Coal chute. Photo: WICET

Tinkler puts positive spin on coal market

Mining entrepreneur Nathan Tinkler has remained upbeat on the future of coal at his first annual presentation at ASX junior Australian Pacific Coal on Monday.

Tinkler, who became managing director of APC in July, acknowledged metallurgical and thermal coal markets were significantly down over the last two years. But he outlined a positive future for coal investment in Australia.

“Australia’s rich and abundant metallurgical and thermal coals are the highest quality in the seaborne market,” Tinkler wrote in his presentation to shareholders. “Australia has tier 1 assets and first class infrastructure to hold its position as the premier seaborne coal province globally.”

Tinkler called on better policy to manage these resources and maximise their value, but said climate change conscious countries and consumers in South East Asia should be favouring Australian thermal coal for their baseline power.

“Australia has some of the highest productivity mines in the world,” he said. “Let’s use the considerable skills and experience of our people to progress innovation in better ways to mine and to use the products.”

Tinkler, who has lost a fortune in the coal slump, expanded on his positive comments after the APC Annual General Meeting, reportedly telling The Australian he was increasingly confident that the market was resettling and there would be emerging opportunities in coal.

“If you’re putting money into coal now, you’ve got to be prepared to sit there for a number of years,” Tinkler was quoted to have said.

“I’m a long-term investor and it’s what I know. I see the prices getting more attractive now, and some of the bigger guys are going to need to let go of some of their operations.”

The Commons apartment building. Photo: Youtube / ArchitecTube

Car-centric laws stymie sustainable development

COMMENT: The blocking of a car-free apartment by a Victorian tribunal goes against shared sustainability goals, Swinburne University of Technology researcher Andrea Sharam writes.

The Commons apartment building in the inner Melbourne suburb of Brunswick has won swags of awards, including the Best of Best at the 2014 BPN Sustainability Awards. Among its many lauded attributes is its total lack of on-site car parking.

Residents get a yearly public transport ticket and membership of a car share scheme with a prepaid usage allowance. A share car is located on the street in front of the building. Cycling is the fastest mode of transport into the city, so there are 76 bike spaces for just 24 apartments.

The council waived the car parking requirement on the proviso that no on-street parking permits would ever be issued to residents. More than 620 people are on the waiting list for a Commons-type apartment. The proponents, Breathe Architecture, thought they’d do The Commons again, across the road. With the Nightingale they intended to add a bicycle maintenance service as part of the package.

Again Moreland City Council waived the requirement for car parking. But the neighbouring site owner, a developer, objected on the grounds that a reduction in car parking was acceptable but not a full waiver. The matter went to appeal.

The Nightingale proponents and supporters were shocked when Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) member Russell Byard agreed with the developer and revoked the planning permit.

The VCAT decision has been roundly criticised. Byard’s decision is 180 degrees from a 2012 VCAT decision, which accepted that the waiver of parking for dwellings was an important component of sustainability. This was deemed a “Red Dot Decision”, meaning it is of interest or significance, but as there is no doctrine of precedent at VCAT, members are not obliged to be guided by previous VCAT decisions.

Sustainability is a test of political will

Byard has left himself open to opprobrium because his defence of personal car ownership would do a human rights lawyer proud: he could have been more circumspect in attacking the objectives of policy he so obviously disagrees with. At the end of the day, however, his decision is based on the law and thus highlights deep flaws in policymaking and the administration of the planning system.

Byard stated that the Moreland Planning Scheme contains:

… repeated reference to encouragement and enablement, reduction and sustainability, but not to policy provisions that actually get down to, or think through, strategic questions in relation to waiver or reduction to zero.

That is, the scheme has no teeth. At the most basic level, planning law does not sufficiently support the over-arching objectives for sustainability in planning policy.

Moreland and other councils have attempted to put teeth into their planning schemes in relation to matters such as sustainability, housing affordability and disability requirements, but each time the state planning minister has overruled them. The ball is firmly in the Victorian government’s court.

The Commons got a waiver because no one appealed the council’s decision to grant the permit, so the adequacy of the law was not tested in that case. A few kilometres away in the Capital City Zone (which covers the Melbourne CBD) the law indisputably permits waivers and sets a maximum of one car parking space per dwelling for developments over four storeys.

Apartment parking has many costs

Incredibly, the southern hemisphere’s tallest residential building, Australia108, which will have more than 1100 apartments, will include a 10-storey podium car park for 500 cars.

Initial analysis of high-rise development permits and proposals for nearby Fishermans Bend (which has been incorporated in the Capital City Zone) indicates that the sheer volume of proposed car parking means the place will be gridlocked much of the day.

Nightingale, which proposes 20 apartments, is located two minutes from a railway station, four minutes from a bus route and a tram service, and is a few steps away from one of Melbourne’s busiest cycling routes. Nightingale is closer to public transport than Australia108. The future residents of Fishermans Bend will need to get on their bikes as the area will not have any public transport for a long time.

Urban consolidation policies premised on the suburban ideal of car ownership can only deliver the worst of outcomes; intensification without relief from traffic and less efficiency rather than more. The time has come for housing provision in certain areas to be separated from car parking provision. Both would be cheaper and housing affordability improved.

As for VCAT’s concern for buyers of apartments who want car parking, it’s a market: no-one can force them to buy an apartment they do not want. But today people are forced to buy car parks they do not want, which many can ill afford to do.

The ConversationAndrea Sharam is Research Fellow, Housing & Homelessness, at Swinburne University of Technology. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Warren Truss

Truss unveils third Trainline report

Acting prime minister Warren Truss has released the third Trainline report on Australian rail.

Trainline 3 outlines the key role freight, urban and non-urban passenger rail plays in the national economy.

Truss, the guest of honour at Thursday night’s AusRAIL Gala Dinner in Melbourne, said the report would present rail enthusiasts and industry experts with key trends, statistics, and government commitments to rail.

Trainline 3 is a joint annual publication from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) and the Australasian Railway Association (ARA).

“The publication provides an overview of freight, urban and non-urban passenger rail.

“The report reveals that the end of the mining construction boom has transformed into a production boom and rail is moving more bulk tonnage than ever. “

According to the paper, Australian railways moved almost 1.3 billion tonnes of bulk freight in 2013/14, with WA iron ore transport representing roughly 70% of that figure.

“On the passenger side, Australia’s rail network transported approximately 627 million passengers in 2013-14, with Sydney carrying 272.5 million via heavy rail and Melbourne moving 177 million passengers via light rail in the same year,” Truss said.

Truss, who is acting prime minister while Malcolm Turnbull is out of the country, said the Australian Government is committed to investing in rail projects that deliver economic benefits to Australia including freight rail, inland rail, the intermodal sector and passenger rail.

“Rail is no longer only being viewed as just a long distance and bulk carrier,” he said.

“Indeed, freight rail will need to play an increasingly important role in the movement of goods across the short distances between ports and inland freight terminals.”

Truss said the development of the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal would enable future expansion of Port Botany’s container handling capacity, and investment and employment opportunities in Western Sydney.

“Effective rail connections to our national ports are vital for economic growth, and the Government is committed to enhancing these connections,” he said.

“The Australian Governent is also committed to deliver Inland Rail which carries clear benefits for rail freight.

“It promises to deliver economic benefits of around $22.5 billion and create up to 16,000 direct jobs during it’s 10-year construction period.”

Truss also said the Australian Government recognises that investment in public transport is critical to easing congestion and boosting productivity in major cities and regions.

“Our $4.2 billion Asset Recycling Initiative, a key element of the Infrastructure Growth Package includes $60 million to support light rail development in the ACT,” he said.

“The Australian Government’s Infrastructure Investment Programme includes $95 million towards the second stage of the Gold Coast Light Rail which will link the Gold Coast and Brisbane and will be delivered in time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

“Up to $1.6 billion will also be contributed towards urban rail projects in NSW including the Sydney Rapid Transit and a second harbor crossing.

“The project will create around 7,700 ongoing operating jobs and more than 1,300 construction jobs in south-west Sydney.”

Trainline 3 is available to access online at

Grain. Photo: Shutterstock

For farmers, Inland Rail is about options

An Inland Rail line between Brisbane and Melbourne could give farmers the options they want and need to get their products to overseas customers, an industry representative has said.

“As a producer it’s all about getting product from farmgate to customer as efficiently as you can,” Victorian Farmers Federation vice president David Jochinke said at Wednesday’s forum on Inland Rail at AusRAIL in Melbourne.

“That’s where you’ve seen, previously, roads fill the void in many ways.

“We produce more than we consume, we have expanding markets, we have free trade agreements, which is all fantastic, but it doesn’t mean a pinch if we can’t get our product – efficiently – to the customers.”

Jochinke said a well-planned Inland Rail could provide a cost-efficient option for farmers to send their products to export markets.

“If the Inland Rail can give me more options, that’s the benefit of it,” he said.

The presence of an active Inland Rail line would also fit well with Australian farmers, Jochinke reasoned, because of the seasonal nature of their production.

“We’re probably the hardest customers you’ll ever have, because one year we’ll want to triple your service to us, and the next year we basically don’t want to know you, because we don’t have the product,” he said.

With well-selected intermodal hubs, and consistently-available capacity, however, he said Inland Rail could cater well to farmers’ needs.

Inland Rail could have the added benefit of providing farmers with a more traceable and direct freight path to customers, he added.

“My markets are getting very savvy about what they want,” Jochinke said. “I want to be able to look at traceability through my [transport] system, and I want to be able to deliver it on time.”

Jochinke was one of five members of the Inland Rail forum, which also included Genesee & Wyoming Australia managing director Greg Pauline, and deputy secretary of the Department of Agriculture Lyn O’Connell.

Your digital edition of Rail Express AusRAIL PLUS 2015 has arrived!

The electronic version of Rail Express AusRAIL 2015 magazine is now available to read online, free of charge.

Click here to read our AusRAIL 2015 edition.

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Our AusRAIL PLUS 2015 edition is 92 pages and includes:

  • ARA: Introducing new CEO Danny Broad.
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  • Inland Rail & Intermodal: Looking in to the Inland Rail Implementation Group report
  • Research & Technology: Experts meet to talk wheel detection.

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Ross River in Townsville, Queensland. Photo: Rabs003 / Creative Commons

Queensland set to open EoIs for urban design panel

Expressions of interest will soon be called for the newly-created Queensland Urban Design and Places Panel, which will assist state and local governments in the delivery of infrastructure, planning and urban projects.

Infrastructure, local government and planning minister Jackie Trad, who introduced new planning legislation to Parliament last week, said good design could enhance quality of life and provide social and economic benefits.

“The establishment of the Queensland Urban Design and Places Panel is another important step in the journey of Better Planning for Queensland, and recognises that good design is a critical ingredient in a globally competitive society and locally inclusive communities,” Trad explained.

The new panel will have an advisory role, she said, informing the government about the design of major infrastructure and urban development projects across the state, and providing expert advice across such fields as urban design, planning, architecture, sustainability and sub-tropical design.

“By promoting better design outcomes, we will be building on our already strong sense of place and attracting the interest of those who see this as an essential ingredient in their businesses or lifestyles.

“Queensland has more cities above 100,000 people than any other jurisdiction in Australia – and as we move towards a knowledge economy these urban centres will become increasingly central to productivity and economic growth and we need to ensure we can attract the best and brightest to Queensland to create jobs, to innovate and to invest.”

Trad made the announcement at the Internatoinal Urban Design Conference in Brisbane on Monday.

She said the panel will be chaired by the Queensland Government Architect, Malcolm Middleton.

“My department will soon be launching a nation-wide call for expressions of interest for membership of the panel,” Trad added.

“The Queensland Urban Design and Places Panel will build on the work of the former Board for Urban Places, which was ignored by the former government.

“I see the Queensland Urban Design and Places Panel picking up where the board left off some years ago, but I will be asking it to take a more holistic approach and champion best practice place making to ensure we make the most of the opportunity to maximise community and economic benefits through superior design.”

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Hawkesbury River rail bridge. Photo: Tim Stewart / Creative Commons

Seven bid for Hawkesbury River bridge work

Sydney Trains boss Howard Collins says seven specialist engineering firms have expressed interest in carrying out maintenance on the Hawkesbury River rail bridge.

Transport for NSW responded to Opposition claims earlier this year that the bridge may be unsafe, commissioning engineering inspections which Sydney Trains says prove the bridge is safe for trains to run.

Nonetheless, there is still repair work to be done.

“While the weight-bearing core of the pier is in good condition, there is deteriorated concrete around this core that doesn’t impact the bridge’s safety,” Collins said.

Sydney Trains has gone to market to find an organisation to complete the work, with tenders closing November 20, and seven EoIs received thus far. The maintenance will begin early next year.

“Since September, both Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW have commissioned separate structural engineering experts to carry out independent underwater inspections that confirmed it is safe to run trains,” Collins continued.

“If we had any safety concerns, we would not allow trains to run.

“We do need to carry out maintenance and we’ll soon be in a position to determine which company will undertake the work.”

The Office of Transport Safety Investigations this week updated its statement about the bridge, highlighting that independent inspections support that it is safe to run trains. It also says the national rail regulator has concluded there are no immediate safety issues.

Collins said the maintenance work was due to be carried out in 2014, but the company which tendered for the work requested a change in the scope.

“The change in scope meant we were required to go to tender again,” he said.

“The bridge is entirely safe to operate on and we therefore had time to re-tender and ensure we had the right people to carry out the job.”

The NSW Opposition in September said reports showed vital repairs to Pier 2 on the Hawkesbury River rail bridge were recommended in 2013.

“This is a disaster waiting to happen,” opposition leader Luke Foley said at the time. “The bridge is quite literally crumbling at its foundations while the Baird Government does nothing.”

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Airport. Photo: Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development

Truss to re-think Western Sydney Airport link

Hope may not yet be lost for an opening-day rail line for Sydney’s second airport, after federal infrastructure minister Warren Truss announced plans to examine transport options in Western Sydney.

With a site officially declared, and community consultation underway on a detailed draft plan and environmental impact statement, the process of developing a major passenger airport in Western Sydney is well underway.

While the airport is currently designed to be ‘rail ready’ – with space for a station and tunnels excavated – community groups and the rail industry have raised concerns over the lack of a direct rail link between the new airport and the CBD from day one.

But the announcement by Truss on Friday could fix that issue.

A new study will aim to define “the right route, when to build it and how best to fund it,” the minister explained.

“We know Western Sydney’s population is set to increase from two million to three million over the next 20 years so this options plan will look at rail transport needs for the airport, as well as surrounding communities and employment lands,” he said.

“This options plan will consider rail as part of the broader transport network needed to support an airport and Western Sydney’s growth.”

Truss said there is “no doubt” a rail line will link to the airport “one day,” but said the options plan would help the state and federal governments determine “the type of rail, when it will be required and how much it will cost”.

The scoping study will also consider whether value capture techniques could assist meeting the funding requirement, Truss added.

The news was welcomed by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA).

“The rail industry cannot stress enough the importance of including a rail line from the start of the construction of the Airport,” ARA boss Danny Broad said on Friday.

“A rail plan presenting options is a common sense approach – rail is the vital link, enabling people to move in and out of the Airport safely and efficiently.

“It’s pleasing to see the Federal Government now considering rail options for Badgerys Creek Airport, while establishing a new partnership with the NSW Government.

“Government must collaborate with industry to ensure the long term viability of the Airport, namely through a robust and efficient transport system.”

Broad said the ARA would continue to support the construction of a second Sydney airport, but said the plan “must include rail options to support not only the Airport, but the surrounding growth areas.”

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Michael Kilgariff, managing director of ALC. Photo: Oliver Probert

Report a reminder of freight priority

A Commonwealth government report showing the cost of congestion in Australia is likely to increase by billions of dollars in coming years is a reminder to governments to give equal consideration to the movement of freight as to people.

Australian Logistics Council managing director Michael Kilgariff said transport congestion in cities which the government predicts could reach $37.3 billion by 2030, affects both passenger vehicles and heavy vehicles stifling efficiency and adding to costs.

“With the logistics industry estimated to add around $131.6 billion a year or 8.6% to GDP, it is vital that all levels of government give equal consideration to the movement of freight as they do to the movement of people,” Kilgariff said.

“This particularly relates to infrastructure projects which improve the efficiency of our export supply chains, including those to and from our major city ports.

“Addressing congestion in our cities requires a multi-faceted approach from all levels of government, and the fact that the Commonwealth has strongly committed to investing in our cities is a welcome development, particularly in light of these new congestion cost figures.

“However, any new federal approach to moving people should not be at the expense of supporting supply chain projects to move freight more efficiently. “

He said failure to fund key logistics projects would not make economic sense, especially when one considered a 1% improvement in supply chain efficiency would yield a $2bn-a-year national economic benefit.

“With Australia’s freight task predicted to double between 2010 and 2030 and triple by 2050, it is crucial that policy makers give equal priority to freight in their investment and policy decision,” he said.

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

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Aurizon, Lance Hockridge - Photo Aurizon

Hockridge in war of words with green group

Aurizon boss Lance Hockridge has drawn criticism from sustainable energy group IEEFA after he suggested Australia’s coal exports to India were poised to grow significantly.

Hockridge spoke at an Australia India Institute event in Melbourne last week.

“Over coming years, India looks set to cement an even stronger position as one of Australia’s major coal export markets,” he said.

“The growth of both the steel and energy sector is India … on Australia’s high quality and abundant coal reserves … flows through the supply chain to Australian miners, and rail and port infrastructure providers.”

Hockridge cited statistical evidence from the International Energy Agency and the World Bank which he said “re-affirmed [his] confidence in India’s future economic growth, and most tellingly, counter-balances some of the uninformed and indeed blatantly biased commentary on coal that’s become commonplace.”

IEEFA took issue with these comments, pointing to the recent announcement from India’s government that coal imports last month were down 5% on October last year, and represented the fourth consecutive month of decline.

“In making this oddly optimistic pitch, Hockridge tars what he calls ‘uninformed and indeed blatantly biased commentary’,” IEEFA said on Monday.

“He’s talking about research we’ve done here at IEEFA … and work by Carbon Tracker, two of the few independent organisations to publish regularly on Indian energy markets other than industry cheerleaders Wood Mackenzie and the International Energy Agency.”

It is important to note that on its website, IEEFA says its mission “is to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy and to reduce dependence on coal and other non-renewable energy resources”.

Carbon Tracker describes itself as a “financial think tank aimed at enabling a climate secure global energy market by aligning capital market actions with climate reality”.

IEEFA criticised Hockridge’s assertion that there is a pipeline of power plants under construction in India equating to roughly 84 gigawatts of energy, which will require an additional 250 million tonnes of coal per annum.

“[Hockridge] forgets that [Indian] energy minister Piyush Goyal announced two weeks ago intentions to cease all such construction because of a looming capacity glut in the country’s coal-fired power sector,” IEEFA contends.

“Massive losses are being tallied at coal-fired plants all across India today, a problem that has been worsening for three years at least and one that does not support further build-out.”