Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) terminal at the Port of Newcastle. Photo: Chris Mackey

Hunter coal terminal approved

After almost five years of planning, a new rail receival and export terminal has been approved for construction at the Port of Newcastle.

The New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission has determined the Port Waratah Coal Services proposal for a fourth coal terminal at Newcastle can be approved “with stringent conditions”.

The $4.8 billion open access coal export terminal, Terminal 4, would have the capacity to ship 70 million tonnes of coal per annum.

Constructing the terminal would involve the development of new rail and coal receival infrastructure, comprising up to four arrival tracks, two dump stations and up to four departure sidings.

The terminal would also include coal stockpile pads, stackers and reclaimers, wharf and berth infrastructure for up to two shiploaders, and berthing for up to three ships.

Under the approval, PWCS will undertake contamination and remediation works and site preparation ground treatment, including pre-loading for foundation, with sand dredged from the Hunter River.

The project also includes associated infrastructure like roads, fences, landscaping, car parks, water management infrastructure and temporary facilities.

Because of its close proximity to a Ramsar wetlands site, the Planning Assessment Commission ruled PWCS must prioritise certain biodiversity and remediation works.

Adverse environmental impacts must be minimised and regularly monitored.

PWCS will also build three biodiversity offset sites at Ellalong Lagoon, Brundee Swamp Nature Reserve, and Tomago.

PWCS first lodged the application for Terminal 4, which will be situated on Kooragang Island, in 2010. At that stage the coal export business was considering a site that could allow a throughput of 120 million tonnes of coal per annum.

While the scope of the project has been reduced, the site will still have the potential to expand, with further development approval.

PWCS chief executive Henni du Plooy said the world has changed since the company originally lodged the application, and the need for extra coal export capacity is not so immediate.

The approval process has involved around 1700 days of assessment, 125 days of public exhibition and 30 hours of public hearings.

The project will now be reviewed by the Commonwealth under the Environmental Protection and biodiversity Conservation Act.

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

Roe Highway upgrade - Perth Freight Link. Photo: Creative Commons

Perth Freight Link: a local’s view

Controversy around the Perth Freight Link has become highly emotive for local citizens and a huge political football for the government, Kent Stewart writes.

A recent article [in Rail Express affiliate Lloyd’s List Australia] states that community surveys indicate a whopping 95% support a rail link. Surely this indicates that 95% are opposed to a road link?

The map of the Perth Freight Link in the article conveniently finishes on the south side of the Stirling Bridge and ignores the massive congestion in the tiny strip of Tydeman Road between Beach Road and Stirling Highway on the north side of the bridge. This strip is the feeder for all cargo coming out of North Quay.

This strip is less than a kilometre long and has up to 1000 trucks a day feeding into it from Northport Terminal and Berth 11 and 12 gates as well as carrying commuter traffic.

Add to this a rail level crossing on Tydeman Road and four sets of traffic lights and you have traffic chaos. Most days it is chaotic with trucks trying to change lanes to get to the Stirling Bridge but when the road is closed for a train crossing it is even worse.

To solve this almost insurmountable problem given the current amount of the road traffic is a daunting task. To consider an increase in cargo movements through this route is even more implausible.

Equally the rail link from North Fremantle has its problems in as much as it has to share the passenger rail line over the rail bridge and pass through new residential areas in South Fremantle. Containers can only be single stacked on these trains because of the height limitation of the electrification wires for the passenger service.

The Inner Harbour as an ongoing container terminal is doomed. Even at its current capacity it is choking the roads. Any attempt to increase capacity would be a disaster.

Fifteen years ago we had the opportunity for a privately funded shipping terminal at James Point in the Outer Harbour – at absolutely no cost to the taxpayer.

The government of the day rejected this proposal for whatever political reasons. This proposal had excellent container freight corridors to the big depots in Kewdale and Welshpool and at the same time would remove the livestock trade from the Inner Harbour.

Not only that, the government walked away from a massive, multi-million dollar real estate windfall with the opportunity to sell off all the North Quay harbour frontage and beachside land as highly valuable real estate.

The only sensible option to allow realistic growth of trade through the Port of Fremantle is to develop the Outer Harbour option.

Victoria Quay and the Inner Harbour could remain as an excellent terminal for cruise ships, ferries and visiting warships and a much more attractive harbour for the residents of Fremantle.

Surely some sense could be shown by investing taxpayers’ dollars more responsibly on a true vision for the future for the Port of Fremantle?

* Kent Stewart is the executive director at Maritime Engineers.

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

Hills M2 toll road (owned by Transurban) Photo: Creative Commons / Sardaka

Briggs defends ‘policy pivot’

Cities and built environment minister Jamie Briggs has defended the government’s policy shift on infrastructure funding, but has stopped short of labelling Tony Abbott’s road-first mentality an ideological issue.

Briggs spoke with University of Canberra political expert Michelle Grattan on The Conversation’s political podcast this week.

Grattan asked how the new Turnbull-led Government could justify “pivoting” from the Abbott Government’s roads-only infrastructure funding mentality, to one which is agnostic regarding the road and rail funding balance.

“Mass transit was always part of the agenda,” Briggs argued. “It was a decision of the Abbott Government to really focus on how could we ensure our cities were moving properly in the sense of the road networks.”

Briggs deferred when Grattan suggested Abbott’s road-first thinking was “ideological,” however.

“There was a direct approach in respect to funding roads, absolutely,” he said.

“But we had options … there was some public transport funding provided through the asset recycling initiative, particularly in Sydney with the new Sydney Harbour crossing.

“I don’t think there’s been a huge switch, if I can put it that way. There’s been a change in the discussion about what it is we need.”

More than an ideological issue, Briggs argued, the government had to deal with a simple issue of economics.

“We will never be able to meet the infrastructure needs of Australia through purely our balance sheets,” he stated.

“But I do agree with Malcolm Turnbull in the sense that we should have  a non-discriminatory approach to what we fund.”

Briggs said the ball is in the states’ courts, with that in mind.

“The state governments have got to do a lot more work in providing projects for us to consider,” he said.

“Other than the big, major commitment that Mike Baird’s made with the new crossing of Sydney – which has still got some time to go – there’s not a lot of detail around some of these major mass transit projects.

“They haven’t been through Infrastructure Australia; there’s not business cases. We need the states to do that work, but we are happy to engage with them.

“These are expensive projects. Each of them is very expensive.

“I think the estimate in Queensland is some $5 billion for Cross River Rail; it’s some $11 billion – and probably higher – in Melbourne for Melbourne Metro; large amounts in Perth as well; and in Adelaide for that matter.

“The government’s Budget situation hasn’t improved instantaneously with the change of prime minister.

“The challenge for the new treasurer is the same as it was for the old treasurer: we’ve got less money than we were expecting to have through revenue and expenditure pressures; the states are in the same situation.”

Josh Frydenberg on the Bolt Report. Photo: Channel Ten

Mining minister Frydenberg: Coal here to stay

WATCH: New minister for resources, energy and Northern Australia Josh Frydenberg has assuaged concerns that the new Turnbull Government could be bad for Australia’s coal sector in a TV interview with opinion machine Andrew Bolt.

Frydenberg, who Bolt labelled “the new Mr Coal,” said the climate-conscious Turnbull was not a threat to Australia’s carbon-based energy producers.

“I think the prime minister and I understand that coal is an important part of the energy mix,” Frydenberg told the program on Sunday.

“The world gets more than 40% of its electricity from coal.

“More than one billion people in the world don’t have access to electricity, so the Australian supplies are extremely important.

“Coal in Australia provides tens of thousands of jobs, tens of billions of dollars in terms of export revenue, and our coal is low in sulphur, low in ash, and is being used right throughout the region in these high-efficiency, low emission new coal burning electricity plants.”

Frydenberg was hesitant to agree with Bolt’s assertion that “Tony Abbott was right: Coal is good for humanity,” but said he supported the moral case for providing coal and gas “to lift people out of energy poverty”.

The new minister was also confident the Adani coal mine in Queensland would go ahead. “It’s an important project,” he said. “This is going to see more than $16 billion worth of investment, [and] more than 10,000 jobs being created.”

Bolt also probed the new minister over renewable energy.

“I’m not ideological about what types of renewable energy we have,” he said. “I think renewable energy is an important part of the overall energy mix … but it’s important to understand that with renewable energy, Andrew, that you can’t do it without natural resources.

“To make a wind turbine you need 220 tonnes of coking coal. To make a solar panel you need 16 different metals and minerals,” he said.

Watch the full interview below.

WICET coal terminal rail unloader and stockpile. Photos: WICET

Coal facility built for expansion; but will it ever come?

ANALYSIS: Queensland’s newest coal rail and export terminal has a stage one capacity of 27 million tonnes a year, and is designed to expand to more than four times that. But with coal prices down, and shifting global energy markets, will expansions ever take place?

The Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET) achieved mechanical completion on April 30, 2015. With ramp-up to full stage one capacity forecast for some time in 2016, it will soon be sending coal into the seaborne market at a rate of 27 million tonnes per annum (mtpa).

WICET was approved at the peak of the coal market – when prices for Australian thermal standard soared to almost US$200 a tonne – and financial close was achieved by the WICET Group in 2011, as the coal market bounced back from the GFC.

When construction on WICET began in December 2011, coal sat at US$120 a tonne.

40 months later, in April 2015, mechanical completion was announced and the coal price was US$62 a tonne – down 48.5%. Click the below image for full resolution.

WICET coal price diagram. Graphic: Oliver Probert

Far from ideal.

The consortium responsible for WICET stage one is made up of eight coal businesses: Aquila Resources, Bandanna Energy, Caledon Coal, Cockatoo Coal, Glencore, New Hope Group, Wesfarmers Curragh and Yancoal.

Since they signed up to be part of that team, those eight have had mixed fortune.

First, the (relatively) good.

Aquila is 50% invested in the 4mtpa Eagle Downs hard coking coal mine, which was 30% complete in June 2015, and is targeting completion in 2016.

Caledon is progressing its mining venture in Queensland, ramping up production at its Cook mine and awarding a 4mtpa contract in mid-2015 to rail operator Aurizon to haul coal to WICET.

Next, the not so good.

Glencore, despite being a major mining business, has had struggles of its own, with significant debt now looking tough to deal with in the current market for commodities.

New Hope Group is still undertaking exploration and geotechnical work at its Colton project, where it was aiming to mine to produce exports for WICET.

Wesfarmers Resources, another major miner, has been forced to make significant cutbacks at its Curragh mine. Wesfarmer’s managing director for resources said earlier in 2015 that coal “remains challenging,” predicting “continued low export prices … which will result in a significant downward impact on profitability.”

Finally, the ugly.

Yancoal, a Chinese-owned producer, announced an after tax loss of more than $145m in the first half of the 2015 calendar year. Chief executive Reinhold Schmidt said the company was “focused on reducing costs and maintaining consistent strong production targets”.

Cockatoo Coal has had a tough time, undertaking significant cost cutting measures earlier this year, along with market fund raising, and a share price drop from 10c in 2011, to less than a tenth-of-a-cent in the second half of 2015.

Bandanna Energy appointed administrators on September 22, 2014. Since July 2011 its share price has dropped from $2.13 a share, to below 10c.

What does all this mean for WICET?

The export facility was designed around an efficient staged development model. While stage one export capacity sits at just 27mtpa, stage four – the final stage in current plans – gives an indicative throughput capacity of 120mtpa. Click the graphic below to expand.

WICET diagram. Graphic: Oliver Probert WICET

Each of the four stages would add another rail receival station. The facility, which currently features zero stacker reclaimers, would have 3 added in stage two of development, 3 more added in stage three, and 1 more added in stage four, giving it a potential of 7 total stacker reclaimers. Shiploaders at the site would also increase with each stage, as would berths.

All of this would mean big business for rail, shipping, and peripheral businesses. The question is whether the current market would support that kind of expansion.

$2.6 billion was spent by the WICET consortium to build the terminal in its current state.

WICET can currently unload a 2500 metre train, and can unload 9200 cubic metres of coal per hour, translating to between 6900 tonnes per hour, and 8250 tonnes per hour, depending on the product. It can load a single 220,000dwt vessel at a typical rate of 4000 to 7000 tonnes per hour from its single shiploader.

The terminal made its first shipment of coal, amounting to 73,000 tonnes, in late April.

If the second stage of WICET was developed, the train unloading facility would double in capacity, the number of berths would jump from one to three, and one shiploader would be added. This would more than double the terminal’s capacity, from 27mtpa to 60mtpa.

Current environmental approvals allow for an expansion up to 84mtpa of throughput, which would represent stage 3 of development (although stage 3 of the expansion would allow for a maximum throughput of 90mtpa).

The maximum possible throughput of stage 4, 120mtpa, would of course require additional environmental approvals to be granted.

So the question has to be asked: With the seaborne coal market remaining unfriendly, and major coal consumers around the globe turning off coal, will those expansions ever take place?

Only time will tell.

E-Class Melbourne tram. Photo: Liam Davies

Newman ‘delighted’ by cities minister appointment

Malcolm Turnbull’s move to appoint Jamie Briggs to the new role of minister for cities and built infrastructure has been welcomed by public transport advocate Peter Newman, and Greens MP Adam Bandt.

Newman, a professor at the Curtin University in WA, is a well-known supporter of public transport policy. He is one of the key opponents of the Perth Freight Link road project, which will connect a new tollroad to Fremantle Port, rather than boosting rail capacity.

One move he’s not opposed to, though, is the creation of the new federal ministry.

“I was absolutely delighted, taken by surprise, I’d have to say,” Newman said of Briggs’ appointment on ABC Radio on Monday.

“It does show that it’s a completely bi-partisan idea and one that should be historically looked back on to say this is the moment that the Federal Government said cities really do matter.”

Briggs will work with states to develop urban design and public transport plans for the major cities.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott, when he named his first ministry, gave Warren Truss the title of minister for infrastructure and regional development.

Missing from Truss’ title – which he retains under Turnbull – is the word ‘transport’. This was perceived by many as Abbott cementing his view that the Commonwealth should not fund urban public transport, and should instead stick to federal projects, and roads.

Anthony Albanese was the minister for infrastructure and transport under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, when the Labor Party was in power between 2007 and 2013. As the shadow minister for transport and infrastructure, he has pressured the Liberal Government on its anti-public-transport stance, and this pressure was ramped up when, last year, Bill Shorten added ‘cities’ to Albanese’s shadow portfolio.

The addition of Briggs as the minister for cities, then, makes the concept a bi-partisan one, as Newman suggested.

“It was an extreme view that was around for many years that you’ll never get people out of their cars, you’re in your car you’re the king and nobody else matters,” Newman continued, “[Abbott] actually has a quote like that in his book.

“It’s really disappeared especially among the young and the wealthy who are now locating in places where you don’t need a car. And car use is actually in decline in all the world’s big cities.”

Greens minister Adam Bandt said the cities role had potential, if it was used correctly.

“If this new cities ministry has some teeth and is able to direct how Commonwealth money is spent and perhaps from time to time tells the states to be a bit more sensible about how they spend the money that they get from the Commonwealth Government, then it could be a good thing,” Bandt told ABC Radio.

“You know you’ve been to a good city … if you can travel around without using a car.

“Melbourne could become one of those if we put more money into public transport, including into a metro rail project.”

Melbourne Metro rail tunnel. Graphic: Victorian Government

Metro tunnel construction impact surveys begin

The Melbourne Metro Rail Authority has launched a community engagement program for local residents who may be affected by the construction of the new underground rail network.

Letters have been sent to 21,000 residents and businesses along the alignment of the new, nine kilometre, twin rail tunnels being built as part of the $9 – $11 billion project.

“This consultation process is about starting open, honest and respectful conversations with people who may be affected by this critical project,” Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan said.

The Victorian Government has warned the construction of the Metro tunnel will cause “significant disruption”.

“The nature of that disruption will vary widely along the length of the corridor,” the government said in a statement, “however, it will include temporary noise and visual impacts during construction, changes to infrastructure close to houses and businesses and, in some cases, acquisition of property.”

Melbourne Metro Rail Authority – a government body – has committed to work closely with all affected property owners, traders and residents “to ensure they understand the project and the process”.

Information sessions will be held in October and November.

The tunnel is part of the Melbourne Metro Rail Project, designed to transform the public transport network in Victoria’s capital by unlocking capacity in the centre of the train system. It’s estimated the project will provide room for 20,000 extra passengers in the network every hour.

The Andrews Labor Government is continuing to appeal to the Commonwealth for funding for the project. The state has committed $4.5 billion already.

“Melbourne needs Melbourne Metro Rail,” Allan campaigned, “without it our city will grind to a halt.”

Photo: Port Kembla Coal Terminal

‘Coal is amazing’ campaign shredded on social media

A marketing campaign launched this week to promote the value of coal burning to the Australian public went down like a lead balloon on social media.

“Whichever way you look at it, this little black rock provides many benefits to our economy, wages, infrastructure and everyday lifestyle,” the new campaign from the Minerals Council of Australia says.

“Coal. It’s an amazing thing.”



The campaign appeared on TV, in print and online this week. It directs people to the website littleblackrock.com.au, where viewers can read about the important role of coal in society, its benefits, the evolution of coal technology, and the future of coal.

The campaign was accepted by some. One commenter on the media and marketing site Mumbrella wrote, “Nothing this ad said was wrong. Plus, coal is the reason we had the industrial revolution – you know, that thing that is responsible for everything you currently have and hold dear.”

News Corp commentator Andrew Bolt shared the advertisement, writing, “The Minerals Council of Australia starts fighting for an industry which will be up against the wall should Labor and the Greens triumph at next year’s election.”

Others were not so accepting.

“Talk about fossil fuels,” one Mumbrella commenter wrote. “Sometimes the fossils are the ones peddling it.”

Another raised a salient point: “What tagline or idea … would NOT be lampooned by anti-coal exponents? I can’t think of one.”

Users of the popular online forum Reddit criticised the campaign for being “propaganda,” with one user labelling the video, “absolutely disgusting”.

“I really can’t believe that some people would agree to even be the voice over on this… I’m infuriated.”

On Twitter, the campaign was taken over with users employing the hashtag, #coalisamazing to criticise the coal industry.







Satirical news site The Shovel, meanwhile, had a somewhat light-hearted criticism of the campaign, along with the Abbott Government.


Abbott Busted Watching Coal Video Instead Of Doing Work (Again!)

Posted by The Shovel on Monday, September 7, 2015


What do you think of the campaign? Has it been treated fairly? Is it a good idea? Share your thoughts below.

Sydney light rail. Artist's impression: Transport for NSW

Media hammering light rail is short-term view of long-term benefit

COMMENT: When I was in high school, my parents renovated the family home, and I had to move into a smaller room for six months. Outrageous, I know.

I sulked about it and dragged my feet, no doubt causing unnecessary frustration and stress for my parents along the way.

I acted that way because I lacked foresight; I was unable to recognise my short-term inconvenience would have a long-term payoff.

The installation of a light rail line is a long-term, transformational project.

Light rail is not always going to be the best option, of course. Discussion over the long-term value of any major project – both within the industry, and in mass media – should always be encouraged.

But media whining over short-term, necessary disruptions as part of a major project is just a waste of time. Worse, it will more than likely result in a waste of public money.

The NSW government has decided that a light rail line is the right choice for the Sydney CBD. So it’s moving forward with pre-construction works already underway, and a hefty construction schedule slated for the next 24 months.

As part of the plan, the state government has launched the Tomorrow’s Sydney campaign.

The gist of the campaign is to let Sydneysiders know there will be significant disruptions over the next few years, in and around the Sydney CBD. This is a fact that neither the campaign, nor the ministers involved, have shied away from.

“Building a light rail [line] will not be easy and sacrifices are needed,” transport minister Andrew Constance said in July. “There will be disruption,” he said, “but the change will eventually be for the better when light rail is in action.”

Despite this, articles on light rail in Sydney’s media have focused almost exclusively on dramatising every imaginable aspect of the works. Stories have focused on moving cycleways, narrowing footpaths, changing bus schemes, growing traffic jams, interference with retail; the list goes on.

Stories about the benefits of the finished product, however, have been few and far between.

In its latest heinous act, the state government announced on August 13 it was moving some of the George Street works forward, so they would not impact retail businesses as heavily during the Christmas shopping period.

This is how the Daily Telegraph chose to break that news in its August 14 edition:


Daily Telegraph, August 14, 2015.
Daily Telegraph, August 14, 2015.


Elsewhere, opposition transport spokesperson Ryan Park asked the ABC why the government has made this change now, considering “Christmas occurs on the same day each and every year”. A good point, you have to admit.

But Park also used the opportunity to stress the impact of temporary disruptions. “In eight weeks’ time, this city will grind to a halt,” he was quoted. “George Street will essentially be shut down.”

Sydney’s busiest retail street will be ‘shut down’? No.

Shops will remain open, and foot traffic will remain. To say the street will ‘grind to a halt’ seems a bit dramatic.

So far, the government has spent $6 million on Tomorrow’s Sydney, a change management campaign, worth spending money on.

But $6 million of public funding is already a big number to put in headlines. And Constance says he’s prepared to keep spending money on Tomorrow’s Sydney until the campaign is successful.

I’m sure the media would not hesitate to lampoon the government if that spending was to increase. But perhaps if people asked why more money was needed to win the public over, they may find the media itself is the primary culprit stalling change.

Relax, everyone. The government is renovating your already world-class city. There’s no point sulking over it.

Alstom Coradia Polyvalent for Algeria's SNTF. Graphic: Alstom

Alstom to deliver 17 intercity trains to Algeria

Alstom, one of the four organisations shortlisted to deliver NSW’s next intercity fleet, has won a contract to deliver 17 of its Coradia Polyvalent intercity trains to Algeria’s Société Nationale des Transports Ferroviaires (SNTF).

The contract, worth around 200 million euros (A$302 million), will have the first train delivered in January 2018, according to the French-headquartered Alstom.

The investment is part of SNTF’s programme to modernise and extend its network.

The trains will link capital Algiers to other cities within Algeria, including Oran (350km away), Annaba (420km), Constantine (320km) and Béchar (750km).

“We are delighted that SNTF has placed its confidence in Alstom,” the transport company’s senior vice president in the Middle East, Gian-Luca Erbacci said.

“Already adopted by SNCF and the French regions since 2009, Coradia Polyvalent is the ideal choice to meet Algeria’s transport needs.

“Algerian passengers can be sure that they are travelling on trains with the latest technical innovations, combining comfort, performance and protection of the environment.”

The Coradia Polyvalent for Algeria is a dual-mode train (diesel and electric, 25 kV) able to travel at 160km/h. With a total length of 110 metres, the train has six carriages and provides capacity for 265 passengers.

In its intercity tender, Transport for NSW is asking for trains to run on the electrified NSW TrainLink network. It’s also reportedly after double-decker trains – a key difference between TfNSW’s needs, and the trains being delivered to Algeria.

But there are also a lot of similarities between the Alstom trains for Algeria, and the ones it might offer to TfNSW in the next stage of the tender process.

Alstom says its Coradia Polyvalent fleet is adapted to hot conditions, with a highly efficient air conditioning system. The trains have low-floor entry ways, allowing for easy access.

“Accessible to everyone, particularly passengers with reduced mobility, [the train design] respects the latest [European mobility] standards,” the company said. “Finally, the train’s design and highly efficient motors eliminate noise and vibration for unparalleled comfort.”

Alstom’s site in Reichshoffen, France will design, produce and test the 17 trains. Five other French sites will contribute to the project: Saint-Ouen for the design, Le Creusot for the bogies, Ornans for the motors and alternators, Tarbes for the traction chains and Villeurbanne for the on-board electronics and passenger information system.

Alstom is competing for the NSW intercity tender with three other organisations: a consortium of Downer EDI Rail and CNR Changchun Railway Vehicles; a consortium of UGL Rail Services, Mitsubishi Electric Australia and CSR Corporation; and Swiss group Stadler Bussnang.