail sector.

 

To advertise in any Rail Express products, please contact Patrick Roberts at Patrick.Robert@mohimedia.com, or by calling (02) 9080 4015.

Coal wagons Aurizon. Photo: Aurizon

Debbie to cost Aurizon $100 million

Aurizon has lowered its earnings forecast for FY17 by between $100 million and $115 million, because of extended shutdowns after Cyclone Debbie battered Queensland in late March.

Three of Aurizon’s four Queensland coal networks have now been re-opened.

The Blackwater System was re-opened on April 10, while Moura was re-opened April 12, and Newlands was re-opened April 13.

But the Goonyella System received significant damage, and will remain closed until April 26, at which stage trains will be able to run with speed restrictions and reduced capacity.

Aurizon’s shares were put on hold on the ASX on Tuesday so its board could meet to discuss the implications of the closures.

Overall, the company expects to lose between 12 million tonnes and 14 million tonnes of above rail volumes, reducing its forecast above rail volume for FY17 from 200-212 million tonnes, to 190-200 million tonnes.

Aurizon’s below rail volumes – i.e. coal carried on Aurizon’s network by other companies – will drop by 19 to 21 million tonnes.

The company expects these lost volumes to take a $70 million to $80 million bite out of its below rail revenue, but said the incident would trigger take-or-pay provisions of roughly $30 million, reducing the overall impact to between $40 million and $50 million.

On top of that, Aurizon’s has had to pay between $40 million and $50 million in flood repair costs.

All told, the cyclone will impact Aurizon’s earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) by between $100 million and $115 million in FY17.

EBIT will now be be in the rainge of $800-850 million, rather than the previously-advised $900-950 million, Aurizon said.

The company said it would be able to recover approximately $70 million to $80 million of the lost revenue through regulatory procedures over the next few financial years.

Aurizon began trading on the ASX again just before 2pm on Tuesday, but closed just 1.51% down, at $5.21.

V/Line train going through level crossing. Photo: RailGallery.com.au

Chester wants ‘connectivity in all its forms’ for regional Victoria

Darren Chester, federal transport and infrastructure minister in the Turnbull Government, has called for a greater infrastructure investment in regional Victoria to safeguard future growth and prosperity.

Writing in The Weekly Times, Chester stated that improvements are needed in the regional rail system to not only provide a more reliable network with a greater frequency of services, but also to provide “more opportunities for people to live and work outside of the increasingly congested greater Melbourne area”.

“All levels of government need to work in partnership with industry and the community to prioritise infrastructure investment decisions, which address community needs now, and into the future,” Chester wrote.

The minister expects that government projects, such as the Murray Basin Rail Project and the planned Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail line, will increase productivity, capitalise on free trade agreements, and provide more jobs in regional areas.

Chester has been meeting with the Victorian Government to discuss possible passenger rail projects in the state.

While providing no details of the outcome of these discussions, he asserted that the Turnbull government wants to be “an active partner” with the Andrews Labor Government, and that both state and federal levels “recognise the value of connecting regional communities to Melbourne and providing better links within each part of the state”.

Aurizon updates timetable for coal network outages

Aurizon has provided an updated timetable for the return to service of Queensland’s coal railways, after the infrastructure was damaged in last fortnight’s Cyclone Debbie weather activity.

The rail operator told the ASX on Friday it had mobilised all available crews and resources, including contractors, to undertake repairs across the four coal systems – Newlands, Goonyella, Blackwater and Moura.

“Further infrastructure assessments and confirmation of work programs have allowed Aurizon to firm up estimated recovery times,” Aurizon said.

The operator said it expected to be able to re-open the Blackwater system on Monday, April 10.

Blackwater, which connects to the Port of Gladstone, was originally scheduled to re-open by Sunday, but flooding at Rockhampton delayed recovery efforts.

Blackwater will be re-opened to limited coal traffic while repair work continues.

The Newlands system, which connects to Abbot Point, is expected to re-open on Friday, April 14, ahead of Aurizon’s initial estimate of April 17-24.

There is no change to the five-week outage originally announced for the Goonyella system, connecting into Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal and Hay Point Coal Terminal, however.

“Recovery and repairs are being undertaken at multiple sites along the Goonyella corridor, including at Black Mountain which experienced significant landslides,” the company said.

Finally, the Moura system, which links to the Port of Gladstone, has been updated to be re-opened on April 12, ahead of the previous estimate of April 17.

Aurizon coal train. Photo: Aurizon

Aurizon counts cost of Debbie destruction

Portions of the Central Queensland Coal Network will be out of action for five weeks, after Cyclone Debbie ripped through the region at the end of last week.

Operator Aurizon provided an update on the impacts of the cyclone to the ASX on Monday, April 3.

Significant landslips have been indicated on the Goonyella System, which connects to the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal and Hay Point Coal Terminal.

“Initial engineering assessment indicates recovery of the rail infrastructure will take approximately five weeks,” Aurizon said.

Meanwhile, aerial inspections continue on the Newlands System, which connects to the Abbot Point Coal Terminal, and has been closed since midday on Tuesday, March 28.

Aurizon expects the system to be closed for at least two weeks, with minor damage found at a number of sites, but no reports of major damage.

“Crews on the ground are also ‘running’ the corridor,” the operator explained, “and level crossing equipment will be examined and returned to safe operations.”

Two weeks is also the timeframe outlined for return for the Moura System, which takes coal to the Port of Gladstone.

The system was closed at 9am on Wednesday, March 29.

“Aerial inspections of the corridor have commenced however road and rail access to the rail corridor is limited,” Aurizon said, reporting some damage observed to rail infrastructure.

The Blackwater System, which also links to the Port of Gladstone, was closed at 9pm on Wednesday, March 29, due to localised flooding. It was re-opened on March 31, but further flooding in Rockhampton again closed the line on April 1.

“At this stage the system is expected to open again by the end of this week, subject to further assessment as flood levels recede,” Aurizon told the stock market.

The company said the cost of repairing the infrastructure, and the loss of network revenue, is expected to be recovered “as part of the established regulatory process with the Queensland Competition Authority”.

It said it would work to re-route freight for customers impacted by the various system outages.

“As soon as the company has more clarity on the length of system closures and the options available to mitigate the loss of volumes, a further update will be provided,” Aurizon concluded.

V/Line train going through level crossing. Photo: RailGallery.com.au

Five-week closure while axle counters fix level crossings

Axle counters will be installed on 12 level crossings on the Echuca line in Victoria, after a late boom gate closure last week.

V/Line replaced trains with buses on the Echuca line (a.k.a. the Deniliquin line) on March 20, after boom gates closed 15 seconds, rather than the regulated 25 seconds, before a train passed through a level crossing near Bendigo.

While V/Line stressed nobody was put in danger by the fault, it will not run passenger trains on the line until axle counters have been installed.

Victorian transport minister Jacinta Allan assured the public the axle counters “will ensure boom gates come down in time, every time”.

“We’re upgrading every active level crossing on the Echuca line to restore services as soon as possible.”

Buses will continue to replace trains until the work is complete, operating between Echuca and Bendigo, where passengers will be transferred to trains to Melbourne.

The outage will last at least five weeks, and could take up to seven weeks, Allan said.

But V/Line spokesperson Rob Curtain was quoted by local paper The Riverine Herald saying V/Line didn’t have a timeline for the works.

“This will be determined by the outcome of the investigation by our engineering experts,” he reportedly said on March 29.

State Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, is not happy.

Walsh, also quoted by The Riverine Herald, reportedly said: “I consider it totally unsatisfactory that it takes more than a week to fix a technical fault on a boom gate.

“Those sorts of things should be able to be fixed a lot quicker than that.

“Although [local residents] are unhappy about the speed of the [train], the overwhelming majority of people prefer to travel on the train than they do on a bus,” he added.

EIS process to begin as two Inland Rail sections granted special status

Two key sections of the proposed Inland Rail line have been declared coordinated projects by Queensland’s coordinator-general, in a move the state’s development minister says will give the project a smoother path to fruition.

Queensland state development minister Anthony Lynham on March 17 said the coordinator-general had provided the special status to a 26-kilometre, $1.35 billion section between Gowrie and Helidon, and a 47-kilometre, $1 billion section between Helidon and Calvert.

Lynham said the move meant the state “can now efficiently coordinate the environmental assessment process” for the two key sections of the 1,710-kilometre Inland Rail route.

“These two adjoining dual-gauge sections could each generate 1,800 jobs during their four-year construction phase starting in 2020 and 700 jobs for the 50 years of forecast operation for the entire program,” the minister said.

The Inland Rail project is split into 13 sections that cover the full route through regional Victoria, central-west New South Wales, and south Queensland.

Certain sections are existing track which will be upgraded, while other sections are to be new construction.

The Gowrie to Helidon section will require 26 kilometres of new dual gauge track to be built.

The Helidon to Calvert section will require 47 kilometres of new dual gauge track, with roughly half of to be built within existing rail corridors.

“This project could be a real boon to Queensland industry, for both growers and manufacturers,” Lynham said.

“However both of these sections will require rigorous planning and engineering to address the potential impacts of flooding in the region.”

Federal infrastructure and transport minister Darren Chester said the coordinated project declarations would trigger the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement.

“Shortly, the Queensland Office of the Coordinator will release a draft Terms of Reference which will be open for public comment,” Chester said.

“This is another good opportunity for the community to have their say on the Inland Rail project.”

The minister also noted the second phase of market testing for delivery of the project was close to finalisation.

“After the market testing has concluded I’m keen to see construction commence sooner rather than later,” Chester said.

“We believe in the future of regional Australia, and the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project to deliver benefits today and 100 years from now.”

CAF AM class train Auckland. Photo: Creative Commons / Dc4444

Young ideas sought for NZ conference

The Australasian Railway Association is calling for rail professionals under 30 to submit their ideas for the Young Rail Professionals Pitching Competition at the New Zealand Rail conference in Auckland later this year.

Eligible professionals are invited to submit their ideas by May 5.

The ARA’s NZ Rail 2017 event will take place on June 27 and 28, 2017.

Successful applicants will be flown to Auckland and given two nights’ accommodation, a complimentary pass to attend the conference, and a ticket to the ARA’s NZ Rail Dinner on July 27.

The ARA is seeking concepts that target any aspect of rail, including the technical and engineering, customer service, strategic business planning, marketing, and technological sectors.

Entries must be 400-600 words and include a concept title, name and contact details, the instution and qualification entrants have underway or completed, the issue being addressed and the idea itself.

Entries will be judged by the organising committee, and successful applicants will be announced by the end of May.

Visit the official NZ Rail website for more information.