Metropolitan governance is the missing link in Australia’s reform agenda

Representative and accountable metropolitan government is needed to lead metro-scale planning, infrastructure investment and services, and partnerships with the private sector and civil society, urban planning expert Richard Tomlinson writes.


 

Perhaps all Western countries with which Australia might choose to compare itself have, since the early 1990s, engaged in intergovernmental decentralisation. They have done so as part of a metropolitan “renaissance” that includes “experiments” with metropolitan government.

In contrast, Australia’s state governments are responsible for metropolitan governance. The state responsibility exists in a context of increasing intergovernmental centralisation that favours the federal government, as well as finance and treasury in federal and state governments.

New forms of metropolitan governance and a claimed worldwide decentralisation of roles and responsibilities have been a response to neoliberalism and the competitive forces arising from globalisation. How might Australia’s “unique model of metropolitan governance” be explained? Does it enhance economic competitiveness and the building of fair cities?

At first blush an answer lies in Australia’s Constitution. Federalism in Australia is premised on subsidiarity between the federal and state levels of government. No provision is made for the possibility that metropolitan governments might best undertake metro-scale roles and responsibilities.

Metropolitan governments can be created through constitutional change, but this is improbable. Instead, the governance of Australia’s urban regions is premised on local government being a “creature” of state government. This notion, a product of the 19th century, empowers state governments to legislate metropolitan governments.

A precedent exists for a state government creating a metropolitan government. Created in 1925, Brisbane City Council incorporated all the urban region’s local authorities with an eye to financial viability and metro-scale efficiencies in the delivery of water, sanitation, roads and so on. The council now serves about half of the effective metropolitan population.

‘Rescaling’ is missing element of reform

Neoliberalism, from an urban perspective, comprises reducing government spending and the role of government in the economy and in delivering infrastructure and services. The responsibility of government does not change – that is, to ensure the delivery of hitherto public goods and services. Its role changes substantially: government is not itself responsible for delivery.

Both the Labor and the Coalition, at all levels of government, have embraced public sector reform. This has involved increased competition, deregulation and privatisation and the outsourcing of infrastructure and service delivery. Where this cannot be done profitably, civil society is promoted – an example is NGOs’ involvement in social housing.

But government still bears responsibility for ensuring services are delivered. For example, failures in the private delivery of public transport services contributed to the fall of the Brumby government in Victoria in 2010.

Setting Australia apart, institutional restructuring has not been accompanied by intergovernmental decentralisation. In comparison, throughout the European Union the metropolitan “rescaling” of urban regions was undertaken to enhance their global competitiveness.

This is especially relevant to global city strategies and, one might think, to Australia. Every state, except Tasmania, and the Northern Territory claim their capital cities are, or should become, global cities (“world city” in the case of Queensland).

The metropolitan impetus arising elsewhere from globalisation is not felt in Australia. Australia has not created metropolitan governments. Consequently, there has been no debate by a metropolitan constituency about the desirability of a global city strategy.

Such strategies are closely associated with enhancing inner-city economies and lifestyles. A common outcome is increased social and spatial divides. The global city machismo of state governments is not matched by a concern for fairness.

The missing link: metropolitan governance

In effect, while Australia has embraced neoliberal institutional restructuring and state governments pursue global competitiveness as the foundation for urban policies, decentralisation is not on the agenda. While metropolitan governance is discussed, metropolitan government seldom is.

For example, after pointing to metropolitan governance, planning and democratic “deficits”, urban commentators refer to the need for “metropolitan-scale institutions” and for a “metropolitan governance forum”.

Marcus Spiller, a prominent urban economist and planner, has written that state governance of Australia’s urban regions is leading to ineffectual metropolitan planning and infrastructure investment. The result is less productive and more socially divided cities. Spiller’s views should be read in the light of an OECD report that “cities with fragmented governance structures have lower levels of productivity”.

Transport and planning ministerial silos also compromise effective state leadership in the development of urban regions. Big-budget transport ministries show scant regard for planning ministries.

A consequence is that despite a professed commitment to compact cities in state-prepared metropolitan strategic plans, infrastructure investment has contributed to urban sprawl. This diminishes access to jobs and education opportunities, and negatively affects household incomes. The city loses the full productive potential of its labour force.

Cities pay high price for funding imbalance

Ineffectual planning and investment and compromised productivity also reflect Australia’s extreme vertical fiscal imbalance. In the words of Paul Keating:

The national perspective dominates Australian political life because the national government dominates revenue raising and only because the national government dominates revenue raising.

Without a constitutional remit to do so, vertical fiscal imbalance has created a “perverse incentive” for the federal government to get involved in transport funding, housing and other matters about which metropolitan residents might presume to know best.

Thus strategic plans that last the term of a state government and metro-scale infrastructure projects and services that depend on an alignment of state and federal priorities have proven fraught. This is epitomised by the East West Linkroad project in Victoria.

Melbourne’s residents (75% of the state’s population) favour public transport, but this was irrelevant to the federal and state Coalition. Victorians now have to pay the A$642 million termination fee for the East West Link.

Federal priorities have changed between public transport, the “roads of the 21st century” and “agnosticism”. State priorities have fluctuated between public and private transport, and have been much influenced by federal priorities – that is, following the money. No wonder Infrastructure Australia complains about “infrastructure gaps”.

Dysfunctional infrastructure planning and funding, ineffectual metropolitan governance and endless blame-shifting poorly serve the creation of competitive and fair cities. It is no surprise that Jane-Frances Kelly and Paul Donegan of the Grattan Institute held that Australia’s cities “are broken” and “are no longer keeping up with changes in how we live and how our economy works”.

It is at the scale of metropolitan areas where issues pertaining to globalisation, economic competitiveness, social diversity and inequality are embedded.

Labor and the Coalition, at federal and state level, serve metropolitan constituencies with an eye on the next election. Politicians parade trophy projects, services and plans with power, not a metropolitan perspective, in mind.

There is a wealth of comparative experience to guide us. Effective metropolitan governance requires intergovernmental decentralisation. Metro-scale planning, infrastructure investment and services, and partnerships with the private sector and civil society are best led by a representative and accountable metropolitan government.

The Conversation

Richard Tomlinson is Professor of Urban Planning, University of Melbourne. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

Carmichael coal map. Photo: Shutterstock / Graphic: Adani

Mine approval brings rail, export project a step closer

The approval of mining leases for the multibillion-dollar Carmichael coal mine and rail project in Queensland’s Galilee Basin has angered environmental groups.

The Queensland Government on Sunday approved the three leases – 70441 Carmichael, 70505 Carmichael East and 70506 Carmichael North – which make up the project area.

The announcement is a major step forward for the project, which has faced major criticism from farming and environmental groups.

Carmichael also faces financing challenges, with several key international banks announcing they will not support the project.

Nonetheless, Carmichael’s main proponent – Indian energy group Adani – is pleased to have the mining approvals in the bag.

“The granting of a mining lease helps deliver the company certainty with respect to timelines, while moving to the next phase of the project,” the company wrote on its Facebook page.

Adani said the mine’s progression was still subject to the resolution of legal challenges from “politically-motivated activists,” but the company was confident in the future prospects of the project.

“Absent additional legal challenges designed to delay progress on this export-creating mine, the next phase of the project … will see a return to the pre-engineering work that had to be suspended in 2015 with the loss of certainty on approvals timelines that had occurred at that time.”

Adani now hopes to have construction underway on the project in 2017, but said it is wary of the risks presented by the potential of further legal challenges.

“Having previously sought to progress to the construction phase in 2015, Adani is keenly aware of the risks of proceeding on major works in advance of the conclusion of these matters.

“Delivering low ash, low sulphur, lower emitting coal to thermal generators in India, while delivering jobs in regions crying out for them, and taxes and royalties to Queensland, is paramount.

“It is for precisely this reason that the company is progressing these matters calmly and methodically.”

State development and natural resources and mines minister Anthony Lynham said he was confident the people of north and central Queensland would welcome the approval news.

“At the same time, stringent conditions will continue to protect the environment, landholders’ and traditional owners’ interests, and our iconic Great Barrier Reef,” Dr Lynham said.

“Many voices have been heard, and a lot of evidence considered.

“The mine’s environmental authority had about 140 conditions to protect local flora and fauna, groundwater and surface water resources, as well as controls on dust and noise.

“A further 99 stringent and wide-ranging conditions apply to the rail and port elements of the project.”

Should it come to fruition, Carmichael is designed as an open cut and underground operation with an anticipated yield of 60 million tonnes of coal exported per annum.

It will supply coal to the seaborne market via a 388 kilometre standard gauge rail line, to expanded facilities at Abbot Point, on Queensland’s north east coast.

Environmental groups expressed their disappointment with the weekend’s news.

Greenpeace said the mine’s approval by the state government was “indefensible,” with data showing the Great Barrier Reef “suffering its worst bleaching in over a decade”.

“There is no question that the Reef is suffering right now,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s Shani Tager said.

“Coral scientists, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and even the Queensland Government have acknowledged the severity of this latest bleaching.

“The federal and Queensland  environment ministers are wringing their hands, despairing over the state of the Great Barrier Reef, yet at the same time they are paving the way for the nation’s biggest coal mine – a development that can only harm the Reef.”

Calls for stop-work after Sydney Light Rail workers find Indigenous artefacts

Transport for NSW says it is working with Aboriginal groups to properly manage the discovery of tens-of-thousands of Indigenous artefacts at the planned site of the Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail stabling yards at Randwick.

Some have called for work at the site to be shut down, at least until a formal plan to deal with the discovery can be established.

But Transport for NSW has given no indication that work will stop altogether, instead telling the ABC: “All work that has occurred on the site since the artefacts were found has been in consultation with all Aboriginal groups.”

A spokesperson quoted by the ABC said Transport, along with the project’s delivery consortium ALTRAC Light Rail, were investigating opportunities to recognise the items found on the site, “for example in displays or education programs”.

“The social value of the site to the local Aboriginal community is very high and we are continuing to work with [Aboriginal groups] to identify the artefacts and how they came to be found in Randwick.”

Several groups are not happy with the level of response, however.

Speaking with 702 Radio, Darug Elder Uncle Des Dyer called for the worksite to be closed, and the land protected.

“I’d like to see it stopped and the area classed as an Aboriginal heritage area,” Dyer said.

He explained the historical importance of the discovery: “Each area has its own stones. And on our song-lines one group would come down to us and they’d bring their stones and tools with them to swap and we’d give them ours and they’d take it back to wherever they came from.”

Dyer said some artefacts appeared to show contact between the local Indigenous people, and Indigenous people in the Hunter Valley.

The NSW Greens have called work to halt at the site.

“The government must issue an immediate stop work order to halt the destruction of this irreplaceable Aboriginal heritage site,” Greens Aboriginal justice spokesperson David Shoebridge said.

“In Australia, we have the privilege to live amongst the oldest continuing culture on the planet, yet governments continue to treat it with contempt.

“Excavation on the site has already likely destroyed thousands of artefacts, which have been crushed by heavy machinery.

“Those artefacts that have been recovered have already lost their connection with place and with that a good deal of their cultural significance.”

Shoebridge contended that a discovery of this kind in Athens or Paris would have resulted in an immediate stoppage of work, and a proper investigation into how the site could be saved.

“But in Sydney under Mike Baird the bulldozers aren’t even stopped for a day,” he said.

“This site should be protected and celebrated, the story it tells about the history of Aboriginal people and its evidence of trade routes and potential first contact makes it genuinely unique.”

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

Forrest declares supply ‘vandalism’ over

Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew Forrest has told The Australian that the irresponsible “oversupply” of iron ore by his major competitors, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, is all but over.

Forrest, who was instrumental in the development of FMG from an explorer in 2003, to exporting more than 165 million tonnes of iron ore in the last financial year, has long-said his bigger competitors – BHP and Rio – have intentionally grown at an irresponsible rate in recent years.

The oversupply, Forrest has argued, has intentionally flooded the market, cutting into the iron ore price and squeezing out most minor players.

But that era is just about over, the FMG chairman told The Australian this week.

“I am not a bull on the iron ore price,” he was quoted as saying. “The vandalism of the oversupply strategies which I called out a year ago is being vindicated.”

Forrest indicated that the recent retirement of Rio boss Sam Walsh could trigger a shift in philosophy at the mining giant.

“You can see the ramifications now in the changing of the guards in a new era of value over market share,” he reportedly said.

“That is a good thing but that damage will take a while to work its way through the system.”

Forrest’s campaign against Rio and BHP’s supply strategies reached its peak last year, when he launched a social media campaign asking Australians to sign the ‘Our Iron Ore’ petition, to let the government know that its people wanted an inquiry into alleged market flooding by the two giants.

Rio’s iron ore chief Andrew Harding responded at that time, telling staff in a memo that the allegation of market manipulation through intentional oversupply was “totally unfounded”.

“We operate in a highly competitive global market, where over the last decade, our market share has remained stable at 20%,” Harding was quoted as saying in a number of media outlets.

“We take no comfort from [other industry participants] struggling with the [iron ore market] change and we have also seen some good people leave our company.”

Harding later told the AFR he was “absolutely stunned” by the ‘Our Iron Ore’ campaign.

Former BHP Billiton chairman Don Argus told The Australian that the country would become a “laughing stock of the world” if an inquiry resulted in the government intervening in the iron ore market.

But perhaps the most significant response came from BHP boss Andrew Mackenzie.

In an interview with Radio National at the time, an unusually curt Mackenzie told host Fran Kelly that an inquiry would be “a ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ money to provide a basic economics course on supply and demand”.

Malcolm Turnbull on a tram. Photo: Facebook / Malcolm Turnbull

‘The 30-minute city’: how do we put the political rhetoric into practice?

COMMENT: The ’30-minute city’ goal is about more than urban rail and other transit projects. It means transforming our cities into centres of activity where work, study and services are all close by, Peter Newman writes.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promoted the benefits of a “30-minute city” in explaining his approach to cities and urban transport. The opposition infrastructure spokesman, Anthony Albanese, notes he talked about this idea at the National Press Club in 2014.

The reality is that the 30-minute city is hardly a new idea in town planning, but it is good to see political leaders recognising its value and grappling with what it means. It’s likely to bring significant change to how we build our cities.

The urban time travel budget

People across the world, in every city and in all historical cities, have an average travel time budget of one hour – around 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening. The historic walking city spread out only 2-4km across, the tram city about 10km and the steam train city about 20km, before the car city went 40-50km out. All were 30-minute cities.

Some people choose to live where they can have a much lower travel time and some choose much longer, especially in far outer suburbs. But the average is around 30 minutes for the journey to work.

Only when a city is becoming dysfunctional does the average start to blow out. Data shows this in Sydney outer areas in recent decades. When this happens people demand faster transit options. The real estate market trend is for people to move into areas where they can reduce travel times.

The 30-minute city concept has become very useful for town planning as it helps plan more strategically for where development should happen or not happen.

Although history suggests there is a strong market for living within the 30-minute city, the politics of land development usually interferes. Land owners on the urban fringe will always be looking to make squillions out of rezoning their land for suburbs rather than rural purposes. And there are always people who are ready to stop any density increases in their neighbourhood as the redevelopment market requires.

Why it is very important to see bipartisan support for the 30-minute city is that Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth are already way out of kilter with this goal. Any city that has sprawled more than 50km will be unable to keep those suburbs within a 30-minute travel time budget – traffic congestion keeps average speeds in most cities below 40km/h. The average morning and evening commute in these four big cities is now more than 30 minutes.

All the strategic plans of these cities are therefore suggesting that redevelopment must be increased and assisted. Infrastructure can help density. As Turnbull says:

If you invest in good transport infrastructure, then density gives greater amenity because there are more things to do, you’re closer to work, you’re closer to university.

The Tony Abbott era presented cities with very large road projects that would just increase urban sprawl. These projects ultimately would not have reduced travel times as they would not help create redevelopment.

So how do we help our cities achieve 30-minute travel times?

The urban package

Turnbull often refers to three factors that are emerging as the government’s urban package: urban rail, urban density and urban land value capture. These are the approaches that can be seen in cities globally.

1) Urban rail

Several speeches have indicated the Turnbull government is agnostic about the modes of transport it favours. Turnbull has said:

Coalition governments have been very reluctant to fund rail, support rail, (they) prefer to support road. My government will support transport infrastructure regardless of its mode. It depends on what makes most sense. And the reality is it will be a mixture of both (road and rail).

What is left of the road package from the Abbott government is being supported. Rural communities will put up their hands for more roads. But Turnbull’s overwhelming message (his consistent personal stance for decades) is that he likes new urban rail systems. He wants a fast rail link to Sydney’s second airport when it opens.

Before he was prime minister, Turnbull said the Gold Coast Light Rail was his favourite in the world. There was not much doubt he would fund its small extension for the Commonwealth Games. Most significantly, it showed urban rail was back on the federal agenda.

Cities across the country have thus been gearing up to put urban rail back into their priority plans. This is not just an Australian phenomenon; cities worldwide are finding new rail technology helps them create 30-minute cities.

2) Urban density

Turnbull has stressed that rail projects enable density in activity centres across the city. He understands how infrastructure is needed for “an integrated investment that creates amenity, value, liveability, affordability and economic growth” and that “communities need smart, well-designed, walkable density”.

In other words, cities need infrastructure and redevelopment that create activity centres where people can live and work within 30 minutes by foot, cycle, bus, car or train/tram. This is the agenda for all our big cities. It has been a big agenda for all state governments in the past decade: the need for strong urban centres that can compete with other global cities for private capital and jobs.

“Walkable density” … I think we will hear that many more times. So how do we achieve that?

3) Urban land value capture

We need to find ways to fund urban rail and urban activity centres together. We need transit-oriented development, but so often we get transit without the land development, or density without the transit.

The secret seems to be combining government and business to do both as one package. The private sector is necessary – after all, it does the land development in cities – but the approach globally is now to seek ways to have the private sector build both the land development and the transit.

The new mantra is to fund the integrated agenda through urban land value capture. This makes use of the fact that when urban rail is built it increases land value around stations.

This agenda has yet to be fully explained. As NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley said:

Our governments need to spell out what … [they] are doing when they talk about value capture. Walk into any pet store in the nation and the resident budgerigar is squawking on about value capture.

Transforming how cities develop

The CUSP Entrepreneur Rail Model explains the concept and takes it further. It redefines the core players away from transport planners and suggests land-development expertise should lead the exercise of rail building.

This offers a focused approach for urban areas ripe for intensification. The model shows how governments can best capture the value created from higher densities around new rail stations in direct partnership with the rail builders.

Private land development expertise is needed to recognise where the potential exists for significant accessibility-based land value increase. Private bids can therefore create opportunities to directly fund the railway. If governments can’t enable this process, then you don’t get the rail or the land development – they depend on each other.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure Transport and Cities has been taking submissions on:

The role of transport connectivity in stimulating infrastructure and economic activity.

Our submission on the Entrepreneur Rail Model prompted two hours of questioning. One questioner said:

Your paper is about the reconceptualisation of the role of government agencies.

He is right.

The committee’s questions left little doubt that there is a mood for change in how we build our cities. As Torkel Patterson, from Central Japan Railways Company, said at a recent Sydney rail conference:

It’s not transportation, it’s transformation that we need.

There is serious debate across Australia about this. Most state governments have little room for more capital spending and are under pressure to provide urban rail.

But the approach that provides money for transport projects at will – treating Treasury like an ATM, as Turnbull says – and isn’t integrated with the 30-minute city redevelopment agenda, is not what we need in our cities.

If cities want help with urban rail, they will need the private sector to provide much of the funding, with outcomes that create the 30-minute centres we desperately need. They can do this only if the states develop a mechanism that enables redevelopment opportunities, their activity centres, to be the basis of integrated rail and land development. This is not what states have been doing. They must begin now.

If the 30-minute city goal can indeed guide urban rail investment, then we can unlock the necessary dense activity centres. This is the holy grail of town planning. Such a model is used in Japan, so can we make an Australian model work?

Our leaders’ speeches on the 30-minute city should be a signal for intense activity by federal, state and local government agencies as well as private sector firms. Government processes and consortia will need to gear up to deliver this emerging agenda.

The Conversation

Peter Newman is Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

Nickel ore ship at Townsville. Inset: Clive Palmer. Photo: Chris Mackey / Southern Cross Maritime (Inset: Creative Commons / Benjamin J Macdonald)

State looking to dodge potential bill as Palmer shuts nickel refinery to July

The Palaszczuk Government has rushed legislation into State Parliament to protect it from the potential of a multimillion-dollar bill in the case of a permanent shutdown at Clive Palmer’s Yabulu nickel refinery.

Queensland environment minister Steven Miles on Tuesday introduced the Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Bill, aimed at bolstering the environmental responsibility held by collapsed businesses over the environmental clean-up  of their operations.

After he set up a new management company to take over operations at the Yabulu refinery last week, Palmer said on Monday that he would have to close operations until July 31, while his new company waited for relevant government approvals, and more nickel ore.

Add to that the creditors of Yabulu’s previous management company – Palmer’s failed Queensland Nickel – who are still looking for the money they’re owed, and the future of the refinery is far from secure.

Minister Miles says he’s concerned taxpayers might be lumped with hefty environmental clean-up bills should sites like Yabulu shut down entirely.

“In the past 12 months, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has faced increasing difficulties in ensuring that sites operated by companies in financial difficulty continue to comply with their environmental obligations,” Miles said.

“This has included sites such as the Yabulu Nickel Refinery, Texas Silver Mine, Collingwood Tin Mine and Mount Chalmers Gold Mine.

“Urgent amendments are required to ensure the Department … can effectively impose a chain of responsibility, so that these companies and their related parties bear the cost of managing and rehabilitating sites.”

Miles said Queenslanders have grown “well and truly sick” of “high-flying businessmen who think they can avoid doing the right thing by ordinary working people, the community and the environment”.

“In my environmental portfolio, there have been too many occasions where companies have closed their doors, and what’s been revealed is that there is no money, or not enough money left in the till to deal with the costly clean-up and rehabilitation of sites,” he continued.

“There are some businesses that don’t seem to have any clear plan for how they will meet their responsibilities. There are others that seem to think they can avoid doing the right thing if they hire a room full of high-priced lawyers to restructure their affairs to avoid meeting their proper responsibility.

“The Government won’t tolerate seeing a business deliberately isolating or deliberately holding back funds that should be made available to meet their obligations to the workers, or the community.”

Flurry of minor projects for Inland Rail

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has in recent weeks awarded several contracts to progress planning on the Inland Rail project.

A total of more than $11 million in contracts has been handed out, with contracts including a range of field studies and environmental assessments across three states.

Federal infrastructure and transport minister Darren Chester announced the contracts during a visit to the ARTC on Tuesday.

“Inland Rail is now in the planning and environmental approvals phase and ARTC and its consultants will commence critical field studies along the alignment over the coming weeks,” Chester said.

A technical an engineering advisory contract was won by a joint venture of SMEC and Arup. The pair will provide a team of subject matter experts, who Chester said will “significantly bolster” the ARTC’s Inland Rail team.

“This is vital work that the Government committed to ensure Inland Rail is construction ready,” the minister said

A further six contracts have been awarded to GHD, Parsons Brinkerhoff, AECOP, Arup and Jacobs, to deliver the initial environmental investigations and engineering design for each of the projects in the Inland Rail programme.

“The consultancies will work alongside our existing Inland Rail team, gathering environmental data, talking to communities and further developing designs to enable ARTC to take each of these projects to the relevant planning agencies for initial assessment later this year,” Chester said.

“This will then help to set terms of reference for the formal Environmental Impact Assessments required for the programme to progress through the planning assessment process.”

Inland Rail was last month listed as a priority initiative on Infrastructure Australia’s Infrastructure Priority List.

“Inland Rail is a game-changer for Australia as it is being designed to provide a dedicated Melbourne to Brisbane freight link that is reliable and provides a less than 24 hour transit time at an attractive price, enabling the market to move goods when the market wants,” Chester said.

“Inland Rail will boost regional economic growth and drive national productivity as it will connect key production areas in Queensland, NSW and Victoria with export ports in Brisbane and Melbourne, with linkages to Sydney, Adelaide and Perth.”

Rockhampton railway station. Photo: Creative Commons / TravellerQLD

Rocko rail sites sprayed for Zika virus

Queensland transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe has instructed Queensland Rail to take every precaution, and to work with Queensland Health in Rockhampton, following the positive report of the Zika virus at the Globe Hotel.

Hinchliffe on Friday ordered the inspection and spraying of two kilometres of the Rockhampton rail yard and corridor, from Stanley Street to Port Curtis Road, over the weekend.

“While no risk to the nearby train station or rail yard has been identified, the Queensland Government is taking every safeguard to ensure the health and safety of the Rockhampton community,” Hinchliffe said.

“An experienced pest control contractor will attend the site from approximately 3.00pm [on Friday, February 26] to undertake a thorough site inspection and identify any recommendations for Queensland Rail to follow.”

Hinchliffe ordered the spraying at Rockhampton station, the yard and rail corridor to take place on Friday and Saturday night.

Queensland’s state member for Rockhampton Bill Byrne attended the site on Friday to assure residents that appropriate steps were being taken.

“As well as the rail yard and corridor area, there are three teams of three officers in each team working in the Depot Hill area within a 200 metre radius of the target zones,” Byrne said.

“As of late yesterday afternoon these teams had visited 29 homes, spraying 29 outdoor areas and 24 internal sprays.

“We are committed to ensuring we have done all we can to safeguard the area as a precaution and to date the community has been very supportive of this approach.”

Revitalising Newcastle. Photo: Revitalising Newcastle

UGL partners up for Newcastle integrated transport deal

Rollingstock business UGL has signed on as light rail maintenance contractor in a joint bid with public transport operator Transit Systems, for the Integrated Service Offering operations contract in Newcastle.

The contract, being administered by Transport for NSW, aims to appoint a single operator to manage integrated transport services in the growing city.

It is part of the government’s broader strategy which includes the development of a light rail line through Newcastle, replacing the heavy rail line, which was closed at the end of 2014.

UGL and Transit Systems announced their intentions to put together a joint bid for the contract on Friday morning.

If successful, Transit Systems would take on the lead operational role in delivering the integrated transport network, and UGL would be responsible for the specialised maintenance requirements of the light rail infrastructure and vehicles.

Transit Systems is a global bus operator, with a stable of nearly 2000 operating buses across four Australian states, as well as in London, Cambridge and Singapore.

The company’s chief executive, Clint Feuerherdt, said a partnership with UGL made Transit Systems a strong contender for the Newcastle contract.

“Our business was founded on the Central Coast of NSW,” Feuerherdt said, “and it would be a great honour to return with the benefit of all that we have learned both in Australia and overseas.”

UGL boss Ross Taylor said the company had a long history in Newcastle, adding it was important the city continues to invest in its transport system and infrastructure.

“UGL has been a mainstay of the Newcastle transport industry for over 100 years with our history tracing back to the formation of A. Goninan & Co in 1899,” Taylor said.

“With a proven commitment to local jobs, skills investment and capability development we are pleased to be part of an Australian team ready to deliver this important program for Newcastle and NSW.”

Feuerherdt said there was an opportunity for his company “to bring a global transport network of experience to the Newcastle region, and to review and improve the service offerings for the community, for tax payers and for business”.

“By successfully expanding into London and Singapore, we have proven that our public transport philosophy works, that we are one of the best in the world at delivering a commuter system that appeals to Government, and most importantly, to the passenger,” he said.

“We are incredibly passionate about improving the appeal of public transport and there is no company more experienced at delivering successful transitions, improved scheduling and cost-effective, relevant services.

Melbourne Tram. Photo: RailGallery.com.au

More international talent to close Light Rail conference

Day Two of the Light Rail 2016 conference in Melbourne will include addresses by experts from Europe and the UK.

Following an engaging first day, the annual light rail event will wrap up on Thursday with a number more talks, and a site tour of Bombardier’s Dandenong plant.

Thursday’s schedule for the conference, at Pullman Melbourne on the Park, is as follows:

  • 0830 – Registration and morning coffee
  • 0855 – Opening remarks from the chair of the day; Dr Anjum Naweed, principle research fellow, Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation
  • 0900 – UK Tram – Innovation and Sharing Best Practice; Robin Wolfendale, rail projects manager, Trelleborg Offshore, UK Tram
  • 0930 – Trends in Light Rail in Europe; Regis Hennion, metro and light rail director, Keolis
  • 1000 – Understanding the Wider Value of Honor Based Ticketing in Light Rail; Professor Graham Currie, chair of public transport, Institute of Transport Studies, Monash University
  • 1030 – Global Technology Breakthrough for Light Rail; Ian Corfield, projects director, Bombardier Transportation Australia
  • 1100 – Morning Tea
  • 1120 – Financing Light Rail Projects; Darrin Grimsey, lead client service partner, TAS Government & Public Sector, infrastructure advisory, EY
  • 1150 – Presentation from Shane Ellison, NSW managing director, Transdev
  • 1220 – Applying Value Capture Funding in Australia – Current Opportunities and Obstacles; Joe Langley, technical director, infrastructure advisory, AECOM
  • 1250 – Lunch
  • 1330 – Sustainable Light Rail Delivery; Melanie McGaw, SQE director, KDR Gold Coast
  • 1400 – Practical Implementation of DDA Compliant Infrastructure on the Melbourne Tram Network; Mike Ford, senior rail design engineer, Jacobs
  • 1430 – Looking Beyond the Wall of Technology (A Light Rail X-Ray); Dr Anjum Naweed, principal research fellow, Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation
  • 1500 – Closing remarks
  • 1510 – 1830 – Site visit to Bombardier rail vehicles production site at Dandenong, Victoria.