Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Hunter Valley network on track; North Coast remains closed

The Australian Rail Track Corporation is still unable to operate serviced beyond Maitland, but main line operations for local passenger trains have returned to the Hunter network since it was closed last week due to flooding.

The ARTC said on Sunday night that the Hunter Valley network should be opened by Monday morning, but confirmed that the North Coast line would remain closed.

Following flooding and high winds last week, the ARTC shut the Hunter Valley network between Maitland and the Port of Newcastle, along with its North Coast network.

Initially the authority believed it could re-open the Hunter network on Friday last week, but flood waters were slow to retreat, and the ARTC announced a further closer to the Hunter network of 48 hours.

The ARTC said on Monday that it would be able to give a forecast for return to services between Maitland and the port sometime on Tuesday afternoon.

“With flood waters dropping over the weekend and improved weather conditions, ARTC teams have been able to make good progress with repairs to the track between the Port of Newcastle and Maitland,” the ARTC said.

A Pacific National test train was run on the track to de-scale the rail and ensure all repaired signaling and track circuitry was working properly.

“The Maitland flood gates remain up but water has been dropping at a rate that we expect the gates to be removed tomorrow morning,” the ARTC said.

“There are still sections of track with high water levels around Wallis Creek, and this will be the key area of focus for our team after the flood gates come down.

“Some parts of the network are still without power, and there remains a sizeable track repair and signalling repair job to take place over coming days.”

The ARTC said crews will continue to work through the week to return the track to normal operating conditions.

“Residents are advised that this will involve heavy track repair machines working around-the-clock conducting track resurfacing and rail grinding.

“This is essential to get the network back up and running and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

The corporation said it will continue to work with customers and the Hunter coal chain on an operational start up plan for coal, passenger and general freight that will take into account the need to meet passenger timetables, provide coal customers with access to the port, “and above all, safety”.

The North Coast network, which sustained substantial damage during last week’s extreme weather – including severe ballast washouts and several landslips – remains closed, with no forecast for re-opening yet offered by the ARTC.

rail damage - Transport NSW

Hunter network to remain closed; North Coast significantly damaged

After it originally thought it could re-open its Hunter Valley network as early as Thursday afternoon, the Australian Rail Track Corporation has announced the network will remain closed for at least 48 hours longer.

Re-opening of the ARTC’s North Coast network looks to be even further away, with significant damage recorded and crews scrambling just to get a grip on just how much repair work is needed.

The ARTC said on Wednesday night the Hunter Valley coal network was expected to re-open on Thursday afternoon, but warned that “the reopening [of the Hunter Valley network] remains contingent on improved weather conditions and receding water levels which continue to hamper repair works.”

It appears that those conditions did not improve for the ARTC overnight.

Due to high flood waters, the Maitland flood gates being closed and continued difficult conditions, the forecast for a return of Hunter Valley operations was revised on Thursday around noon, with a re-opening pushed back “an additional 48 hours at the earliest.”

The ARTC closed the Hunter and North Coast networks on Monday, due to  extreme weather and flooding in the region.

With the extended difficult conditions, the Hunter Valley network will remain closed now, meaning Hunter coal train, freight and passenger services remain suspended.

Re-opening of the North Coast network, which suffered major damage to its ballast at various points, looks to be even further away, however.

“The ARTC network along the mid-North Coast around Dungog remains closed and there is no current forecast for re-opening,” ARTC said on Wednesday.

“Initial track inspections indicate more than 18 sites have experienced significant washaways or landslips and each will require significant reinstatement works.”

ARTC confirmed on Thursday that its crews have now identified 22 work sites along the line, which require “significant repair works,” with “a large amount of track underwater”.

In one of those landslip sites, the ARTC said, a large embankment, approximately 8m high and 75m in length, washed out and across the rail line.

“The high water has compounded the response task and 14km of track between Paterson and Telarah is either under water or still unable to be inspected due to flooding and access being closed off (both on foot and by road),” the ARTC said.

“Given the nature and the extent of the damage ARTC is mobilising a dedicated project team to coordinate the repair and recovery efforts required. Project planning and sourcing equipment, material, supplies and other resources is underway.”

The ARTC said the damage to the rail line is believed to be worse than that of the 2007 floods in the same region.

“The scale of the response and high water levels mean ARTC is unable to provide a forecast for a return to operations for this section of the network.”

Luas tram stopped at Abbey Street, Dublin, 2012. Photo William Murphy

How to build light rail in our cities without emptying the public purse

COMMENT: Light rail helps urban development far more than roads to, the challenge is how to pay for it, writes Curtin University professor of sustainability Peter Newman.

In cities all around Australia, light rail is being considered as a solution to a range of urban problems. Perth, Newcastle, Parramatta, Bendigo, Canberra, Cairns and Hobart have all considered trying to do what many European and American cities have done – create new development around light rail.

Often, though, the high costs of these projects mean that the debate can soon become a question of whether buses might do the job just as well. But what if private financing could allow the preferred option of light rail to stay on the table?

Advocates of the cheaper bus mass transit option might ask whether there is truly any fundamental difference between steel wheels and rubber ones. My answer is that it’s not just a question of trams versus buses – it’s really an issue of rail-based versus road-based urban development. The former can attract private financing, while the latter does not.

 

Driving development

Most of the world’s urban development over the past 50 years has been road-based. The assumption has been that most people will drive, with the odd bus laid on to pick up those who don’t.

Yet in recent years there has been a revival of rail-based urban development, which brings reduced traffic, creates more walkable and lively places to live and work, and most of all attracts developers and financiers to enable denser, mixed-use development.

Perth’s beleaguered MAX light rail project – now mothballed in favour of a bus rapid transit service – was designed to deliver precisely these benefits. But when the bus lobby sidles in and whispers “we can do exactly the same for half the price”, they get a sympathetic ear from transport planners who are trained to get people efficiently from A to B, without thinking about whether they are also delivering good urban development.

Rubber-wheeled public transport does not create dense, mixed-use urban centres. Having examined examples around the world, I have found none that can be claimed to have resulted in more focused urbanity apart from already dense third world cities where BRT’s have been successful in attracting patronage as they get people out of traffic. In the United States, the past 20 years of dramatic growth in public transport has seen light rail grow by 190% and heavy rail by 52%, while bus transport has contracted by 3%.

It is no surprise that developers, banks and governments in developed cities have returned to light and heavy rail to help regenerate urban centres, while cities with rubber-wheeled public transport continue to be dominated by cars and urban sprawl. On current trends, Perth itself could conceivably turn into a 240 km sprawl stretching from Myalup to Lancelin, most of it made of nothing but car-dependent housing – more Mad Max than MAX.

Perth’s planners know that they must redevelop and create activity centres, but they do not control the decisions on transport. Transport planners, meanwhile, do not seem to see that their choices have impacts that go beyond simple modes of transport.

 

Enter the private sector

Here is my possible solution, which Infrastructure Australia has previously tried to get state governments to adopt: get the private sector involved in the planning stage, as well as the delivery and operations, of any light rail project. Light rail lends itself to private-sector involvement, but only if the development outcomes being sought are built into the whole project, rather than being an afterthought.

The model for Infrastructure Australia’s approach was the A$1 billion Gold Coast Light Rail, which runs through areas that had lots of potential for redevelopment. Thus the funding was provided by a public-private partnership, with expressions of interest sought from private bidders to design, finance, build, own, operate and develop land as a basis for funding.

Government base funds and a general set of guidelines were delivered and bids were sought. Five consortia from around the world competed on this basis and included most of the world’s main consulting groups with expertise in light rail.

However, the group of transport experts (mostly main roads engineers) set up by the Queensland Government to deliver the light rail argued that they did not have the expertise to manage the land-development part of the exercise, and successfully appealed to avoid this approach. Instead, funding was delivered through an annual transport levy across the whole Gold Coast local government area.

The private sector consortia were well prepared for the land-development option but of course went ahead without it. Keolis won the tender and delivered a first-class light rail. As soon as the route was announced, developers from around the world bought up all the best sites and are now delivering them, albeit for their own interests rather than channelling back to the project.

This is the way to do it if you have tax funds to provide the capital and the operational expenses, and if you can find the initial public funding. But most politicians today say they do not have sufficient government funds for a light rail so they need to consider the cheaper bus option. Do we have to take second best?

The rubber-wheel option is never going to deliver the regeneration that many of Australia’s cities need. We need to be brave enough to go for the better option, the rail system, and that means embracing the public-private partnership financing model.

 

Bringing the private sector on board

To go for a full private-sector approach you must integrate redevelopment into every stage of the project. This is how you do it. Call for expressions of interest for private companies to design, build, finance, own and operate the light rail link and, crucially, make sure this includes land-development options (rather than letting in outside developers). This would help to create funds that can be used to finance and to operate the system.

Government needs to contribute a base grant and an operational fund that could be more specifically focused along the areas where the biggest benefits are felt in the corridor itself, where land values will go up most. Private expertise will ensure that the best sites are chosen for the light rail route. These land-value increases will flow through taxes into treasury and can be set aside in a dedicated light rail fund for ongoing operations and/or for raising finance (rather than instituting a city-wide levy as the Gold Coast did).

The approach, called tax increment financing, allows infrastructure to be built where it can be shown that the taxes would not have been generated without it. A bus instead of a light rail would not generate such land-value increases, and hence the extra tax dollars would not flow. For instance, Perth’s southern rail line raised land values around stations by 42% over 5 years and could have raised 60-80% of the capital cost if tax increment financing had been used.

Across Australia we should accept that there is a real choice over steel or rubber wheeled development. We can choose MAX over Mad Max. But are we brave enough to go one step further than the Gold Coast and involve private financing?

Some might object to our public transport being in private hands, but if we manage it well, this kind of partnership with private expertise can deliver beautiful cities as well as beautiful trains.

Peter Newman is professor of sustainability at the Curtin University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

Hampton Railway Station in 2014. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / User thebusofdoom

Architect named for Hampton Station precinct

Victoria’s minister for public transport Jacinta Allan has named epc.Pacific as developer for the transformation of the Hampton Station precinct in Melbourne’s south east.

Allan said epc.Pacific will be tasked with making better use of the land around Hampton Station, making it safer, more attractive and more accessible for commuters and the local community.

“This project will make the Hampton Station area safet and easier to get to, with shops, housing and public spaces on the doorstep of public transport,” Allan said.

Part of the proceeds from the development will go towards transport improvements, which could include station upgrades, the creation of a station forecourt and public plaza, an improved bus interchange and a new commuter car parking facility, the minister added.

In collaboration with the local council, VicTrack last year spoke to local residents and commuters about “their vision for the future” of the station and its surrounding area.

The community was keen to have the station better integrated with surrounding shops and housing, and also expressed a desire for a safer precinct around the station.

Community consultation will continue later this year.

“This project is good for commuters and the local community,” minister for housing Martin Foley said.

“The government will work closely with tenants throughout the project to ensure their voices are heard, and any disruption during construction is kept to a minimum.”

Hampton is on Melbourne’s Sandringham line.

John Anderson - Toowoomba City Council

Anderson calls for rail innovation

Australian Centre for Rail Innovation (ACRI) boss John Anderson says innovation in the rail industry could be the key to the future prosperity of Australia’s logistics sector.

“For every kilogram of weight removed from a locomotive, you can add another kilogram of goods,” Anderson told the Australian Logistics Council’s annual forum last week.

“When carriages are made stronger and lighter, again more freight can be carried.”

Addressing some 400 guests at the ALC forum, Anderson said alternative materials that do not compromise safety, performance, recyclability or add to maintenance costs present great opportunities for rail and more research into materials technology is needed.

Given Australia’s world-leading position in the area of heavy haul, he said, export opportunities await.

As well as research into materials technology, Anderson believes further nuanced research is needed to highlight the safety and economic gains before governments and the public can be persuaded of the case for change and the case for investing.

“When the research base is persuasive, a national bipartisan rail policy is more likely to emerge. That will benefit all in the industry and, more importantly, consumers and business who directly or indirectly use rail.”

Anderson said more research was also needed in areas of:

  • track conditioning monitoring
  • technologies for improving rolling stock performance
  • new technologies for improving worker and passenger safety and operational efficiency
  • improving transport mobility in urban centres
  • economic analysis for calculation projections for population and freight movements for planning purposes
  • calculating the costs and efficiency of links between rail and other modes of transport

The former deputy prime minister stressed the importance of concentrating on where rail does well or where expansion will pay off rather than wasting resources, saying: “You can only make that judgement after the research has been done”.

“Australian rail manufacturing faces strong competition,” he added, “particularly from China, and suffers from inadequate infrastructure, historic under-investment and the legacy of interstate rivalry.

“This is perhaps why the case for research into better methods is more pressing.”

Anderson said ACRI hopes to “publish research to the widest possible audience and to contribute more broadly to the Australian and New Zealand public debate about rail transport and transport more broadly, with the aim of delivering economic and safety benefits to the whole community”.

He argued that rail needs national standards and national regulation in matters like product approval and validation, bidding processes, safety, wayside energy storage, data and communication, intermodal cargo handling, electronic systems, and risk management.

ACRI was launched in 2014 to build upon the research base generated by the Cooperative Research Centre for Rail Innovation, which was part of the Federal Government’s general program of scientific research and ended after seven years on June 30, 2014.


Originally published in Lloyd’s List Australia.

Mineral Resources bulk ore transport system BOTS

MinRes boss comments on ‘iron ore monorail’

Chris Ellison, managing director of Mineral Resources, has spoken publicly about the company’s ambitious plan to construct a first-of-its-kind, driverless monorail for iron ore transport in the Pilbara.

The bulk ore transport system (BOTS) was described by Mineral Resources in its half yearly presentation late in February as “occupying a niche between heavy rail and conveyor”.

“BOTS is an autonomous system utilising electrically powered, purpose designed wagons to transport bulk ore materials.”

The first instance of BOTS, which is set to be built for BC Iron’s Iron Valley mine – but will have around 30mtpa of excess capacity for third parties – will consist of 13 bottom-dumper wagons and one ‘power car’ per set, with each wagon bearing a 15 tonne payload.

Each 2km driverless train will consist of 20 to 24 sets, which translates to between 260 and 312 wagons, and up to 4600 tonnes in total payload.

BOTS will be able to travel at 80km/h fully loaded, will have fully redundant communications, and will be controlled via a remote operations control centre, Mineral Resources said in February.

Despite being a line of wagons on rails, Mineral Resources insists BOTS is not simply a ‘railway’, with the distinction coming down to how the wagons are moved.

“Unlike a railway system, BOTS does not rely upon a locomotive to pull the wagons,” the company explained, “but instead utilises a diesel/LNG powered electricity generation system that distributes electricity to the individual wagons for self-propulsion.

“BOTS vehicles will move on a purpose built, elevated structure that will pass over existing road and rail infrastructure and will not impact existing surface water flows.”

Road and rail crossings, as well as creek crossings, will be navigated by 45m span trusses up to 10m high. Creek crossings will be reinforced for high flow and debris protection.

Mineral Resources thinks the BOTS can “revolutionise” transport of bulk ore, by offering a cost effective solution in the face of the iron ore price slump, while also being environmentally responsible, and focusing on a reduced development footprint, and an easy removal down the line.

Ellison, in an interview with Fairfax this week, said the project was designed to be a solution for miners when – as he believes – the iron ore price drops below US$50 a tonne.

“We want to make money when iron ore is sub-US$50 a tonne and we want our clients to as well,” Ellison was quoted as saying by the AFR.

“What we really think we can do is help Australian mining get down to the lower quartile [in terms of costs]. What it needs to be is Australia competing with other countries, not each other, if we want to make Australia wealthy.

“If iron ore is going to China and Japan, it’s better if it’s Australian iron ore.”

The first BOTS project will provide 12mtpa of capacity for BC Iron’s mine, Iron Valley – a 331km journey from the export facilities at Port Hedland.

“Other mines along the route could add an extra 30mtpa of iron ore,” Mineral Resources said in February, with “discussions in progress” relating to that capacity.

The company hopes to start work on the project by the end of this year. It hopes to handle the first Iron Valley ore on BOTS by mid-2017. It says the WA government has been positive in its response to BOTS.

If the ambitious Pilbara project goes ahead, and is successful, Mineral Resources says it has “wide-spread potential applications” across the entire bulk commodities industry.

‘Pave over the tracks’, think tank says

A British think tank has suggested commuters could pay 40% less for their journeys if the UK government ripped up some railways and replaced them with dedicated bus roads.

The Institute of Economic Affairs this week released a report, ‘Paving over the tracks: a better use of Britain’s railways?’

“The reluctance of policy makers to consider more efficient forms of public transport has led to expensive fares and sardine-like conditions for commuters across the country,” the IEA said on Tuesday.

According to the IEA’s report, above-ground commuter railways transport a quarter of a million passengers into London during the morning peak hour.

That works out to about 10,000 commuters per track, “many of whom have to stand during their journey”, the IEA said.

“150 express coaches, each seating 75 individuals would be able to carry the same number of commuters while occupying one seventh of the capacity of a one-lane busway, of a similar width to that required by a train,” the IEA said.

The British think tank said the busways could offer comparable, if not shorter travel times, and could do so at a cheaper cost than existing railways.

The IEA said rail had received a “disproportional” amount of funding compared to alternate modes of transport, and that this needed to be fixed.

“Individuals in the UK are far more likely to travel by car than train, with 90% of passengers and 70% of freight traffic carried by roads,” the group said. “Despite this disparity, state funding of railways is just 30% lower than that spent on roads.”

Report co-author and IEA transport head Dr Richard Wellings said politicians were to blame.

“Ongoing interference by politicians in the rail industry has led to everyone getting a raw deal,” Wellings said.

“Passengers face increasingly expensive fares only to fight their way onto trains during peak times and taxpayers continue to prop up an industry whose importance to the country is disproportionally small relative to the level of resources it receives.

“Adopting more efficient methods of transport could offer considerable benefits to passengers and the taxpayer alike. But only when the sector is liberalised from rigid state control, will we see such alternatives being seriously considered.”

The report can be viewed here.

 

5 most important storylines from Queensland election

The scrapping of government plans to help fund a proposed shared railway through Queensland’s resource-rich Galilee Basin is just one of the major storylines for rail and resources industry to monitor in the fallout of Queensland’s election.

Shared Galilee infrastructure on knife’s edge

Campbell Newman’s plans to set aside a portion of taxpayers’ money for the development of a shared rail line and associated infrastructure through the Galilee is on the ropes, with its future dependent on the balance of power in parliament.

Prior to the election Newman said a re-elected LNP Government would work to provide miners in the Galilee Basin with a shared rail line that would connect their proposed mining projects with Abbot Point, or another export facility, on the coast.

The now ex-premier said his party would provide at least some of the funds for the development of that infrastructure.

But Annastacia Palaszczuk, leader of the opposition going into the election, and likely the next premier of Queensland, is against the funding.

Palaszczuk said in the lead-up to Sunday’s election that Galilee miners should have to be viable to succeed without government support, and that such financial assistance for a shared piece of infrastructure would not come from a Labor Government.

However, without a majority in parliament, Labor would need to ally itself with smaller parties and independents.

Katter’s Australia Party, led by Rob Katter – the son of polarising former federal politician Bob Katter – could be key to Labor getting its policies through parliament, should the party not hold the majority vote.

At time of writing (with roughly 85% of all votes counted), predictions have Labor winning 44 or 45 seats. With 45, the party would have all the power it needs to get its legislation through parliament.

But with just 44 seats, Labor would need to ally itself with Katter’s party (2 seats), or Nicklin independent Peter Wellington (1 seat), or with all three seats, to form a majority vote.

If Labor holds 44 seats after the election, and the LNP holds 42, however, the LNP could strike a deal with Katter’s party and the independent Wellington, giving it the 45 voting seats it needs to have its way in parliament.

If the LNP holds the balance of power, it could still go through with its plans for the Galilee. And experts are predicting that in order to strike a deal with Katter’s party, Labor might have to commit to a similar level of funding for the Galilee project.

Recognising 40 years of railway innovation

Australia’s premier applied research centre in railway technology last week celebrated four decades of innovative solutions in mining and commuter rail systems.

A Celebration of 40 Years of Railway Research andTechnology was held last Thursday at the Park Hyatt, Melbourne, to celebrate the 40 years of railway research and technology by Monash University’s Institute of Railway Technology (IRT).

Originally part of research activities undertaken for the companies now known as BHP Billiton Iron Ore and Rio Tinto Iron Ore, IRT is now an applied research centre at Monash University. It provides technical assistance to the world’s three biggest iron ore producers, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Vale (Brazil), and more than 90 other railway entities, including leading commuter rail authorities.

IRT, which has clients in several countries, specialises in providing comprehensive solutions to technical issues in existing rail systems, whether they transport iron ore, freight or commuters. IRT is also a leader in remotely monitoring tracks and rolling stock using cutting-edge technology to detect faults before catastrophic failures occur.

Monash University’s senior deputy vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor (research) Professor Edwina Cornish, congratulated IRT on leading the Australian railway technology field for four decades.

“The Institute of Railway Technology is a great example of how universities and industry can collaborate to develop solutions that drive technology forward,” Prof Cornish said.

“IRT was born out of industry need and now real-world problems continue to drive its agenda.”

Director of IRT, Ravi Ravitharan, said the institute was set to build on its success.

“IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements of the rail industry,” Ravitharan said.

“Being part of Australia’s largest university, IRT is well-placed to continue to lead the railway research and technology needs of the rejuvenated railway industry.”

The Victorian minister for public transport Terry Mulder, delivered the keynote address at the gala dinner and general manager of infrastructure at the Hong Kong rail authority MTR, Richard Keefe, and rail engineering manager at Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Leland LeBreton, both long term clients of IRT, also spoke at the event.

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | Newcastle City Hall
www.informa.com.au/heavyhaulrail

Rail turnout - RISSB

Future locos to focus on fuel and emissions

Technology roadmaps for locomotives of the future focus on two key areas according to GE Transportation’s Pete Lawson: fuel and emissions.

“The reason for that is, there is an increasing emissions regulatory environment where we sell locomotives and…where there isn’t a regulatory environment, anytime we can lower fuel is a good thing for better operations,” Lawson told Rail Express yesterday at AusRAIL PLUS.

About 75 per cent of the diesel electric market worldwide is operating under some kind of local emission regulation. America leads the way in terms of the toughest and most restrictive regulatoryenvironment for locomotives.

“The EPA doesn’t just look at meeting the levels for emissions when you ship your product new, it also requires the unit to be compliant for its useful life and…the EPA has the ability to grab a unit at any point in time…and test it to validate emissions are being maintained,” Lawson said.

Australia has no emission regulations for locomotives and nothing planned for the future. However, Lawson believes this is necessary as a responsible “citizen of the world”, especially since there is existing technology which allows locomotives to operate at significantly lower emissions levels.

The Railway Technical Society of Australasia’s executive chairman Martin Baggott told Rail Expresseven though locomotive emissions are not legislated in Australia eventually, “one way or the other this will come about”, either through direct regulation or implied through an ETS or a carbon charge.

But the Federal Government’s current ETS does not include transportation –something the industry has taken issue with – with implications for companies having to set their own emissions benchmarks.

Lawson’s final words to AusRAIL PLUS delegates were timely for industry players in Australia.

Effective emissions regulations in America has resulted in significant improvements for theenvironment, safety, operations and cost, he said.
“As a rail industry it’s critically important that we be an extremely active participant in the development of any emissions safety or regulation. At the end of the day the OEMs and operators are going to have to live with those regulations and implement them and having input and a voice in the development of those is critical,” he said.

“We must continue to invest and look forward in technology; it’s difficult to do in a downward cycle, but if you stop and take your eye off the future, the catch-up is nearly impossible.

“Cleaner and greener can be a very cost effective solution for operators and do not have to be mutually exclusive.”