Revitalising Newcastle. Photo: Revitalising Newcastle

Constance looks global to integrate Newcastle transport

International players are being invited to propose an integrated transport model for Newcastle, after New South Wales transport minister Andrew Constance said work was needed if light rail was to be a success in the growing city.

“Today we are asking global leaders to create Transport for Newcastle,” the minister said on Thursday, “connecting the city with one major operator to plan and run Newcastle Light Rail, buses, ferries and interchanges.”

Constance hopes an integrated approach to public transport can help turn around a negatively-trending public transport sector in the region.

“Patronage on public transport in Newcastle has dropped and customers tell us service levels are not up to scratch,” the minister said.

“It’s clear the current approach to transport in Newcastle isn’t working so it’s time to think outside the box.”

Constance said the planned light rail line gave the government an opportunity to re-think the transport network to support jobs, growth and urban renewal.

“If we want Newcastle to reach its potential, we need to create a modern and connected system that links light rail with frequent and reliable buses, ferries and trains,” he said.

“In an Australian first, we’ve put out a call to the best transport operators around the world to tell us how they could partner with the city to deliver a modern network for the city.

“Today’s announcement means that rather than having multiple operators running ad hoc services with mis-matched timetables, services would be streamlined to a sole provider, Transport for Newcastle, focused on customer service. This would be public transport run in Newcastle, for Novocastrians, not run from Sydney.”

Transport for NSW said a market sounding process has begun and will run until the end of the year, when the NSW Government will evaluate interest in the integrated transport model.

The announcement was welcomed by the Australasian Railway Association.

“This is exactly the transport approach that is needed for Newcastle in order for public transport to reach its full potential,” chief executive Danny Broad said.

“With one major operator integrating Newcastle’s bus, ferry, train and light rail routes into a single network, the city can expect to see greater efficiencies, improved customer service and increased patronage.

“This will lead to a more sophisticated transport service for the people of Newcastle which delivers directly to their needs.”

Broad said the Australian Government, like its international peers, was realising the far-reaching benefits of an integrated transport model.

“The Australasian Railway Association’s research on light rail shows that whether delivered by the public sector, the private sector, or a mix of both, successfully combining a multimodal network with light rail can drive growth in public transport use,” he said.

“Locally, the integration of the Gold Coast Light Rail line with the bus and rail systems was the catalyst for a 25% increase in public transport usage in the first year of light rail.

“Abroad, in the French city of Lyon, reorganising the buses, trains, trams and trolley buses into a multimodal approach provided an immediate 6 percent patronage increase and steady long-term growth. It’s pleasing to see Newcastle follow best practice by looking to deliver a modern, streamlined transport network for the city.

“With the Newcastle light rail project getting underway, now is the time to overhaul the transport network in Newcastle in order to get the local economy moving again, as well as revitalise the jobs market and refashion Newcastle’s CBD and urban areas,” he concluded.

Kaimai Tunnel location. Graphic: Google

Kaimai Tunnel works well underway

A multi-million dollar upgrade of New Zealand’s longest rail tunnel is well underway.

NZ rail operator and manager KiwiRail says the team repairing and upgrading the 8.8km Kaimai Tunnel, on the North Island, has gotten off to a good start.

Project manager Neil Mason and construction manager Tevita Brugger told the media last week that teams have already completed repairs on more than 300 metres of concrete slab and completed cleaning on 5.1km tunnel.

A project to upgrade and repair the tunnel, which sees roughly three-dozen freight rail movements a day, was announced in October 2014.

KiwiRail said the primary goal was to refurbish the rail track and tunnel floor to meet a forecasted growth in freight volumes and axle loads.

Brugger said the material developed to undertake repairs is very special because it is strong enough to run trains on after 90 minutes, is not flammable and does not give off any harmful gasses.

“We still have 350 metres of concrete to do and expect to have it finished by Christmas,” Brugger said.

“The project work is starting to show some effect.

“As a direct result of the work that has been done the line returned to its 80km/h speed for the first time in four years.”

Over a two-day closure in September, the repair team installed a special slot drain into the floor of the tunnel.

“The drain will be used to intercept water running underneath the tunnel,” Brugger explained.

“These water volumes were encountered when the tunnel was built but are not well understood.

“We need to control the water and to do this we need to determine the size of the pipe. The slot drain will allow us to observe the water flowing freely.

“Next year, we’ll start construction on the new leaky feeder radio system followed by a new phone system.”

Brugger said further investigation was needed into the flow of water in and around the tunnel.

The research would help determine the scope of the project, which could take up to 10 years, and cost as much as $50 million.

“Most projects would involve 5-6 days of work on-site per week, whereas we only have access to the tunnel once a week and the rest of the time it remains open, due to high volumes of trains,” Brugger continued.

“On top of that, we are working in a 9km-long tunnel with a single track, with crews who do not live around the area.

“Kaimai is a complex and challenging project and this means that to maximise our production time requires a higher degree of planning and coordination is required.”

Canberra light rail. Graphic: ACT Government

Canberra outlines plan for light rail city

IMAGE: The ACT Government has unveiled its “strategic vision” for seven light rail lines, including the committed Capital Metro Stage 1, for the nation’s capital.

Chief minister Andrew Barr, planning minister Mick Gentleman, and minister assisting the chief minister on transport reform Shane Rattenbury on Monday opened the new light rail plan for public consultation.

The designed network features the stage one light rail line, from Gungahlin to the city centre, along with six more proposed future routes for light rail, which will link to stage one.

“To manage Canberra’s growth, reduce congestion and protect our liveability we need to improve our public transport system,” Chief Minister Barr said.

“Light rail prepares us for our city’s growth, drives economic development and will integrate with buses and other modes of transport to make our city easier to get around.

“This network shows how light rail will be extended across our city in the future.”

After stage one, the next-highest-priority line currently outlined is for the Parliamentary Triangle – formed by Commonwealth, Kings and Constitution Avenues – in the centre of the city.

Another priority line would link the Woden Valley in the south-west to the other priority lines in the city centre.

The final line outlined as high priority is called ‘eastern connections’, and would link the network to Fyshwick and the Airport in the east.


Canberra light rail master plan map. Graphic: Transport for ACT

Graphic: Transport for ACT (click to enlarge)


Gentleman said the government was now turning to the community, for their views on where future stages should go and how the government can best integrate a public transport system with current infrastructure.

“The ACT Government is planning for Canberra’s transition into a significant world city through building on current foundations and opportunities to maintain the position of the world’s most liveable city, with a fully integrated transport network,” Gentleman said.

“The public consultation for the draft light rail network is an opportunity for the community to have their say on the future proposed corridors as this document will work for to direct the long term strategy and vision for Canberra’s light rail network.”

Rattenbury has also highlighted the positive impacts to be created.

“The release of the Light Rail Network opens the light rail discussion to all Canberrans and will help outline the bigger picture for public transport across the entire city.  This is a project for the future of Canberra that will help us to find real and long term solutions for the issues that trouble us today like pollution, congestion and peak oil,” he said.

New Australasian Railway Association chief executive Danny Broad welcomed the news.

“It is clear through the Light Rail Master Plan that the ACT Government has an ambitious vision for the future of Canberra,” he said.

“Canberra is set for further expansion over the coming decades, the transport needs for a city of 500,000 people is vastly different to that of 300,000, leaving the city’s car dependency unviable for a modern, sustainable city.

“Now is the time to start planning this major infrastructure project and look at how the rail network will integrate with the existing bus network.

“Continuing to plan ahead, and invest in Canberra’s transport infrastructure is crucial in order to effectively serve the needs of Canberra and its growing population.”

Public consultation is open until December 11.

The full report is available here:

E-Class Melbourne tram. Photo: Liam Davies

Yarra Trams reveals new tram stop design

Melbourne tram operator Yarra Trams will build a new level access tram stop, and will upgrade infrastructure on the corner of Clarendon Street and Normanby Road in Southbank.

The operator has been working with Public Transport Victoria and the City of Melbourne on a revised design for the stop, with the aim of retaining and enhancing green space, while still modernising critical tram infrastructure.

Yarra Trams said the improvements to the stop’s design will help make the area safer, more attractive and accessible to all people.

The new design of the platform also includes a separate, third platform for the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant – a restaurant which operates a number of converted trams around tram routes through the city and inner suburbs.

The provision of a platform set aside for this service, Yarra Trams explained, “will reduce delays for Route 96 and 109 passengers”.

Tram upgrade diagram. Graphic: Yarra Trams
Graphic: Yarra Trams

Additionally, the new design features new trees along Whiteman Street, creating a parkland area which will protrude into the existing roadway, resulting in a net loss of 20 on-street parking spaces.

“Parking surveys have indicated that many motorists currently utilising these on-street spaces are not visiting abutting residents or businesses, but are seeking cheap, long term parking opportunities to visit to surrounding attractions,” Yarra Trams reasoned.

“These motorists will need to seek alternative parking opportunities further along Whiteman Street or in off-street paid car parking sites.”

Preparatory work will soon begin at the new stop, as part of the end-to-end upgrade of Route 96, Melbourne’s busiest.

Yarra Trams said the work is “critical to the ongoing improvement of the network”.

A large construction zone will be set up, and will cause disruptions around the area during the work, the operator warned.

Along with Public Transport Victoria, Yarra Trams will deliver the major work from January 3 to January 15 next year.

Sydenham to Bankstown line. Photo: Planning NSW

Sydney plan will create ‘toxic mix’: Greens

The Baird Government’s development plans along the rail line between Sydenham and Bankstown will result in overdevelopment rather than a quality transport system, according to Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi.

As part of the Sydney Metro program, the NSW Government plans to convert the existing line between Sydenham and Bankstown to metro rail. NSW planning minister Rob Stokes on October 14 revealed the state government’s “new vision” for the precincts along the new metro .

But Dr Faruqi, the Greens’ transport spokesperson, says the development plans will be bad for the suburbs around the project.

“At the end of the day, it seems the Sydney Metro project is far more about facilitating the privatisation of our rail network and overdevelopment rather than delivering a good public transport network for the city,” Dr Faruqi said last week.

“Of course, integrated land use and transport planning is what we need.

“But the new line currently seems like a way of justifying development, not the other way around.”

Transport minister Stokes, however, said the plan was aimed at developing growth and infrastructure needs at the same pace as development over the next 20 years.

“The enhanced public transport network is the catalyst for new growth and development along the corridor,” Stokes said.

“These 11 local communities will now have an opportunity to have their say about what they want when it comes to jobs, shops, public amenities and the character of these areas.

“We want to create places where people live, and where they can work and play closer to home.”

Bankstown to Sydenham corridor precinct map. Photo: Planning NSW

But Greens MP and planning spokesperson David Shoebridge said the plan would bulldoze historic centres to make way for high-rise development.

“If this ‘urban renewal corridor’ gets the green light, then the classic red roofs and green backyards of almost a dozen Sydney suburbs will be lost to rows and rows of tall towers and apartment blocks,” Shoebridge said.

“Under these plans the centre of every suburb from Sydenham to Bankstown will be flattened to make way for profit-driven high rise development.

“This means increased pressure on already congested local roads, public transport as well as schools, childcare centres and other facilities.

“Only a government with contempt for democracy works up plans to bulldoze the historic centres of so many Sydney suburbs without first speaking to the people who live there.”

Shoebridge warned the government that communities will galvanise to protect their neighbourhood from change.

“The Baird government is using its plans to privatise the Bankstown line and replace it with a metro train as the excuse for this massive expansion of apartment housing,” he said.

“Not surprisingly, there was no word before the election that a new metro train meant privatising the Bankstown line and flattening every suburb from Hurlstone Park to Bankstown.”

The state’s plan is for development in Sydenham, Marrickville, Dulwich Hill, Hurlstone Park, Canterbury, Campsie, Belmore, Lakemba, Wiley Park, Punchbowl and Bankstown.

Greg Hunt approves Adani mine. Photo: HVCCC / Greg Hunt

Hunt re-approves Adani mine and rail project

Green groups have condemned environment minister Greg Hunt’s renewed approval of the Carmichael coal mine and rail project for Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

Hunt’s initial approval of the massive coal mine and rail project was rejected by a High Court ruling which found a pair of threatened species – the yakka skink and the ornamental snake – had not been properly considered in the initial assessment by the Department of the Environment.

Hunt announced the renewed approval on October 15.

“The Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Infrastructure project has been approved in accordance with the national environment law subject to 36 of the strictest conditions in Australian history,” the minister said.

“In making this decision I have considered additional information provided by Adani and environmental groups …”

If it builds the project, Adani will have to adhere to “rigorous” conditions relating to water resources, animal habitats, threatened species, and groundwater monitoring.

“I have the power to suspend or revoke the approval and strict penalties apply if there is a breach of the strict conditions,” Hunt said.

Despite this, Green groups were outraged by the approval.

Greenpeace called the move “a bad idea on every level”.

“Carmichael would be a complete disaster for the climate and the Great Barrier Reef,” Greenpeace’s Shani Tager said. “The federal government and environment minister should be in the business of protecting the Reef and the climate, not giving mining companies licence to destroy them.”

As well as opposition on environmental grounds, Adani – the Indian group developing Carmichael – is dealing with a growing number of financial institutions who have announced they won’t support the project.

The National Australia Bank recently became the latest such institution to rule-out supporting the mine and rail project.

But Adani’s Australian chief executive Jeyakumar Janakaraj has expressed his confidence in the future of the massive project, telling the Weekend Australian last month the company was determined to forge ahead, having already spent nearly $3 billion on Carmichael.

“This is a viable project for our company: we are not here for charity, we are not here to lose money,” he reportedly said.

“It is critical for us to secure long-term [coal] supplies.

“We are a large infrastructure and energy conglomerate, so providing energy security to India is a very key strategy as part of our business goals.”

Bob Herbert, chairman of ARA. Photo: ARA / Shutterstock

Herbert made ARA chairman

Bob Herbert has been appointed as the chairman of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), after serving as the interim chair during the turnover period of recent months.

Herbert took over as interim chair of the rail lobby group following the departure of chief executive Bryan Nye, and chairman Lindsay Tanner – who was completing a planned two-year term – in April. The leadership change was part of the ARA’s split with the Rail Industry and Safety Standards Board (RISSB), announced earlier this year.

A three-month review, led by Herbert, resulted in the appointment of Danny Broad as the ARA’s new chief executive in August.

Herbert will add the ARA role to an already impressive list: he is also the chairman of the Melbourne Cricket Ground Trust, the deputy chairman of Industry Capability Network, the chairman of the TrackSAFE Foundation, and the director of TrackSAFE New Zealand.

Herbert was recognised in 2004 by the Victorian Government and the Manufacturing Industry Consultative Council, for “exceptional services to the Victorian manufacturing industry,” and was admitted to the Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame.

In 2005, Herbert was made a Member of the Order of Australia, the citation reading “for services to industry, particularly in the area of industrial relations reform, industry training and skills development”.

Herbert was a non-executive director of Skilled Group from 2003 to 2015.

Prior to that in 1998, he brought about the merger between MTIA and the Australian Chamber of Manufactures, to form the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), one of Australia’s significant national industry representative organisations.

Until February 2004 he was chief executive of Ai Group, having served for eight years in that role, and 30 years as a Director.

Herbert was a non-executive director of MainCo Melbourne – the joint venture of UGL Rail & Connex to maintain the Melbourne rail network – between 2004 and 2010.

His past work also includes leadership roles at the Superannuation Trust of Australia, the Emergency Services Superannuation Board, the CSIRO Manufacturing Advisory Council, the Birmingham University Business School Advisory Board, IXC International, the Enterprise Connect Advisory Board, and the Trade Union Education Foundation.

Sam Tarascio, Salta. Photo: Salta Group

Time is now for Port of Melbourne fast rail solution

Logistics and development business SALTA Properties believes a rail solution to increased throughput is imperative before the nation’s largest container terminal goes under the hammer.

Salta is one of many stakeholders to lodge submissions regarding the proposed privatisation of the port.

Under the system advocated by the company, containers at the Port of Melbourne would be unloaded at a dedicated on-port rail facility before being railed to strategic inland terminals via fast freight trains and then trucked to final destinations.

The idea would be to ease heavy congestion in the port precinct.

In itself the concept is not new – it was previously mooted during the Bracks/Brumby Labor administration that governed Victoria between 1999 and 2010.

But Salta Properties managing director Sam Tarascio believes it should happen now, rather than wait until the port is in private hands.

Salta itself has land available for terminal development, but speaking with Rail Express affiliate Lloyd’s List Australia, Tarascio said such a scheme would have positive outcomes for everyone: industry, government and the general public.

“So that means we can get a far more efficient container landside distribution logistics system,” Tarascio told Lloyd’s List Australia.

“By doing that, we improve efficiency and improve capacity at the Port of Melbourne.”

He said the scheme had been supported by both sides of politics, but no-one had pushed it to development. “It has come through the Liberal government and back to Labor and all have been supportive,” he said.

“We think now the time is right because all of the intermodal sites are now in place.

“There is infrastructure at the port that if the government acts quickly enough, they can protect for use as the metropolitan intermodal rail terminal.”

Tarascio said there was a need for political will.

“The thing that is causing us frustration is that most of the hard work has been done.

“The Footscray Road overpass and the train paths are in place and there has been money in the budget allocated.”

Rail infrastructure at the Port of Melbourne and minor rail connection works at the inland ports were allocated $58 million in the most recent Victorian State Budget (some $38 million from the Commonwealth).

“But for some reason it has been prioritised as something that should be done post-port sale,” Tarascio reported.

Proceeding with the project before the sale had benefits, he argued.

“It should be done pre-port sale because of all the benefits it brings in terms of certainty to port bidders, potential upside in price to the government plus a whole lot of other benefits including environmental benefits and efficiency benefits.

“So we’re saying it really should be done in advance of the port sale and that is the message we are trying to convey at the moment.”

Environmental benefits are also arguably substantial.

“Based on current volumes, if you could convert the capacity of the network onto trains… you would take 3500 of 5500 trucks that go into the port precinct (daily), you would take them off the roads around the port precinct.

“That has enormous benefits in safety and in reducing pollution and congestion.

“Road maintenance costs are also reduced so there are a whole lot of benefits attached.”

Tarascio said throughput estimates from both SALTA and others suggested a 1.4 million teu (twenty-foot container equivalent) capacity increase through the Port of Melbourne “so that’s very significant based on its current capacity”.

Most of the train paths are available, with dedicated freight lines to the west and north.

A south-eastern service would also operate on the existing passenger line, albeit it would have to operate outside of peak passenger periods.

“We talk to importers, exporters and shippers and there are many businesses that are passionate about it,” Tarascio said.

“Trucking companies, believe it or not, are supportive because of the inefficiencies they face going into the port.

“They would prefer to be at a more efficient inland location where they can get more trips.”

He argued SALTA was well-positioned to contribute to the project.

“We can bring together the terminals in the south-east and the west on land that we have acquired specifically for the purpose and have had it rezoned and connected.

“In the north we are working with AUSTRAK who already have a terminal but just need better connections.

“The reason we’ve gone down this path is our background in both property and logistics over 45 years.”

SALTA Properties chairman Sam Tarascio Snr identified about a decade ago that the Port of Melbourne was going to reach capacity due to landside constraints and started examining how those issues could be effectively resolved.

“Our main priority is seeing the short rail links into the inland ports are funded by government,” the younger Tarascio said.

“Altona has been funded and is completed while we anticipate similar investment will be confirmed soon by government for Dandenong South and at the third inland port site at Somerton.”

This article originally appeared on Rail Express affiliate Lloyd’s List Australia. Read the original article here.

Alstom-built SNCF TGV and Deutsche Bahn-built Intercity-Express (ICE) at Paris Gare de l'Est. Photo: Oliver Probert

Albanese pitches high speed rail to Canberra

Shadow transport minister Anthony Albanese has introduced a bill to the House of Representatives to create a planning authority for a high speed rail line for Australia’s eastern seaboard.

The High Speed Rail Planning Authority Bill 2015, presented to Parliament by the former deputy prime minister on Monday, would create an 11-person authority tasked with beginning detailed planning, and securing the rail corridor needed for a high speed rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

Albanese introduced the same bill to Parliament in 2013, but “the prime minister of the day [Tony Abbott] had no interest in rail and refused to bring the bill on for debate”.

Speaking to Parliament on Monday, Albanese described high speed rail as a “national game changer,” akin to the Snowy Mountains Scheme initiated in 1949 by former Labor prime minister Ben Chifley.

Chifley’s scheme, which created a massive hydroelectricity and irrigation network in southeast Australia, was not completed until 1972. Albanese said high speed rail, like the Snowy Scheme, would not be completed in a single political term.

“Chifley knew that true nation building is not about winning short-term political acclaim, but about taking decisions today that prepare our nation for tomorrow,” Albanese said. “A tomorrow many of us may not have even contemplated.”

The 11-member panel proposed in the bill would include one member from each of the states affected by the proposed line – Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT – along with one member representing local governments, one member nominated by the Australasian Railway Association, and five members appointed by the minister for infrastructure on the basis of qualifications or expertise.

The authority’s roles would include considerations of land use planning relating to the rail corridor, safety, measures to minimise environmental impact, public consultation, and intervention to purchase the corridor.

“High-speed rail exists in every continent other than Australia and Antarctica,” Albanese told his Canberra colleagues.

“New projects are underway all over the world, including in the Asian region, in the UK and in the United States.”

He referred to figures from the two-part high speed rail study he commissioned while he was transport minister under the Labor Government.

With Australia’s population figured to double by 2050, the study predicted travel on the east coast of Australia to grow about 1.8% every year over the next two decades, increasing 60% by 2035. “The study said east coast trips would double from 152 million trips in 2009 to 355 million trips in 2065,” Albanese said.

The 2013 report also found the Melbourne-to-Sydney leg of the high speed rail line would return $2.15 in public benefit, for every dollar invested.

But with a projected price tag of $114 billion, the study made it clear the project would need bipartisan, long-term support to go ahead.

“High-speed rail does require broad support,” Albanese told Canberra.

“Its construction would occur over many terms of government and, indeed, changes of government, which is why it requires broad discussion by this parliament.

“It requires leadership. So let us lead.”

Ribbon cutting at Aurizon's Hexham Train Support Facility. Photo: Aurizon

Aurizon opens $180 million Hexham Train Support Facility

Queensland-based operator Aurizon has officially opened its new $180 million Hexham Train Support Facility in the Hunter Valley.

The Hexham facility is near the Port of Newcastle.

It will provide trains with fuel, water and other supplies, and will be used to conduct light maintenance and inspections. It will also alleviate capacity pressures in the coal supply chain that collectively benefits the local coal industry, Aurizon managing director and chief executive Lance Hockridge said.

“We’re pleased to continue our investment in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley,” Hockridge said. “Aurizon is confident in the local coal industry and we’re here for the long-haul.”

Since spinning off from state-owned Queensland Rail, Aurizon has made a concerted push to win more of the NSW rail market from its primary competitor in that space, Pacific National.

“From small beginnings in 2005, Aurizon has grown to an estimated market share of 30% in the Hunter with a 300 strong workforce,” Hockridge explained.

“Over the past decade, we are proud to have invested more than half a billion dollars in rollingstock and facilities for our growing workforce, and in the community.

“This strategically located facility will provide Aurizon with the platform for the future, through improved capacity, productivity and turnaround times. We want to support the growth and future success of our customers.”

Hockridge was pleased to announce there were no safety incidents during the construction and commissioning phases of the project, which he said was large and complex.

“Aurizon is creating a leaner, smarter and faster business for our customers but safety will always remain the priority in all that we do,” he said.

The operational footprint of the Hexham facility only occupies 15% of the total land area on site, with roughly 53 hectares of the site dedicated as vegetation offset.

Pictured: Aurizon representatives (L to R): Mark Burns, Ed McKeiver, Patrick O’Donnell, Mike Franczak, Lance Hockridge and Scott Riedel.