Bryan Nye photo Informa

National prosperity drives Nye’s passion for reform

Departing ARA chief executive Bryan Nye says the industry needs to continue working together to achieve future prosperity for Australia’s economy, and its people.

Nye doesn’t describe himself as a rail tragic. Instead, he sees himself as being passionate about transport reform.

“We’ve got it wrong in Australia,” Nye told Rail Express, “and we’re lagging behind the rest of the world … We’ve got to change that.

“You think about Australia’s geography, the demographics, the size of the country and where the centres are: Rail is a mode of choice that we have failed to address, and we’re just beginning to address it properly now.”

Nye this week announced his decision to leave the ARA after 12 years of hard work as its chief executive. When he joined the association in 2003, he and his staff had to build from the ground up.

“We had to build a credibility within the industry first, to establish ourselves,” he explained.

“We did that by getting the companies to work together, developing some policies, papers … As soon as the government realised the industry could get itself together, it started to listen.

“I think that’s the importance of it,” he continued. “If everybody says, for example, ‘The number one priority right now is Inland Rail,’ then the government will sit up and listen.

“That’s what excites me. Trying to get governments to pick up good reforms.

“Look at Sydney: it’s getting another harbour crossing, new light rail, the North West Rail Link … all of that comes from the public and the industry getting together to put pressure to make the government respond.

“That’s the benefit of the industry working together.”

Nye, who championed the establishment of the Rail Industry and Safety Standards Board in 2005, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to the rail transport industry in January 2014.

He plans to continue to work with the rail industry, and feels he can be a valuable contributor to industry boards and panels in the future.

“Rail is crucial to Australia’s economy, and it’s whole productivity,” Nye said.

“If we’re going to get greater government involvement and investment in rail, the industry needs to come together and be of one voice. That’s vital.”

 

A full profile of Bryan Nye and his career with the ARA will feature in the AusRAIL edition of Rail Express, which will be released at this year’s AusRAIL PLUS, scheduled for Melbourne from November 24 to 26.

(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 boss calls for cultural shift for mental health

Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins says the Australian rail industry needs to undergo a cultural change if it is to get serious about the mental health of its employees.

Speaking at the launch of the inaugural Rail R U OK? Day at Central station on Thursday morning, Collins said the rail industry needs to shift away from its stiff upper lip culture, and also needs to be more aware of the multicultural nature of its workforce.

“We as an industry … face a lot of issues,” Collins said. “We see everything that the public throws at us, and sometimes that is a real, tragic experience.

“As an ex-train driver – someone who’s been on the front line – I think there’s a lot of issues. Culturally, ‘macho blokes’ don’t talk about it.

“Now, not only have we been male-dominated – and that’s changing – but culturally, 50% of my employees are from other places around the world. And different cultures can also find it difficult to talk about things, like saying ‘Are you okay?’ We must support them in this exercise as well.”

Collins was joined at the opening event by his counterpart at NSW Trains, Rob Mason, as well as outgoing ARA chief executive Bryan Nye, federal minister for health Sussan Ley, TrackSAFE chairman Bob Herbert, R U OK? chairman Mike Connaghan and several other key R U OK? figures.

Rail R U OK? Day is a new initiative; the result of a joint effort by the TrackSAFE Foundation and R U OK?.

“We now understand that this day is important to us,” Collins said.

“To our rail employees, to their partners, to our contractors – the whole industry is coming together today.

“It’s all about being safer, being supportive, and doing what managers often fail to do: To use your two ears, and one mouth to communicate, and understand what people have to say.

“We’re all busy people … But you do need to find the time to ask.”

Opinions - Ingram Publishing

Opinions abound on ‘absurd’, ‘disastrous’ East West saga

A day on from the Andrews Government’s announcement that $420 million would be spent to move on from the cancelled East West Link tollroad project, commentators were debating who’s to blame.

Herald Sun columnist – and conservative provocateur – Andrew Bolt laid the blame squarely on Victorian Labor and premier Daniel Andrews, for allegedly breaking his pre-election promise to not pay compensation to East West Connect consortium members.

“Before the election, [Andrews] claimed there wouldn’t be much money wasted if he cancelled the contract to build the East West Link,” Bolt said on his blog on Thursday morning.

“Andrews implied that just $15 million or so of work might have to be paid if he cancelled the contract … and four days before the election Andrews claimed he wouldn’t have to pay compensation.”

Indeed, Andrews was quoted just prior to the election saying consortium members would have to be paid “some modest compensation” paid to the consortium for some “soil testing” work already conducted, according to the Herald Sun.

Andrews’ announcement yesterday that the consortium would be paid $339 million to settle the contract – and that a further $81 million would be spent to transfer the East West Link debt facility to be used for the Melbourne Metro rail project – contradicts the premier’s pre-election commitments, according to Bolt.

“None of the above squares up with what Premier Andrews said yesterday,” the commentator wrote, before quoting RMIT economics professor Sinclair Davidson, who yesterday quipped: “That must be the most expensive soil testing in human history.”

“Or, of course,” Bolt added, “this is compensation by other means.”

Fellow Herald Sun commentator James Campbell called the East West decision a “gamble”.

“Daniel Andrews will be hoping Victorian’s forgive him for spending their money on nothing and instead blame the previous government,” Campbell wrote on Wednesday. “If he’s wrong he could be in real trouble.”

As far as Bolt’s concerned, however, Andrews’ ‘gamble’ has already failed.

“Tony Abbott will be sending a big thank you to [Andrews],” Bolt wrote in a separate column. “See, a key factor in the Prime Minister’s poll recovery is the awfulness of the new Labor governments in Queensland and Victoria.

“Abbott figures voters now need only look north and south to see how dangerous it could be to vote Labor federally, too. Queensland Labor was already warning enough. Narrowly and surprisingly elected in February, it is in crisis just two months later.

“But worse is Victoria’s new Government,” Bolt continued, “rapidly threatening to be as union-matey, ideological and incompetent as [former Labor premier] Joan Kirner’s. Yesterday it set a new standard in craziness by announcing it would give at least $420 million to a foreign consortium to NOT build the East West road link Melbourne badly needs.”

Other commentators were more measured in their views.

The AFR’s Tony Boyd called Wednesday’s decision “pragmatic,” saying it “pulls the state back from the brink of being the sovereign risk pariah of Australia”.

“But the Labor government’s policy of dishonouring the contractual terms of a $10.7 billion contract marks a new low in political expediency,” Boyd conceded.

“While there were doubts over the efficacy of the East West Link contracting process and the project’s wobbly economics, these did not warrant abandoning a principle that has prevailed in Victoria for more than 20 years.”

Boyd, like Bolt, pointed out Andrews’ pre-election references to “modest” payments that would have to be made to the consortium.

“Their costs were not ‘modest’,” Boyd wrote on Thursday. “This is one of the running sores of infrastructure projects in Australia. Multiple consortiums bid for projects, expend tens of millions of dollars whilst facing the possibility of getting no work.”

Another columnist, John Durie, agreed that the process was flawed, writing in The Australian: “The politics of Victoria’s $10.7 billion East West project was bad on both sides, but the dumbest part of the saga was the way the public-private partnership deal was written to front-load commissions on work that wasn’t planned for years.”

Sydney Morning Herald commentator Malcolm Maiden also spread the blame, saying Labor “lit the fuse” by opposing the East West Link in the lead-up to the election, but the former Napthine Government and the Lend-Lease led consortium were also partially responsible, “by pushing ahead with a project that was set to return only 45c on the dollar, using Infrastructure Australia’s cost benefit methodology”.

And AFR columnist Jennifer Hewett summed things up, scalding all those involved.

“Given the figure of $1.2 billion in compensation originally in dispute, the outcome is better for taxpayers than it might have been,” Hewett said. “But Andrews is certainly wrong in describing this agreement as ‘the best possible result’.

“The whole episode has been an absurd waste of opportunity, of money and of very valuable infrastructure.

“The East West saga counts as a political and commercial debacle for a country that urgently needs better infrastructure, including the jobs that go with building it, at lowest possible cost.”

Melbourne Metro alignment

Andrews details alignment for Metro tunnels

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has vowed to “get on” with the Melbourne Metro project, announcing the preferred alignment and depth of rail tunnels.

Andrews was joined on Thursday morning by minister for public transport Jacinta Allan to announce the Labor Government’s plan to align the twin 9km tunnels under Swanston Street through the Melbourne CBD.

Andrews and Allan also announced that the tunnels will be at a depth of just 10m below surface, rather than an earlier proposal of 40m.

“Aligning Melbourne Metro with Swanston Street is better for passengers and taxpayers,” Andrews said.

“Confirming the preferred alignment and not proceeding with the Liberals’ East West Link means we can get on with the project our state needs and the project our state voted for: Melbourne Metro Rail.”

The alignment announcement follows planning and technical work undertaken by the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority, which was established with $40 million in funding in February.

The work shows the Swanston Street alignment to be “the most convenient location for commuters and the most cost-effective option for construction,” according to the Government.

A proposed alignment with Russell Street was ruled out as it wouldn’t allow passengers to transfer directly between the City Loop and the new Melbourne Metro tunnels.

Another proposed alignment, beneath Elizabeth Street, revealed unstable ground conditions and significant and costly engineering challenges, the Government detailed on Thursday.

The 10m depth for the tunnels was chosen as it was decided deeper tunnels were not convenient for commuters, and were not as safe in case of emergency.

The reduced depth of the tunnels also means construction of the project can take place “more efficiently,” the Government said.

Melbourne Metro Rail Authority plans to investigate a number of measures to reduce disruption throughout the CBD during construction.

“During the procurement phase, bidders will be encouraged to further improve the design and minimise disruption,” the Government said.

“Identifying a preferred route and depth for the rail tunnels allows more detailed investigations to be undertaken in the project’s ongoing planning and development.

“It will also allow the Authority to undertake detailed consultation with stakeholders, including Swanston Street traders, later this year.”

Public transport minister Jacinta Allan said the preferred alignment was a good result for commuters.

“Two new underground city stations, connected to the City Loop and close to street level, will make it easier to get into and around Melbourne,” Allan said.

“Victoria needs a bigger, better train system and the Andrews Labor Government is getting on with it.”

Sydney Train

Rail takes proactive approach with R U OK? initiative

TrackSAFE chairman Bob Herbert says the launch of the inaugural Rail R U OK? Day is a sign that the Australian rail industry is proactive when it comes to the emotional wellbeing of its 110,000 employees.

“The rail network is a workplace,” Herbert said. “Train drivers, guards, emergency services and other rail industry employees are the first people on the scene when incidents take place on the network and for them, severe mental, physical and emotional trauma can result from witnessing such an event.”

Launched at Sydney’s Central Station on Thursday morning, Rail R U OK? Day is a joint initiative between suicide and harm prevention charities R U OK? and the TrackSAFE Foundation.

It’s aimed at giving rail staff the confidence and capacity to talk about their mental wellbeing, and to help them feel safe and supported while at work, by asking the simple question: ‘Are you ok?’

“Rail R U OK? Day supports our existing trauma management program and aims to increase awareness about the importance of looking out for each other in the workplace, which is crucial to an industry that is too often affected by suicide and the consequential trauma suffered by rail employees,” Herbert said.

Suicide is the biggest cause of death for Australians under the age of 44, with more than 2400 Australians suiciding each year, and 65,000 attempting suicide.

Mike Connaghan, chairman of R U OK?, said the partnership with TrackSAFE promotes an important message to a national industry.

“Rail R U OK? Day will see industry employers and employees foster an environment of support and encouragement, so that asking ‘are you ok?’ becomes standard practice,” Connaghan said.

“We believe that this day of action will empower people to help a workmate, whether it be on Rail R U OK? Day or any day,” he said.

Federal minister for health Sussan Ley, who spoke at the launch in Sydney, said the Government was committed to working with communities to raise awareness of suicide risk, to help those at risk of taking their own lives and to assist those affected by suicide.

“Any suicide is one too many and it is devastating for families and communities,” Ley said.

“I am committed to working with communities and organisations such as R U OK? and the TrackSAFE Foundation to reduce the tragic impact of suicide.”

Photo: Auckland Transport

Aucklanders flock to trains

Auckland mayor Len Brown says a recent jump in the number of passengers on Auckland’s rail network bodes well for the planned City Rail Link project.

New Zealand’s most populated city recorded 13.4 million passenger trips on rail over the past 12 months, an increase of 21% over the previous period. 1.6 million trips were recorded in March alone, a year-on-year increase of 29%.

“At this rate, Auckland will meet the Government’s threshold for financial support for the CRL three years early in 2017,” Brown said. “Growth has been accelerating since late 2013.”

Auckland Transport chairman Dr Lester Levy said the growth is due to the gradual replacement of diesel trains with new electric models, which is contributing to an enhanced travel experience, additional capacity and increased service frequency on the network.

“We’re moving to speed up the roll-out of the electric trains because we know Aucklanders want the extra capacity and the improved service that they provide,” Dr Levy said.

Auckland Transport is aiming to have a full electric network by the end of July except for the link between Papakura and Pukekohe which will continue to use diesel trains.

These will be refurbished over time to provide an enhanced experience, according to the authority.

Including other forms of transport, annual public transport patronage in Auckland now exceeds 78 million boardings, with 8.4 million recorded in March – a jump of more than 1 million year-on-year.

AT Metro general manager Mark Lambert said the new timetable introduced to the Auckland rail network in December 2014 resulted in a 20% increase in services, but said this did result in a number of delays across the “constrained” network, which made it “difficult to recover when there is an issue”.

“We are working with the rail operator Transdev to speed-up the recovery time when unfortunately inevitable failures occur,” he said.

Lambert said an increase in bus passengers in Auckland was attributed to increased services and frequency, improving travel times from new bus priority lanes, and a significant improvement in service punctuality.

Substation Photo GoldLinQ Consortium

ABB wins Gold Coast Light Rail substations contract

Swiss technology business ABB has been awarded a three-year deal to provide maintenance to the six traction substations it delivered to the Gold Coast Light Rail project in 2014.

Under the new deal, ABB will provided supervision services for six medium-voltage DC traction substations for KDR Gold Coast, the light rail network’s operator.

“This tailored service approach and expert support means KDR Gold Coast can rely on ABB as their specialist service provider,” ABB Australia general manager Axel Kuhr said.

“Combining more than 100 years of innovation and experience in the substation domain and rail sector allows us to maximise power availability and keep operating costs as low as possible for our customers.”

Gold Coast Light Rail’s six substations are rated at 11kV AC / 750V DC, and are housed in transportable outdoor buildings with key technologies integrated.

ABB said it will utilise diagnostic and repair practices to provide 24 hour support with a guaranteed response-time, annual preventative maintenance and diagnosis.

The substations were designed, manufactured and commissioned by ABB in 2014 as part of an earlier contract.

East West Link cancelled. Photo: Creative Commons / BlackCab (Inset: Daniel Andrews).

Andrews Government gets out of East-West Link for $420 million

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews says a $420 million deal struck this week between the Government and the East West Connect consortium will relieve the Government of any future liability for the cancelled road project.

“This settles the matter,” Andrews said at a press conference this morning. “It’s a good faith agreement [which] terminates the project, and terminates the relationship between the government and the East West consortium.”

Under the Heads of Agreement signed on Wednesday, the consortium will be paid $339 million to cover costs of the bidding process, as well as design and pre-construction costs.

Andrews said the $339 million payment was not compensation, as it was for costs which had already been incurred by the consortium, and therefore could not be retrieved.

A further $81 million of fees were incurred to establish the Project Co credit facility, worth $3 billion, for the East West project. The Government plans to negotiate with banks to take over that facility, and contribute to funding for the Melbourne Metro Rail Project.

“The Labor Government and the consortium are on the same page and have come to a good faith agreement,” Andrews said on Wednesday.

“Today’s agreement is the best possible result we could have achieved and it puts the interests of Victorians first,” he added.

“No ten billion dollar tunnel, no compensation and far more funding available for the Melbourne Metro Rail Project.”

While the settlement could be seen by some as a successful resolution to the situation, Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas said he would rather not spend $339 million to cancel a road project.

“This isn’t a day for celebration,” Pallas said. “The previous Liberal Government deliberately left Victoria with only a handful of options – none of them good.

“We worked hard to get Victoria out of this mess, cleanly and fairly. $339 million is equivalent to one year of payments for this dud project.

“This would have been repeated every year for 25 years if [former treasurer] Michael O’Brien had his way.”

The agreement has been met with anger from the Federal Government, with prime minister Tony Abbott saying he was dismayed by the decision to not build the multi-billion-dollar tollroad.

“The unprecedented announcement that the Victorian Government would rather pay hundreds of millions of dollars to a consortium than build the East West Link is a massive set back to Victoria,” Abbott said on Wednesday.

“The Victorian Government’s decision to abrogate contractual responsibilities sets a dangerous precedent for future projects and threatens further investment in much-needed infrastructure in our country.”

Abbott said Andrews’ decision had cost 7000 jobs in Victoria, and said there was no alternative to the East West Link, “the only shovel-ready project in Victoria,” according to the PM.

“It is the only answer to easing Victoria’s traffic congestion,” Abbott said.

“The Victorian Government’s actions today mean that Melbourne’s daily traffic gridlock simply gets worse. Victorians should feel let down by Daniel Andrews who promised before the election that no compensation would be paid.”

Federal minister for social services Scott Morrison labelled the payment as “an obscenity,” according to one report in The Australian.

“For the Victorian Government to spend $420 million to pay to a company not to build a road is an obscenity, and Bill Shorten is linked up with that obscenity in his support for Daniel Andrews’ decision on this,” Morrison was quoted to have said.

Paris - Roubaix level crossing incident. Graphic: Eurosport

SNCF wants police action following Paris-Roubaix incident

French rail operator SNCF is reportedly demanding police take action to investigate the level crossing ‘near miss’ which took place at the Paris-Roubaix one-day bike race this weekend.

A number of competitors in the well-known annual event went through a set of boom gates which had already lowered, with the final rider crossing ahead of the train just 12 seconds before it went through the junction.

While race organisers took no action against the offending riders, saying most were unable to stop in time, SNCF wants riders who crossed the tracks to be prosecuted.

The operator reportedly told a number of media agencies that the cyclists had acted “against all safety rules”.

“Millions of television viewers saw live this extremely serious and irresponsible action which could have been tragic,” SNCF was quoted across a number of sources.

“A few seconds later, a TGV ran on this line and could have hit the peleton.”

Riders were reportedly 10 minutes ahead of schedule due to a strong tail wind, leading to the unfortunate timing of the train and the peleton.

While some riders made it through the junction, others ducked and dodged the lowering boom gates, while several more riders wound their way past the lowered gates, before a policeman onboard a motorcycle ordered riders to stop.

The dramatic footage has been viewed several million times on YouTube since it was posted by one user.

Shortly after the event finished, race organisers played down the incident, saying riders would not be punished.

“It wasn’t possible for the leading riders to stop sufficiently safely,” president of the jury of race commissioners Guy Dobbelaere was quoted by the BBC. “The peloton was 10 metres away when the barrier started to close.”

The International Cycling Union (UCI) requested a comprehensive report from organisers, describing the incident as “extremely worrying”.

This year’s Paris-Roubaix featured 10 level crossings. Rail junctions have come into play in the past, with riders punished in 2006 after going through a pair of lowered boom gates in that year’s race.

Rail turnout - RISSB

Nye, Tanner to leave ARA

Australasian Railway Association chief executive Bryan Nye will leave the organisation by April 30, following the association’s split with the Rail Industry and Safety Standards Board (RISSB) announced earlier this year.

ARA chairman Lindsay Tanner will also leave the association following the end of his term this year.

“This is a new phase for the ARA, and it will be led by a new CEO, following the decision by existing CEO Bryan Nye to stand down as of 30 April 2015,” Tanner said this morning.

“Bryan has made an enormous contribution to the industry since he was appointed as CEO of the ARA in 2003, some twelve years ago.

“In January 2014 he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to the rail transport industry, and to the business sector.

“On behalf of all of its members, the ARA would like to thank Bryan for his leadership over the past 12 years and wish him the very best for the future.”

Tanner continued: “After a two year period assisting the organisation with its transition I will finish my term in April 2015.”

Bob Herbert has been appointed as interim chair to complete the review process.

The ARA has been undergoing lengthy reviews in recent months, with the first major result being the announcement of the separation of the ARA and RISSB.

“This decision was aimed at driving further progress in improving rail’s safety and productivity and to more closely align to the objectives of the newly established Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR),” Tanner said of the split.

RISSB will be formally established as a separate body on July 1.

“The ARA is now well positioned to review its own important role within the industry as the peak representative body for rail,” Tanner concluded.

“This review is being led by a sub-committee of the ARA Board and will be completed over the next three months.”