First beef train to Oakey in two decades

The first cattle train in two decades has rolled into Oakey, in Queensland’s Darling Downs region, after the state government invested $2.5 million in rail facilities.

Transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe and minister for agriculture and rural economic development Bill Byrne visited Oakey Abattoir this week to celebrate the first rail shipment of beef livestock from Quilpie, over 800 kilometres away.

The shipment is thanks to a $2.5 million investment from the Palaszczuk Government to upgrade two rail sidings, and reopen part of the Cecil Plains branch line, which was closed in 1994. More than 1900 sleepers and 2,300 tonnes of ballast were used to rebuild a 1.3-kilometre section of the Cecil Plains line.

The investment allows Oakey Beef Exports to move cattle by rail from Quilpie, Charleville, Morven, Roma and Mitchell.

“Critical to the creation of a new western supply corridor for Oakey Beef Exports was the reopening of the part of the Cecil Plains line adjacent to the abattoir and an upgrade of the rail siding at Mitchell for easier loading and processing,” Hinchliffe said.

“It’s great to witness the first cattle train to arrive in Oakey for more than 20 years,” Byrne added.

“The South West already has a great reputation as one of Queensland’s leading producers of beef and can now reach national and international markets quickly and more efficiently.”

Byrne said one trainload of cattle is the equivalent of up to 44 decks of cattle being delivered by B-Double trucks. “The train saves haulage costs for producers and pressure on the Warrego Highway,” he explained.

State treasurer Curtis Pitt said the state’s rail transport initiative was expected to be the catalyst for a $60 million expansion of the Oakey Abattoir.

“The Palaszczuk Government’s investment is an enabler for a significant upgrade of the abattoir that’s expected to return more than a billion dollars in extra economic activity across the region,” the treasurer said.

“It’s a rail-led expansion that the abattoir predicts will support up to 4,300 jobs for the Darling Downs and South Western Queensland with beef processing already the state’s largest agricultural export industry.”

General Manager of abattoir owner NH Foods Australia, Pat Gleeson said the new supply corridor and expansion plans could potentially double abattoir production.

“For our business and regional communities, today’s 800-kilometre delivery of fat cows and bullocks to Oakey is a triumph and demonstrates the Palaszczuk Government’s understanding of the importance of rail freight infrastructure for economic growth,” Gleeson said.

AusRAIL Day 2 Blog – Check out all the action here

Check out what happened at Day 2 of AusRAIL below! Updates were posted from the bottom of the page, upwards. All times are local to Adelaide.

4.30pm ARA chief executive Danny Broad brings the 2016 edition of the AusRAIL Conference & Exhibition to a formal close, and invites delegates to tonight’s Gala Dinner.

4.20pm Currie asks the panellists for a final idea or message when it comes to new technology.

Gelston says DPTI needs to continue to listen to its customers. “Focus needs to continue to shift away from moving metal boxes, to moving people,” he says.

Dudgeon says the industry needs to be nimble to adjust to future changes in technology. He notes how far mobile phones have come in the last decade, and speculates how far they may go in the next decade. As the technology changes, so too will customers’ desires.

Palmer says social media analysis could also be an interesting and useful avenue to push patronage in the future.

Lezala says technology should also be used to create “an open architecture for fares”. By using customer technology to track movements, he explains, we could in the future see train systems without barriers.

And Miller believes technology can be used to better direct the flow of commuters throughout the network, with the potential to use data processing to send passengers to the right carriage at the right time.

4.15pm Lezala says MTR is starting to exploit its ability to share information across its widespread international businesses. “Knowledge sharing and resource sharing is an opportunity,” he says.

Collins says connectivity remains an issue on his network, which has 14 kilometres of track where no phone signal can be found. “If you can do it in a steel tube 36,000 feet up in the air over the Pacific Ocean, you should be able to do it on a train,” he says.

4.10pm Currie asks the panel what role government has to play. Collins believes government’s job is to ensure the technology systems are applicable across all modes to help create an efficient, multi-modal system.

But Lezala believes governments still aren’t sharing enough data to help operators and other rail businesses innovate.

Paul Gelston says South Australia’s DPTI has found getting an app to be as easy as sharing the transport network data with students who will create an app fit for purpose.

Miller says Downer struggles to turn its immense volumes of data into rich, “useable” datasets for its customers.

4.05pm Collins says younger rail professionals will help the industry understand how to best apply new technologies.

Michael Miller says Downer is trying to move out of the current “paradigm” of “doing everything yourself,” and is instead looking to the market more for new solutions to complex problems. “We’ve got to get practical outcomes for our customers,” he says, “and that’s not about spending piles and piles of money on our own R&D.”

Dudgeon says when a company like Bombardier needs external expertise, partnering with the right organisations can be crucial for a truly successful product delivery.

4.00pm Lezala thinks big data can help create detailed, tailored profiles for every passenger, to help deliver more services that people want. “We ought to be knowing [for example] that we’ve had 2000 people that have looked for a supermarket here,” he says. “We should put a supermarket here.”

Howard Collins says that on the Sydney Trains network, despite “record” timeliness figures, and data “flying everywhere”, people on platforms still don’t always know what is going on. But arming his staff with phones and smart tablets has allowed them to become better ambassadors for the rail network.

An unexpected side-effect of the smart devices is that lost property has become easier to report, record and track down.

3.55pm Andrew Dudgeon explains how rollingstock manufacturers have to work with operators and governments to give them what they need in an age of new technology. Air conditioning trams in Victoria, for example, are being upgraded based on customer feedback and real time data.

Andrew Lezala says Metro Trains has been developing apps to improve customer experience, as well as a social network for internal staff communication. Metro also has an app for visually impaired passengers. He says it has been important to ensure Metro’s frontline staff have access to information at least as fast as their customers do, so all have been provided with smart devices.

As for big data, Lezala says “we haven’t even scratched the surface yet”.

3.45pm The final session of the AusRAIL 2016 conference is underway, with a CEO Forum on technology, social media and big data.

Included on the panel are Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins, Metro Trains managing director Andrew Lezala, Bombardier Transportation managing director Andrew Dudgeon, Gold Coast Light Rail Keolis Downer CIO Adam Palmer, Downer Rail chief executive Michael Miller and South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure chief operating officer Paul Gelston. Professor Graham Currie from Monash University is facilitating the discussion.

3.15pm The conference breaks for Afternoon Tea.

3.05pm MTR has maintained a significant property portfolio throughout its integrated developments, providing it with an ongoing rental revenue that moves with inflation, just as its operational costs move with inflation. He says the property base also helps it more easily secure significant loan facilities, and make large investments to enhance passenger service.

He says in Hong Kong, the integrated property and railway development system has created a “win-win” result. The society wins through new developments and a world class metro system, the government wins by not taking on any risk or spending much money, and of course MTR wins by developing a major set of transport and property projects.

3.00pm Wong outlines a pair of models for the construction of infrastructure and surrounding development: one which is integrated, so the same authority is in charge of both projects, and another where the transport project is handled by one group, and surrounding developments are put out to separate tender.

While he says a decision should be made on a regional and case-by-case basis, Wong believes an integrated transport development model generally achieves better and more reliable results.

2.55pm Wong explains how MTR ascertains the rail funding gap before it considers how much land to develop around the infrastructure, thus ensuring enough value capture can take place to property fund the line, and deliver a profit to MTR.

He says the basic concept of value capture comes from the mutual value adding that occurs when train lines are built around developments. The rail line delivers more foot traffic to development centres, which in turn build up and create more volume on the rail line itself.

2.50pm MTR’s head of Australian business Terry Wong is now addressing the conference, to discuss MTR’s value capture model.

MTR earns just 14% of its profits from Hong Kong transport operations. While 5% more comes from its Mainland China and International operations, 21% of its profits come from property development, 28% from property rental and management, and 32% from commercial operations in and around stations.

2.45pm With four key packages of works providing for the Metro Tunnel construction, another contract to deliver the new trains, and additional works relating to level crossing removals on the existing lines, Tattersall says the management of various interfaces between each contract will be crucial.

The targeted completion date for the Metro Tunnel project is 2026.

2.40pm The Metro Tunnel will need to be built in three sections, in parallel. North of the CBD will be tunnels drilled with tunnel boring machines (TBMs), while road headers will be used to create the tunnels through the CBD, and TBMs will again be used south of the CBD. Tattersall says the sections must be built at the same time, as building them in order will take too long and the urgent need for capacity is too high.

2.35pm The High Capacity Metro Trains are to be launched as seven-car sets, but Tattersall says the stations will be built to allow for the trainsets to be extended to ten cars each, to prepare for future capacity increases.

2.30pm The ultimate plan for the Metro Tunnel is to facilitate the creation of a segregated metro network in Melbourne, with seven isolated lines. The tunnel’s route is expected to also relieve a significant load off the spine of the tram system through the CBD, as it will offer a faster journey for commuters looking to cross the city from north to south, or south to north.

2.25pm Melbourne’s Metro network is forecast to double in patronage by 2030. This issue is worsened, Tattersall says, by choke points at North Melbourne and Richmond, and a City Loop which is already “at capacity”. There are also pinch points on the tram network around and through the Melbourne CBD.

2.20pm Melbourne Metro Rail Authority chief executive Evan Tattersall follows Gellibrand, with a presentation detailing the challenges and drivers for the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project.

2.10pm He says there is “a good 12 to 18 months of design” to go into the complex station precincts in the CBD, where new train stations are to be built below ground level, and new buildings will be built above ground level, while both precincts will be “knitted together” at ground level.

2.05pm Sydney Metro’s full automation and platform screen doors means trains will be able to enter stations at a high velocity even during peak periods, reducing dwell time and improving train throughput metrics, Gellibrand notes. Sydney Metro will also have Australia’s first ever fully automated train yard facility.

Tracks are now being laid throughout the tunnel section of Sydney Metro Northwest, Gellibrand says.

2.00pm Sydney Metro is looking at optimising the customer experience not just on the line, but from door-to-door, origin to destination. Gellibrand says that means looking at the stations, the precincts around the stations, and how passengers travel to and from those precincts.

1.55pm Gellibrand says the Sydney Metro team is “confident” it is close to environmental approval for the tunnelling section of stage two of the project, Sydney Metro City & Southwest.

The Metro line will have a designed headway of 90 seconds and a targeted interval time between trains of 2 minutes at operational peak.

One of the key benefits of the line compared to other works in recent years in Sydney, is that it is a standalone line, which means service interruptions on other lines will not impact services on the Sydney Metro line, and vice versa.

1.50pm Sydney Metro deputy program director Tom Gellibrand opens the afternoon session with a presentation to provide an overview of the major metro project being developed in the NSW capital.

12.25pm The winner of the Young Rail Professionals Pitching Competition will be announced at the AusRAIL Gala Dinner. The session now breaks for Lunch.

12.15pm The final presentation comes from Arup economist Ben Mason. Mason is challenging the current standards used to appraise the economic value of a project. He says the current system’s reliance on a 7% discount rate, despite significantly lower interest rates, fails to leverage the current advantages in the economy, and disproportionately devalues returns over time. Having a high discount rate especially works against rail, he says, as rail projects tend to provide returns over a longer period of time than roads.

12.00pm Next up is Michelle Doolan, a civil engineer from Aurecon. Doolan says major project developers are too focused on showing the public the final product, sometimes years before they become a reality. Instead, she says project developers should promote the process, not just the product, and says virtual reality technology offers an opportunity for this to happen.

11.50am Metro Trains Melbourne graduate engineer James Donovan is the next presenter. He is pitching the use of sensors on the base of the rail head to monitor the passive sound wave recorded as a train approaches and passes a point in the railway. Donovan explains that a break in the rail would result in step change in the sound wave, while minor to significant sub-surface flaws would also impact the sound wave. The sound recorded would also change as lubrication quality changes. Analysis of these passive sound waves, he says, could save maintenance teams time and money, and could reduce risk of derailments.

11.40am Second to present is Jason Bridgman, from Sydney Trains’ operations and planning division. His idea is for an intelligent rail system that actively observes and learns how equipment is performing day to day, sending alerts when behaviours start changing. He believes a combination of rail monitoring, behaviour profiling and artificial intelligence can be used to diagnose likely issues, without the system being told what problems it is looking for in the first place.

11.30am First to present is Aurizon graduate engineer (electrical) Alexandra Baranski. Baranski’s pitch is for a greater partnership between the private sector and academia. Through collaboration, she says, emerging technologies can be more easily tested and proven. Her vision is for CBD light rail networks powered by renewable technologies, without “unsightly” catenaries.

11.25am Danny Broad opens the Young Rail Professionals Innovation Pitching Competition, which is taking part between five finalists selected from “a flood” of abstracts submitted in the lead-up to AusRAIL. Making up the judging panel are Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator chief executive Sue McCarrey, UGL executive general manager for rail and defence Alan Beacham, and Metro Trains Melbourne managing director Andrew Lezala.

11.15am Irwin asks if anyone does not agree with the idea of targeting a 50/50 gender share in rail, and nobody raises their hand. So with everyone in agreeance, he asks, are enough people actually doing what they should be doing to achieve these goals?

“We’ve got to be more bold,” he says, “we’ve got to be more aggressive, and we’ve got to have aspirational targets.” He points out that the newly-announced ARA Board has only one woman, saying “one is not enough.”

11.10am Lalande says the real change can come from the top. He says the industry is led by 50 to 100 key leaders, “many of these people are in this room today”. He encourages those listening to target 50/50 hiring of men and women within the next five years. “If we’re really genuine about that, I think we could make a huge difference,” he says.

McAuliffe says one key change is for employers to “open their eyes” in their recruitment processes. “Look at the hierarchy of men whose sons and grandsons worked for rail. We need their daughters and granddaughters to work for rail.”

11.05am Professor Wood says evidence shows flexible workers are more productive than traditional workers, and a mindset shift is needed before real progress can be made.

Eva Wood says the industry needs to make a statement to. “You actually need some bravery to say we are going to do this, and this is why,” she says. “There’s a fundamental perception of normality, and if you created a change in either the way in which you employ people … that can actually make a difference.”

11.00am McAuliffe says the ARTC’s efforts to get more women into its workforce have gone “incredibly well”. The ARTC attracted some criticism recently for advertising some new roles exclusively to women, but McAullife says the Corporation has persevered. She says unions have not worked in partnership with the ARTC well enough through the process.

10.55am Frauenfelder agrees the issue should be looked at more as aiming to achieve “diversity as a whole”. “Going forward, we need to keep focusing on diversity.” “It is really a cultural change.”

Professor Wood says research shows diversity carries some risks. Adding minority groups to a workforce can improve diversity and acceptance, he says, but it runs the risk of creating “fault lines,” when the majority group begins to feel threatened.

10.50am Jenny McAuliffe says the term ‘Women in Rail’ in Australia deserves a score of just three out of ten. “We still seem to be missing the mark,” she says, when it comes to recruiting more women into rail. She says women can be a real solution for the future shortage of skills being forecast by many. “We have young women between 18 and 45 that are ready and willing to take opportunities, but they don’t understand that they are there to be taken on.”

Rene Lalande agrees. “I don’t think we’re doing a good job … to attract young talent, especially women,” he says. “We have not done enough,” he says, “not enough flexibility … and on the retention front, we also don’t do a good enough job.”

Rowenna Walker adds that women are only part of the diversity equation. She says the more diverse the workforce becomes on more fronts than just gender, the better the sector will be.

Eva Wood says the industry is lucky to have a huge range of paths of entry, saying the barriers to getting more women in the workforce are in many places, “more perceived than real”. “Flexibility is actually essential,” she adds. “We need to look at flexibility for both men and women.”

10.45am Facilitator David Irwin encourages listeners to open themselves up to the thoughts that might come out of the conversation at the forum.

10.40am The second half of the morning conference session kicks off with a Forum on Women in Rail. Panellists are TrackSAFE Foundation executive director Naomi Frauenfelder, Aurecon global service leader for rail and mass transit Rowenna Walker, ARTC executive general manager for people Jenny McAuliffe, Jacobs transport group director of operations Eva Wood, Centre for Ethical Leadership director Professor Robert Wood, and Transdev Australia CEO Rene Lalande. The forum is being facilitated by Pacific National CEO David Irwin.

10.05am The session breaks for Morning Tea.

10.00am UTS has worked with Downer Rail and the Rail Manufacturing CRC on a complex dwell-time diagnostic tool, which uses sensors to create a 3D point cloud to highlight passengers and track their movements as they board and alight trains.

The aim of the research is to analyse standard behaviours, to potentially “spot, in real time, behaviour that may be obstructing egress of people throughout the system,” Dr Zeibots explains. The outcome of this could be to determine new ways to encourage passengers throughout the network so it can operate more efficiently.

9.55am Dr Zeibots moves on to the topic of Responsive Passenger Information Systems, which are aimed at tackling the disruption to rail operations created by passenger behaviour at major bottlenecks in the network.

The UTS centre is looking to use robotics concepts to create a new type of passenger information system. The system would use sensors and cognitive analysis to better inform passengers during peak hour to help them avoid over-crowded platforms or carriages.

9.50am Dr Zeibots talks about how new technology has created the standardised “Service Quality Loop”, which highlights the differences between a service provider’s view of a service, and a customer’s view, and how, over time, those two views should work in a loop to lift service quality.

“The perception that the customer has of what is needed, and what was actually delivered, is really what we need to be looking at,” she says.

9.45am Dr Michelle Zeibots, a transport research director from the UTS Transport Research Centre, is now talking about the centre, which was opened in May, and about some of the work being done in transport research.

9.40am Herbert moves on to another issue he sees as key: the cost of tendering. He advocates for a best practice regime to be established, and a register of companies’ key capabilities.

Another key issue he sees impacting the industry is an ongoing labour shortage in the sector. He says with a rapid increase in new transport and freight projects, there will likely soon be a significant labour shortage, which could lead to talent poaching and an unsustainable blowout in industry wages. He encourages training and education institutions to work to prevent this potential shortage.

“We will work with all stakeholders to achieve industry solutions,” he says. “With your support, we can achieve great things.”

9.38am The ARA chairman turns his attention to Inland Rail. “In the court of public opinion, the term Inland Rail is not necessarily understood,” he says. “It’s not just a direct link between Melbourne and Brisbane, it’s much more than that.” He highlights the feeder lines that will benefit from the inland route, and the communities that he says must be “heard loudly in Canberra”.

He says a precursor to Inland Rail “we need a fairer road-rail pricing regime”.

9.35am Herbert announces three scholarships for postgraduate work into level crossing safety, which TrackSAFE is administering in conjunction with CQUniversity.

He also addresses the new relationship between TrackSAFE and suicide intervention group Lifeline.

9.32am Herbert addresses debate over the ongoing local-content issue facing the sector, congratulating the recent commitment of 60% local content for the High Capacity Metro Trains being delivered to Melbourne by a Downer-led consortium. “Despite what the sceptics may say [the local content commitment] will be advantageous for the Australian economy,” he says.

9.30am Herbert says Infrastructure Australia and relevant state-level bodies, as well as some state governments, had responded well to the ARA’s ‘infrastructure pipeline’ concept. But Herbert encourages industry and government to bring all their work together for a nationally-recognised pipeline.

Herbert is looking forward to the upcoming infrastructure priority announcement from the Commonwealth, saying he hopes it will be a positive one for the ARA’s freight and passenger rail members.

9.25am ARA chairman Bob Herbert reiterates the message from Broad on Day 1: “The transitional stage of the ARA is complete,” he said. He goes over the newly-installed ARA Board, made up of the chairman (himself), Broad, eight general directors and four industry sector directors.

He pays tribute to the transitional Board which ended its duty upon the announcement of the new ARA Board.

9.15am Shadow infrastructure, regional development and cities minister Anthony Albanese addresses the conference via a video message from Canberra. He first pays tribute to former ARA chief executive, the late Bryan Nye, for the “critical” role he played during his career in the rail sector.

He then reflects on the advances made by the Labor Party while it was in power, and criticised the Coalition for cutting back on a number of projects, specifically urban rail projects.

He says light rail in Adelaide is a crucial project that could be rolled out at comparatively low cost.

9.10am ARA chief executive Danny Broad recaps Day 1 of the conference and exhibition, and welcomes delegates to the Plenary session of Day 2.

ARA members elect new board

A new 14-member board was named at the Australasian Railway Association’s Annual General Meeting on November 22.

ARA chairman Bob Herbert said the election of the new Board marks the completion of the significant transition ARA has made during the past 12 months. “I am delighted that ARA members have elected such a strong group of Directors to lead ARA over the next three years,” he said.

The incoming Board will meet early in 2017 to finalise its work program in accord with the ARA forward strategy endorsed by the AGM.

The ARA’s new constitution, which was part of its governance transition to move under the Corporations Act, initiated in 2015, provided for an ARA Board consisting of:

  • an independent chair
  • the ARA chief executive
  • eight sector directors nominated by members
  • four directors nominated by the ARA’s sector Executive Committees (passenger, freight, suppliers and contractors)

ARA chairman Bob Herbert was re-elected at the AGM, and chief executive Danny Broad formally took his place in the second seat at the ARA Board table.

The following eight rail leaders were voted in to represent the industry as ARA Board sector directors:

  • Alan Beacham, EGM Rail and Defence, UGL
  • Howard Collins OBE, Chief Executive, Sydney Trains
  • John Fullerton, CEO and MD, ARTC
  • David Irwin, CEO, Pacific National
  • Andrew Lezala, MD, Metro Trains Australia
  • Karl Mociak, EGM Strategy and International Business, John Holland Group
  • Greg Pauline, MD, Genesee and Wyoming Australia
  • Kevin Wright, COO, Queensland Rail

The following four individuals were appointed to the ARA Board as industry sector directors:

  • Representing the Passenger Transport Group: Emma Thomas, Director General, Transport Canberra and City Services
  • Representing the Freight Transport Group: Damien White, CEO, TasRail
  • Representing the Rail Industry Group: Michael Miller, CEO, Downer Rail
  • Representing the Rail Contractors Group: Julian Sharp, Project Director, CPB Contractors (AGM – LXRP Caulfield to Dandenong)
Delegates at AusRAIL PLUS 2015. Photo:

AusRAIL Day 1: Check out the live blog here

The live blog for the morning Plenary sessions for Day 1 of AusRAIL has now ended. Check it out below. Updates are posted from the bottom of the page, upwards.

12.30pm The conference breaks for lunch, and technical streams will take place from 2pm.

12.20pm Larsen says there is serious potential in increased data collection, and other new technologies such as drones, to create new efficiencies in the maintenance space. “Increased infrastructure spend is not always the answer,” Cronin agrees.

Larsen also believes autonomous trains will become more prevalent in Australia’s bulk and freight networks. Pauline adds: “The technology is there, it’s tried, proven and tested. I’m sure we’ll see some of that disruption hitting the industry.”

12.15pm Fullerton says rail has always had a competitive advantage over alternatives when it comes to safety, and signalling and communications technology can extend that advantage. “From the ARTC’s point of view we are looking at ATMS to achieve those safety outcomes,” he says. “The real benefits of those technologies is to be able to move trains around the network more efficiently.” But, he adds, the technology opportunities extend further than just communication and signalling equipment, with opportunities existing also in wayside technologies, etc.

Pauline says GWA is also looking at a wide array of technologies, including advanced weather warning systems.

12.05pm Mick Cronin outlines the issues facing ports, including urban encroachment, and reducing bottlenecks to ensure continued growth. “We need good conversation and good planning policy now … to make sure we can protect now, for the future, the benefits places like Port Botany and others bring to the economy of New South Wales.”

Paul Larsen says Brookfield has also had to deal with the changing nature of both passenger and freight rail in Western Australia. “The [rail] corridors are being built right up, because local governments, and the policing of their planning processes has been very poor.”

John Fullerton says the development of more intermodal terminals is “the most important thing” for the future of freight rail around urban areas. He says the success of Inland Rail, also, will rely on good terminals.

And Greg Pauline says getting more freight from road to rail is “incredibly important,” and finding good strategic locations for terminals will be crucial to this.

12.00pm AusRAIL’s first panel session begins, with the focus of “Investment and innovation: How can we fast-forward change in the freight game”. It includes ARTC chief executive John Fullerton, Brookfield Rail boss Paul Larsen, Genesee & Wyoming managing director Greg Pauline and NSW Ports general manager strategy & commercial Mick Cronin, and is facilitated by WA Freight and Logistics Council chair Nicole Lockwood.

11.50am Anderson is not as positive about the prospects of road pricing as prior speakers, however. Asked about the “political reality” of such ideas, he says: “Our objective ought to be … to extract the economic benefits from lower transport costs, and to recognise that [Australia] reaps the benefits … of expanded economic activity. So I would temper conversations about user charges [for roads]. Taxes, by definition, reduce economic activity. Wherever possible, [the government] ought to be striving to build infrastructure at the lowest possible price and ensure it is accessed at the lowest possible price.”

11.45am “We need to build as quickly as we can the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail,” Anderson adds. “I believe it is, and should be a national priority.” He says the industry needs to avoid “paralysis by analysis,” however, around the subject of finalising a detailed route for the project.

11.40am “Rail should be the highest priority for investment and reform, in my view, in coming years,” Anderson said, reflecting on the growing nature of Australian urbanisation.

Where ACRI comes in, he says, is to help Australia maintain a research advantage over international competition.

“If rail is to have any chance of reaching its potential … investment and careful investment is needed both in infrastructure and in innovation.”

11.30am Anderson says that, in many ways, he can “only agree” with Marion Terrill’s assertions about the challenges facing politicians and transport investment.

“We need to have a debate about how we debate,” he says. “There’s very little concern for analysis and evidence based decision making … We really do need to be much more level headed, [and] we need to learn again how to talk to one another, how to listen to one another …”

“Far too many decisions today are either influenced unwisely, or decided by either clap-o-meters or sneer-o-meters on Q&A  and not enough by evidence based analysis.”

11.25am The plenary session is now being addressed by former deputy prime minister John Anderson, the chairman of the Australian Centre for Rail Innovation (ACRI).

11.20am One of the most harmful symptoms of early project announcements, like those which plagued the most recent election cycle, is significant cost overruns when final project costs are compared to costs suggested in initial project announcements.

Terrill has a range of recommendations to fix these issues. These include having business cases tabled in Parliament before funding can be made, and even having standalone legislation for major projects, to encourage bipartisanship.

11.15am Terrill’s case is that Australian politicians too often make major investment decisions on transport projects in order to win elections, and not because those are the best projects to invest in.

She says investment has favoured country NSW and country Queensland over capital cities, despite the large proportion of people and GDP coming from cities.

Terrill is critical of the major parties (Greens, Labor, Coalition) who, in the 2016 election campaign, continually promised funding for projects which were not yet listed (via assessment) as priorities by Infrastructure Australia. She says 15%, by value, of the Coalition’s promises were supported by being on the Infrastructure Australia priority list, while just 3% of Labor’s promises, by value, were on the list, and 0% of the Greens’ promises were supported.

11.10am “We’re already a very urbanised country,” Terrill says. “And we’re becoming more so.” Even during the mining boom, she notes, the vast proportion of Australia’s GDP came from its cities. As goods have become cheaper and imports have grown, the demand for urban areas has been competitive.

11.00am Following the morning tea break, Grattan Institute transport program director Marion Terrill is explaining how investment should be prioritised to meet the growth of Australia’s cities.

10.25am Palazzolo launched GS1’s Australian Rail AIDC Guideline to help guide the sector through the “many many changes” that have to take place to achieve this goal, available here:

10.20am The end-game for GS1 is to have every asset in the sector marked with barcode or similar marking that is unique to that object, and globally standardised, to allow everyone around the world to operate on a level playing field.

“This is not rocket science,” Palazzolo says, “this is really basic stuff.”

10.15am Palazzolo says GS1, an international non-profit, can provide a global standard that could provide the platform for efficiencies across the sector. She says the company is multi-sector so it is not dependent on a single industry, and is the most widely used supply chain standard used in the world, with more than 2 million user companies.

10.10am Maria Palazzolo, chief executive officer of barcode technology business GS1, says barcoding can be used to better control inventory and supply chain assets in the rail sector, significantly improving profitability.

“The reality is that current [asset management] practices are just really inefficient and very costly,” she says. Change in several European companies has been driven by regulation, but “in Australia we don’t have [barcoding] regulations … so the best approach is to self-regulate … [to] introduce technology to have best practices in place without having to incur regulation.”

10.05am Asked by a delegate about the role of rail in keeping supermarket prices in Cairns at the level they are in Brisbane, Brooks says: “We’re a heavy user of rail on the North Coast Corridor … Using rail plays a very important role in keeping the cost of our goods comparably similar [in price] to Brisbane [along that corridor].”

10.00am Brooks reflects on Woolworths’ transition to using more rail in its supply chain: “Through direct relationships we were able to work [with the industry] … unless we had that support, we would still be using road [on those routes] today.”

The next steps for Woolworths are finding new optimisation paths, investing in the intermodal space, and working further with the industry to improve its offering to customers.

9.50am Woolworths Group head of transport Chris Brooks says the “rail is an increasingly important mode” in the retail giant’s network. He believes a direct relationship with Freightlink and now Genesee & Wyoming has resulted in a lift to the level of service received.

9.45am Hart says a road pricing scheme is a necessity, as the current state of play is placing too much strain on the road network, and the nation’s roads can’t cope with the forecast freight task in future years.

He says the rail freight network needs to be well maintained to help it better compete with the road network, a factor which he says will help create “a steady growth story” in the railway maintenance sector. “There’s another big wave coming,” he says.

A key question that needs to be answered, though, is whether the Australasian rail industry is capable of handling this growth.

9.40am Public spending is currently replacing private spending to make up the bulk of activity in the rail sector over the next five years, and spending is shifting from remote areas to urban areas, Hart outlines.

9.35am Hart says recent significant growth in coal and iron ore markets is “probably not sustainable” to this extent, but should reflect a more positive overall outlook in those sectors, too.

Civil construction such as transport projects should help make up for long-term slowdowns in resource-related infrastructure construction and residential construction – Hart says we are likely at the peak of the residential construction cycle.

9.30am Businesses should take advantage of historically low interest rates now by setting themselves up for future construction peaks and troughs, Hart says.

He lists the potential key risks to rail on the domestic front: “Public investment does not recover as forecast due to either a lack of productive infrastructure projects, lack of consensus on how to fund them, or generally lower costs than expected seeing a lower value of work”.

But for the most part, Hart is very positive about rail’s outlook, even though, he jokes, “the United States is exiting the world”.

9.25am To open his Market Outlook presentation, BIS Shrapnel senior manager infrastructure & mining Adrian Hart says “this is a really exciting time for rail”. He says rail “has one of the strongest growth outlooks in the construction industry over the next five years”.

9.20am A video message is played from infrastructure and transport minister Darren Chester, who is unable to visit AusRAIL due to Parliamentary commitments in Canberra.

9.15am Broad says the ARA has made several key achievements during its recent transition. A key aspect of this is a soon-to-be-published future plan. Recent ARA leadership lunches have been well received, and Rail Safety Week and Rail R U OK? Day were both successful.

9:10am Australasian Railway Association chief executive Danny Broad opens the conference with an emotional tribute to his late predecessor, Bryan Nye OEM. “I’m sure that all our prayers are with his family and friends.”

Hunter Valley maintenance begins

The Australian Rail Track Corporation will conduct 110 hours of major maintenance and renewal work this week in the Hunter Valley.

$20 million of scheduled maintenance work will lead to a series of closures across the Hunter Valley network between Monday, November 21 and Friday, November 25.

Included in the more than 100 planned projects are full track formation reconstructions, the replacement of rail turnouts, new rail being laid, level crossing improvements, ballast cleaning, rail corridor tidy up works and signalling maintenance.

ARTC’s executive general manager Hunter Valley Jonathan Vandervoort said the Corporation’s maintenance and construction work pumps over $100 million into the local economy every year.

“Hundreds of passenger trains run on our network every week or around half of all trains in the Hunter Valley – and the maintenance work we do is critical to keeping these trains running safely and reliably – at no cost to the taxpayer,” he said.

“By closing sections of track for an extended period we can deliver more work, faster and importantly in a safer environment for track workers.

“We’d like to thank the community for their patience with us while this important work is delivered and we also ask motorists to take extra care and be cautious of trucks entering and exiting work sites.”

The next scheduled major shutdown will take place in late February next year.

NZ quake: Return to services, Main North Line damaged

All Wellington passenger services are back up and running after Monday’s earthquake, operator KiwiRail has announced, but the Main North Line between Picton and Christchurch may be closed for some time.

Repairs were completed on the overhead infrastructure of the Wellington Metro network and test trains ran across the network on Monday night to ensure the services would be safe to run on Tuesday morning.

Passenger services the TranzAlpine, the Northern Explorer, and the Capital Connection are all operating, a day after KiwiRail suspended all services as a result of the significant earthquake and aftershocks which hit New Zealand on Sunday night.

All freight lines in the North Island are open and operating as of Tuesday, KiwiRail added.

However, the operator said there is “significant damage” to the Main North Line between Picton and Christchurch, particularly around Kaikoura.

Early reports indicate this may be closed for some time.

KiwiRail boss Peter Reidy said there is still an enormous amount of work to do on the South Island, but it was important to get the North Island network up and running as soon as possible.

“It was critical for freight customers and passengers that the North Island network was fixed as quickly as possible,” he said.

“It’s been an extremely challenging and volatile environment where the lines have had to be checked and then rechecked again following more aftershocks.

“Our task now is to work with our partners to tackle the significant transport issues in the South Island.”

Rail track. Photo: Shutterstock

Maintenance underway on ARTC’s North East Victoria track

The Australian Rail Track Corporation says it is delivering essential railway maintenance work through North East Victoria, with locations between Benalla and Wodonga being targeted.

The maintenance work taking place is track undercutting, which includes the use of large track-mounted excavators and dump trucks delivering railway ballast into the rail corridor.

The work is taking place in two large 8-day blocks of work, from 7am to 6pm, between November 9 and 16, and then again from 7am to 6pm, November 21 to 28.

Work will be delivered in the rail corridor at areas including: Benalla, Winton, Wangaratta, Boralma, Springhurst, Chiltern, Barnawartha and West Wodonga.

An ARTC spokesperson thanked the local community for their patience while the work is underway.

“We’re aiming to get this done quickly and safely but unfortunately it can be noisy and dusty work,” the spokesperson said.

“While we will minimise these impacts as much as possible, we would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused as a result of the work.

“We would also like to ask motorists to take extra care and be cautious of trucks entering and exiting work sites along the rail corridor during this time.”

The spokesperson said the work was part of the ARTC’s annual maintenance program which is planned months in advance to deliver targeted maintenance work and keep rail lines safe and reliable.

“This work is delivered at no cost to the taxpayer and our operations pump millions into the community every year, supporting local jobs, businesses and communities,” the spokesperson added.

Infrastructure boost for regional Victoria

Paula Wallace – Sydney

Major maintenance and renewal works on the Bendigo, Swan Hill and Echuca lines are complete, with replacement of nearly 40,000 sleepers and 25,000 tonnes of ballast between Sunbury to Swan Hill.

During the past four weeks, more than 1500 V/Line staff and contractors worked around-the-clock upgrading track, strengthening bridges and removing mud holes to keep services safe and reliable.

Nine rail bridges were also strengthened, including installation of a new deck on the Taradale viaduct, and waterproofing work on the Malmsbury viaduct and Forest Creek Bridge in Castlemaine.

Other work included repairing the roof at Woodend Station, removing mud holes between Eaglehawk and Dingee, signalling works on the Bendigo line and upgrades to the pedestrian subway at Macedon Station.

The $46 million maintenance and renewal package is part of $1.3 billion the Andrews Labor Government provided in the Victorian Budget 2016/17 to improve regional public transport, including more than more than 170 new services, 27 new VLocity carriages and $198 million to rebuild the capacity of V/Line.

This article was originally published by Rail Express affiliate Lloyd’s List Australia.

Concrete poured for new Sydney light rail tunnel

Work on the construction of a new light rail tunnel in Sydney has taken a big step, with the first base slab of concrete poured at the site on November 1.

The tunnel is part of the CBD and South East Light Rail project, and will guide the line under Anzac Parade, a six-lane road which connects the city with the south-eastern suburb of La Perouse.

Crews have been working on the site since April, with a diversion built beside Anzac Parade, and excavation well underway of what will be roughly 84,000 tonnes of material.

“The base slab going in today is a big step forward, cementing the foundation for tracks which will be installed next year,” state transport minister Andrew Constance said. “The tunnel is an important piece of the 12-kilometre light rail alignment and once complete will provide a direct link from the CBD to the sporting and entertainment precinct at Moore Park.”

The tunnel will be over 500 metres long, beginning at the recently-built bridge over the Eastern Distributor, and ending near the Sydney Football Stadium and Sydney Cricket Ground, where a stop will be built.

Crews will use the fill excavated from the tunnel elsewhere around the project.

Partitioning TasRail an option

A parliamentary committee has recommended the Tasmanian government consider splitting TasRail into two.

Under the proposal of the Tasmanian Legislative Council committee, it has been suggested that TasRail’s above rail business (carriages and locomotives) be freed from its struggling below rail business (the tracks and infrastructure).

Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding told The Advocatethat vertical integration by TasRail had been consistent since TasRail was created seven years ago.

“Successive governments have supported this vertical integration as it is a more streamlined approach to operations,” he was quoted in The Advocate.

He noted committee findings suggesting the case for separation of the two business units, but not until the current $120m below rail infrastructure investment program was ready.

Other committee recommendations include:

  • The government monitor TasRail’s internal management culture and staff communications; and
  • The government develop a long-term state freight plan.

TasRail is hugely significant for the state’s freight task, linking the northern ports of Burnie, Devonport and Bell Bay with the capital city Hobart in the south.

This article originally appeared in Rail Express affiliate site Lloyd’s List Australia.