Coal wagons Aurizon. Photo: Aurizon

Aurizon to shut sites, invest in intermodal

Aurizon has kicked off its three-year operations transformation program by announcing planned closures of sites in Rockhampton and Townsville, in Queensland.

The Brisbane-headquartered rail operator plans to close its Locomotive and Wagons Maintenance Depots in Rockhampton, with work to be consolidated to the nearby Rockhampton Heavy Maintenance Facility.

The Rockhampton closure is expected to result in 17 job losses, while further rationalisation and outsourcing of some non-core and site service activities at the Rockhampton Heavy Maintenance Facility will see 23 more jobs cut, the company said.

Aurizon also plans to close the Wheelshop at its Townsville Workshop in December 2015, six months earlier than the previously announced closure date of June 2016.

The Townsville closure would see 34 jobs lost.

For now, the Townsville work will be absorbed into existing facilities in Rockhampton and Redbank. But Aurizon is investing in a $50 million, highly-automated wheel machining shop to deliver the work currently performed in Townsville, Rockhampton and Redbank.

The new facility would be located in Central Queensland, adjacent to the coal network, at a site to be determined, Aurizon said.

The closure and consolidation plans are part of the company’s next three-year phase of the operational transformation program announced in mid-2013.

Aurizon says the changes acknowledge a tough economic environment for its customers, especially in the resources sector, and the short to medium term impact this is having on freight tonnages and revenue.

On Wednesday, the company commenced consultation with employees in Rockhampton and Townsville in Queensland on the proposed changes.

“The aim is to remove surplus maintenance capacity and deliver core work more efficiently and at a lower cost,” Aurizon said in a statement.

Intermodal investment

Also on Wednesday, Aurizon announced a $40 million investment in a new intermodal terminal, to be co-located with existing rail activities at Stuart, south of Townsville.

The company said the terminal would sit “strategically on the juncture of the north coast (Brisbane to Cairns) and north-west (Townsville to Mount Isa) rail and road corridors”.

“This will facilitate removal of all rail activities from inner-Townsville by June 2016, allowing potential redevelopment and urban revitalisation in collaboration with the private sector and local and state governments,” Aurizon said.

Aurizon coal train. Photo: Aurizon

Moving more coal with less workers, wagons and fuel: Aurizon outlines plan

Up to 740 jobs will be slashed by Aurizon over the next three years in a push to cut $300 million in costs and boost operational productivity.

Aurizon announced on Wednesday it wants a 4 to 7% reduction in operational costs over the next three years.

To do that, it will reduce its workforce by between 529 and 740 full time equivalent (FTE) roles (a reduction of 10 to 14%), remove as many as 45 locomotives and 698 wagons from its active fleet, and increase its locomotive availability by 2 to 3%.

While that’s going on, Aurizon says it will boost labour productivity by 20 to 25%, lift locomotive utilisation by 15 to 20%, and raise wagon utilisation by 12 to 15%.

At the same time, the operator aims to improve fuel efficiency by 7 to 10%.

A slide from Aurizon’s investor presentation. Graphic: Aurizon.

Aurizon’s executive vice president of operations Mike Franczak told investors on Wednesday the company was able to make these ambitious targets due to new technology, and the enterprise agreements signed with staff this year.

“The enterprise agreements grandfathered to Aurizon at IPO were not competitive and did not support transformation,” Franczak said in his presentation. Aurizon became a publicly-listed company when it was spun off from Queensland Rail and floated in an initial public offering (IPO) by the Queensland Government in July 2010.

The three new enterprise agreements signed by Aurizon and its staff this year will allow the company to make the staff cuts it has projected, and reduce the ability of unions “to delay critical change initiatives”, Franczak explained.

A number of measures in the enterprise agreement signed with train crew and transport operators, in particular, are projected to help productivity targets.

Roster planning changes allowed for a 5 to 10% increase in crew and driver availability, resulting in a reduction of staff required by 65 FTEs. The changes also allow for a 3 to 6% uplift in footplate – the time on a shift crews spend actually driving trains.

Franczak also pointed out the operations contract changes could result in an up to 10% improvement in absenteeism, a 15 to 20% reduction in overtime costs, along with other productivity gains.

Further cost cutting and productivity gains would be found in Aurizon’s rollingstock engineering and maintenance operations.

The closure and consolidation of surplus depots could eliminate “surplus headcount,” while the use of electronic rollingstock examination capability to enable predictive, condition-based maintenance would also improve efficiency, Franczak explained.

“Wayside condition monitoring is an example of our maintenance transformation,” he said.

Aurizon’s share stayed roughly stable on Wednesday, when the presentation was made; it opened at $5.15 a share and closed at $5.13, down 0.4%.

ARTC hiring women in Hunter. Photo: Youtube / ARTC

Strong response to ARTC’s women only Hunter recruitment

The Australian Rail Track Corporation has welcomed a strong response to its latest equality push, with more than 100 women turning up to an information session for its ‘women only’ employment drive.

The national rail network owner was recently granted an exemption from the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, allowing it to advertise a number of maintenance positions in its Hunter Valley business unit exclusively to female applicants.

The manoeuvre is part of the ARTC’s drive to increase  the number of women in its workforce to 30%. Its workforce currently comprises just 18% women, and in its Hunter Valley business unit, that figure is just 12%.

An information session, held on Sunday in Muswellbrook, showed a strong response to the move.

“We were really pleased with the turnout and the calibre of the women that attended the information session to find out more about ARTC and the roles,” ARTC executive general manager of the Hunter Valley Jonathan Vandervoort said.

The ARTC says more than 400 applications have been received for the roles in only the first week of the recruitment campaign.

“To put this into perspective, early last year we had a recruitment campaign for infrastructure maintainers and while the wording of the advertisements clearly encouraged women to apply for the roles, we only had three female applicants,” Vandervoort said.

“This is a great turnaround and reinforces the approach we are taking with this campaign.”

Unless it is justifiable for the role in question, hiring people based on their race, religion, age, gender, sexual preference, nationality, etc., is disallowed by the Anti-Discrimination Act NSW (1977). But under Section 126 of that act, a company can attain a defined exemption from that regulation for a valid purpose.

In this case the ARTC was granted an exemption to advertise roles only to women, as part of a push to increase its female workforce.

Vandervoort says the move has been a positive one so far.

“Given the quality, interest and number of enquiries, the challenge for us is now to go through the great applications we have had and select the successful applicants,” he said.

“We really have been fortunate with the level of quality of responses received and the number of women interested in building a career with ARTC.

“We are also encouraging women to get their application in as soon as possible as we may need to close off the application process earlier than expected given the high level of interest.”

The ARTC’s anti-discrimination exemption will apply until July 6, 2017.

RTBU cancels industrial action

Melbourne Metro trains will not be impacted by planned industrial action this week, after the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) announced on Friday it would cancel plans to strike for four hours on Thursday.

In a brief statement on Friday night, RTBU state secretary Luba Grigorovitch said progress had been made in negotiations between the union and Metro Trains, over a new work agreement.

The sides have been at loggerheads over the new deal for some time now, with the union announcing last week that it planned to ban its members from wearing company uniforms all week from Tuesday, September 29, as part of lawful industrial action against the company.

Drivers were also planning to refuse to skip stations on Friday, October 2, and were planning a number of other measures, including a four-hour stop-work meeting between 10am and 2pm on Thursday, October 1.

All that has been cancelled – or at least put on hold – by this latest announcement.

“I’m optimistic we can work through the remaining issues by end of Monday as we continue to strive for a fair enterprise agreement,” Grigorovitch said.

Metro Trains Comeng EMU. Photo: Zed Fitzhume / Creative Commons

Strikes, other measures coming to Metro Trains next week

Metro Trains workers will refuse to check tickets on Grand Final Day, and will strike for four hours on October 1, as part of a set of industrial actions planned to take place on the Melbourne network next week.

Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) secretary Luba Grigorovitch announced the plans on September 23, saying negotiations over a new work agreement were not progressing as the union would like.

“We have continued to meet with the company [Metro Trains] to bargain through the parties’ claims, but Metro seems adamant about stripping away important working conditions,” Grigorovitch said.

“Metro has failed to address concerns about working conditions so our members have resolved to commence a week of industrial action on Tuesday next week, with some additional action (such as a uniform ban for drivers) to continue indefinitely.”

RTBU members will refuse to wear company uniforms all week from Tuesday, September 29.

They will hold a four-hour stop work meeting of all staff between 10am and 2pm on Thursday, October 1.

Drivers will refuse to skip stations on Friday, October 2, and will not report late running trains.

Workers will refuse to inspect myki ticketing cards on AFL Grand Final Day, October 3.

On October 4, drivers will refuse to drive trains without first checking that PA systems are operations. And on October 5, drivers will refuse to drive trains until they have checked that both headlights are working.

Grigorovitch insisted the action was aimed at hurting Metro’s hip pocket, rather than the travelling public.

“Metro’s practice of altering train timetables at the last minute and skipping stations just so that it can receive bonus payments from the government will be a target of the bans,” she said.

“These actions will send a clear message to Metro that it needs to acknowledge the contribution our members make to the company’s record profits.

“If Metro is serious about getting an agreement it needs to rethink its strategy of repackaging previous offers with minor changes in the hopes our members will be conned into accepting sweeping changes to their fundamental working conditions.”

The RTBU has represented members in recent months in a pair of disputes: one for a new work deal for Metro Trains workers, the other for a new deal for Yarra Trams workers.

Negotiations on the trams side of things appear to have improved, with the news last week the sides are closing on a mutual agreement.

Wooden railway sleepers. Photo: Creative Commons / LooiNL

KiwiRail to pay $110,000 for contractor struck by train

New Zealand rail operator KiwiRail has accepted the judgement of the Auckland District Court, which ordered it pay $110,000 to the family of a Downer contractor who was severely injured when the digger he was operating was struck by a train in the central North Island region in June 2014.

KiwiRail group general manager Todd Moyle said the state-owned business, which is responsible for rail operations in New Zealand, would willingly pay reparations to the family of Paul Anderson, who has spent more than 12 months in hospital after the incident.

“KiwiRail completed a thorough investigation of what happened and found that we had not taken all practical steps to ensure that everyone working at the site was off the track before a train came through,” Moyle said.

“As a result, this terrible accident occurred.”

According to WorkSafe New Zealand, the incident occurred on June 17, 2014, when Anderson – a Downer contractor – was carrying out work for KiwiRail in a digger on the Raurimu Spiral, National Park.

Worksafe says KiwiRail track workers gave a north-bound goods train permission to drive through the site, and the train did not have time to stop once the digger came into view.

Anderson sustained severe traumatic brain injury and severe chest and lung trauma, according to WorkSafe.

“Multiple failings by KiwiRail have had a devastating impact on the victim’s life,” WorkSafe chief inspector Keith Steward said, adding that the incident was entirely preventable.

“[Anderson] continues to live with these tragic consequences to this very day.

“Every worker has a right to trust that their employer is looking out for their safety and that the necessary safey precautions and systems for managing potential risks are in place.”

Moyle says KiwiRail has made changes following reviews into the safety procedures across its rail network.

“We recognised that we needed to do more to protect our teams when they are working on the network and make sure that no trains enter worksites unless all workers and all equipment is off the track.

“As a result of these changes, all worksites across the country now have a register to record all personnel and vehicles operating near the tracks.”

Additionally, KiwiRail has introduced a ‘lock-on lock-off’ procedure.

Moyle explains: “Before going on to the track everyone at a site, whether working or visiting, is issued with a padlock which has to be attached to a board held by the site protector. When the person comes off the track, they remove their padlock. A train will be allowed to pass through the site only when all padlocks are removed.”

Moyle offered his sincere apologies to Anderson’s family.

“They live every day with the consequences of this accident and while we make the reparations willingly, we understand no amount of money can change what happened.

“The safety of everyone who works for us and who travels with us is our primary concern, and we will continue to work to prevent an accident like this from happening again.”

ARTC hiring women in Hunter. Photo: Youtube / ARTC

ARTC to recruit ‘women only’ in Hunter

The Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW will allow the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to specifically hire women for track maintenance roles across the Hunter Valley.

ARTC boss John Fullerton said the move was part of the company’s drive to have a 30% female workforce by 2020. ARTC’s workforce currently comprises just 18% women, and its Hunter Valley workforce is just 12%.

“Increasing the diversity of our workforce is a must in today’s competitive business environment,” Fullerton said.

“We recognise that a talented and diverse workforce is fundamental to building a commercially-strong, innovative and customer-focused organisation.

“The rail industry is heavily male-dominated and our workforce, particularly in the field, is largely male. When recruiting for track roles the vast majority of applicants are also male.”

ARTC had to obtain an exemption from the Anti-Discrimination Board to direct its employment towards women; it is against the law in NSW for an employer to target a specific sex for a role without one.

The company will initially hire up to ten workers for the Hunter, with infrastructure maintenance and signalling maintenance roles on offer in Muswellbrook, Maitland, Scone and Newcastle.

“A more diverse workforce leads to greater innovation and creativity, develops stronger problem-solving skills through different ways of thinking and increases morale, motivation and engagement,” Fullerton said.

“Put simply, greater diversity leads to better business results.”

ARTC will hold the exemption for two years from July 6, 2015.

An information session will be held at ARTC’s Muswellbrook maintenance centre on Sunday, September 27 from 11am to 1pm.

Southern Cross Station. Photo: RailGallery / Inset: PTV

Mark Wild leaves Public Transport Victoria

Public Transport Victoria chief executive Mark Wild has resigned, and has been replaced with an interim CEO.

Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan announced on Wednesday, September 16 that she had accepted Wild’s formal resignation from the role of chief executive.

Wild will take up a position in the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

“I have worked closely with Mark over the past nine months on the Andrews Labor Government’s huge public transport agenda,” Allan said, “including Melbourne Metro Rail Project, 50 level crossing removals and new trains and trams for Victoria.”

Allan praised Wild for his “extensive experience and outstanding technical knowledge,” which she said had been valuable in developing the critical projects undertaken by the Andrews Government.

Gary Liddle, formerly the chief executive of VicRoads, will act as the interim CEO of Public Transport Victoria until a new chief is appointed.

Wild’s resignation comes roughly five months after former PTV chairman, Ian Dobbs, resigned from his post.

Public Transport Victoria is the statutory authority in charge of managing the state’s train, tram and bus services. It is responsible for providing, coordinating and promoting the public transport system.

Aurizon coal train. Photo: Aurizon

ChAFTA Bills hit Parliament

Aurizon, the Australian Minerals Council and Australian Dairy Industry Council are among the industry members to have welcomed the introduction of a series of Bills in Canberra on Wednesday morning to fulfil the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA).

Minister for social service Scott Morrison and minister for trade and investment Andrew Robb presented five separate Bills in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, September 16, to ratify the ChAFTA.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Brendan Pearson welcomed the move, saying the FTA will further strengthen a minerals and energy trade already worth more than $80bn per annum.

“The agreement will eliminate Chinese tariffs – which currently range between 1.5% and 10% – on all minerals and energy exports within two years,” Pearson explained.

“When applied at current rates, these tariffs impose a burden of about $600m on the bilateral minerals and energy trade each year.”

Pearson has encouraged the Labor Opposition to support the Bills. While the Coalition holds a majority in the House of Representatives, it will need the support of the Labor Party to get the Bills through the Senate.

The Minerals Councils boss is concerned the unions, who are anti-ChAFTA, are having too much influence over the Labor Party.

“These opportunities [from ChAFTA] … have been put at risk by a mischievous and misleading campaign by sections of the trade union movement,” Pearson said on Wednesday.

“The CFMEU made similar scaremongering claims about earlier trade deals with Korea, Japan and Thailand. None of the union’s claims about those trade deals were ever realised.

“Passage of the legislation by late October/early November is absolutely essential. It will ensure that there is sufficient time for the entry-into-force to take place before the end of the year. That will mean Australian exporters will secure a two-stage tariff cut, with immediate tariff cuts on entry-into-force and again on 1 January 2016.

“Failure to achieve that would mean that the squalid and dishonest union campaign had cost hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits for Australian exporters.”

Aurizon chief executive Lance Hockridge joined in with the support, saying the ASX-listed operator welcomed the introduction of the legislation.

“Urgent ratification of ChAFTA is important for every sector of the economy,” Hockridge said on Wednesday. “ChAFTA will give Australian businesses an increased ability to access China’s massive, and rapidly growing middle class as a potential market for Australia’s professional services, tourism, education and agriculture products.”

Australian Dairy Industry Council chair Noel Campbell joined Pearson in urging Labor to support the legislation, saying it needs to put politics aside to get the deal done.

“I commend Minister Robb for introducing these Bills and urge both sides of Parliament to pass it promptly,” Campbell was quoted as saying by Farm Online.

“The ChAFTA is a great deal for Australian dairy and a great deal for the Australian community. To delay the ChAFTA means a lost opportunity, for jobs, farmers, and regional towns.

“We need to implement this deal swiftly to ensure Australia doesn’t fall further behind its competitors who already have an FTA with China.”

CEVA Logistics, ANZ managing director Clayton Noble. Photo: CEVA Logistics

CEVA Logistics gets new ANZ managing director

Logistics and freight management business CEVA Logistics has named a new managing director to lead its Australia and New Zealand business.

Former Fuji Xerox Australia chief operating officer Clayton Noble was announced as the new ANZ managing director this week.

Noble was responsible for running Fuji Xerox’s operational functions, including supply chain, customer support, managed services, professional services and business outsourcing services.

He also has experience in senior executive positions leading supply chain and logistics functions, with organisations including Dell (Asia Pacific and Japan), BAX Global and the Coles Myer Group.

Noble replaces Casey Fisher, who is returning to the USA to become the executive vice president of business development for CEVA’s North American operations.

“I am thrilled that Clayton has joined CEVA. I look forward to seeing him support our customers’ strategies and developing our operational footprint across Australia and New Zealand,” CEVA chief executive Xavier Urbain said.

“I would also like to thank Casey for his contribution at the helm of CEVA in Australia and New Zealand over the past three years. He played a key role in successfully restructuring the Australia and New Zealand business, introducing a new suite of offerings and increasing overall customer satisfaction”, Urbain said.

Noble said he was “excited to join CEVA in Australia and New Zealand at such an important time in the company’s evolution”.

Prior to his role as chief operating officer, Noble was executive general manager of supply chain operations at Fuji Xerox Australia from December 2010 to April 2014.

Before that he was an executive director at the computer company Dell, from September 2005 to December 2010.

Earlier roles included various executive positions over an eight-year stint at BAX Global (a former freight forwarder since integrated into DB Schenker) from September 1998 to September 2006.

He was also a logistics manager for Coles Myer for just under four years.

Noble is also a former officer in the Royal Australian Air Force, serving 15 years from 1979 to 1994.

He holds an MSc in Logistics Management (1990) from the US Air Force Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Business (1981) from the University of Southern Queensland.