Second harbour crossing Photo Transport for NSW

Work begins on second rail crossing for Sydney Harbour

Fresh off its success at the recent state election, the Baird Government has started early works on the second Sydney Harbour rail crossing, the next stage of the government’s Sydney Rapid Transit project.

Over coming weeks, geotechnical drilling will occur up to 70m below Sydney Harbour, to help determine the best location for the new railway tunnels.

Baird, whose new cabinet features Andrew Constance as its transport minister, said this next stage of the Sydney Rapid Transit project signals the start of the government delivering its vision for Sydney as a “global city”.

“The new rail crossing of Sydney Harbour is the key to increasing capacity on our rail network by 60%,” the premier said, “allowing us to move an extra 100,000 people every hour right across Sydney.”

Constance, who took over as transport minister from now-treasurer Gladys Berejiklian, said the surface and underwater drilling was a critical first stage of the design process.

“While construction continues apace on the North West Rail Link (NWRL), we are already preparing for this vital next stage which will revolutionise the way people get around Sydney,” Constance said.

Currently under construction, the NWRL will connect Sydney’s growing north western suburbs with the existing rail network.

Eight new stations, starting at Cudgegong Road, Rouse Hill, will be built along a new rapid transit track – through tunnels underground and skytrain above ground – to connect with the existing network at Epping.

The Epping to Chatswood line will be closed for six to seven months in 2018/19, itself to be upgraded to rapid transit, creating a continuous rapid transit line, featuring automated, single-deck trains.

Wednesday’s announcement from Baird and Constance relates to the next stage of that line: its extension from Chatswood, through new railway stations in the CBD and west to Bankstsown, via a new underground crossing for Sydney Harbour.

“Sydney Rapid Transit will turn the city’s crush hour, into Sydney’s rush hour,” Constance quipped.

As part of early works, about 30 boreholes will be drilled. Roughly half will be beneath Sydney Harbour, with the rest on land either side of the proposed crossing.

On the harbour, a barge will be towed into position before its four legs are lowered to the seabed as much as 25m below the surface, then pushed to firm ground on the Harbour floor, Transport for NSW detailed.

The barge will be raised up 2m clear of the surface to provide a stable platform, allowing for a diamond-tipped drill to take core samples from depths of up to 70m below the harbour floor.

Divers will also be used throughout the process.

Geotechnical drilling is also set to take place at Sydneyham, in the Sydney CBD, North Sydney, Crows Nest and Artarmon, Transport for NSW added.

Fortescue Chief Executive Officer Andrew Forrest aboard the first train loaded with iron ore. Photo: FMG

Twiggy spurns ‘short-sellers’

Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest has hit back at suggestions from analysts that he should sell some (or all) of his 33% stake in the company, as the iron ore price dipped below FMG’s reported ‘break-even’ mark this month.

In a candid interview with Fairfax the colourful executive fired back at the reports, insisting the company’s critics were spreading the rumours in an attempt to drive down the share price.

“I have a very secure position,” Forrest was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday. “My wife and I don’t give away hundreds of millions of dollars to charities … if we’ve got any security issues at all.

“So the hedge funds starting the rumourtrage really need to take that into account when they start rumours.”

Forrest believes short-sellers are targeting FMG.

Short-sellers are individuals or companies which, having sold a stock, aim to drive the price of that stock down to then buy it again at a lower price – effectively earning a profit in the short term, and leaving the potential for more profits down the road if the price rebounds to its proper, natural value.

“I just think people who start rumours which cause detriment to Australian companies [by] having a go to try and make a trade of their rumour are immoral,” Forrest reportedly said, “and such traders should have a good hard look at themselves.”

Forrest said FMG would “play the long game,” and said investors should “look beyond the market rumour and tomorrow’s share price.”

Analysts last week said Fortescue should look to sell off some of its assets in order to handle its debts, as the price at that time dipped below US$53 a tonne, which is around the point of FMG’s reported ‘break-even’ mark – indicating the miner could soon (or may already) be selling iron ore at a loss.

Analysts at that time also suggested Forrest may look for an escape route out of FMG. But Forrest doesn’t look to be quite so skittish.

“If you’re setting seven-year money, you set it on [what] the company is going to look like over the next seven years,” he was quoted by Fairfax.

“You play a long game, and not be concerned by what might appear in the markets in the morning.”

iron ore derailment - Photo ATSB

‘Lateral harmonic wagon oscillation’ caused 2014 derailment, ATSB says

The derailment of an Aurizon iron ore train in WA last year was initiated by “lateral harmonic vehicle oscillation,” the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said late last week.

On May 14, 2014, train 4413 – a bulk iron ore train – derailed on the Defined Interstate Rail Network (DIRN) between Stewart and Bonnie Vale, in WA.

Wagons and track were severely damaged during the incident.

A final report handed down on March 27 by the ATSB reported the believed cause of the derailment, and it’s a rather complex one.

The ATSB found:

…the derailment of train 4413 was most likely initiated by lateral harmonic vehicle oscillation induced by a combination of minor cyclic cross-level and lateral track irregularities just in advance of the point of derailment.

As a result of these irregularities, it was likely that the roll of wagon WOE33548K caused the left hand wheels to unload at a time when the leading left wheel came into contact with the left rail face – resulting in flange climb and derailment.

The wagon type that derailed, WOE class, had passed prescribed dynamic performance testing, and the track and wagons complied with mandated requirements, the bureau said.

But computer simulation undertaken after the derailment showed the lateral harmonic wagon oscillation was of sufficient magnitude to increase the likelihood of derailment at the site.

Simulations showed that iron ore wagons, with their short length, react more severely to 22m wavelength cyclic irregularities (as evident at this site) than do the typically longer intermodal wagons.

The ATSB said the area of track where the derailment took place is “known (to train drivers) as an area of rough ride.” But the bureau found that the system in place to report such track irregularities was “ineffective, and hence the opportunity was lost to check for uncharacteristic track qualities through the derailment site, before such qualities contributed to a derailment”.

As a result of the investigation, Brookfield Rail and Aurizon have developed enhanced procedures for reporting track irregularities, the bureau explained.

The pair have also jointly committed, through RISSB, to ongoing industry support and research into the cause of this type of derailment.

Rosenqvist clipping machine. Photo: Kennards Hire Rail

Kennards details clip driver that helped ARTC over holiday break

Industrial supply company Kennards has detailed the new machine it provided to the Australian Rail Track Corporation to help complete major maintenance over the December-January holiday period.

The ARTC hired 18 Rosenqvist CD 200 clip drivers to complete work at six re-railing sites along the rail corridor between Wagga Wagga and Moss Vale.

The Rosenqvist CD200 is a walk-behind clipping machine with a sleeper lifting capacity of 50mm, designed for just one operator.

It weighs approximately 215kg, and can be lifted by four people, or by a mechanical lift via a single lifting point on top. It also features dual rail seats and an interchangeable work head, enabling other tools to be fitted, Kennards told Rail Express.

“Having the ability to hire rail equipment as needed is great for our business,” ARTC’s project manager south Peter Vesperman said.

“It’s a cost-effective and convenient solution, particularly if our own equipment is being utilised on another project site,” he added. “It also means we don’t have to purchase equipment we may only use a few times during the year.”

Kennards Hire Rail’s Matt Martin visited the various sites providing training and advice on the new clipping machine to the maintenance crews for the duration of the works.

“Having Matt on site was a great benefit. He provided excellent service and was very responsive to our needs,” Vesperman said.

In addition to the new Rosenqvist CD 200 clipping machines, Kennards Hire Rail also supplied eight weld trucks and rail maintenance equipment including mp12 rail grinders, rail borers, petrol impact wrenches and trolleys.

Cranbourne-Pakenham Upgrade. Graphic: Labor Victoria

Labor replaces ‘Liberal con’ plan for Cranbourne-Pakenham with its own

Victoria’s new Labor Government has dropped the former Liberal Government’s $2.5 billion upgrade proposal for the Cranbourne-Pakenham line, and has launched an upgrade plan of its own.

The Andrews Government announced on Tuesday that it will not proceed with the existing proposal for the Cranbourne-Pakenham line, which it said “was brought to the previous government as a complex unsolicited bid by a private sector consortium”.

Labor said the plan “didn’t go far enough and couldn’t even deliver what the Liberals had promised,” and said it estimated the project costs would blow out to $3.1 billion – $600 million more than the plan estimated.

“The Liberals promised billions of taxpayer dollars to a private sector consortium without knowing if the project would even work,” state treasurer Tim Pallas said.

“The Liberals lied about their own project, disregarded their own process, and came close to blowing billions of taxpayer dollars on a proposal that didn’t stack up.”

Minister for public transport Jacinta Allan added: “The unsolicited bid was riddled with problems. It wasn’t up to scratch and didn’t go far enough. We’re getting on with a bigger and better plan.”

Private consortium members MTR, John Holland Rail and UGL will reportedly be paid $30 million in compensation, and the Andrews Government will buy their intellectual property for the upgrade to the line.

The new plan will see 37 new trains added to the line, with 50% of their construction to take place in Australia.

Nine level crossings will be removed between Dandenong and Caulfield, and four stations will be rebuilt: Clayton, Carnegie, Murrumbeena and Hughesdale.

A new train depot and maintenance facility will be put in Pakenham, and new and upgraded rail infrastructure will be installed in the corridor, including power and signalling upgrades.

“Fewer level crossings and more trains means fewer delays and more services, every single day,” Allan said. “It will transform Melbourne’s busiest rail line.

“Removing level crossings will create Victorian jobs. Building trains locally will protect Victorian jobs. This helps our transport system and our economy.”

Premier Andrews said: “I live in the south-east so I know the level crossings nightmare all too well.

“The boom gates between Dandenong and Caulfield stay down for up to 80 minutes over the morning peak. If we don’t act now, transport in the south-east will eventually grind to a halt.

“We’re removing 50 of our most dangerous and congested level crossings, to get people home safer and sooner.”

FMG railway - photo FMG

FMG with its back against the wall?

As the spot price for iron ore continues its unprecedented descent, Australia’s third-biggest iron ore miner, and owner of one of the biggest private railways in the country, Fortescue Metals Group, could be on the cusp of operating below its ‘break-even’ price for the commodity.

FMG outlined a break-even price of US$52 a tonne for its Pilbara iron ore operations, six weeks ago, when the price of iron ore stood at US$65 a tonne.

Making about US$12 a tonne in cash margin translates to roughly US$2bn a year, before any quality discounts, other expenses, taxes and such are taken into account.

But since FMG made that break-even outline, the price has declined even further, dipping as low as US$52.90 overnight.

So the question becomes, has the unthinkable happened? Could Australia’s ‘third force’ in iron ore soon be operating at a loss, just 14 months after prices were at US$140 a tonne?

Analyst views are mixed.

Fairfax reported yesterday that Deutsche Bank mining analyst Paul Young believes FMG is losing cash at spot prices. Credit Suisse’s Paul McTaggert, however, reportedly said the miner could still be making US$2 to US$3 a tonne in cash margins.

Either way, there’s no doubt FMG is in hot water.

That might be why FMG chairman Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest last week made headlines when he more-or-less proposed a production-capping scheme between iron ore producers – a proposal which drew the attention of Australia’s peak anti-competition investigation body, the ACCC.

“The ACCC will be looking closely at Mr Forrest’s comments and the context in which they were made,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

“In general terms, any attempt by Australian businesses to encourage competitors to restrict outputs is a matter of grave concern to the ACCC.

“Ultimately, any success in increasing the price of iron ore in an anti-competitive way would be expected to lead to an increase in prices that Australian consumers pay for items such as whitegoods and cars.”

Forrest made the comments in question at an AustCham event in Shanghai on Tuesday, March 24.

“I’m absolutely happy to cap my production right now,” Forrest said. “All of us should cap our production now and we’ll find the iron ore price will go straight back up to $70, $80, $90.

“The tax revenues which that will generate will build more schools, more hospitals, more roads, more of everything which Australia needs … by a quantum than this foolhardy attitude of deepening your expansions into a falling price.”

In response to the ensuing outcry from economists, commentators and the ACCC, FMG issued a statement late last week defending the comments.

FMG argued that Forrest’s comments were not in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, as they related exclusively to the export of goods from Australia, and thus were not a contravention, under Section 52(2)(g) of the Act.

FMG chief executive Nev Power backed Forrest’s comments.

“The comments made by the Chairman were highlighting the point that a last man standing fight for market share will damage shareholders of all companies and is not in the long term interests of our host nation Australia nor of our customers and those comments were intended to draw attention to the fact that there is provision in Australia’s competition law dealing with the potential for discussions to be held by exporters,” Power said.

“We believe shareholders will insist that they do not want to see value destroyed and ultimately they will dictate to management that they prefer a focus on profit rather than a focus on market share.”

Straight railways throw a curveball in heavy haul rail

Heavy haul rail presents many singular challenges, particularly in established markets where interoperability is a requirement that can cripple the implementation of new technologies.

Tom Hewitt is Project Manager of Rolling Stock, CANARAIL Consultants (Canada). He will be one of the international keynotes at the Heavy Haul Rail 2015 Conference in Perth, 22-23 June 2015.

Having worked on rail systems from North America to Saudi Arabia, Tom will bring a global perspective to the issue of heavy haul rail, particularly the unique challenges of long-haul desert tracks.

Tom, can you tell us a little about your professional background and the  path to your current role?
After graduating from university in Mechanical Engineering, I got a job at a small Montreal-based railway supply company where we designed and manufactured air brake and truck (bogie) equipment. Due to the small size of the company I was able to not only design components but to travel across Canada, the United States and Mexico instructing railways and car builders in their installation, eventually participating in the Brake Systems Committee meetings of the Association of American Railways (AAR). This firsthand interaction with railways and committees reignited a childhood passion for trains that I forgot I had.

Since coming to CANARAIL in 2008 I have performed engineering studies, developed technical specifications for the acquisition of rolling stock, shop equipment, and maintenance of way equipment for new railways, and I have acted as an on-site inspector in Asia, North and South America, and Europe. Additionally, working on projects in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Canadian Arctic, has given me a unique experience in understanding railroading in extreme environments. I now act as project manager for procurement-related projects and a rolling stock technical specialist for feasibility studies.

You will be speaking at Heavy Haul Rail 2015 on “designing a heavy haul desert railway: lessons learned”. In the lead up to the event, can you share any one lesson in particular?
One lesson I can share with my experience in Saudi Arabia is that a relatively straight railway with few curves can initiate greater wheel wear than a curvy railway. This conclusion may seem counterintuitive; however, the drawback of a straight railway is that the lack of curves means that the wheelsets have limited opportunity to displace laterally on the rail head, thus producing a single wheel contact band resulting in hollow wheel treads. Once hollowing of the wheel treads sets in, the wheelsets will have high conicity that can result in unstable bogies and flanging. This phenomenon is further exaggerated by the extremely high coefficient of friction between the wheel and rail in a desert environment.

Multiple rail profiles should therefore be considered for predominantly straight railways that produce different contact bands on the wheels. A minimum of two rail profiles should be engineered for the tangent portions of the railway and additional rail profiles may be required for the low and high rails in curves. These rail profiles distribute the wear across the wheel tread.

Where do you see the biggest challenges in the various international heavy haul markets you have worked in?
Countries and regions with mature heavy haul railway operations have difficulties in implementing new technologies due to interoperability requirements – electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking, positive train control (PTC)/European train control system (ETCS), and increasing axle loads immediately come to mind. For example, a freight car sitting in a yard anywhere in North America must be interoperable with the other 1.5 million freight cars in North America, and must be “repairable” in any workshop on any railway across Canada, the United States and Mexico. It is therefore considerably easier to implement new technologies on mining railways that do not need to connect with other railways (such as Northern Quebec), or in regions where entire railways are being built from scratch (Such as Saudi Arabia).

The requirement for almost universal interoperability places particular challenges on system designers, railway management and policy makers and demand solutions that are not always evident.

Don’t miss Tom’s presentation – book now for the Heavy Haul Rail Conference 2015 conference. Other featured speakers include:

  • Mark Manion, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Norfolk Southern Corporation, USA
  • Alexander Kosarev, Deputy Director General, JSCo Railway Research Institute (JSC VNIIZHT), Russia
  • Zara Fisher, General Manager Railway Operations, Rio Tint
  • Matt Dowd, General Manager Railroad Operations, BHP Billiton
  • Mike Franczak, Executive Vice President, Operations, Aurizon
  • Roger Johnston, CEO, Pilbara Ports Authority
  • Michael Roche, Chief Executive, Queensland Resources Council
  • Alan Langford, Chief Economist, Bankwest
SA train derailmend April 2014. Photo: ATSB

SA derailment: ATSB says ARTC risk control ‘ineffective’

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has found that the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s risk control processes were ineffective in the lead-up to a derailment in South Australia midway through last year.

Early in the morning of April 10, 2014, SCT Logistics train 3MP9 derailed after travelling over track that had been undercut by floodwaters near a culvert between Tarcoola and Malbooma, SA.

Around 300 metres behind the lead loco, 18 wagons derailed, with eight rolling onto their sides.

SA derailment. Photo - ATSB
Photo: ATSB


There were no injuries to the crew or bystanders, but there was significant damage to the track, rolling stock and freight goods, according to the bureau.

What the ATSB found during its investigation launched shortly after the incident, was that floodwaters caused scouring of the track formation, compromising its capacity to support the train.

The ATSB determined that runoff from the heavy rain that had fallen in the catchment area adjacent to Malbooma on April 9, 2014, caused a flash flood event.

“The volume of floodwater exceeded the capacity of a double drainage culvert designed for a 1:50 year average flood recurrence interval,” the ATSB said in its report, released yesterday.

“This resulted in water overtopping the track formation with ballast and sub-grade scouring on the south side of the track.”

As a result of the scouring, the track couldn’t support the train in certain areas. The resulting deformation caused the derailment, according to the bureau.


Role of the ARTC

According to the report, Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) risk control processes were ineffective in developing and implementing changes to operational procedures from the findings of previous incident investigations.

“The ARTC did not have a comprehensive system in place to identify and actively manage the risks to their network from severe weather events, and had not established a register for recording ‘special locations’ for the management of track infrastructure prone to flooding,” the bureau found.

There were no anomalies found with the operation of the train or the condition of rolling stock before the derailment.

SA derailment. Photo: ATSB
Photo: ATSB


As a result of the investigation, the ARTC has implemented Operational Procedure OPP-01-05 ‘Monitoring and Responding to Extreme Weather Events in the East-West Corridor’ and has purchased and installed remote weather monitoring and recording stations at Barton, Cook, Rawlinna and Zanthus, according to the ATSB.

Automated alerts will be provided by the weather stations, which will be linked to the Early Warning Network.

The ARTC has also installed four water flow monitors at culverts identified through a hydrology study of the Trans Australia Railway. Field evaluation of this equipment is currently being undertaken.

The ARTC is also optimising its inspection and maintenance activities with upgrades to its electronic asset management system underway. This process will include the recording of ‘special locations’ affected by severe weather events.

“To ensure that the safety of rail operations is not compromised during severe weather events, it is essential that rail transport operators have robust and responsive systems in place to actively monitor and manage the foreseeable risks,” the safety bureau concluded.

Click to view the full ATSB report.

Stadium Station map. Graphic: WA government

Contractor announced for Perth’s Stadium Station project

A pair of Australian rail and engineering businesses will deliver the $100 million station and railway project for Perth’s new sports stadium.

Construction of the station at the new Perth Stadium will begin within months, after transport minister Dean Nalder late last week named Laing O’Rourke and AECOM as the companies selected to build the infrastructure.

The $100 million project will see the construction of a station and associated rail infrastructure. It is part of a $358 million package for public transport infrastructure at the site.

“The station is a vital part of the new Perth Stadium project and will enable up to 28,000 passengers to depart the new stadium within an hour of an event,” Nalder said.

Nalder said Laing O’Rourke and AECOM will mobilise on-site quickly to ensure the works are completed on schedule in late 2017, which will allow time for the infrastructure to be tested in the lead-up to the 2018 AFL season.

“When complete, Stadium Station will be the second largest station on Transperth’s network – with six platforms connected by two pedestrian concourses, each with multiple passenger lifts for access by people with mobility issues.

“This contract will involve not only building the Stadium Station, but also significant rail works, including infrastructure that will enable Transperth to store up to 117 railcars on the Burswood Peninsula, ready for use at the end of a game.”

The transport projects for the new Perth Stadium also include a pedestrian footbridge linking the stadium site to East Perth and a dedicated bus facility on the peninsula to load up to 20 buses at a time.

Nalder said the total construction workforce on the various contracts for the new Perth Stadium transport components would range from between 1800 to 2000.

Fairfield Airport line - WA PTA

Nalder announces EOI candidates for Forrestfield-Airport link

WA minister for transport Dean Nalder has announced the five consortia which have expressed interest in delivering the $2 billion Forrestfield-Airport rail link.

The state government said the five “strong” EOIs for the project represent “another important milestone” in its delivery.

Nalder announced EOIs from:

– Connecting Forrestfield (Lend Lease and Ghella)

– CRCC-BGC-VDM JV (China Railway Construction Corporation, BGC and VDM)

– Forrestfield Connect (Acciona, BAM and Ferrovial Agroman)

– JHL JV (Leighton Contractors and John Holland)

– SI-NRW JV (Salini Impregilo and NRW)

The state will now shortlist companies to progress to the Request for Proposal stage. Geotechnical studies for the project are already nearing completion.

Nalder said the EOIs showed a high level of market interest, with the project attracting major international contractors to Perth.

“The strong mix of national and international respondents is a positive development for the project and shows the market has been well engaged, informed and is prepared to bid for this innovative project,” Nalder said.

Shortlisted respondents will be announced in late April, with the contract to be awarded by mid-2016. It will be a single design and construct package including tunnel and civil infrastructure, track, stations and rail systems with signalling, communications and power, the department said.

The geotechnical work, already underway and nearing completion, includes water and soil quality sampling along the route. More than 100 bore holes have been drilled as part of the geotechnical investigations and samples have been taken from 70 monitoring wells.

The minister said the sampling would help the project team make informed decisions about the best way to proceed with tunnelling for the new rail line.

“This innovative project will see two rail tunnels bored underground from Bayswater, beneath the Swan River and Perth Airport, out to Forrestfield,” he said.

“It is vital that we are aware of any potential soil or water conditions prior to tunnelling, to ensure construction impacts during the delivery phase are minimised.”