Simon Ormsby, Australian Rail Track Corporation. Photo: David Sexton

Size, location key to intermodal success on Inland Rail

An expert from the Australian Rail Track Corporation has outlined his keys to success for new intermodal hubs planned along the proposed Inland Rail freight line.

ARTC executive general manager for strategy and corporate development Simon Ormsby spoke last Friday at the Rail Freight Alliance conference in Melbourne.

He said Inland Rail – the proposal to connect Melbourne to Brisbane via a more direct inland route – would not just give a more effective link between the two cities, but would also give Queensland a better link to the western states.

Importantly, he noted, the project will also give a lot of regional areas a far better connection to the major ports of Australia.

That will be useless, however, if intermodal connections to the line are not good enough.

“Unless you’ve actually got the right locations to get the freight onto the network, there’ll be a limit to what you can achieve with Inland Rail,” Ormsby said. “Terminals are a fundamental and critical piece to make Inland Rail succeed… [but] Inland Rail itself won’t guarantee the success of a terminal.”

He noted a number of factors aside from just location that go into making an intermodal hub successful.

“The terminal of the future … does not rely on a single rail connection off the main line, with a bit of hard stand,” he said. “To take advantage of the terminal today … I think it’s essential to have land available alongside the rail facility for industrial facilities, to establish an industrial precinct.”

He said developing an industrial precinct around the terminal minimised the pick-up and delivery leg by aligning the freight distribution centres with the railway hub, and allowed users to take advantage of heavy loading rates on rail compared to road.

He said an intermodal terminal needs to be 200 to 300km from the major port, and needs to handle a minimum of 10,000 twenty-foot containers or equivalent (TEU) annually to be assured of viability.


Inland Rail not necessary yet, but should be soon

Ormsby said the ARTC is not relying on Inland Rail for the continued growth of rail freight, but is instead seeing it as an ideal addition to Australia’s interstate railway network as freight growth takes place down the road.

“We see Inland Rail not as an alternative to that coastal route [between Brisbane and Melbourne], but complementary,” Ormsby explained.

“ARTC has made a big investment in the existing network … as much as we’re supporting Inland Rail as a concept, we’re not waiting for Inland Rail to try and grow freight and volume on the network.”

The government-owned infrastructure owner has invested about $3.5 billion on the coastal route between Melbourne and Brisbane, he explained, and a lot of that money has gone into the corridor between Sydney and Melbourne.

Ormbsy describes the Sydney to Melbourne section of the ARTC network as “the best piece of network we have,” noting it is largely two way, not gradient restricted, and gives direct freight access to each port.

That makes it ideal, he says, for increased rail traffic. And as that happens, Melbourne to Brisbane freight will need to move elsewhere.

“If we achieve our freight targets and some of our freight objectives, and start to put more volume on that Sydney to Melbourne corridor, it is a logical next step that we will take the Melbourne-Brisbane freight, and the Brisbane-Perth freight off that coastal route, and onto Inland Rail.”

First pre-series Class 800 Hitachi InterCity Express Programme train undergoes dynamic testing. Photo: Creative Commons / Paul Bigland

Hitachi ‘brings rail manufacturing back’ to England’s north east

British prime minister David Cameron was on hand last week for the opening of Japanese conglomerate Hitachi’s new £82 million (A$180 million) train manufacturing facility in the north of England.

Hitachi was awarded the £4.5 billion Intercity Express contract from the Department for Transport in 2012, and a £1.2 billion option was added onto that contract in 2014.

A Public Private Partnership, the Intercity Express programme will deliver trains for use on the East Coast network of England and Scotland, and the Great Western network of England and Wales.

The new facility in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham will take pre-produced parts from Hitachi’s Japanese site and manufacture British Rail Class 800 and 801 trains, specially-designed by Hitachi for the Intercity programme.

Hitachi’s first factory in Europe, the Newton Aycliffe site will also produce Scottish commuter trains.

“This massive investment from Hitachi shows confidence in the strength of Britain’s growing economy,” Cameron said on September 3.

“This new train factory will not only provide good jobs for working people but will build the next generation of intercity trains, improving travel for commuters and families, as well as strengthening the infrastructure we need to help the UK grow.”

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer (financial minister) George Osborne said the factory represented a major boost to manufacturing in England’s north east.

“This state of the art facility will grow and secure jobs for decades to come and will help us to build the northern powerhouse while at the same time revitalising some of our oldest industries in the region within which this tradition is synonymous,” Osborne said.

Hitachi chairman and chief executive Hiroaki Nakanishi said the Intercity programme combined “the best of Japanese technology with the best of British manufacturing,” to create the world’s best trains.

“It is our culture as a business to take a long-term view in everything we do,” Nakanishi said. “From our investment here in Newton Aycliffe, to our network of new train maintenance centres across the UK, to our ongoing work in building a strong regional supply chain – Hitachi is here to stay.”

The British Rail Class 800 and 801s will be made up of five or nine 26 metre cars. They will be 2.7 metres wide and will have a maximum speed of 201km/h. The first trains were manufactured wholly in Japan and are being tested in the UK now.

The first of the trains are scheduled to be released for passenger service by December 2017.

UK transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the trains were crucial for the future success of several of Britain’s busiest rail routes.

“The state-of-the-art Intercity Express Programme trains that will be manufactured here will transform rail travel for countless passengers in the north east and south west,” he said.

“Not only will these trains allow us to operate more services, with more seats, and faster journeys, the improvements will also bring great opportunities for growth, generating hundreds of jobs in the local area and thousands across the country within the supply chain.”

Resleepered track on WA's Leonora Branch Line. Photo: Brookfield Rail

Albrecht welcomes Cormann’s Inland Rail rethink

National Trunk Rail chairman Martin Albrecht has praised finance minister Mathias Cormann’s decision to stall the sale of the Australian Rail Track Corporation to consider the implications of progress on the Inland Rail project.

Albrecht said Cormann’s decision showed the government was considering other options to develop Inland Rail – a direct freight link between Brisbane and Melbourne via rural Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

National Trunk Rail is a private sector proponent of Inland Rail.

Albrecht has made the business pages in recent weeks, arguing for Inland Rail to be built through a public private partnership (PPP) scheme, which he says will “drive productivity through innovation to reduce costs to taxpayers and the government”.

“The Federal Government has said it is looking for the most efficient and cost effective way possible to deliver Inland Rail. That is what we have been promoting to government for some time with our NTR solution,” Albrecht said on September 4.

“The time for a high speed, fully integrated inland rail freight line is unquestionably now.

“We need a far-reaching and cost-effective solution to the nation’s growing east coast freight task, which is expected to double by 2030 and treble by 2050 – export opportunities through Free Trade Agreements can only be captured through the lowest life-cycle cost transport infrastructure.”

Albrecht said the private sector had an appetite for infrastructure investment.

NTR also includes former Queensland Rail chief Vincent O’Rourke, former Queensland Investment Corporation boss Dr Doug McTaggert and former Queensland Treasury chief executive Mark Gray.

The group believes the private sector is best placed to largely fund and build large infrastructure in a timely manner to attract early investment.

“NTR would be a strong participant in a PPP process and would deliver an inland rail design that is shorter, flatter, straighter and faster, and in less than six years from commencement,” Albrecht said.

“Most importantly, it will deliver massive productivity gains which will improve the international competitiveness of Australia’s agriculture and resource exports.

“That’s the best way to guarantee the ‘most efficient and cost effective’ inland rail the Federal Government is seeking.”

Parliament House, Melbourne. (Public Domain)

Victorian Parliament creates new infrastructure body

Legislation has passed the Victorian Parliament creating the new entity Infrastructure Victoria.

Billed as an “independent body”, IV is expected to resemble the similarly-named Infrastructure Australia and give the community and business greater certainty about our infrastructure needs.

A statement released by the Victorian government described IV as “a landmark reform”, removing short term politics from infrastructure planning while ensuring a full pipeline of major projects to develop the economy.

Infrastructure Victoria is expected to consult widely, consider the needs of the entire state and prioritise the projects that deliver the best results.

It is also expected to publicly release a 30-year infrastructure strategy outlining short, medium and long-term infrastructure priorities.

In response, the Government is to be required to develop a five-year Infrastructure Plan outlining priority projects and funding commitments, with IV will assessing government progress against this plan.

“Infrastructure Victoria will ensure that despite whoever is in power, there is a pipeline of infrastructure meeting the State’s needs,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Special minister of state Gavin Jennings said that, for too long, evidence and transparency had been secondary considerations with infrastructure.

“The community expects that critical decisions on infrastructure should be based on priorities not politics and Infrastructure Victoria will do just that,” Jennings said.

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

Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

Cormann delays ARTC sale over Inland Rail talks

The Federal Government has set aside the privatisation of the Australian Rail Track Corporation while it considers the impact progress on Inland Rail may have on the deal.

Minister for finance Mathias Cormann on Wednesday announced the scoping study into the sale of the ARTC would be delayed.

“The government is currently considering options to develop the inland railway between Melbourne and Brisbane in the most efficient and cost effective way possible,” the minister announced in a joint statement with deputy prime minister and minister for infrastructure Warren Truss.

“This Inland Rail route offers a strategic opportunity to invest in nationally-significant infrastructure, which would service Australia for the next 150 years.

“It offers the prospect of significant improvements in the productivity of freight services in Eastern Australia by providing a new high performance freight rail corridor.”

Cormann said work on developing a business case and potential financing and delivery options for Inland Rail is currently underway.

“As such, the scoping study into options for the future management, operations and ownership of the Australian Rail Track Corporation will need to be broadened to take this important strategic initiative into account.

“Consequently, the Department of Finance has decided not to proceed with the current tender processes for business and legal advisers for the ARTC Scoping Study.”

Cormann said the government will begin a new process later in 2015.

“The ARTC scoping study remains on track for consideration by the government in the 2016/17 Budget process.”

Roe Highway upgrade - Perth Freight Link. Photo: Creative Commons

Perth Freight Link to go ahead next year

The controversial road project designed to link Fremantle with central Perth will begin in 2016, according to WA senator and minister for finance Mathias Cormann.

Cormann on Sunday reiterated his past commitments to a 2016 start date, saying the Perth Freight Link is “long overdue”.

He said Canberra is confident that both phases of the $1.6 billion road project – which has been opposed by environmental groups and rail advocates alike – will be underway by 2016.

That’s despite WA Premier Colin Barnett being unable to confirm a 2016 commencement in WA Parliament earlier this month.

During question time on August 18, Labor member for West Swan, Rita Saffioti, asked if Barnett could confirm Cormann’s suggestion of a 2016.

“Who is correct,” Saffioti asked, “the Premier or Mr Cormann? Will stage 2 commence next year?”

Barnett replied that until an exact route for stage two is determined, all the necessary approvals are in place, contracts are signed, and construction commissioned, “no-one can put an exact timing on that”.

However, Cormann said on August 30 that the the Commonwealth is working with the Barnett Government to finally make the project a reality, starting next year.

Cormann said that while more trade through WA, and in particular, the Port of Fremantle, is a positive, it also means more trucks on the roads to Fremantle Port.

“Currently those trucks are using fragmented and inefficient sections of our road network, mixing with commuter and local traffic, creating excessive disruptions to local communities,” he said.

“Without the Perth Freight Link as a productivity enhancing piece of strategic road infrastructure, this worsening congestion will increasingly act as a handbrake on our economy.”

Meanwhile, shadow parliamentary secretary for WA, Alannah Mactiernan has pointed out there was no careful planning or Infrastructure Australia assessment prior to the announcement of the Perth Freight Link in July 2014.

“The Perth Freight Link is an irresponsible, ill-planned project that will worsen the congestion problems around Fremantle and threaten WA’s future trade growth by leaving us short of critical port capacity,” Mactiernan said.

Instead, Mactiernan said, the Barnett and Abbott Governments should get on with planning and developing the outer harbour at the Port of Fremantle, rather than “wasting scarce taxpayer money on outdated roads on a constrained port”.

Problems with the project that have been cited by the Labor Party and opposing groups such as Rethink The Link include the destruction of wetlands, the threat to homes and businesses, and the fact that the Link will stop 1.5km short of the Port of Fremantle.

Curtin University professor of sustainability and former Infrastructure Australia board member Peter Newman has also opposed the project, saying it undermines the bipartisan push to get more freight on rail at the port.

Related story: Former IA member: Perth Freight Link uneconomic, undermines rail

“If you’re going to build a toll road which is faster for trucks, why would you keep subsidising rail?” Newman pondered in July. “You want to pay off the road. I don’t think the case has been looked at, at all, to see how this really undermines the whole process of the rail option.”

The Perth Freight Link is jointly funded by the Commonwealth and WA governments. It involves building a freight freeway into Fremantle in two sections, both of which are due to be contracted to developers later this year.

The project is expected to be completed by 2019. Main Roads WA estimates that the Perth Freight Link will result in the removal of 500 trucks per day from Leach Highway, between Kwinana Freeway and Stock Road, by 2031.

With additional reporting from Oliver Probert.

This is an edited version of an article which originally appeared in Rail Express affiliate Lloyd’s List Australia.


Wooden railway sleepers. Photo: Creative Commons / LooiNL

Trad puts Brisbane rail capacity among ‘top priorities’

Queensland will move to re-establish the ready-to-proceed status of the former Cross River Rail project, and has formally ruled out a combined bus and train option for the route.

State transport minister Jackie Trad says the government is “moving ahead” with planning to deliver extra capacity to the Brisbane rail network, an issue she says is one of the state’s top priorities.

Trad said last week the Palaszczuk Government is committed to transforming and revitalising the rail network in South East Queensland, with the view of providing a more efficient public transport system “that can cope with forecast demand”.

“Increasing the capacity of our rail network is one of our top priorities, we are working to identify solutions,” Trad, who is also deputy premier, said.

“Our assessment will include an investigation of elements of the Cross River Rail and Bus and Train projects to identify a preferred solution to address these capacity issues.

“It will also include a detailed assessment of the feasibility of introducing New Generation Signalling to the inner city rail network.

“Improved signalling would allow for a higher frequency of services on our most constrained part of the network, unlocking additional capacity that would benefit the entire region.”

Trad said “considerable” cost and time savings could be achieved during the evaluation phase, “by using planning prepared as part of the previous projects”.

“However, there will be no combination of buses and trains in the Cross River Rail design going forward,” she said.

“Buses and trains play different roles in our transport network and combining them in the same corridor does not make sense.”

The minister said the project team would deliver an updated business case of a preferred project to be considered by Government.

“The Queensland Government will include a complete business case as part of a funding submission to Infrastructure Australia and the Federal Government for this urgently needed project,” she said.

“We will also seek to re-establish the ready-to-proceed status previously applied to the Cross River Rail project.”

Statue of Sir Henry Parkes. Photo: Creative Commons / Amanda Slater

Mayor excited by business interest in Inland Rail

The mayor of one of NSW’s key central towns believes a growth in interest from local and national businesses in taking advantage of the Inland Rail project could trigger progress on the line.

The Inland Rail Implementation Group, led by former deputy prime minister John Anderson, handed in its recommendations for the proposed rail connection between Brisbane and Melbourne, via regional Queensland, NSW and Victoria, to the government earlier in August.

“It’s getting to a very exciting stage,” Parkes Shire mayor Ken Keith told ABC Rural this week.

“John Anderson’s implementation report has actually indicated a positive BCR [benefit-cost ratio] so there will be a return on the investment.”

Roughly $10 billion is expected to be needed to implement the Inland Rail plan, with $6 billion of that funding going towards the complicated section connecting Toowoomba to Brisbane.

“Let’s do another Snowy Mountains scheme in this country,” Keith said. “It’s probably one of the most significant infrastructure projects this country can undertake under the next 20 years … if we build this Inland Rail … we’ll get a huge return to the Australian economy.”

Keith said he wouldn’t put a figure on how many businesses had expressed an interest to the council regarding the development, but he said there had been “quite a bit of an inquiry” from companies looking to establish new facilities and industries based around the Inland Rail project.

He believes the groundswell of interested parties could push the project to being completed within 10 years.

“The industry is starting to realise the potential of the Inland Rail, and we’ve been saying to the implementation group, ‘Look, this is going to have a multiplying effect’,” he said.

“There’s inquiries right along the route now for intermodal hubs, and people setting up industries such as abattoirs, so we can value-add on meat products going overseas. We can value add to grain – rather than just exporting whole grain we can containerise grain … things like that.

“Overall I think there’s an enormous benefit to agriculture.”

Household affordability. Photo: Vivendi

Fix the housing market one good transport project at a time

AECOM technical director Joe Langley says cleverly funded, strategically robust transport projects will be crucial to solving the housing crisis hitting Sydney and Melbourne.

A recent Moody’s study said mortgage repayments consume 35.1% of income in the average Sydney household with two income earners. In Melbourne, that figure is 28.2%.

While the situation has been worsened by excess demand from local and foreign investors, Langley says the “fundamental problem” is a lack of supply.

Without a sustained increase in construction, Sydney’s 20-year housing deficit will reach nearly 200,000 homes by 2024, he wrote in his submission to a parliamentary inquiry on home ownership.

“The constraints on the Sydney metropolitan region’s capacity to increase housing production – geographic, political, economic, physical and cultural – cannot be overcome by simply building more houses on the urban fringe,” Langley wrote.

Instead, public transport projects have a major role to play in fixing this issue, he said. But reform is needed, and that reform is twofold.

1. Improved governance arrangements

Langley identified a tendency for large transport infrastructure projects to adopt a “siloed” approach in the selection of leadership and technical teams within the delivery authority.

“Representation from other state and local agencies and the private sector with complementary skills in urban planning, urban renewal, local government and property development has tended to be limited to secondary and advisory roles, often to the disadvantage of the project and wider public interests,” he observed.

“Governance arrangements for major transport programs overseas are placing a much greater emphasis on drawing delivery agency leadership and technical teams from other complementary disciplines.”

In one example, board membership for the redevelopment of Denver’s historic Union Station included:

  • voting representatives from federal, state and local transport agencies
  • voting representatives from the regional public transport agency
  • voting and non-voting representatives from the local city council, and
  • voting representative from the public redevelopment agency

In addition, a private sector partner was selected through a public tender, bringing private commercial and residential development expertise and equity to the project.

As an additional suggestion, Langley wrote: “Long term transport plans in Denver and other US cities are also frequently linked [to] 20-year funding arrangements that are subject to voter approval via a public referendum. As a result, major transport projects … have enjoyed a high degree of public and political support, thereby avoiding the cancellation and financial failure of major transport projects as witnessed in the recent past in Queensland, Victoria and NSW.”

2. Value capture funding models

“The days of governments being able to fund major infrastructure projects from traditional general revenue sources have long passed,” Langley wrote.

“The scale, complexity, cost and equity considerations of major public transport projects in particular require government to move towards user charges and value capture funding models.”

Langley believes the current funding arrangements for transport projects “represent the most significant opportunity for reform,” but opined that “Australia has been slow to adopt these funding methods”.

He pointed to one example – London’s Crossrail project – which is getting 26% of its $29.6 billion in funding from a 25-30 year fund which comes from a 2% Business Rate Supplement taxed to non-residential properties benefiting from the extension to the commuter rail network.

“Transport projects in Australia provide opportunities for the state governments and transport agencies to generate and capture significant levels of revenue to help fund capital works.”

He said Sydney’s planned Metro CBD and Southwest project, and Melbourne’s Metro Rail Project, are prime examples providing this opportunity.

“Well-conceived, integrated transport and land use programs around these metro stations, combined with proven value capture funding methods, could improve housing affordability and choice, enhance commuters’ travel experiences, increase ridership and generate new revenue to help fund the projects,” Langley wrote.

Langley’s suggested revenue sources include:

  • redevelopment and sale or long-term lease of former works site sand surplus government land
  • special rates on properties within a clearly-defined transport improvement precinct around each station
  • sale of additional development rights made possible by increase transit capacity, and
  • sale or lease of government air rights

“Value capture methods such as these would allow state governments to fairly and equitably capture a portion of the unearned uplift in property values and other benefits created by the project, sometimes referred to as ‘unearned project externalities’,” he concluded.

Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Telstra, ARTC sign ten-year NTCS deal

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has announced a multi-million dollar, ten-year deal with Telstra, for the ASX-listed telecoms business to provide ongoing telecommunications to the national rail freight network.

Announced on Tuesday, August 25, the deal comprises the security of supply, maintenance and enhancement to the Telstra-powered National Train Communications System (NTCS).

ARTC boss John Fullerton said securing the NTCS was essential to ensuring future rail freight success, with a solid digital platform in place to exploit for safety, efficiency and capacity benefits.

“NTCS will provide a platform for many of the new and exciting innovations being developed by ARTC,” Fullerton said.

“Using the Telstra NextG network, applications such as safe travelling distance technology (proximity alerting), real-time locomotive tracking, sophisticated track and wayside monitoring technology, situational awareness system and the next generation of train management – the Advanced Train Management System – all become possible.”

Fullerton said the deal demonstrated the strong relationship between the two businesses.

The ARTC manages 8500km of the national rail freight network.

The ARTC switched off its old, analogue telecommunications network in December 2014, moving to a single, nationwide, digital platform, which includes freight trains operating on other rail networks that aren’t managed by ARTC – a factor the company says makes it easier for different operators to do business across the country.

The move to the NextG network is the first time a rail access provider has moved from a private to a public telecommunications network for railway operations in Australia, the ARTC says.

70 base stations have been built specifically for the ARTC to make up the NTCS communications infrastructure.

Telstra Global Enterprise and Services chief customer officer Martijn Blanken said the company was helping the ARTC develop the rail industry.

“Together, with the ARTC’s vision for rail innovation and Telstra’s agile communications network, we have co-created a mobile and cloud-based solution that will help move the national freight sector forward,” Blanken said.

“The communication network is built on our world class Telstra NextG network and supported by our satellite offering, so ARTC has the peace of mind that we can provide redundancy for any black spots along the rail corridor.

“We have also transitioned ARTC into a private cloud environment, built on VCE Vblock, which will significantly reduce the resources it needs to host the applications the NTCS runs on,” he added.