Roy Hill train. Photo: Roy Hill

Lynxrail lands condition monitoring deal for Roy Hill

Perth-based engineering business Lynxrail has secured a contract to install its Automated Train Examiner (ATEx) technology on the new Roy Hill rail line 33km from Port Hedland in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Lynxrail says its ATEx uses leading edge optics, electronics and machine vision algorithms to assess the condition of key rolling stock components while the trains are running in service. Kris Kilian, the company’s founder and CEO, has been developing this technology since the 1990s.

“We started with an idea to extend the life of the aging ore car fleets that were being used in the Pilbara at the time,” Kilian said this week.

“To do this we had to have detailed information on the condition of key ore car components and we started taking photos of those components to develop a history of each vehicle.

“We have come a long way since then and the product that we will be using for Roy Hill is the result of thousands of hours of development work in the past 18 years.”

Roy Hill will use Lynxrail’s Wheel Profile Monitor, Brake Shoe Monitor and the Hunting and Tracking Monitor. Lynxrail will also provide a RailBam acoustic bearing monitor from Adelaide company TrackIQ, which ‘listens’ for faulty wheel bearings to complement the other technology.

“The optics are mounted at sleeper level and on small towers adjacent to the track,” Kilian explained.

“We take high precision measurements of rolling stock wheels to assess their spacing and speed, and to survey their dynamic behaviour. At the same time the system synchronises the cameras and strobes to develop the optimal triggering strategy for obtain pictures of the components at normal operational speeds.

“Three high definition images of each wheel are captured at different angles, as well as two images of the brake shoe. These images are processed on site and arranged in a database according to the vehicle number and train by using Automatic Equipment Identification (AEI) technology.”

Lynxrail’s machine vision algorithms measure key parameters such as flange thickness and brake shoe thickness.

Information is stored in a database available for viewing via a web-based viewer, and any critical components that are deemed to be unsafe are reported immediately via email to Roy Hill.

Roy Hill’s manager of rollingstock maintenance, Bruce Brymer, said it was critical for the project to keep maintenance costs down, and to extend ore car wheel life.

“Wheels are one of the biggest costs in a railway,” Brymer said. “At Roy Hill we are starting a new operation and we plan to maximise the life of our wheelsets. The ATEx and the RailBam will complement our Wheel Impact Load Detectors and Hot Bearing Detectors and provide continuous condition monitoring data for these key areas.

“This data will allow Roy Hill to confirm bogie performance is meeting design expectations and wheel wear is within the target range to achieve the predicted wheel life for the railway.”

E-Class Melbourne tram. Photo: Liam Davies

Newman ‘delighted’ by cities minister appointment

Malcolm Turnbull’s move to appoint Jamie Briggs to the new role of minister for cities and built infrastructure has been welcomed by public transport advocate Peter Newman, and Greens MP Adam Bandt.

Newman, a professor at the Curtin University in WA, is a well-known supporter of public transport policy. He is one of the key opponents of the Perth Freight Link road project, which will connect a new tollroad to Fremantle Port, rather than boosting rail capacity.

One move he’s not opposed to, though, is the creation of the new federal ministry.

“I was absolutely delighted, taken by surprise, I’d have to say,” Newman said of Briggs’ appointment on ABC Radio on Monday.

“It does show that it’s a completely bi-partisan idea and one that should be historically looked back on to say this is the moment that the Federal Government said cities really do matter.”

Briggs will work with states to develop urban design and public transport plans for the major cities.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott, when he named his first ministry, gave Warren Truss the title of minister for infrastructure and regional development.

Missing from Truss’ title – which he retains under Turnbull – is the word ‘transport’. This was perceived by many as Abbott cementing his view that the Commonwealth should not fund urban public transport, and should instead stick to federal projects, and roads.

Anthony Albanese was the minister for infrastructure and transport under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, when the Labor Party was in power between 2007 and 2013. As the shadow minister for transport and infrastructure, he has pressured the Liberal Government on its anti-public-transport stance, and this pressure was ramped up when, last year, Bill Shorten added ‘cities’ to Albanese’s shadow portfolio.

The addition of Briggs as the minister for cities, then, makes the concept a bi-partisan one, as Newman suggested.

“It was an extreme view that was around for many years that you’ll never get people out of their cars, you’re in your car you’re the king and nobody else matters,” Newman continued, “[Abbott] actually has a quote like that in his book.

“It’s really disappeared especially among the young and the wealthy who are now locating in places where you don’t need a car. And car use is actually in decline in all the world’s big cities.”

Greens minister Adam Bandt said the cities role had potential, if it was used correctly.

“If this new cities ministry has some teeth and is able to direct how Commonwealth money is spent and perhaps from time to time tells the states to be a bit more sensible about how they spend the money that they get from the Commonwealth Government, then it could be a good thing,” Bandt told ABC Radio.

“You know you’ve been to a good city … if you can travel around without using a car.

“Melbourne could become one of those if we put more money into public transport, including into a metro rail project.”

Car key. Photo: Ingram Publishing

Can one day without cars really change travel habits?

COMMENT: World Car-Free day has at its heart a noble claim – but the evidence suggests that a one-off event can’t really make a world of difference, Jillian Anable writes.

It is said that on average, we take 66 days to form a new habit. So when an initiative sets out to change our habits in just 24 hours, there’s cause for scepticism. World Car-Free Day aims to do just that. The thought is that by closing city centres to cars for one day a year, people will make a long-term switch to alternative modes of transport and help us to address the many problems caused by our dependence on cars.

Car-free days have been running for almost 20 years, with cities as far afield as Washington, Paris, Brussels, Stockholm and New Delhi participating. And though the impact of these initiatives has not been well evaluated, there are studies which suggest that events which disrupt the transport system can lead to longer term behaviour changes. Strikes and road closures, for example, force people to try something different, and alter their knowledge and perceptions of the travel alternatives on offer.

One worldwide 2002 study of over 70 road closures due to natural disasters and planned roadworks found that, on average, 11% of vehicles previously using the road could not be found in the surrounding area afterwards. A more recent study on the impact of strike action on the London Underground in February 2014 used data from travel cards to examine travel patterns before, during and after the strike. It found that 5% of travellers carried on using their newly discovered routes after the disruption was over.

While these findings sound encouraging, it’s worth questioning whether the changes to travel patterns after a disruption are any greater than the day-to-day variability we see anyway. And if they are, there’s still no guarantee that enough people maintain these changes for long enough to alter overall travel patterns, such as the total kilometres driven from one year to the next.

three-year study on these topics confirmed that individual travel patterns undergo significant day-to-day and year-to-year churn. For instance, although over half of those who were asked by the researchers before and after the 2012 Olympics in London said they had changed their journeys to work during the games, three quarters said they did not always travel to work the same way on a typical day anyway.

Similarly, half of council employees in York revealed they could not be certain how many days they would travel in to the office in the following week. The study revealed that these variations were due to myriad reasons, from changing family and work schedules, avoiding bad weather or just feeling like making a change.

 

Get multi-modal

But if there’s so much churn and flexibility in the system already, why is it so difficult to achieve deep reductions in car use? For these reductions to materialise, we need more people to avoid taking single occupancy journeys in their car more of the time, so that being “multi-modal” – that is, relying on more than one mode of transport – becomes the norm.

But to achieve this, we’ll need a much broader understanding of how and what shapes people’s travel choices in the first place, and how this varies across locations and societal groups. The three-year disruption study suggests that we should think about these issues in terms of a broader “mobility system”.

The mobility system includes not only the transport system (infrastructure, legislation, fiscal arrangements like charges and fares, and public transport operators), but also the communication system (patterns of work, shopping and socialising as well as the information we use on the go) and the social context (the norms about how things are done, the know-how and resources of those in the system, including workplaces and communities).

At the centre of the mobility system are the activities which each generate travel and are influenced by the institutions and expectations in the system, such as school start and end times, or standardised business hours.

IMAGE caption: The mobility system. Graphic: Jillian Anable / Disruption Project

Unfortunately, the supporters of car-free day – like most policy targeting transport patterns – fall into the trap of thinking that altering the transport infrastructure and services is all that’s required to alter travel behaviour. While these initiatives can play a role in changing the behaviour of some people, for one day, occasionally, it is far from adequate to influence longer term changes at the scale required. Instead, we need to make changes across the whole mobility system, to continually reinforce greater uptake of alternative transport methods.

Flexible working hours, which relax rigid time and place constraints is an important part of the solution, as is wraparound childcare (such as before- and after-school clubs) to allow flexible schedules. Transport system solutions include payment systems to cater for multi-modal journeys such as the Mobility Mixx card in the Netherlands, which can be used to pay for all public transport, taxis, car pool, bike and car rental and park-and-ride tickets. Another option is seasonal reallocation of road space to pedestrian spaces or non-motorised road users as they did in New York.

We need to think more carefully about how, where and when activities are carried out, and then look at how transport provision fits with that. Only then could car-free days go from being rare annual events to part of making non-car journeys more likely, more of the time.The Conversation

Jillian Anable is professor of transport and energy demand at the University of Aberdeen. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

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Highway in Denmark. Photo: Lars Bo Wassini / Creative Commons

Our cars are killing us – so how do we wean ourselves off them?

COMMENT: The evidence is in: cars are a risk to public health, and we need to find alternatives. University of Huddersfield lecturer in transport Alexandros Nikitas investigates.

Road traffic accidents are the number one cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds. If no action is taken, it is predicted that road traffic will kill as many as 1.9m people worldwide per year by 2030. Add to this the negative impacts of greenhouse gas emissionsair and noise pollutionchronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes and rising levels of obesity, and a future full of cars looks bleak indeed.

These are the concerns underpinning European Mobility Week – an annual campaign, which began in 2002 – to promote sustainable forms of urban transport. This year, more than 1,700 local authorities from 42 different countries play host to a range of public events such as bicycle masses, talks and seminars about green mobility patterns, walk-to-school initiatives and many other public activities to support the uptake of sustainable and active travel.

 

Breaking the habit

Over the past few decades, most cities around the globe have been shaped by the car. The majority of our public spaces have been transformed into endless flows of traffic, to better accommodate our dependence on this form of transport. As the number of people living in urban areas continues to grow, so too will the number of cars on the roads. There is a serious risk that this type of car-centred urbanisation will become unsustainable, and damage living standards for all.

As a result, governments are becoming increasingly committed to controlling the number of conventionally-fuelled cars on the roads. To complete the transition from a heavily car-dominated society to a resource-efficient one, cities will need to achieve a more equal “modal share” – that is, city-dwellers need to be encouraged to take up alternative modes of transport in greater numbers. As a part of this effort, hundreds of cities in Europe and around the world – from Barcelona, to Brussels, to Istanbul – will encourage motorists to give up their automobiles for 24 hours, typically by closing their central streets to cars, as part of World Car-Free Day.

 

Moving on

About half of all car trips in countries like the UK, the Netherlands, and the US are fewer than five miles long. Replacing cars with other modes of transport for these short journeys would be a colossal step in the right direction. To this end, policy-makers, transport planners and traffic engineers have a variety of stick and carrot measures to make car use undesirable or unnecessary.

The stick measures are often regulatory; designed to force people to reduce car usage. These mechanisms range from congestion charges, toll roads, parking levies, traffic calming and road restrictions to fuel taxes, vehicle excise duty and even expensive car ownership permits.

The carrots are often soft measures, which give car users the options they need to be able to change their travel behaviour on a voluntary basis. One example is to make additions and improvements to alternative infrastructure, such as bus and rail services. But they can also include things such as the provision of cycle routes, pedestrianisation, priority bus lanes and other special rights-of-way.

Hybrid public transport modes and cheaper fares also help, as do initiatives for buying alternatively-fuelled cars and tools or information to help people practice smarter and more fuel-efficient driving, which makes the most of advanced vehicle technologies, when car use cannot be avoided. The sharing economy has stepped in, too, with ride sharing apps and websites like BlaBlaCar and iThumb and more than 900 dedicated public bicycle programmes worldwide.

Events like car-free days are important reminders of the steps that need to be taken to ensure safe and sustainable urban development. We need to use all these tools, and more, to meet the travel needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to enjoy liveable cities.The Conversation

Alexandros Nikitas is a lecturer in transport at  University of Huddersfield. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

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Randwick light rail terminus. Photo: Sydney Light Rail / Facebook

Constance shifts planned site for light rail terminus

The Randwick terminus of the in-development Sydney Light Rail CBD and South East rail line has been moved away from High Cross Park following pushback from the local community and Randwick Council.

Locals were concerned over the impact the original plan could have on High Cross Park, which includes 33 trees and an historic war memorial.

Randwick City Council proposed an alternative terminus at the corner of High Street and Avoca Street, beside the Prince of Whales Hospital, where a new plaza will be developed.

NSW minister for transport and infrastructure Andrew Constance said the move was made as part of a wider renewal proposal for the High Street precinct championed by Coogee MP Bruce Notley-Smith and Randwick Council.

“This is about integrating the aspirations of the local community with the transport needs of the future,” Constance said.

“Over the last eight months the Light Rail team has worked with the Council, Health Infrastructure and the University of NSW to develop a number of design modifications that we will seek in relation to the High Street Precinct.”

The minister said the government had been clear when it approved the initial design, telling Randwick Council it had the opportunity to present an alternative proposal.

“They have introduced a substantial number of new elements in a highly professional and collaborative process,” Constance said.

“I caution that this is still subject to a number of steps and that modifying a design is a major undertaking, but we are all working to the same objective and there is complete support from all parties to the benefits light rail will bring to the area.”

It is also now proposed that a transformer required to assist in powering the network will be buried under a section of High Cross Park rather than remain above ground as originally planned, Transport for NSW said.

As well as changing the design of the High Street Terminus, modifications will also be sought for the University of NSW site on High Street, creating two ‘side platforms’ and reducing the potential for interference from the light rail network with the University’s sensitive research facilities, the department added.

NSW health minister Jillian Skinner welcomed the changes, which she said would give Sydney Children’s Hospital and Prince of Wales Hospital patients, visitors and staff better access to the new line.

“I’m delighted at this outcome, which will make using light rail an even more attractive option for the thousands of staff, patients and visitors who come to our hospitals,” Skinner said.

Northcliffe station on Gold Coast Light Rail. Inset: Dean Nalder. Inset: Colin Barnett. Photo: Francisco Anzola / Creative Commons

Can you believe these guys?

COMMENT: Light rail expansion in Sydney, and the success of the Gold Coast network, are in stark contrast to the dark mutterings coming out of Western Australia, where the state government is scrambling to back up its decision to dump MAX light rail, Mark Carter writes.

As I mentioned briefly in my previous column, I am temporarily domiciled in the UK and so the other weekend I took the opportunity to sample the delights of some of the mass transit networks that have sprung up around London over the last couple decades.

Our tour mainly focussed on the ever expanding Overground network, the rather cute Docklands Light Railway and Croydon’s Tramlink system. Needless to say most of it is far superior to anything we have in the Australia; although I’m sure some limitations notwithstanding, Sydney’s North West Rail Link will give them a run for their money in a few years’ time.

The adventure was not without its problems, although relatively minor and largely revolving around my travelling companion’s use of his touch and go Oyster card for the day. What cost me around $18 using a one-day travel card, cost him three times as much due to failings of the Oyster Card ‘touch and go’ system.

It left me wondering how much extra subsidy is going into Mayor Boris’ coffers from unsuspecting tourists who have fallen foul to Oysters idiosyncrasies. As the transport network has grown more complex, especially with the expansion of the Overground, so too has Oyster, once a very simple and effective ticketing system.

Anyway I digress.

As mentioned, part of the frolics was an hour or two spent on the Croydon Tramlink, which got me thinking about Australia’s attitude to light rail networks.

Opened in 2000, Croydon was the second of several systems that have been built in the UK; others being Newcastle, Manchester, West Midlands, Sheffield, Nottingham and Edinburgh; a mix of new stand-alone systems and others that are converted suburban rail lines.

The Croydon network is 28km in length and carries around 32 million passengers annually with a target patronage of 50 million per annum by 2030.

In Australia we have seen the highly successful opening of G:link on the Gold Coast tempered by the dropping off the proposed MAX light rail in Perth and ideological opposition to the planned Canberra network.

It is the debacle surrounding the dropping of the MAX project in Perth that has really got my gander up, especially regarding some of the ridiculous excuses emanating from the offices of state transport minister Dean Nalder, and WA premier Colin Barnett.

Let’s not forget, MAX was the Liberals’ public transport poster child at the last WA election, and had been prioritised well ahead of the planned Airport Link heavy rail extension in the state’s draft transport plan.

In fact both sides of politics were backing both schemes, despite the combined price tag being rather high, even with the coffers still bulging at the time courtesy of the mining boom.

Since then of course the WA economy has gone slightly downhill. Revenue is down and the anti PT rumblings from the nation’s capital meant that in all likelihood it would come down to backing one or the other.

Despite the higher priority for MAX, I can only imagine sensible transport policy has been replaced by focus group results and the airport link has no doubt been shown to have the potential to win more votes at the next election.

Rather than just fessing up and telling it how it is – ‘Sorry people, we’re broke and the airport link will deliver more votes…’ (and yes I know I’m dreaming) – Nalder and Barnett have come out with some rather quaint excuses for not proceeding with MAX.

There were some interesting published quotes from the pair in July this year.

Barnett told Seven West Media that light rail, “Hasn’t been an overwhelming success in Australia at all”.

“The project for example recently completed on the Gold Coast in Queensland really has not been successful,” he said, “so there’s a bit of rethink about light rail.”

Really? Do the Sandgropers really live such sheltered lives?

That will indeed be news to the New South Wales government who are currently doubling the size of their light rail network. And as for the Gold Coast’s G:link, the premier’s comments are laughable.

G:link carried a whopping 6.2 million passengers in its first year of operation, well ahead of expectations and re-enforcing calls for expansion of the network in time for the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

In researching this column I came across a several positive stories quoting real estate sources that link the G:link to property development in the area; even the generally  conservative Gold Coast Bulletin said it believes the first stage of the light rail between Broadbeach and Southport is driving a $6 billion local development boom.

Despite the WA draft transport strategy stating that buses could not provide the same level of service and capacity as light rail, Nalder is now seeing a cut price bus solution as a replacement for MAX.

A recent report complete with images of space age looking ‘bullet buses’ touts an alternative $1.25 billion bus lane solution, with articulated buses carrying up to 200 people!

Good luck with that one minister, unless you have roads as smooth as billiard tables.

It’s only two years ago that after a European study trip, former WA transport minister Troy Buswell was emphatic that, “Light rail has been assessed as the most suitable option in these areas as it can move many more people in one lane than any number of buses and cars.”

So it seems while the Gold Coast developers are directly linking Mermaid Beach with future light rail expansion, Western Australia is going all Porpoise Spit on us.

Isn’t that right Muriel… err, sorry, I mean Dean.

TasRail Wagons. Photo: TasRail

Bulk, non-bulk to draw separate benefits from Inland Rail

John Anderson’s report into the proposed Inland Rail line between Melbourne and Brisbane has detailed how both bulk and non-bulk freight operators will draw value from the project.

The report from the Inland Rail Implementation Group, chaired by former deputy prime minister John Anderson, was released on September 11.


Related story: The 7 benefits of Inland Rail

Related story: Report judges coastal shipping vs. Inland Rail


It said the main freight transported along the Inland Rail corridor would be bulk and non-bulk manufacturing and construction inputs such as steel, paper, coal, grain, and non-bulk consumables such as groceries, fruit and vegetables, household furniture and appliances.

Non-bulk products would typically use most of, if not the entire length of the proposed Melbourne-Brisbane line. This is reflected by the primary goal of Inland Rail: to remove viable non-bulk freight from roads and the existing east coast rail line.

Bulk products, however, will benefit significantly from Inland Rail in their own way: Coal is expected to represent more than half of the total demand for Inland Rail by volume in 2025, and grain is also expected to make significant use of the project.

Inland Rail will provide bulk producers and exporters the ability to use smaller sections of the rail link to enhance their existing freight flows, the report explains.

“Bulk commodities such as grain and coal are … significant supply chains by volume but tend to utilise only small sections of the transport network within the corridor as they typically flow from regional areas to the nearest metropolitan area or port,” the Implementation Group report states.

“Inland Rail is expected to take significant volumes of agricultural freight from existing regional rail lines,” the report addresses. “For example, in 2025, approximately 4.2 million tonnes of NSW grain is estimated to traverse Inland Rail to travel to the Port of Newcastle and Port Kembla.

“Thermal coal from the Surat and Clarence-Moreton basins is expected to benefit from some train operating cost savings and Inland Rail upgrades will induce further coal – around 19.5 million tonnes per annum of coal are forecast.”

Deputy prime minister and minister for infrastructure and regional development Warren Truss said the project, while expensive, would significantly benefit the Australian economy in the long term.

“Inland Rail will cost around $10 billion, but not building it will cost us more,” Truss said.

“The case for the iconic Inland Rail project is not hard to make.”

Truss’ shadow minister in the infrastructure portfolio, Anthony Albanese, late last week accused the Nationals leader of being all talk, no action, however.

“Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss should stop talking about the long-awaited Inland Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne and start building,” Albanese said on Friday.

“Prior to the 2013 election, Mr Truss promised to ‘fast-track’ construction of the 1,730km project, which will revolutionise the movement of freight.

“But two years into his term of office, the hapless Mr Truss has failed to allocate a single dollar to the project beyond the $300 million in start-up funding allocated by the former Labor Government.”

Container ship. Photo: Hapag Lloyd

Report judges coastal shipping vs. Inland Rail

The Inland Rail Implementation Group’s report into the proposed Melbourne to Brisbane rail link discusses how it stacks up against one logical alternative: coastal shipping.

Coastal shipping is as it sounds: shipping from one spot to another along the same coastline.

Inland Rail would connect Brisbane and Melbourne via a more direct route than the current coastal line, avoiding the bottleneck of the greater Sydney area while also linking regional Queensland, NSW and Victorian towns with major exporting cities.

The recent report believes the project would cost $10 billion.

Coastal shipping has been commonly cited as a logical alternative to Inland Rail, with the suggestion being that dedicated sea freight services could carry just as much of the freight load as a rail line, and would have little to no set-up cost, as it would use existing infrastructure.

But the Inland Rail Implementation Group’s report, handed to the Australian Government on August 24 and released to the public on September 11, dismisses this as a proper alternative.

Put simply, the report argues that if coastal shipping was a proper alternative to rail, then it would have already taken freight from the existing coastal rail line.

“Inland Rail … represents the service characteristics that would be required to shift non-bulk, intermodal freight from road to rail,” the report explains. “A key element of this service offering is a competitive terminal-to-terminal transit time of less than 24 hours … shipping cannot compete with road and rail in this regard.”

At 20 knots a regular shipping service between Melbourne and Brisbane would take approximately 16 hours longer than current rail transit, and over a day longer than the design specifications for Inland Rail. The report also notes shipping has a number of door-to-door time disadvantages over existing road and rail services.

On top of time taken, the report also suggests coastal shipping would offer a less desirable service frequency than Inland Rail.

With the smallest reasonable ship carrying 1000 twenty foot containers or equivalent (TEU), and the 2030 market expected to provide coastal shipping a potential of 200,000 TEU, coastal shipping would provide just four one-way services between Melbourne and Brisbane each week.

“This is significantly less frequent than the expected 17 one-way services a week for Inland Rail,” the report states.

In summary: “Relative to the proposed Inland Rail solution, the poor service frequency and the significantly longer transit time indicates that a dedicated shipping solution between Melbourne and Brisbane is unlikely to be successful in meeting the needs of a significant proportion of the market.

“This conclusion is based on assumptions that are in favour of the shipping case, that is, bullish market take-up and a conservative ship size.”

Coal train. Photo: ARTC

‘Coal is amazing’ backlash could be worthwhile

The University of Manchester’s Marc Hudson argues the online mockery of the Minerals Council’s new coal ad may just be collateral damage in the industry’s wider mission to reach out to its supporters.


The Minerals Council of Australia’s recent coal adverts, extolling the virtues of the “little black rock”, have provoked an inevitable Twitter backlash. Industry is clearly still learning how to cope in the “web 2.0” world of social media and instant snark. But perhaps the campaign is addressing other audiences beyond the twittersphere, and a bit of sarcasm may well be seen as a small price to pay.


Related Story: ‘Coal is amazing’ campaign shredded on social media


The advertisement, if you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen it, shows extreme close-ups of what seems to be an asteroid but (spoiler alert) turns out to be a lump of coal. A voice-over explains that “this can provide endless possibilities. It can create light and jobs”, before giving some statistics about wages, jobs and carbon emissions.

 

 

Comments are disabled on the YouTube video, but elsewhere the response has been predictable, with some commentators pointing out that the image of a barren and unhospitable rock is a pretty apt metaphor for a world in which all the fossil fuels have been burned.

Everything happens very fast on the internet, so the inevitable spoof videos emerged within hours of the campaign’s release.

The turbocharged speed of internet culture also means there’s already a historical context in which advertisements (and their inevitable backlashes) can be viewed.

 

Web 1.0: birth of the spoof video

In 2007 (an age ago in internet years), the New South Wales Minerals Council ran adverts with the tagline “Life: Brought to you by mining”. In response, the activist group Rising Tide set up a spoof website called “Rising sea levels: Brought to you by mining”, explaining that the science they were reading came to somewhat different conclusions.

The Minerals Council was not amused and threatened legal action. Rising Tide moved the hosting of the site offshore and the Minerals Council backed away from the fight, perhaps wary of looking a tad humourless.

Subsequent industry public relations campaigns – such as the Australian Coal Association’s 2009 advertisement “Let’s cut emissions not jobs”, in response to Kevin Rudd’s doomed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and the A$22 million “Keep Mining Strong” campaign blitz (and accompanying Twitter feed) that defeated Rudd’s proposed mining tax – did not draw similar spoof responses.

However, the 2011 “Australian mining: This is our story” advertisement, launched during Julia Gillard’s campaign to get the Clean Energy Future Package through parliament, did draw a response. The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union set up a spoof website, with a robustly scripted (that is, not safe for work) video titled “Australian Mining: This is the real story”. The coal company Xstrata (since bought by Glencore) tried to have it removed.

 

Web 2.0: hashtags, hijinks and hijacks

What’s changed since then is the rise and rise of Twitter, with its capacity for swarming behaviour. Various organisations (for example, the New York Police Department and McDonald’s) have learned the hard way that trying to burnish your reputation and start “conversations” with the public can easily come unstuck, with hashtags becoming “bashtags”. The City of Toronto recently found itself on the receiving end of ironic Twitter activism, merely for failing to collect a raccoon’s corpse for 12 hours.

It’s still unclear, of course, whether this “clicktivism” encourages people to take more action in the real world, or acts as a “release valve” so that the mockery actually diverts people from taking other action against organisations they dislike. The debate is still going over whether clicktivism is really just “slacktivism”.

Early last year, the Minerals Council launched its “Australians for Coal” campaign. A predictable battle of wits ensued over its #australiansforcoal hashtag.

Even a pro-coal commentator had to admit that it couldn’t “be claimed to be a success, not least because the anti-fossil fuel brigade has upped its efforts in the past 2-3 years to a much greater extent too”.

 

Playing to the crowd

The Minerals Council and its PR strategists are presumably streetwise enough to realise that their #coalisamazing campaign would draw a similarly sarcastic response. It may even be the case that they are relishing the battle.

For decades the coal industry has fought a successful campaign that framed it as a crucial provider of energy and jobs, not to mention a responsible corporate citizen committed to environmental technologies. Even now, amid evidence that the tide is turning against coal, these “framing battles” still need to be fought.

Since the peak of the boom, in 2011, coal prices have collapsed and profits have been squeezed. In 2014, a long-lived industry publication, the Australian Journal of Mining, published its last issue. In September 2013, the Australian Coal Association was subsumed within the Minerals Council.

So while coal’s critics have had their fun on Twitter, it is unlikely that they were the true target of the advertisement anyway. The real goal is likely to have been to shore up the Minerals Council’s membership, and the industry may well view spoof videos and some inevitable leg-pulling as collateral damage.


Marc Hudson, PhD candidate at Sustainable Consumption Institute , University of Manchester. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Warren Truss

Inland Rail to generate $22.5bn

The Federal Government has released the delivery study for the Inland Rail project, after it was handed in by John Anderson’s Implementation Group earlier this month.

Anderson recently delivered the report to deputy prime minister and minister for infrastructure and regional development Warren Truss.

The report outlines a 10-year construction plan to complete the 1700km project – including 600km of new track, and puts the cost at $10 billion.

Accompanying the plan is a detailed business case, developed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation.

Initially, the Inland Rail will provide for 1800 metre long trains carrying containers stacked two high and, later, 3600 metre long trains.

The direct Brisbane to Melbourne link will reduce freight-travel-distance between Melbourne and Brisbane by 200km, and between Brisbane and Perth by 500 km.

“This Report and Business Case provides the information needed to consider how best to build the Inland Rail network to meet the freight challenge of the coming decades – expected to treble along the eastern seaboard to 2030,” Truss said, adding that the plan indicates that the Inland Rail will generate economic benefits of about $22.5bn.

Michael Kilgariff, managing director of the Australian Logistics Council, welcomed the delivery of the report.

“Inland rail is critical to Australia’s freight future given the expectations of the growth in the freight task,” Kilgariff said.

“ALC, along with industry, strongly supports the project and we eagerly encourage Government’s continued commitment to the project to ensure its long awaited delivery.”

Shadow minister for transport and infrastructure Anthony Albanese said the government should take action soon on the project.

“Infrastructure minister Warren Truss should stop talking about the long-awaited Inland Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne and start building,” Albanese said.

“Mr Truss has talked endlessly about Inland Rail but done nothing. It is time to get on with the job.”


This article originally appeared on Rail Express affiliate, Lloyd’s List Australia. Read the original here.