Aurizon train on Queensland Rain Network. Photo: Aurizon

Aurizon delays EA terminations ahead of Federal appeal

Aurizon has agreed to wait until a Federal Court appeal, before it terminates expired enterprise agreements covering the majority of its Queensland rail workforce.

The rail operator is in the middle of a prolonged bargaining saga with a number of unions, including AFULE, QSU, CEPU, AMWU, RTBU, APESMA and Together Queensland. 12 expired agreements, covering the bulk of Aurizon’s workforce, are still in dispute.

Under the Fair Work Act, expired enterprise agreements remain in place until they are replaced with new agreements.

But in what Aurizon managing director and chief executive Lance Hockridge called “a landmark decision,” the Fair Work Commission in mid-April ruled that Aurizon could terminate the 12 agreements on May 18.

If Aurizon terminates the expired deals, workers’ employment will be governed instead by the Rail Industry Award 2010, the National Employment Standards and individual contracts of employment; all of which were described by Aurizon as “less favourable” to workers.

Ahead of the May 18 termination date, however, the unions have appealed the Fair Work Commission’s decision to the Federal Court.

And Aurizon said on May 5 that it had agreed to hold off on terminating the enterprise agreements, until the Federal Court hears the case.

Hockridge said that while Aurizon does not accept that there is any error in the Fair Work Commission decision, the operator is prepared to suspend acting on the termination until the hearing begins on May 21.

“We want to minimise the disruption to our employees and customers,” Hockridge said on Tuesday.

“After negotiations extending two years we can wait a few more days to let the legal process play out,” he reasoned.

Aurizon said that following any enterprise agreement terminations, it would undertake to maintain a number of conditions such as base wages, for the next six months. But, the operator warned, a range of other terms and conditions currently “enjoyed” by employees would be impacted.

“At the end of the day we want a fair deal for our employees that is competitive and allows our company to grow,” Hockridge explained.

“That is why while the legal process is underway we will still continue to negotiate in good faith with the unions on the substantive and unresolved issues associated with the new agreements.

“Therefore we urge the unions to engage in meaningful and productive dialogue on the proposed new agreements.”

rail damage - Transport NSW

ARTC brings North Coast re-opening forward

After “significant progress” repairing its heavily-damaged North Coast network in the past week, the Australian Rail Track Corporation has brought forward the re-opening of the interstate line.

The ARTC now believes it can open the North Coast line between Telarah and Taree for operations as of 10am this Saturday, May 9.

“This will allow a full return to Sydney-Brisbane, export coal and passenger rail services from this timeframe onwards,” the ARTC said on Tuesday.

The North Coast network, along with the Hunter coal network, were both knocked out of action late in April by extreme weather and flooding.

Crucial to the export of coal from northern NSW, the Hunter network was reopened roughly a week after it had been shut.

But the North Coast line, which sustained significant damage, including land and ballast washaways, in almost 50 sites, has remained closed into May.

The ARTC late last week announced it would not be able to re-open the line until May 17. Operator Aurizon sent home its staff from its Brisbane-Sydney operations until May 18.

But the good news over the weekend means services to the interstate network may return earlier than expected.

“ARTC made significant progress with repair works between Telarah and Dungog over the weekend and as a result we are able to bring forward the forecast to return the ARTC network along the mid North Coast operations, with some certainty,” the ARTC said.

The ARTC said the forecast has been brought forward due to heavy rains in the area last week fortunately avoiding work sites, as well round-the-clock work periods and the ability to deliver truck movements from Martin’s Creek Quarry, in double shifts, 18-hours a day.

The cancellation of the local Tocal Agricultural Days also helped, the ARTC added, as it allowed for consistent access over three days through the main access point to the major washaway sites.

“We cannot thank the Agricultural College enough for their assistance over the last two weeks in allowing us access to the main repair sites,” the ARTC said, “their support has been immense in allowing us to return operations quickly, safely and ahead of schedule.

“Following completion of civil works later this week, there will be final track testing and certification requirements before the track can be formally reopened.”

The ARTC said its operations staff is underway planning a return to service with its customers, and will manage a staged, balanced return to operations from Saturday morning onwards.

Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

Hot-air balloon accident could lead to new alcohol rules for rail

A 2012 hot-air balloon accident which killed 11 people could result in new rules surrounding alcohol testing in New Zealand’s rail industry.

NZ’s Ministry of Transport is seeking views on several options to manage drugs and alcohol in transport, following recommendations made by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission in its report on the 2012 Carterton hot-air balloon accident.

As a consequence of that fatal accident, the TAIC recommended legislation or regulations be introduced that will prescribe the allowable maximum levels for alcohol; prohibit the operation of aircraft, vessels or trains by people affected by drugs; require the implementation of drug and alcohol detection and deterrence regimes including random testing and the introduction of post-incident drug and alcohol testing.

NZ already manages drug and alcohol in transport through a variety of health and safety, employment and transport pieces of legislation and rules.

But the ministry is seeking feedback on whether rules, and penalties surrounding transport should be tightened.

It is asking for feedback on four ‘options’ which have emerged so far in the study:

  • Option 1 is to leave the current regime in place and increase educational efforts.
  • Option 2 would make commercial operators, that are not already under a legislative or regulatory regime, develop and implement specific management plans including mandatory testing.
  • Option 3 would require alcohol / drug testing after an incident but the tests would not include any extra enforcement or penalties beyond those that already exist.
  • Option 4 would set maximum alcohol limits across the commercial aviation, maritime and rail sectors with new specific-alcohol-related offences and penalties with police powers to test with “good cause” and also after an event.

In relation to Option 4, further comments are sought on whether limits should be the same across all modes of transport or whether they should differ sector by sector.

The paper also asks whether all safety-sensitive roles should be subject to testing.

Police would require extra powers to enter workplaces “such as ports, airports and rail yards to test employees,” the review suggests.

A further thought expressed in the options paper is giving power to the Transport Accident Investigation Commission to enable testing of any person involved in an incident regardless of whether or not that person was on a plane, ship or train.

Submissions can be made to the NZ Ministry of Transport before 5pm this Friday, May 8. Click here for more information.

This article originally appeared in our sister publication, Lloyd’s List Australia.

V/Line train. Photo: Victorian Government

11 rail commitments in Victorian Budget

Victorian transport minister Jacinta Allan has described the state’s 2015/16 Budget as “the biggest investment in public transport in Victoria’s history,” with as much as $6.32 billion committed to rail projects.

Allan said the Budget, which was handed down on Tuesday, lays the foundations for a public transport system able to move millions more people as Victoria grows into Australia’s most populous state.

“The Andrews Labor Government is investing in the transport projects that Victoria needs, so people can get to work and get back home to their families safer and sooner,” Allan said.

“This investment is a part of the Labor Government’s plan for a high-capacity, high-frequency train system where you don’t need a timetable – you just turn up and go.”

11 separate commitments directly relevant to rail are included in the 2015/16 Budget:

  1. $2.4 billion is committed to kick-start the Andrews Government’s planned removal of 50 of Victoria’s most dangerous and congested level crossings.The commitment will see the removal of at least 20 level crossings in the Government’s first term. If the Andrews Government lasts beyond that, and all 50 crossings are removed, the scheme will cost a total of between $5 and $6 billion.
  2. $2 billion  will be spent on 83 new trams and trains across the state’s metro and regional rail passenger networks. As announced on Monday, the funding will finance the delivery of:
    • 37 new high capacity metro trains ($1.3 billion)
    • 20 new E-Class trams ($274 million)
    • 21 new VLocity carriages ($257 million)
    • 5 new X’Trapolis trains ($90 million)
    • Maintenance and refurbishment to extend the life of the current Comeng train fleet ($75 million)
    • Extending the life of the B-Class Tram fleet ($21 million)
  3. $1.5 billion will go towards the first works to construct the Melbourne Metro Rail project. Premier Daniel Andrews made headlines in April by announcing the planned spending, which will go towards anticipated planning, design and significant early works for the project, which is expected to commence construction in 2018. The Melbourne Metro is expected to cost $9 to $11 billion to complete.
  4. Up to $220 million could go to the Murray Basin Rail project, once the business case for that project is finalised in coming months. $30 million has already been fast-tracked to this project, Allan said.
  5. $55.6 million is provided for Stage 1 of Victoria’s first trial of High-Capacity Signalling, set to be rolled out on the Sandringham line.
  6. $50.5 million is set aside to upgrade 52 level crossings
  7. $50 million has been committed to trial the Homesafe scheme – a plan for all night public transport on weekends, to begin on January 1, 2016. The Government says the plan is designed to get shift workers and late night travellers home safely.
  8. $18.8 million in funding is assigned to a road and rail minor works fund, intended to be used to pay for critical maintenance and improvements around the transport network.
  9. $13.1 million is committed to upgrade the Frankston Station precinct. $50 million is set to be made available for this project in future budgets, Allan said.
  10. $9 million is for the planning and preparation of the business case for the Mernda Rail Link, with remaining funds for the project to be assigned in future budgets.
  11. $2 million has been committed to the Bendigo Metro Rail Project.

All in all, the 2015/16 Budget commits to just over $6.3 billion in spending for rail or rail-related projects, but almost all of that spending sets the scene for even more state spending down the track. Projects like Melbourne Metro, the Rolling Stock plan, and the level crossing removal scheme will likely all see more money spent in coming years.

The Australasian Railway Association yesterday congratulated the Victorian Government for delivering “a strong, smart transport infrastructure plan that will not only future-proof the efficiency and productivity of the state’s heavy and light rail networks; but also provide greater certainty to local rolling stock manufacturers and suppliers”.

ARA’s new interim chairman, Bob Herbert, said the Budget was a clear sign that the state was listening to the rail industry.

“This announcement supports the ARA’s priority policies that were outlined to all the political parties prior to the Victorian election late last year, which included greater orders of rolling stock for metro and regional train services; acceleration of the renewal of Melbourne’s tram fleet with E-class light rail vehicles to meet growing demand; and a mandated 50 per cent local content in all rolling stock orders – all of which are outlined in this Budget,” Herbert said.

“Support from Government for our local rail manufacturing industry is imperative to its future, having watched the decimation of Australian rail manufacturing and the loss of jobs that goes with that over the past decade.

“This injection of funding in to the local rail manufacturing industry will ease ongoing pressures and enable industry to invest in new innovation and technologies as well as broaden the skill set of workers.”

WA grain dispute. Photo Oliver Probert / CBH / Ingram Publishing

CBH says it’s ‘backed into a corner’ by Brookfield

CBH boss Andy Crane has accused operator Brookfield of “holding a state-owned asset to ransom” as the grain handler’s rolling stock was temporarily forced off the rails last week.

CBH and Brookfield are engaged in protracted negotiations over a long-term agreement for CBH’s wagons to run on the WA grain network, which Brookfield leases exclusively from the state government.

An interim agreement expired at midnight on Thursday, April 30, forcing CBH’s $175 million rail fleet off the network.

“Brookfield Rail is effectively holding a state-owned asset to ransom,” Crane said at the time. “This is unacceptable.”

Brookfield and CBH reached a new interim deal on Friday, May 1. The deal will last until December 31, 2015, or until the sides reach a long-term agreement.

But CBH is not happy, saying it was forced to take an unfair interim deal to avoid an extended shut-down.

“We were backed into a corner by multinational Brookfield Rail,” Crane argued on Friday.

“The agreement will see an increase to current rail access costs across the network.

“Given the peak shipping demand over the next few months, [CBH] had no option but to sign this agreement, to protect the international reputation of WA’s grains industry.”

CBH and Brookfield are midway through a 90-day negotiation process under the Railway Access Code.

Brookfield is reportedly asking for more money than CBH is willing to pay under a new, long term access agreement.

The rail operator welcomed the new interim agreement, but said its focus remained on reaching a long-term deal.

“[The interim deal] will provide supply chain and certainty for WA grain growers well into their next harvest and also allows us to concentrate on reaching a sustainable longer-term deal with CBH,” Brookfield chief executive Paul Larsen said.

“We remain hopeful that both parties will negotiate in good faith to agree a long term deal by the end of the [Code’s] June deadline.”

In a separate statement, Brookfield defended its long-term desire to earn more money from CBH, saying it is a matter of public record that it has not received sufficient revenue from CBH to cover the costs of operating the grain network, or to fund the capital expenditure required to maintain the lines.

But CBH is steadfast in its views that the rail operator is trying to take more than its fair share.

“We will keep battling to make that a long term reality for WA growers, so that they can use this state owned asset in a fair and reasonable manner,” Crane said.

“WA growers are already paying too much for rail access.

“A clear example of this is the fact that Eastern State’s counterparts pay significantly less than Western Australian rail access costs.

“We will continue to fight for a fair go for WA’s grain industry.”

Asset Management conference speaker Photo Gnangarra

Tackling Australia’s massive rail asset management task

The scale of the asset management task in Australia’s rail industry is enormous, and it’s essential for the industry to understand the need to adopt consistent and interoperable standards, director of asset management at Network Rail Consulting Australia and New Zealand Philip Chalk says.

Chalk, who will speak at Informa’s upcoming Asset Management in Rail Conference, joined us to discuss his experience and give some insights into Network Rail Consulting’s asset policies.

 

Can you tell us a bit more about your background, your role at Network Rail Consulting and Network Rail Consulting as a company?

I have been involved in the planning, design and management of transport infrastructure for almost 40 years, during which time I have worked in numerous countries around the world starting in New Zealand.

I joined Network Rail Consulting a little over a year ago following a two year stint working as a strategic asset management advisor at Network Rail’s Milton Keynes complex.

Known as the Quadrant, it’s a striking new building that houses over 3000 mainly technical and engineering resources under one roof.

During my time there, Network Rail was preparing its strategic business plan for Control Period 5 which runs from April 2014 to March 2019. A critical part of this work was developing asset policies to justify its projected investment in maintenance and renewals.

Network Rail Consulting was launched in 2012 as the consulting arm of Network Rail, the owner and operator of Britain’s rail infrastructure. Our goal is to provide high-level technical consultancy services using skilled resources with hands-on rail experience to help clients improve their railway.

We operate only outside of Britain but can draw on the full range of skills and resources within Network Rail – a total of around 8,000 technical staff across all disciplines.

Our first permanent location, other than our London headquarters, was established in Sydney in 2013 to serve the Australian and New Zealand markets. This was followed by offices in the USA and, more recently, Saudi Arabia.

 

Network Rail has developed asset policies to drive maintenance and renewal interventions over the next 35 years – can you tell us a little bit more about these policies and how often will they be reviewed?

In a nutshell, the asset policies set out the major requirements and decision-making criteria for asset maintenance, inspections and renewals.

They take a risk-based approach while minimising whole life costs.

The policies also set out the specific asset outputs that will be achieved for the funding available in Control Period 5 (some $17 billion for maintenance and renewals) in terms of safety, availability and sustainability.

They form an important part of Network Rail’s asset management system and, as such, are subject to continuous improvement. However they will undergo a major review in the two years leading- up to Control Period 6 which starts in April 2020.

 

What are you most looking forward to at the conference?

Sharing experiences. One of the reasons I really enjoy working in asset management is that it is very collaborative and the practitioners tend to be very open about the challenges they face.

There is no right or wrong way so by sharing our stories we can all learn from each other, improve our approaches and move towards the goal of finding the optimal asset investment regime to deliver the agreed outputs to our customers – sustainably.

 

Chalk will deliver a Keynote Presentation on ‘Optimising maintenance and renewal interventions in Network Rail’ at the Sydney conference in July.

The conference will provide an essential forum to assess efforts towards collaboration, improving the sharing of data and standardising asset tracking, leading to massive cost efficiencies and significant improvements in levels of service.

Additional speakers will include:

  • Michael Killeen, 747 & 767 Fleet Manager, Qantas Engineering Operations, Qantas Airways
  • Maria Palazzolo, CEO, GS1 Australia
  • Warwick Talbot, General Manager, Engineering and System Integrity, Maintenance Directorate, Sydney Trains
  • Rob MacGregor, Business Development Manager, Inspired Systems
  • Paul Reichl, Senior Research Engineer and Data Scientist, Institute of Railway Technology, Monash University
  • Simon Ratcliffe, General Manager – Maintenance, Reliability & LCC, Downer Rail
  • Tony Frazer, GM Asset Management, Interstate Division, ARTC
  • Christopher Stinchcombe, Director, Rolling Stock, Yarra Trams

Asset management banner

Ceva road and rail logistics - Photo Ceva Logistics

Melbourne ‘super’ hub to feature rail access

CEVA Logistics will build a 166,000 square metre ‘super site’ west of Melbourne with access to Victoria’s road and rail network, the port of Melbourne and the city’s international airport.

The multi-user facility at Truganina will include four warehouses with a footprint of over 72,000m2, hardstand areas of 76,000m2, and an awning area of 15,600m2.

The hardstand area will comprise a 17,500m2 loading and staging area for car carrying operations and a 59,000m2 external storage and maneuvering zone.

The facility will be the largest CEVA facility in Australia, and the logistics firm says it is “ideally located to support industrial, automotive, consumer and retail customers”.

CEVA Australian and New Zealand managing director Casey Fisher said the company is excited about this investment, which will boost the its growth in the region and offer a more competitive, multimodal advantage to its customers.

Meanwhile, CEVA has almost-completed a 30,000m2 car carrying and international freight management site at Pinkenba in Queensland. The company is also extending its Auckland facility by 5500m2, and is developing a 34,000m2 “contract logistics and international freight multi-user facility” at Hazelmere in Western Australia.

“Plans are at an advanced stage to build a bespoke car-carrying facility also in WA,” Fisher added.

Each facility will include continuous loading docks and dock levelers; hail netting (at car-carrying facilities); advanced racking; traffic management and materials-handling equipment.

CEVA is a supply chain management company which operates in over 170 countries.


This article originally appeared in our sister publication, Lloyd’s List Australia.

(Left to Right) R U OK? chairman Mike Connaghan, ARA chief executive Bryan Nye, Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins, TrackSAFE chairman Bob Herbert, Minister for Health Sussan Ley, R U OK? ambassador Phil Waugh, NSW Trains chief executive Rob Mason. Photo: Oliver Probert

Rail’s R U OK? day “a great blueprint for other sectors”

Suicide prevention charity R U OK? has hailed rail’s first R U OK?Day in April as a success, with general manager Brendan Maher saying rail is setting a standard for other sectors to follow.

Rail R U OK?Day was launched on April 16, at a ceremony at Sydney’s Central Station. Across the country, more than 20 industry stakeholders took part in events in over 60 locations.

Reviewing the inaugural event, the R U OK? organisation said, “as an industry affected too often by suicide and other trauma, Rail R U OK?Day was a great campaign to help remind workers about the importance of looking out for one another”.

R U OK? general manager Brendan Maher said an industry-led initiative is a strong way to encourage regular, meaningful conversations 365 days of the year.

“R U OK? is committed to working with industry to ensure that everyone who has the capacity to ask ‘are you okay?’ will do so,” Maher said.

“This campaign was embraced enthusiastically by senior management and provides a great blueprint for other sectors to follow suit.”

Rail R U OK?Day was launched in conjunction with the TrackSafe Foundation.

R U OK? community ambassador Justin Geange helped with the launch, speaking at a number of events in the lead-up to the inaugural day.

Geange, a former Queensland Rail worker, has inspired many with his own experience of surviving a suicide attempt, and his progress through a difficult stage of his life.

Tony Abbott. Photo: Tony Abbot MP

Asciano, Aurizon, G&W and others tell Abbott: The time has come for Inland Rail

A collection of rail, logistics and freight companies have appealed, in an open letter to the prime minister, for the government to “finish the job” of building the Inland Rail project.

The letter, co-signed by Asciano, Aurizon, Genesee & Wyoming, Linfox, Qube, SCT Logistics and Toll Group, praised the government’s $300m commitment to planning the rail line, but said the industry believes “it is time for governments to take the next step to finish the job”.

“The good news is that freight volumes on Australia’s east coast are set to soar – doubling by 2030 and tripling by 2050,” the letter observed.

“This increase in economic activity will be great for Australian families and businesses in generating income and jobs, but also presents significant challenges for the nation.

“Inland Rail is the smart solution to these freight challenges, and the best time to build it is now.”

Published as a full-page ad in the Australian Financial Review over the weekend, the letter appeased with the government’s road-first mentality, saying, “The road transport sector is essential for this country and will remain so”.

“But rail has a much greater contribution to make in society as a whole, reducing pressure on our existing road infrastructure, essential services and the environment.”

Inland Rail, a project connecting Brisbane and Melbourne via a rail line through central NSW, is projected to cost several billion dollars to construct.

Federal minister for infrastructure and regional development Warren Truss announced early tenders for the project in March.

But project supporters – as evidenced by the open letter – don’t believe the government is working fast enough to kick-start the project.

“The first tenders for the improvement of some of the line that already exists have now been advertised,” the companies said.

“The companies are asking that Infrastructure Australia now be asked to review the business case ahead of Commonwealth investment in the project.

“About 80% of freight moving between the east and west coasts of Australia travels on rail. This is a highly productive, cost-effective and low emission service.

“Today, less than 30% of freight moving between Melbourne and Brisbane travels by rail. Building the Inland Rail is a huge opportunity for this country.”

“Prime Minister, as your Government considers the business case for Inland Rail over the coming months, we urge you to consider the points that we have raised today, and invest accordingly,” the letter concluded.

“Your decision to provide full construction funding for Inland Rail will create new jobs and have a transformative impact on Australia’s supply chain for generations to come.”

Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

ARTC confirms: North Coast closed to at least May 17

49 sites on the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s North Coast interstate network in NSW require repair work of some kind following last week’s flooding and storm damage.

A report from rail operator Aurizon on Wednesday suggested the interstate network between Brisbane and Sydney would be out of action until at least May 18. The ARTC on Thursday confirmed a preliminary forecast for reopening of the line of May 17.

“With a consistent supply of materials continuing, weather remaining cooperative and continued positive progress of existing works, ARTC’s initial target is to reopen the track for operations on 17 May 2015,” the ARTC said on Thursday evening.

“We will constantly review this date based on site conditions and progress and will take every opportunity to bring this forecast forward if we can.”

Since last week’s extreme weather, the ARTC has identified 49 sites on the North Coast network that require repair work of some kind.

The work ranges from minor track repairs to large washaways.

As of Thursday, April 30, ARTC engineers and track engineers had completely scoped 47 of the 49 sites, while 41 sites have had works commence, with some already completed.

“Three major sites at Tocal are a key focus for the team,” the ARTC outlined.

“These sites include completely establishing new rail track from the ground up and filling in sizeable track washaways, some greater than 10m deep and 70m wide.”

The ARTC did not identify this incident specifically, but it’s likely that the Tocal sites referenced on Thursday include the one which let to the spectacular destruction of an impromptu suspension bridge, captured on film by the local Tocal College.

“Geotechnical assessments have been completed at these locations and the engineering task to recover the track around Tocal is underway,” the ATSB said.

“ARTC will continue to provide progress reports over the coming weeks.

“We thank the community and our customers for their continued patience with us as we work to recover operations as quickly and safely as possible.”