Revitalising Newcastle. Photo: Revitalising Newcastle

UGL partners up for Newcastle integrated transport deal

Rollingstock business UGL has signed on as light rail maintenance contractor in a joint bid with public transport operator Transit Systems, for the Integrated Service Offering operations contract in Newcastle.

The contract, being administered by Transport for NSW, aims to appoint a single operator to manage integrated transport services in the growing city.

It is part of the government’s broader strategy which includes the development of a light rail line through Newcastle, replacing the heavy rail line, which was closed at the end of 2014.

UGL and Transit Systems announced their intentions to put together a joint bid for the contract on Friday morning.

If successful, Transit Systems would take on the lead operational role in delivering the integrated transport network, and UGL would be responsible for the specialised maintenance requirements of the light rail infrastructure and vehicles.

Transit Systems is a global bus operator, with a stable of nearly 2000 operating buses across four Australian states, as well as in London, Cambridge and Singapore.

The company’s chief executive, Clint Feuerherdt, said a partnership with UGL made Transit Systems a strong contender for the Newcastle contract.

“Our business was founded on the Central Coast of NSW,” Feuerherdt said, “and it would be a great honour to return with the benefit of all that we have learned both in Australia and overseas.”

UGL boss Ross Taylor said the company had a long history in Newcastle, adding it was important the city continues to invest in its transport system and infrastructure.

“UGL has been a mainstay of the Newcastle transport industry for over 100 years with our history tracing back to the formation of A. Goninan & Co in 1899,” Taylor said.

“With a proven commitment to local jobs, skills investment and capability development we are pleased to be part of an Australian team ready to deliver this important program for Newcastle and NSW.”

Feuerherdt said there was an opportunity for his company “to bring a global transport network of experience to the Newcastle region, and to review and improve the service offerings for the community, for tax payers and for business”.

“By successfully expanding into London and Singapore, we have proven that our public transport philosophy works, that we are one of the best in the world at delivering a commuter system that appeals to Government, and most importantly, to the passenger,” he said.

“We are incredibly passionate about improving the appeal of public transport and there is no company more experienced at delivering successful transitions, improved scheduling and cost-effective, relevant services.

Malcolm Turnbull in 2014. Photo: I. Wood / Creative Commons

Turnbull needs a minister for cities, from a city: Albo

Anthony Albanese has accused Malcolm Turnbull of abandoning his six-month-old cities policy, after the prime minister failed to appoint someone to replace Jamie Briggs as cities minister during the recent cabinet reshuffle.

Turnbull earlier this month announced the new makeup of his front bench, in a reshuffle triggered by a number of departures, including that of Jamie Briggs.

Briggs resigned from the ministerial role – but not from Parliament – at the end of 2015, after details emerged relating to alleged misconduct in a Hong Kong bar earlier in the year.

He had been the first minister for cities or urban development in quite some time, appointed after Turnbull usurped former Tony Abbott for the nation’s top job.

But with Briggs out, Turnbull has not appointed a full time replacement, instead naming Angus Taylor as assistant minister to the prime minister for cities.

In an opinion piece published in Wednesday’s Australian, Albanese – the opposition minister for transport, infrastructure and cities – called the move a “downgrade”.

He also criticised the choice of Taylor, suggesting the member for Hume is not qualified for the role because he is not from a big city.

Taylor was born, and still resides in country NSW. After high school, he studied at the University of Sydney, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws with honours, and a Bachelor of Economics with honours, for which he also won the University Medal.

He earned a Master of Philosophy in Economics from Oxford, where he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. Upon leaving Oxford, Taylor was employed by management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., where he was made a partner in 1999.

Nonetheless, Albanese feels Taylor is not qualified for the role, even if it is just on an assistant minister basis.

“[Turnbull] has appointed someone who does not live in a major city to fulfil that task,” Turnbull said on Wednesday. “The [cities] priority did not even last six months.

“Cities are not only places where people live and work, they are also critical to our economic productivity,” he continued.

Albanese also said the government has failed by not re-establishing the Major Cities Unit, put in place by the former Labor Government and abolished under Abbott.

“That means the government has no bureaucratic apparatus for policy implementation,” Albanese said. “It also has no budget for urban policy issues.

“And now it has no minister.

“We need more public transport, better roads, greater housing densities along existing public transport routes and improved urban planning and design.

“All levels of government need to work together to address this problem, including the Commonwealth.”

Western Sydney light rail. Artist's Impression: Transport for NSW

Experts from UK, Jerusalem to headline Light Rail conference

The chief architect of Jerusalem Municipality, Ofer Manor, and the chief executive of Transport for Greater Manchester, Dr Jon Lamonte, keynote the Light Rail 2016 conference in Melbourne on Wednesday and Thursday.

Light Rail 2016, organised by Rail Express publisher Informa Australia, takes place at Pullman Melbourne on the Park this week.

The conference will cover light rail from the technical standpoint, as well as customer service, planning and financing.

Wednesday’s schedule is as follows:

  • 0800 – Registration and morning coffee
  • 0855 – Opening remarks from Professor Graham Currie, chair of Public Transport, Institute of Transport Studies, Monash University
  • 0900 – Welcome and opening address; Danny Broad, chief executive, Australian Railway Association
  • 0920 – Jerusalem Light Rail – Leading the City’s Regeneration; Ofer Manor, chief architect, Jerusalem Municipality
  • 0950 – Operating and extending the largest light rail system in the United Kingdom; Dr Jon Lamonte, chief executive, Transport for Greater Manchester
  • 1020 – Ministerial Address – The ACT Government’s strategic vision; Simon Corbell MLA, minister for Capital Metro (presenting on behalf of the ACT chief minister), ACT Government
  • 1050 – Morning tea
  • 1120 – Delivering a 20 minute neighbourhood: Route 86 tram extension; Nick Mann, director of infrastructure, City of Whittlesea
  • 1150 – Update on Gold Coast Light Rail; Campbell Mason, CEO, KDR Gold Coast
  • 1220 – Operating the World’s largest light rail network; Duncan Smith, director of network strategy and growth, Yarra Trams
  • 1250 – Lunch
  • 1330 – Transforming CBD transport systems; Glenn Bentley, CEO, ALTRAC Light Rail, and Andrew Summers, project director of Sydney Light Rail, Transport for NSW
  • 1350 – Transforming CBD transport systems (continued); Colin Innes, principal manager of safety, Transport for NSW
  • 1410 – Keeping Sydney Moving; Marg Prendergast, coordinator general CBD, CBD coordination office, Transport for NSW
  • 1430 – Preston Workshops – Australia’s latest piece of major light rail infrastructure successfully delivered by Coleman Rail, PTV and Yarra Trams; Bede Noonan, chief executive officer, Coleman Rail
  • 1500 – Multimodal public transport; Simon Humphrey, strategy and commercial director, Keolis Downer
  • 1530 – Afternoon tea

Following afternoon tea, the conference will split into a technical stream and a customer care and safety stream.

Technical stream

  • 1550 – Chair’s remarks; Allen Maciunas, unit manager, tram operations, safety and service, Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure
  • 1555 – Environmental challenges in maintaining low floor tram traction gearboxes; Dr Norbert Ritter, head of rail traction gearbox service, Siemens
  • 1625 – Understanding core reasons behind a valid business case for an energy storage system (ESS) in a light rail network; Caroline Phillips, area sales manager – DC Wayside, ABB
  • 1655 – Light rail transit systems and catenary-free solutions: Return of experience after a 10-year development period; Herve Mazzoni, tramway services manager, SYSTRA
  • 1725 – Closing remarks

Customer care and safety

  • 1550 – Chair’s remarks – Brian Brennan, general manager light rail operations, Transdev
  • 1555 – Platform-carriage interface risks: A semi-quantitative assessment case study addressing SFAIRP criteria; Mark Andrew, principal consultant – risk and asset management, GHD
  • 1625 – Taking the fluff out of safety culture: Lessons from oil and gas projects, Dr Emily Novatsis, principal human factors advisor, The Keil Centre
  • 1655 – Light rail collisions: A thing of the past; Stephen Rudakov, project manager, Robert Bosch Australia
  • 1725 – Closing remarks

Networking drinks will take place at the conclusion of the technical streams.

Metro Trains Parliament station in Melbourne City Loop. Photo: Creative Commons / Teknorat

Australian Infrastructure Plan has some way to go to give our cities what they need

COMMENT: Infrastructure Australia’s latest report is substantial but, critically, it fails to incorporate the transport thinking needed to develop more compact cities that work better for everyone, John Staley writes.



Infrastructure Australia’s latest report, Australian Infrastructure Plan, is a substantial contribution to better infrastructure planning.

For our cities, it cogently argues for more compact settlement patterns and transport pricing reform. However, it has some substantial weaknesses.

Integrating land use and transport priorities

The report’s discussion about the need for more compact cities is impressive but falls into the same trap as the state governments it criticises for failing to adequately integrate land use development directions and transport priorities.

The Infrastructure Priority List is rather light on initiatives that will support development of Australia’s four largest cities as more compact cities, rather than just cities with a compact core.

For example, while many public transport projects are included, these are mainly rail projects focused on feeding central business districts. These are worthy projects that will improve services and promote agglomeration economies. However, they deal with only part of the overall public transport needs for development of more compact cities.

The report clearly recognises that higher-frequency public transport services will be needed more broadly across our cities. It includes some rail projects for growth areas and bus rapid transport in some locations. It does not focus sufficiently, however, on public transport, walking and cycling projects that will help the middle suburbs achieve their potential.

These are the areas where much more employment and residential development needs to take place if our cities are to become more compact. Supportive infrastructure, particularly public transport and active transport, is central to this goal.

Another illustration of the failure to adequately integrate land use and transport thinking is the discussion of servicing the outskirts of our cities.

A major reason these areas have infrastructure and service delivery problems is that their development densities are too low. Yet I found no reference to the need to increase densities in outer urban areas. This would help with issues such as the need to improve public transport services and associated cost-recovery rates.

Urban governance

There is useful discussion in the plan on governance matters but also a significant hole.

International conversations about cities currently emphasise the importance of someone being able to “speak for the city” and of cities having more financial autonomy. These matters are important for cities to have the resources to perform their roles more effectively and be more accountable for their performance.

The plan looks at the need to reform local government, as well as project planning and delivery arrangements, but does not consider the central governance question: “who speaks for our cities?”. This is a challenge that is fundamental to our cities’ common difficulties of sustaining long-term land use transport plans.

The apparent answer is “state governments” at present, but the recent Sydney introduction of a Greater Sydney Commission is a very innovative step to strengthen partnerships between the state and local governments at city-wide level. This move is recognition that the right answer needs to be wider than simply the state government. New governance arrangements should have figured more prominently in the report.

On funding, the report cites London on a number of occasions. There is no better city to use as a model, given that its population is about what Sydney and Melbourne can expect in 40 years – and that nobody does it better. London has already resolved the problem of “who speaks for the city”.

Under the mayor’s leadership, London is pursuing greater financial autonomy. The city is using measures such as value capture quite aggressively to increase its financial autonomy. The plan discusses value capture to an extent, but it needs a stronger focus on this as a great funding opportunity for more autonomous and accountable cities.

Externalities and pricing reform

From a public transport perspective, the weak treatment of externalities is the biggest problem in the plan.

There is much discussion of congestion and recognition of potential issues of social disadvantage, but not much systematic recognition of other externalities of cities, particularly transport externalities. The assumption seems to be, for example, that:

  • agglomeration economies (or wider economic benefits more broadly) will be recognised somehow and dealt with at an appropriate time in some way;
  • greenhouse gas emissions will be dealt with by whatever Australia decides to do to meet its international obligations;
  • air pollution externalities will be met by vehicle emission standards; and
  • accident and health externalities do not exist or are not important.

This provides scant comfort for the pricing reform the plan proposes. Road pricing reform is about more than recovering infrastructure costs and making motorists aware of congestion costs.

It is about improving the efficient allocation of scarce resources by making road users (and public transport users) more accountable for all the net external costs attributable to their travel choices. This includes (for example) the air pollution costs that remain after emission standards are applied, the accident costs not covered by insurance, rising health costs from a lack of exercise linked to motor vehicle dependence, and the costs of greenhouse gas emissions.

The report should have been much stronger on all the externalities involved in all modes of transport being internalised within reformed transport pricing arrangements.

The plan cites evidence that Australia’s urban public transport cost-recovery rates are low by comparison with similar cities elsewhere. If road pricing reform is implemented and includes a wide range of external costs, the case for increasing these cost-recovery rates is defensible, on two conditions:

  1. measures are in place to support particular disadvantaged groups (which could be through government funding of targeted fare concessions); and
  2. external benefits of public transport (for example, agglomeration economies) are recognised as warranting cost-recovery rates that are less than 100%.

Road funding model

The discussion about reforming the road funding model is hard to evaluate because the treatment of external costs of vehicle use is too vague.

If those costs were all internalised, as they should be for more efficient asset use, then it would be a mistake to hypothecate all the revenue in the road funding model to roads. The payments for air pollution damage, health and accident costs, for example, would need to be separated and be available for other uses that help lower such external costs.

More broadly, the process of determining road infrastructure priorities should not be ultimately devolved to the board of a road funding entity. It should be subject to an integrated process of planning land use and transport, to which that board contributes. Elected politicians ought to remain the ultimate decision-makers on major works.

Infrastructure planning vs integrated planning

The plan’s discussion about long-term infrastructure planning being “an opportunity to improve the value of community engagement” needs to provide more clarity about just what this means.

If long-term integrated land use transport planning had been undertaken more effectively in Australian cities, we would not need separate infrastructure agencies at federal and state levels.

If the report is suggesting community consultation on strategic infrastructure planning that is separate to what should be happening around long-term land use transport plans, which are becoming increasingly broad in international best-practice cities, then we will have very confused communities.

The long-term process of planning integrated land use transport should be where strategic consultation takes place. Infrastructure would be one of the matters subject to consultation and infrastructure priorities one output from the planning process.

The fundamental discussion point needs to be what we want our cities to be like in 30 to 40 years’ time. Transport and other infrastructure discussions and priorities should be placed in the context of creating those cities.

The market’s role in public transport

The plan argues for more competition in the delivery of public transport services.

The cost savings it cites are essentially from settings where a private operator replaces a public operator (the greater the savings, the more bloated the initial public operator). International experience is that subsequent rounds of market testing, once a private provider is in place, deliver few savings.

Furthermore, recent research by David Hensher, from the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at University of Sydney, suggests that if you have an efficient private operator operating under a negotiated performance-based contract, this will be as efficient as a tendered outcome. The report does not seem to be aware of these important nuances.

Improving the policy debate

Infrastructure Australia has done much to raise the quality of debate about infrastructure planning and delivery. Its Australian Infrastructure Plan continues this contribution.

However, so far as our cities are concerned, the effectiveness of the plan will be compromised unless Infrastructure Australia walks the walk in terms of land use transport integration. It needs to align its priorities much more comprehensively with its well-framed land use development directions, and take a broader perspective on pricing reform and associated funding and governance matters.

This is about better integration and delivery in the broadest sense.


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The ConversationJohn Stanley is Adjunct Professor, Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, The Business School, University of Sydney. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

Malcolm Turnbull on a tram. Photo: Facebook / Malcolm Turnbull

Turnbull, Joyce applaud infrastructure report

Malcolm Turnbull has praised recommendations made by Infrastructure Australia in its first 15-year planning document, released February 17.

Turnbull welcomed the paper, dubbed the Australian Infrastructure Plan, at a press conference with IA chairman Mark Birrell in Brisbane on the day of its release.

“I do encourage everybody to read it,” the prime minister said. “It is a report of considerable significance.

“This is a great opportunity; there are some very good recommendations here.

“We are determined to make sure that we provide Australians, particularly in cities, large and small, with all of the support they need.”

IA’s paper was based on a pair of audits – one on Northern Australia and one on the nation as a whole – conducted and delivered in 2015.

The report sets out 78 recommendations for reform. It also details 93 projects and initiatives which are on the IA’s radar for development over the next 15 years, known as the Infrastructure Priority List.

Turnbull has appointed minister for major projects Paul Fletcher to coordinate “a whole of government response” to IA’s report, and the priority list.

Fletcher said IA’s plan the Turnbull Government’s commitment to choose infrastructure projects which drive prosperity, growth, and jobs.

“[The priority list] is a really important planning tool for the federal government and also state and territory governments in assessing which projects will go forward, which, over time, will be funded and it is a tool over the next 15 years, it’s a 15-year plan,” Fletcher said.

“The other part of this plan is a whole series of policy recommendations across many areas relevant to infrastructure policy.

“The Government will study these carefully and we will be responding in due course.

“But, this is certainly going to provoke a lot of debate and we will certainly take account of that debate as we craft our response.”

While he praised the importance of the IA report for the development of cities, Turnbull also emphasised the relevance of the report to the development of Australia’s regional and agricultural infrastructure.

“We have this phenomenal opportunity before too long as this report describes, most of the world’s middle class will be living in East Asia, right at our door stop,” Turnbull said.

“What we are seeing is better prices and better opportunities but we need the infrastructure.”

New deputy prime minister and minister for agriculture Barnaby Joyce described the IA paper as “visionary stuff”.

“There is nothing better than to see big yellow things pushing dirt around,” Joyce said. “It is just marvellous. It gives a sense of opportunity. It gives a sense of hope.

“When people are watching at home, they see jobs for their sons and their daughters. Contractors see jobs for their families.

“People get a sense that our vision is in front of us. That there is hope in front of us.

“There is a future in front of us. Because, you don’t get to invest what will be billions of dollars unless you did believe in where our nation is going. And obviously, these people do.”

Port Botany. Photo: Sydney Ports

Port Botany doesn’t need another expensive rail project, just better utilisation

COMMENT: Improving the efficiency of existing rail infrastructure into Port Botany will deliver the capacity gains it will need, write Daniel Harbour, Daniel Guimarans, and Pascal Van Hentenryck.

Every year, more than two million containers cross the docks at Sydney’s Port Botany, a number forecast to triple over the next 15 years. To avoid putting even more trucks on Sydney’s already congested roads, the NSW government plans to double the share of containers carried by rail, from 14% currently to 28% by the year 2020.

To meet the target, Duncan Gay, the NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, recently suggested duplicating the line into Port Botany; a move he hopes will increase rail capacity.

But our analysis has revealed that, far from being insufficient to meet future container demand, rail resources at Port Botany appear distinctly under-utilised, including the single-track line, which on a busy day sits idle more than 60% of the time.

Our analysis shows that the peak capacity of Port Botany’s current rail resources is 1.78 million containers per annum, which is well above the levels needed to achieve the 28% rail targets over the next decade and beyond.

Project duplication

The current proposal to duplicate rail into Port Botany has a sense of “déjà vu”: the same idea has been discussed numerous times before, including in 2011 by the NSW State Parliament when it was estimated to cost $210 million.

The identified single-track line has long been regarded as a source of congestion by the port community and is seen by many players as a major impediment to growth. Duplication of the line is part of a more general argument which says that current rail infrastructure at Port Botany is inadequate.

For example, according to one analysis from industry media, “Not only is rail capacity [at Port Botany] insufficient for current container demand, there is no rail capacity to meet future container demand”.

Similar sentiments echo throughout the port community: they can be found in government updates to industry and they can be observed in more recent statements issued by industry lobby groups.

Proposed solutions to fix the rail at Port Botany include the aforementioned line duplication, upgrades to existing terminals and even the construction of an entirely new centralised rail facility where containers can be loaded and unloaded away from the waterfront.

Understanding the benefit from any of these proposals is difficult and comparing between them is harder still as the different options have never been studied from a principled scientific perspective.

In a project that spanned over a year, we analysed rail operations at Port Botany with unprecedented detail and fidelity. We had access to six months of daily operations data, from September 2012 to February 2013. The datasets contained information about every single train movement in a 20km “last mile” corridor between the Sydney suburb of Enfield and Port Botany. You can see a visualisation of some of these movements in this video.

For every train operating at the port, we knew exactly its length and number of wagons, how many containers it was carrying, how much time it was waiting or travelling in the network, and how well the stevedores performed their service. Using this data, we could measure the performance of the port from a range of perspectives: train timeliness, train utilisation, terminal utilisation, and rail yard congestion.

We could also construct a simulation model to reproduce rail operations in and around Port Botany with unprecedented fidelity. The model considers all critical sections of rail track and features realistic servicing operations at container terminals.

The simulation model also makes it possible to accurately measure the peak capacity of current rail infrastructure (in terms of container volumes) and evaluate the efficacy of a range of infrastructural case studies, including Minister Gay’s proposed track duplication project.

Our analysis shows that capacity gains do not depend on any investment in new tracks or trains: they can be achieved just by improving operational practices at Port Botany. Indeed, our analysis also isolated the reasons why the rail infrastructure at Port Botany appears congested: low-volume trains, unproductive staging practices, and peak-hour congestion stemming from poor train scheduling.

For Port Botany to achieve its target rail numbers, the key lies in streamlining its operations. Our recommendations include:

  • a dynamic train scheduling system to replace fixed servicing times at stevedore terminals;
  • train staging outside the port precinct; and
  • standardising all port-bound trains so that they contain a minimum number of containers.

These operational practices should suffice to realise the full potential of the existing infrastructure.

In contrast, building expensive new infrastructure will produce marginal volume gains: 4% for a new centralised rail terminal, 0.4% for upgrading the current ones, and no improvement at all for the proposed track duplication project.

We let the data speak and the data told us a story about Port Botany that is very different from the one we know. Streamlined and flexible operational practices are the key to unlock the potential of rail at the port; not heavy infrastructure investments that will not address the existing bottlenecks.

It is a compelling story and one that can be replicated elsewhere.

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Daniel Harabor is Researcher (Optimisation) at Data61, Daniel Guimarans is Associate Professor in Optimisation at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, and Pascal Van Hentenryck is the Seth Bonder Collegiate Professor of Engineering at the University of Michigan.

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

Nuclear power. Photo: Ingram Publishing

SA nuclear dump would need rail, port access

A nuclear waste disposal site in outback South Australia could be highly profitable, but would require construction of a new, secure port and railway, a Royal Commission has found.

South Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission this week tentatively found that creation of an international nuclear waste dump in the state could be economically beneficial.

Only marginal benefit would be gained from a variety of sub-functions of the nuclear industry such as exploration, extraction & milling; further processing and manufacture; or electricity generation.

But the Commission concluded that there could be strong economic benefits from taking in other countries’ industrial-, research-, and medically-originated radioactive waste.

“Modelling… suggests the addition to gross state product would be about 5% by 2029 ($16.8 billion),” the Commission’s first report states.

The report then goes on to address nuclear waste supply chain and transport issues.

“The development of a proposal to receive used fuel would require the construction of a new secured port and railway,” the report states. “…as the casks weigh more than 100 tonnes, they require cranes and heavy vehicles to move.

“Nuclear and radioactive materials are routinely transported between domestic and international destinations.

“Consignments include natural uranium, enriched uranium fuels, medical isotope products and radioactive waste materials.

“Shipments are made by road, rail, air and sea, depending upon such factors such as the nature of the radioactivity and the size and weight of the material,” the Commission states.

International sea-borne shipments of spent radioactive fuels and wastes are “routine,” the report says, and are carried by “vessels which have specific additional features that protect the cask from impact”.

“In many cases, shipments are conveyed on purpose-built vessels which incorporate double hulls and additional reinforcement, and are dedicated to the carriage of used fuel.”

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

Sydney Metro at Campsie. Artist's impression: Transport for NSW

IA calls for reforms to drive more people, freight to rail

Infrastructure Australia has highlighted the preservation of future rail corridors, the development of metro-style passenger networks in key cities, and reform in the planning and funding of transport infrastructure, in its 15-year reform and investment roadmap, released on Wednesday.

IA released the first Australian Infrastructure Plan on February 17, as the result of last year’s Northern Australia Audit and Australian Infrastructure Audit papers, and an extensive industry submission and stakeholder consultation process.

The paper is the result of amendments made to the Infrastructure Australia Act in 2014, which tasked the independent body with responsibility to develop 15-year rolling infrastructure plans.

This year’s plan sets out 78 recommendations for reform.

Released alongside the plan is the Infrastructure Priority List, which outlines high priority projects and initiatives being monitored by the IA board.

Key investments recommended in the list include new metro rail systems in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, road and rail initiatives to bust urban congestion in Perth, public transport improvements in Adelaide and Canberra, and urban renewal in Hobart.

Australasian Railway Association boss Danny Broad welcomed IA’s plan.

“The plan reflects a holistic approach to infrastructure planning and decision making,” Broad said, “and will go a long way in providing innovative solutions to a number of significant infrastructure problems (such as congestion in the transport sector) which are holding Australia back.”

Broad said a number of the recommendations made by IA reinforce the issues the ARA has raised for some time, such as longer term planning, reform in the funding of transport infrastructure, protecting of rail corridors for future public transport and freight projects, and the nation’s ability to make informed decisions on infrastructure projects based on evidence.

“In order for Australia to truly progress, it is crucial that this independent, objective and thorough plan be turned into reality,” he said.

“The plan promotes economic growth and improved liveability of cities while highlighting the crucial role freight and passenger rail will play in our future.

“I call on the state and territory governments to develop business plans for key projects on the Priority List.

“It is essential that passenger rail projects such as the Cross River Rail and metro style services in Melbourne and Sydney, the electrification of the Gawler Line in Adelaide, the new and extended light rail services in Canberra, Parramatta and Adelaide, as well as the North Corridor in Perth, all receive Commonwealth and state funding.”

Broad also encouraged governments to recognise the “strong case” the plan presents for more freight on rail.

“The plan will only be as good as the commitments and leadership that follow,” he said.

“It is up to the Australian Government to provide strong leadership by setting policy objectives and providing appropriate funding and incentives to encourage other governments to take action.”

The papers are available on the Infrastructure Australia website.

Hobart from the air. Photo: Creative Commons / JJ Harrison

ARA welcomes Hobart light rail corridor move

Australasian Railway Association boss Danny Broad says the Tasmanian Government’s decision to preserve a corridor between Hobart and Granton for a future light rail line is the kind of long term planning governments need.

The state government announced on January 30 it will preserve the rail corridor from Hobart to Granton – in the city’s northern suburbs – for the long-term consideration of a light rail line.

It said it will look into value capture methods which could make a light rail line economically feasible.

The move is the result of a study by Infrastructure Tasmania, which found that a light rail line was not economically feasible under current economic conditions, but that there was “potential for it to become a viable source of transport in the future,” according to state infrastructure minister Rene Hidding.

“The review found that apart from the capital costs, which have been previously estimated at $100 million, the major impediment to the operation of the light rail service is projected significant operation losses,” Hidding explained.

“Accordingly, the government will work with both Glenorchy and Hobart City Councils to develop a comprehensive understanding of land use planning and rezoning issues for commercial and residential opportunities adjacent to the rail corridor.

“Increased land utilisation along the corridor, particularly residential, will contribute to making the light rail more sustainable.”

Broad praised the government for making progress on the proposed light rail line, which has been talked about for some time.

“By preserving the rail corridor in Tasmania for when the light rail project is ready to come online, the state government is providing a clear vision for the future development of Tasmania,” Broad, who took over as ARA boss last year, said.

“This direction will boost business confidence and help secure a pipeline of work.

“The Australasian Railway Association has long called for effective, collaborative, long-term planning for transport infrastructure to allow for adequate work-force and project planning, and to spur productivity and economic growth.

“It is pleasing to see governments at all levels recognise the benefits light rail brings to our cities.

“Recent projects such as the light rail extension in Adelaide and the Gold Coast Light Rail have been very successful and popular.”

John Key. Photo: Creative Commons / United Nations

Key accelerates Auckland rail development

Strong growth in rail patronage warrants an early start for the crucial $2.5 billion Auckland City Rail Link (CRL), New Zealand prime minister John Key has announced.

Key delivered his state of the nation address at the Auckland Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, and placed a strong emphasis on transport and infrastructure development, housing and public services.

He also stressed the importance of Auckland as New Zealand’s global city.

“We’re backing Auckland by investing billions of dollars in modern infrastructure,” Key said. “[The CRL] will be one of New Zealand’s largest transport projects, with an estimated cost of around $2.5 billion.”

The CRL is a proposed 3.4 kilometre underground link from Britomart, through the CBD to the Western line at Mt Eden.

“A couple of years ago, I said the Government was committed to a joint business plan for the Rail Link with Auckland Council in 2017,” Key explained.

“We agreed to provide a share of funding for construction to start in 2020, and we were prepared to consider an earlier start if Auckland’s rail patronage and CBD employment hit certain thresholds committed to by the Auckland Council.”

While CBD employment levels are still some way from the 25% growth threshold, strong growth in rail patronage since 2013 means it will reach the 20 million annual trip threshold well before 2020, Key explained.

“It’s become clear that we need to provide certainty for other planned CBD developments affected by the Rail Link,” he said. “This means we see merit in starting the project sooner.”

Key said the government will work with the Council to bring forward the business plan and formalise a funding commitment from 2020, allowing work to start in 2018, at least two years earlier than initially planned.

Confirming the CRL would also allow the council to negotiate contracts and provide certainty for investors in other important Auckland CBD projects, he explained.

“These include the $350 million NDG Auckland Centre next to the new Aotea Station and the $680 million Commercial Bay tower opposite Britomart.

“Timely confirmation of these and other projects, alongside the Rail Link, will encourage more people, businesses and jobs into the heart of Auckland.”

The government and council will now work together on a business plan to address project risks around costs, construction and operation. Associate finance minister Steven Joyce said there were still a number of important and complex issues to be worked through.

“They include how project costs will be finally shared between the Government and the Council, and how the CRL will be owned and managed,” Joyce said.

“Providing these issues are resolved, we’ll aim to finalise the business plan later this year. I am confident we will be able to complete the business plan and funding commitment this year.”