Tenders out to replace Central West line bridges

Contractors are being asked to tender for nearly $9 million of rail bridge upgrade work on Queensland’s Central West line.

The Palaszczuk Government has launched the third stage of its program to replace, repair and upgrade ageing timber rail bridges on the line, with a set of tenders worth $8.8 million to replace up to 18 bridges, and 69 bridge piers with more durable structures.

Transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the Labor Government was committed to providing a safe and reliable network.

“Some of these timber bridges are more than 100 years of age and they have passed their design life and are in need of replacement or upgrade,” the minister said.

“By replacing or upgrading the bridges with steel and concrete structures, we will not only improve their reliability but also minimise the time and cost spent on maintenance.”

Queensland Rail, which issued the tender on August 12, held a presentation for interested parties on August 24 in Brisbane.

The tender is open until Monday, September 12.

Agriculture minister Leanne Donaldson said the government wasn’t expecting the project to be finished until June 2018.

“In 2013, we embarked on stage one of the Central West Bridge Replacement program, which saw 49 timber bridges either replaced or repaired,” Donaldson explained.

“Stage two, which was completed last year, saw a further 23 bridges replaced or upgraded between Clermont, Emerald and Winton.

“Upon completion of stage three, the state government will have invested more than $47 million in upgrading Central West line bridges.”

The Central West line, which is administered by Queensland Rail, adjoins Aurizon’s Blackwater system at Emerald, and runs to Hughenden, via Longreach and Winton, over a distance of roughly 780 kilometres.

The earliest portions of the line were opened in the 1860s.

“Each year approximately 600 trains travel on the Central West line, including both passenger and freight services, which also support the local tourism economy and agriculture and resource sectors,” Donaldson said.

“The upgrade works will ensure that we continue to support these industries with a reliable rail network for years to come.”

Newcastle coal infrastructure. Photo: Southern Cross Maritime

Hunter maintenance shutdown this week

The Australian Rail Track Corporation will deliver more than $20 million in maintenance work to the Hunter Valley network during a 60-hour planned maintenance shutdown this week.

ARTC executive general manager for the Hunter Valley Jonathan Vandervoort said around 1000 contractors would join ARTC staff this week to deliver dozens of maintenance projects on the network.

The pre-planned maintenance work will see new rail be laid, level crossings improved, ballast cleaned and signalling work completed.

The shutdown is scheduled from 6am on Tuesday, August 23, to the late evening of Thursday, August 25.

Work will take place in the rail corridor from around Kooragang Island, North to Narrabri and between Muswellbrook and Ulan on the Ulan line.

The ARTC’s Hunter Network has been the subject of unplanned shutdowns in recent weeks, with major industrial action taking place across the Corporation’s New South Wales railways.

But with major maintenance tasks planned like re-railing and track reconditioning, the ARTC wants to go ahead with the planned shutdown despite this.

“While there was severe disruption to railway services over the last few weeks due to industrial action, the critical nature and scale of the work means that the maintenance shutdown will proceed as planned,” Vandervoort said.

“We will be working very closely with our customers to see what opportunities there are following the maintenance shutdown to recover from the industrial action period as best as possible.

“Our focus is on safe, continuous and reliable operations and this maintenance shutdown is critical to ensuring the Hunter coal chain runs as seamlessly as possible.”

The next major maintenance shutdown is planned for October 11 to 14.

Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

Oakey Beef upgrade begins

Work has started on a $2.5 million project to upgrade rail infrastructure for the expansion of Oakey Beef Exports in South West Queensland.

Queensland Rail crews will upgrade a rail siding at Mitchell, and re-open a section of the old Cecil Plains branch line, which has been shut for over a decade.

The old track on the branch line will be removed, before earthworks make way for crews to build 1.3 kilometres of upgraded track, including 1900 sleepers and 2300 tonnes of ballast.

The upgrade will allow cattle services to operate from Quilpie, Charleville, Morven, Roma and Mitchell to Oakey, where Oakey Beef Exports is undertaking a multi-million dollar plant expansion designed to double its output.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on August 18 told State Parliament the expansion would unlock a potential $1.3 billion in economic activity around the region.

“This investment will generate significant economic benefits within Oakey and surrounding areas, delivering a major boost for regional jobs and bolster economic confidence in this region,” the premier said.

Treasurer Curtis Pitt said the project, including the upgrade of the Mitchell siding, is expected to be completed by early November, weather and constructions conditions permitting.

He said Queensland Rail is also continuing to work with Oakey Beef Exports to look for further opportunities to upgrade rail infrastructure on the Western line.

“Queensland Rail prides itself on being a good neighbour in the community and they have assured me all works will be completed during daylight hours only and any expected noise from construction will be communicated in advance to nearby landowners,” he added.

Transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the Oakey Beef project reflected the Government’s commitment to investing in rail freight to support the agricultural industry and jobs growth for Queensland.

“The Government is also investing $32.4 million for the Toowoomba Range Clearance Upgrade project, which will to help boost regional freight capacity between the Darling Downs and the Port of Brisbane,” Hinchliffe said.

“This project involves lowering tunnel floors to allow the clearance of 9’6” high freight shipping containers, which are increasingly used to export goods, across the range.”

V/Line train. Photo: Victorian Government

Early Ballarat line works begin

Crews have begun work to duplicate the rail line near Deer Park, west of Melbourne, as part of the Victorian Government’s $518 million upgrade of the Ballarat line.

Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan this week visited Deer Park, where roughly a kilometre of rail will be duplicated ahead of the major portion of the Ballarat Line Upgrade works.

The Deer Park work has been brought forward to coincide with construction of the new Caroline Springs station, which the government says it’s building to improve public transport in Melbourne’s growing western suburbs.

Caroline Springs is being built along the Ballarat line, further from Southern Cross (in Melbourne, the centre of the network) than Deer Park station.

While construction crews are on site, they will duplicate the line between Christies Road and the new station, and install new signalling, Allan said.

This first section of double-track will open at the same time as the new Caroline Springs Station early next year.

The $518 million upgrade, which will start in 2017, will duplicate the line all the way to Melton station, just over 20 kilometres from Deer Park.

The project will also duplicate a three kilometre section of single track west of Warrenheip, further down the line, and will build three extra crossing loops, at Bacchus Marsh, Ballan and near Bungaree.

“The Andrews Labor Government’s transformation of the Ballarat corridor will deliver more frequent, reliable services to Melbourne’s west, Melton and communities right along the Ballarat line,” the minister said.

“Over the next few years we’ll duplicate the track, build new passing loops and upgrade stations to make it easier to get to work, school and appointments, and home safer and sooner at the end of the day.”

Allan says the project will be bolstered by the Labor Government’s $280 million investment in 27 new V/Locity carriages, which will create space for 2000 extra passengers across the regional network.

New stabling facilities will be built at Melton and Rowsley to house the extra carriages needed and second platforms will be built at Bacchus Marsh and Ballan stations.

Existing platforms at Rockbank Station will also be extended so passengers can use each carriage to get on or off the train, and a sealed car park will also be built on the south-side of the Station.

Transport-hungry Downer wins Newcastle Light Rail

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance has announced Downer EDI as managing contractor for the Newcastle Light Rail project, a week after the engineer signalled its desire to go after more contracts in the public transport sector.

Constance on August 9 announced Downer had been selected from a shortlist which also included CPB Contractors, John Holland, Laing O’Rourke, and McConnell Dowell.

Under the contract, Downer will partner with Transport for NSW to design, construct and commission 2.7 kilometres of light rail track, six stops, a stabling and maintenance facility, road works and associated precinct works.

Downer chief executive Grant Fenn was delighted with the news.

“Downer has a long and proud history in Newcastle,” he said on Tuesday.

“Downer works closely with Transport for NSW and we look forward to helping them deliver the signature project for Newcastle and to contribute to the revitalisation of the state’s second largest city.”

Fenn last week told the Australian Financial Review the company would target passenger rail and bus contracts after it announced a 14% drop in net profit to $180.6 million, and said it faced “continued pressure” in its resources businesses.

Struggles in a depressed resources sector necessitate the ASX-listed engineer’s further diversification into other areas.

As Downer said in its August 4 Investor Presentation: “The company is progressing well in repositioning to service increased investment and outsourcing in roads and rail, public transport, utilities, defence and communications”.

The ASX responded well to Downer’s update, with the company’s share price climbing from a $4.16 close on August 3 to roughly $5 a share to start this week.

Along with the Newcastle Light Rail project, Downer is also in the hunt for the $2.8 billion NSW Intercity Fleet deal, and Victoria’s $2 billion contract to deliver 65 high capacity metro trains.

Downer is partnered with Changchun Railway Vehicles in both bids, and Rail Express sources suggest a winner could be announced for one of the rollingstock contracts in a matter of days.


Changes in store for Newcastle network

Constance said Downer was chosen for the Newcastle Light Rail project “following a competitive tender process, which was overseen by an independent Probity Advisor”.

The minister also announced a trio of changes to the existing plans for the line, made as a result of public consultation.

Instead of raised tracks, all tracks along the route will be built flush with the road.

The second change will see a slight alignment shift at Worth Place “to ensure a smoother turn and quicker travel time”.

Finally, as a result of the consultation, a second track will be built across Stewart Avenue near the new Wickham Interchange to reduce disruption when future extensions are built to the light rail network.

Constance said the changes were a sign the state government was taking on board suggestions from the public, and was committed to working with everyone involved “to make sure green space, footpaths, cycleways and parking are front and centre as the final designs are progressed”.

“These improvements are a win-win for customers and local residents,” Constance added.

Newcastle Light Rail will run from a new transport interchange at Wickham – where the heavy passenger line from Sydney ends – to a terminus at Pacific Park on the other side of the Newcastle CBD.

Spanish manufacturer CAF will supply six of its Urbos trams for the new network.

Rail track. Photo: Shutterstock

NSW funds ten regional rail projects

The re-opening of the Maimuru to Demondrille rail line will headline a series of pilot projects designed to kick-start the NSW Government’s $400 million Fixing Country Rail program.

NSW freight minister Duncan Gay has committed $15 million to fund 10 pilot projects, which make up the pilot round of the program, being delivered by Gay’s ministry over the next few years.

$14 million of the money will go towards the following six projects:

  • $5 million towards the reinstatement of the Maimuru to Demondrille railway line
  • $3 million for rail siding extension at Hillston to help service a major grain receival site
  • $2 million for the reinstatement of a 2.8 kilometre section of the Moree to Inverell railway line at Moree
  • $1.5 million for rail siding extension at Barellan to help service a major grain receival site
  • $1.5 million for rail siding extension at Burren Junction to help service a major grain receival site
  • $1 million for upgrading rail siding at the Canberra Railway Freight Terminal (Fyshwick)

The remaining $1 million will be spent on detailed planning and design work for the remaining four projects:

  • A new turnout (allows trains to turn off the main track onto a siding) at the centre of Dunmore Loop at Shellharbour
  • A new turnout at Unanderra
  • A new crossing loop near Tarago
  • The reinstatement of the non-operational line from West Tamworth to Westdale

Gay says the spending is part of the government’s plan to get more freight on rail.

“The NSW Government is determined to shift more bulk freight on to railway lines to ensure we get produce from paddocks to ports as quickly and efficiently as possible,” the minister said.

“The freight transport network is the backbone of country NSW and we need to improve its efficiency to take more freight off our local and regional roads – a massive win for regional communities, economies and the state’s producers.”

Funding for the ten pilot projects will be allocated to Transport for NSW as the network owner for the Country Regional Network and Metropolitan Rail Network.

CBH preparing network for bumper crop

Grain handling business CBH is spending millions to enhance sites across its network to prepare for an estimated 14-16 million tonne crop this year.

The group’s general manager of operations David Capper said his team is preparing for a bumper year with improvements and refinements underway across the network.

“We’ve been working on the Network Strategy which is a $750 million maintenance and site enhancement program across our sites,” Capper said.

“By the time we reach harvest we will have already seen significant progress towards the network of the future.”

An extra open bulk head is being built at Wagin so there will be more storage available in time for harvest, Capper explained.

“Improved equipment at the site on existing storage will see quicker turnaround and throughput times,” he said.

Elsewhere, improved equipment on existing storage will improve turnaround times at Dumbleyung, an extra open bulk head will boost storage in Merredin, and in Albany there’s a project underway to improve the transfer of grain from train to conveyor, with works set to shutdown the port site briefly in September.

Capper continued: “Just outside Albany, the Mirambeena site will be ready for harvest, despite heavy rain in the area slowing construction in recent months. It’s a great asset and having a feeder site for the Albany Port and increasing capacity in the zone will make operations across the zone more efficient.”

Capper says the aim of these projects is to build the network of the future through the CBH Network Strategy.

But due to the current crop potential, CBH has also planned to build 400,000 tonnes of emergency storage across the state, with the potential for additional emergency capacity to follow as and the harvest potential becomes clearer.

“It’s important that growers and the market understand that there is still a long way to go yet,” Capper explained.

“The high yields being discussed are highly dependent on good spring rain and in some areas water logging means that a few weeks of dryer weather would be welcome.

“There are a number of other factors making planning for this year’s harvest more difficult than usual.

“Currently the grain market is very soft, meaning it’s difficult to predict how much grain will ship between now and harvest and how much harvest shipping will occur.

“Also the early estimates received from growers indicate a strong swing to coarse grains away from wheat which will have a significant impact on storage capacity.”

CBH has currently received 40% of grower estimates, with an ideal target of at least 80%.

“When we get clear information about what growers have planted it helps us prepare to receive that crop and get the best balance of services and segregations across sites,” Capper said.

“If you don’t tell us what you’ve planted and how much, we can’t plan to give you the service that you need, so jump on Loadnet and fill out your estimates today,” he told growers.

Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

ARTC begins maintenance in Southern Highlands

Fifteen days of essential maintenance have kicked off on the Main South line in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation began works on Sunday, June 5, and expects to run the maintenance until June 20.

ARTC says the maintenance involves “critical” re-railing work – removing sections of the rail track and replacing it with new rail.

The re-railing is taking place at a number of locations between Medway Junction (near Marulan) and Moss Vale.

The work has been brought forward to help improve current train running times through the Southern Highlands, according to the rail owner.

ARTC has warned residents the work necessitates welding and the use of heavy equipment and machinery like excavators, trucks and forklifts. The result could be noisy, dusty conditions for locals.

“The work is critical to the safety and reliability of the rail line and to help carry out the work will involve large trucks moving in and out of the rail corridor, dropping off supplies and the use of heavy machinery in the rail corridor,” the corporation reasoned.

Work will take place along the line at locations including Wingello, Bundanoon and Moss Vale.

The freight network will be closed in various areas at various times over this period, but ARTC said it would avoid working during the long weekend period, from June 11 to 13.

“We would like to thank the community for its patience during this essential rail maintenance work.”

Grain. Photo: Shutterstock

NSW grain farmers to benefit from ARTC trial

A six-month Australian Rail Track Corporation trial will see longer, heavier trains used along the 100-kilometre railway line between Moree and Narrabri.

ARTC executive general manager for the Hunter Valley Jonathan Vandervoort said the trial will bring big productivity improvements for farmers in NSW’s north-west.

“Producers have been saying for years in order to become more competitive they want improvements in the supply chain and that rail is the most cost-effective and efficient way to do it,” Vandervoort said.

“Well, north-west farmers looking to shift the last of the 2015/16 grain harvest and summer sorghum crops have the opportunity today to realise significant transport savings by using rail.”

ARTC has increased track weight tonnages by 15% along the stretch of track, and is also increasing the maximum train length from 850 metres to 1,000.

Vandervoort believes the changes can help farmers realise roughly $2-3 per tonne in savings from the increase to axle loads alone.

“Add in an increase in length and the savings are multiplied,” he said.

“And it is a progressive improvement, giving more back to the farmer with no hard infrastructure cost.

“In only two years we have moved from 19 tonne axle load, 40 wagon trains; to now 70 wagon trains at 1000m in length and 23 tonne axle loadings.

“That delivers an extra 11 tonnes of freight per wagon, straight payload,” he stated.

An added benefit of an improved pricing differential, he said, was that it could enlarge the geographic catchment for rail to attract more freight.

“The introduction of this size of train is also a bonus for our other customers as it improves network capacity by reducing the overall number of interactions between trains, decreasing the variations in freight cycle time and passenger train performance,” he continued.

“We are determined to continue pushing the envelope and finding smart ways of delivering more to our customers for less.”

The ARTC will monitor and review the performance of larger, heavier, loaded trains, operating at 50 km/h, over the next six months.

The ARTC’s review and risk assessment process so far has already included running a 1.25-kilometre grain train to the Port of Newcastle in December.

Early works underway on Hurstbridge line

Geotechnical and site investigations have begun on Melbourne’s Hurstbridge line, after the Andrews Government announced a $140 million project to duplicate and upgrade the line last month.

A contract to deliver the upgrade will be awarded in 2017, with the state’s Level Crossing Removal Authority handling the delivery of the project.

The Hurstbridge line upgrade includes the duplication of the single-track between Heidelberg and Rosanna, part of the Metro Trains Melbourne network.

Duplication will include the construction of a second tunnel to run alongside an existing one. The winning contractor will also have to install associated power and signalling along the new track.

The project also includes the removal of the Lower Plenty Road level crossing in Rosanna, the construction of a new railway station at Rosanna, and the removal of the Grange Road level crossing in Alphington.

Funding for the project was detailed in the forward estimates in the 2016/17 state budget.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said the work would remove a major bottleneck from the Melbourne public transport network.

“This notorious single section of track needs duplicating for passengers in the north east to have the frequent and reliable services they deserve,” he said.

“Removing this notorious bottleneck means we can run more trains in peak hour when we need them most.”

Early works, which kicked off on Tuesday, involve drilling 100mm holes up to 25 metres deep along the planned project route.

The geotechnical investigations are aimed to provide information about ground conditions at the site, which will inform the design of the project, and how it is delivered.

As part of this project, the Level Crossing Removal Authority is also investigating the potential duplication of another section of track, further up the line, between Greensborough and Eltham.

Melbourne’s Hurstbridge line originates at Flinders St station, then shares track with the South Morang line until it forks off at Clifton Hill station.

The section of single-track being duplicated in this project is just 1.2 kilometres long; the other single-track section on the line (being investigated) is 15 kilometres in length, but includes passing opportunities, and is farther from the CBD.