Mildura Line re-opened after seven-month closure

Freight trains are now running again on the Mildura Line following major track upgrades, which involved converting the track from broad gauge to standard gauge.

Part of the Victorian government’s $440 million Murray Basin Rail Project, the works also involved increasing the line’s axle loading from 19 tonnes to 21 tonnes, which will allow trains to carry additional freight.

Ballast, concrete sleepers, fasteners and crossings were sourced from Victorian suppliers, while around 40 businesses from central Victoria helped provide services. Over 500 workers, including 220 from regional Victoria were reportedly involved in the project.

“The Murray Basin Rail project is creating local jobs during construction, providing a welcome boost to towns in central and north-western Victoria,” state public transport minister Jacinta Allan said.

“Once finished, it will provide better connections into Portland, Geelong and Melbourne, taking trucks off our roads and moving more freight by rail.”

After lifting the seven-month closure of the line for the upgrade works, the first freight train left Merbein for Melbourne on Tuesday.  The train was also due to travel along the recently reopened Maryborough to Ararat line – another stretch upgraded through the Murray Basin Rail Project – on its way to the Port of Melbourne.

“The Murray Basin Rail Project is reconnecting Victoria’s north west with our major ports in Portland, Geelong and Melbourne and providing long lasting support to Victorian farmers and businesses,” said Jaala Pulford, regional development minister.

“The Mildura line is one of our busiest rail freight links, playing a key role in transporting the Murray Basin region’s grain, mineral sands, fruit, vegetables and wine to our ports and to the world.”

Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

Works begin to re-open Napier-Wairoa rail line

Work to reinstate the rail line from Napier to Wairoa has started, days after the New Zealand government announced $5 million in funding for the project through the Provincial Growth Fund.

Last week it was announced that the Fund, designed to boost economic development in regional areas, would provide for the re-opening of the line, along with upgrades to the Whanganui Line.

KiwiRail’s chief executive Peter Reidy welcomed the announcement as a sign of government confidence in rail as a driver of economic growth.

“We welcome this recognition of the contribution rail is making in adding value to New Zealand, not only through the efficient movement of freight and people, but in all of the areas highlighted in the recent Value of Rail report prepared by professional services firm EY,” Reidy said.

“The benefits rail delivers include reducing congestion on roads, cutting carbon emissions, making our roads safer and lowering spending on road maintenance and upgrades.

“Together they add up to more than $1.5 billion per year, and they are a key reason for the Government’s financial investments.”

The Wairoa-Napier road is coming under increasing strain from the growing volume of logs requiring freighting – rail, according to Reidy, is the ideal solution.

“We have estimated that using the Wairoa-Napier line to move the logs could take up to 5,714 trucks a year off the road, and reduce carbon emissions by 1292 tonnes,” he said.

Contractors have started clearing vegetation at Eskdale and will move north over the coming weeks, to be followed by work on the line’s drains and culverts.

The first log trains are expected to be able to use the track by the end of the year; however, the project will take two years to be fully completed.

Henare Clarke, KiwiRail’s acting group general manager of network services, said that the start of works meant that people had to take extra care around the rail corridor.

“The work will see an increase in movements along that track,” Clarke said. “Everyone needs to expect trains and other rail vehicles using the line at any time from either direction.

“They should only cross the line at level crossings – to cross the line anywhere else is both dangerous and illegal.”

Anthony Albanese, ASA

Albanese rules out stopping Adani project with change to EPBC approvals

Shadow transport and infrastructure minister, Anthony Albanese, ruled out any Labor attempt to alter environmental legislation to stop Queensland’s Adani mine project, while also making clear that the project would have to stand or fall on the economic viability of its business case without financial help from government.

Albanese said that, on that basis, the mine was unlikely to proceed, as the state Labor government has committed to a veto of any public subsidy to build a rail line.

“[W]e have a project that doesn’t have any finance, doesn’t have finance here in Australia, unable to raise funds in the US, unable to raise funds in China,” Albanese said during an interview with ABC radio.

“And therefore it is hard to see this project going ahead because of the economics of the project.”

Albanese’s statements came as Adani abandoned its latest deadline for securing financing for the project’s first stage.

Asked whether federal Labor would it hypothetically “support” the project if became economically viable, the shadow minister said the question was “absurd”, as the project had already received its environmental approvals. He then effectively ruled out a possible change by Labor of the Environmental Protection, Bio-diversity and Conversation Act (EPBC) a move that the Greens have promoted as a way of stopping the project.

“What we think is good policy happens when you establish good, proper settings … putting in place a policy framework which then drives a change across the economy,” he said.

“What you don’t do is single out particular projects and then retrospectively change existing laws which would have ramifications across the board.

“We haven’t said at any stage that we would do that. What we have said very clearly is because of what is happening in the global thermal coal market, which includes, by the way, India saying that they will not import coal after the next few years, is that there is not a market for this.”

Federal Labor’s stand on the Adani project has been evolving in recent months, though opinions within the party are not unified. Though Albanese has put the question of environmental impacts to one side, leader Bill Shorten has made critical noises about the environmental cost while, at the same time, attempting to affirm the party’s support for coal-mining jobs in Queensland.

Stronger words have come from Mark Butler, Labor’s climate spokesman, who said that the Adani project – along with the broader development of the Galilee Basin for mining – ought not to go head, as it would displace mining jobs in established coal regions and hamper Australia’s attempt to meet its Paris climate agreement obligations.

Kaikoura earthquake puts $25 million dent in KiwiRail half-year results

KiwiRail’s half-year results have been released, revealing that the operator would have significantly improved its position without the heavy $25 million impact of the Kaikoura earthquake in November 2016, which severed damaged over 150 kilometres of the Main North Line.

In the six months up to December 2017, KiwiRail established an operating surplus of $15.3 million; however, the operator estimates that this would have been closer to $40 million – a 39% improvement on its 2016 result – had the Kaikoura earthquake not occurred.

KiwiRail crews spent over 10 months replacing damaged track, rebuilding bridges, repairing tunnels, and clearing the large slips along the route, a major freight link in the country’s supply network.

“It is a credit to the 3,400 people of KiwiRail that this result betters the December 2016 half year and that the organisation is on target to meet its commitment to Government for the third year running,” said Trevor Janes, KiwiRail’s chairman.

“The underlying operating surplus of $40 million is a significant improvement on the prior half-year result of $23 million.”

Excluding the impact of the earthquake, the operator saw 6% increase in bulk freight, with rises in Fonterra bulk milk and, following BT Mining’s purchase of Solid Energy last year, in coal volumes.

Janes indicated that the heavy rain in September and at the beginning of October, which delayed the opening of freight services on the Main North Line, along with issues arising from an ageing locomotive fleet – ranging between 32 years old to 57 years-old –  created uncertainty for domestic customers and the limited overnight services.

“It has been a messy six months, particularly in the South Island, where weather disrupted the recovery we had worked hard to achieve by reopening the earthquake-affected Main North Line months ahead of schedule,” Janes said.

“While the previous Government committed to funding any insurance shortfall of the rail rebuild, KiwiRail has had to absorb the on-going revenue impact, including restricted freight volumes.”

Some highlights of KiwiRail’s half-year results include a 7% revenue and 4% patronage increase for its Interislander services, a 16% growth in revenue from intermodal ports, and an 8% increase in forestry revenue.

“We have been working closely with the industry to maximise our ability to meet the wall of wood now coming on stream, as the result of the large volume of trees planted in early 1990s,” KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said.

“Our log wagon fleet has grown by 40% since 2011. We have some very clever thinkers on our team and have been able to do this in an innovative and cost-efficient way by converting wagons retired from our container fleet.”

Though KiwiRail is currently running trains on forestry routes as frequently as seven days a week, Reidy said it could be doing more.

“There are more than 130 additional log wagon conversions coming on stream over the next six months, which will allow us to meet further demand this year; and a further 200 wagon conversions are planned for the 2019 financial year,” he said.

KiwiRail has working with the industry to develop log hubs at key locations on the network – such as at Masterton, Whanganui and Palmerston North – to help move more logs to Napier Port and CentrePort by rail rather than road.

“Consolidating volumes and running to export ports by train is a cost-effective option for forestry owners/harvesters,” said Reidy.

“We bring benefits of economies of scale, particularly where forests are a long way from an export sea port. In addition, our trains mean fewer trucks on the road, and lower carbon emissions.”

The operator reports that it remains on track on track to meet the full year operating surplus commitment of $30-50 million over the next six months.

Landowner consultations underway for Narromine-Narrabri Inland Rail corridor

The next phase of landowner consultation for the Narromine to Narrabri section of the Inland Rail project is underway this week, with the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) planning to carry out approximately 300 one-on-one meetings over the next three months.

This phase of consultations in the section’s study area follows previous ARTC meetings with around 450 landowners last year, and an information event in December that was attended by 700 people.

The Narromine to Narrabri section will comprise approximately 300 kilometres of new track, making it the longest and most significant greenfield development of the Inland Rail project.

The study corridor is approximately 2 kilometres wide (with wider and narrower variations), within which the ARTC have been carrying out consultations – with landowners and engineering and construction experts – to ascertain the most appropriate site for track placement.

Around fifty alternative options for the study corridor were considered in response to community and stakeholder feedback. The choice itself was determined according to ARTC’s evaluation process, which included ascertaining the option that best met the “Service Offering” – the level of service required from the project by freight operators and customers – and the option that had the greater advantages with regards to the costs of construction, maintenance, and track operation.

Other criteria, including safety standards, technical viability, ecological and environmental impacts, and property, landowning and land use impacts, were judged in workshopping events across 2016 and 2017.

The preferred study area was chosen, among other reasons, for its estimated 4 minutes 38 seconds reduction in transit time over 3 hours and 10 minutes for the whole Narromine-Narrabri section – a decrease of approximately 2.5% — and for its estimated 3.3% capital cost saving on the total $1.5 billion cost of this section.

According to Peter Winder, the ARTC’s Inland Rail Division CEO, the 2-kilometres study area will, over the next 18-24 months, be whittled down to a final rail corridor of 45-60 metres wide. Community and stakeholder consultations are forming part of the refinement process.

“We are focused on building the best possible rail line and the community’s input is critical in shaping the design of Inland Rail,” Winder said.

“We are listening, and we are conscious of the need to understand more about individual requirements, and community issues and opportunities. This consultation process is part of enhancing our understanding.

“We will also be talking to people about the detailed environmental and engineering investigations we need to do, property access, and the next steps in the design.”

ARTC consultation teams will begin this week in Narromine, before moving north through the study area over the coming months.

“This intensive process is just the start,” Winder said, “and there will continue to be many opportunities for the community, landowners, businesses and others to give us their feedback and help inform the project.

“Landowners are being contact directly to arrange a time as we progress this consultation over the next few months, but we also encourage people to call us any time to talk to us about Inland Rail on 1800 732 761 or through the Inland Rail website.”

Your Rail Express January-February digital edition has arrived

Rail Express is pleased to release its latest instalment for online readers in a digital, true-to-life format.

The January/February issue of Rail Express is now available to view, for free, on your desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device.

  • Click here to read the main magazine (68 pages)
  • Click here to read our special Light Rail pull-out supplement, sponsored by Transdev

“With the ARA’s Light Rail Conference coming up, we’ve put together a great supplement on light rail in our first issue for 2018,” editor Oliver Probert said. “We’ve also got plenty of coverage on the recent AusRAIL Coference & Exhibition in Brisbane, and of course our regular, reliable updates on rail news across the country.”

Instructions: simply use your mouse to drag the pages as if you were reading a magazine. Alternatively, you can use the left and right arrows on your keyboard. To zoom in on a page, use the magnifying glass icon on the bottom centre menu. To download the magazine as a PDF, click the downward arrow icon in the bottom centre menu.

Inland Rail: $31.5m in feasibility contracts awarded

Feasibility design contracts have been awarded for the four sections of Inland Rail between Brisbane and Toowoomba.

Three of the contracts, covering the three sections of Inland Rail between Gowrie and Kagaru, have been awarded to the Future Freight Joint Venture, which is between Aecom and Aurecon. They are worth a combined $28 million.

The fourth contract, for the section of Inland Rail from Kagaru to Acacia Ridge and Bromelton, has been awarded to Hatch. It is worth around $3.5 million.

ARTC’s director of Inland Rail delivery Simon Thomas said the information gathered through the feasibility design studies would complement extensive community engagement being conducted by the ARTC itself.

“It’s a 360 approach,” Thomas said. “The engineering, environmental studies and community feedback inform each other so that we can build the best possible rail line.”

Describing the design process through Queensland as “lengthy,” Thomas said the new contracts would allow the ARTC team to progress with “an important piece of the puzzle”.

“This will help us understand more about the local geography, hydrology, flora and fauna, as well as air quality, noise and social factors, laying the groundwork for more detailed design work.”

The three sections covered by the Aecom/Aurecon contract will eventually be delivered via a Public Private Partnership.

“This is the most technically complex section of Inland Rail requiring major tunnelling through the Toowoomba ranges,” Thomas said.

“Developing the PPP is one of the ARTC’s major areas of focus and we are currently recruiting for a director to lead this work.”

Transport and infrastructure minister Barnaby Joyce said Inland Rail would be a catalyst for significant development throughout regional Australia.

“This project is a game-changer for our regions, creating thousands of jobs nationwide, and returning $16 billion to the national economy during the delivery phase and the first 50 years of operation,” Joyce said.

“More importantly, Inland Rail will draw investment into communities along its corridor, as we gear up for construction work to start on sections in New South Wales as early as May.”

Finance minister Mathias Cormann said the feasibility designs would help respond to a large amount of community interest in Inland Rail.

“As these feasibility designs progress, more detail will become available, including what engineering solutions could be used, building on preliminary investigations and community engagement already carried out by the ARTC,” Cormann said.

Greens not buying Labor’s Adani displeasure

Queensland Greens senator Andrew Bartlett has accused the state’s Labor Party of “deceiving” voters about Indian mining giant Adani’s job claims in order to win the state election at the end of 2017.

Bartlett on Wedensday slammed Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s recent criticism of Adani.

“Labor knew the jobs Adani promised were fake well before the election but fed the lie to Queenslanders because they had to pretend they had a plan for regional jobs to win,” the Greens senator said.

“Adani’s wildly exaggerated job figures were exposed long ago, with more and more new mines turning to an automated and casualised workforce.

“So not only were the jobs Annastacia Palaszczuk and Adani promising mostly fake, those that were on offer were mostly temporary or unreliable: the opposite of what communities regional Queensland need after the last mining bust.”

Prior to the state election, Labor representatives toured the Galilee Basin region, in part to promote the benefits of Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine for the region’s workforce.

But a week before the election, the premier announced her Government would veto a Federal Government loan which would facilitate construction of a rail line for the project.

Adani earlier this year tore up its mining contracts with Downer, saying the election outcome, and subsequent veto, meant it would have to advance on Carmichael as an owner-operator.

This week, the re-elected premier called on Adani to prove it was serious about Carmichael, after Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten said the Indian energy giant was promising “fake jobs” to Queenslanders.

“Other companies meet their milestones and it is up to Adani to demonstrate to the people of this state that those jobs are forthcoming,” Palaszczuk said.

“Some of those milestones appear not to have been met. It all hinges on getting the finance, so it is up to the company to get the finance. That project needs to stack up financially, just as every other resource company investing in Queensland needs to stack up.”

Bartlett encouraged voters not to buy what the premier is selling, however.

“Queensland Labor need to abandon the false promises of new coal mines and embrace the tens of thousands of job opportunities waiting in major renewable energy generation projects, local infrastructure, health and social services, and mining rehabilitation,” the Greens senator said.

“With the Batman by-election looming, this is a reminder that you can’t trust what Labor says in the lead-up to an election.”

Aurizon donates old equipment for firefighter training

A section of purpose-built railway track and two rail wagons have been donated to Queensland Fire & Emergency Services (QFES) by freight rail operator Aurizon.

The donated track and wagons will be used at the QFES North Rockhampton training facility, where they will help emergency personnel prepare for incidents involving trains.

“The QFES will practice simulation exercises where they will use heavy rescue equipment to lift the wagons safely from the railway track,” general manager of Aurizon’s network infrastructure maintenance team Wayne Prosser said.

“While we never like to see rail incidents on our Network, we are really pleased that we can support the QFES in their preparedness to respond safely should an emergency situation arise.”

Having been built in the 1970s, the wagons were to be recycled into scrap metal. Prosser said he was glad that they can instead be used to help train fire service staff.

“Being able to recycle the wagons for use by QFES means they continue to serve a purpose and is another way we can give back to the community,” Prosser said.

Next edition features: Light Rail, Passenger Rail, Urban Infrastructure

The first 2018 edition of Rail Express magazine lands in just a few weeks time,  with three strong features to kick-off our brand new bi-monthly schedule:

Light Rail (special pull-out supplement)
Rail Express’s first special supplement in 2018 will focus on the light rail revolution taking place across Australia. Published ahead of the ARA’s Light Rail 2018 event in Sydney in March, and distributed at the event, the supplement will cover new and ongoing light rail developments in Sydney, Newcastle, the Gold Coast and Canberra, as well as the latest from Melbourne, the site of the largest urban tram network on the planet. The supplement will also address the latest technological trends and other research and development going on around light rail, and will discuss the potential of future light rail networks in places like Perth, Adelaide and Auckland.

Passenger Rail
Rail Express’s special feature on passenger rail will expand on the magazine’s regular coverage with in-depth features on ongoing projects like the Sydney Metro, the Melbourne Metro Project, the Forrestfield-Airport Link in Perth, and the City Rail Link in Auckland. New and ongoing passenger rollingstock contracts will also be reviewed, with a particular focus not only on the key manufacturers, but their suppliers as well. The feature will also include the latest offerings from the academic community, and analysis of recent state and federal politics, and what it will mean for the sector.

Urban Infrastructure
Coupling nicely with both the passenger rail feature, and the light rail supplement, the January-February feature on urban infrastructure will cover the interaction between rail and the urban environment. From new station construction in Sydney and Melbourne, to the major rearrangement of rail corridors south of Melbourne and in metropolitan Adelaide, the feature will consider the latest trends and challenges facing rail developments in Australia’s and New Zealand’s rapidly growing city centres.

Please click here to download our media kit.

Missed the previous editions of Rail Express? Please click here to view all of our 2017 digital editions.

If you’re looking to target the Light Rail, Passenger Rail or Urban Infrastructure markets, or run a general branding/awareness campaign, this edition will reach well over 30,000 unique eyeballs in the Australasian rail sector. As Australia’s leading business-to-business rail publication, with an industry only circulation, we can offer you an unparalleled audience of rail industry specific leaders, buyers, decision makers and influencers to ensure maximum yield from your marketing spend.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Daniel Macias on 0427 270 774.