Bombardier FLEXX bogie. Photo: Bombardier

Research Centre to boost industry’s competitiveness

The new Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (RMCRC) was launched on Tuesday, with its new chairman saying it aims to broaden ties between the rail industry and leading R&D providers.

Chairman Paul Johnson said the RMCRC aims to facilitate collaboration between industry bodies, universities, the CSIRO and businesses.

So far the new Centre has attracted French manufacturer Faiveley, Canada’s Bombardier, Australian businesses Downer, OneSteel  and Simplex CNC Systems, Knorr-Bremse subsidiary Sigma, and Chinese rolling stock manufacturer China Rail Rolling Stock Corp.

The RMCRC was established as a result of the ‘Technology Roadmap’ with the Federal Government pledging $31 million over six years to create it. That figure has been more than matched by industry contributions.

“Collaboration between industry and R&D providers is a result of having a shared agenda driven by the ‘On Track to 2014 Technology Roadmap’ aligned with national research priorities in advanced manufacturing,” Johnson said.

“This launch comes at an important time when global supply chains are at a turning point and where innovation is allowing rail manufacturers to access new and emerging projects with local and international partners.

“There is little doubt that Australian rail manufacturers will reap the benefits of innovative funding and commercialisation models offered through the RMCRC.”

Johnson was joined in launching the Centre by parliamentary secretary to industry and science Karen Andrews, Victorian minister for industry Lily D’Ambrosio, acting Australasian Railway Association chief operating officer Phil Allan, and industry chief executives.

Allan said the industry supports the establishment of RMCRC and believes it will lead to increased capability and a global competitiveness for the Australian rail industry.

“Australia’s geography and geology lends itself to requiring world class rail capability, one that is economically efficient and environmentally friendly and that improves urban amenity,” Allan said.

“The Australian rail industry can demonstrate world’s best practices in terms of design, innovative technologies, signalling, and the infrastructure that underpins it; however in order to impact the supply chain, industry must engage in collaborative research to generate innovative outcomes in technology and to address its advanced manufacturing requirements.

“The RMCRC presents a significant opportunity for the industry to bridge this gap, providing a clear direction to build capability and avoid duplication, therefore strengthening the overall performance and productivity of our local manufacturing industry.”

Sydney Train

Sydney Trains punctual, but Collins vows to be better

Sydney Trains on Monday announced peak punctuality of 93.9% in the 2014/15 financial year, beating its 92% target.

Chief executive Howard Collins said in 2014/15 the operator ran more services than ever before, making the achievement of 1.9% above-target punctuality “a great result for our customers”.

“In fact, if you remove the four days of extraordinary severe storms in April, our peak punctuality for the year would be the highest achieved by Sydney Trains at 94.3%,” Collins added. “We’re proud of these figures. They have been achieved as a result of our staff’s dedication to providing our customers with safe, clean and reliable trains.”

The city’s best-performing line in terms of punctuality was the T2 Inner West, which was punctual 96.9% of the time. The T3 Bankstown line achieved 96.1% punctuality, while T1 Northern via Macquarie Park achieved 95.5% and T4 Eastern Suburbs achieved 95.1%.

The worst-performing line was the T2 East Hills, which achieved just 90.1% punctuality. T1 Western achieved just 91.4%, joining the T2 East Hills as the only two lines to sit below the 92% target for punctuality.

Collins said customer illness continues to be a major cause of delays, and encouraged passengers to get off at the next station the moment they feel unwell.

That being said, he noted customer illness-related delays had declined by 30% in 2014/15, and put that down to the introduction of paramedics at 14 of Sydney’s busiest stations, in the morning and afternoon peak periods.

Sydney Trains ran 160,000 peak services over the 12 month period, adding capacity for nearly five million more customer journeys.

The total number of incidents such as train breakdowns, crew issues and delays due to customer illness dropped by 2%, to 2,423. During the April storms there were around 561 peak delays, including a lightning strike on 21 April at Waterfall that delayed 64 services simultaneously.

“We are investing a record $1.2 billion this year in maintaining the network and the decrease in incidents that cause delays suggests it’s paying off,” Collins said.

For all this good news, however, Collins asserted there was always  room to improve.

“We are always looking for new ways to make our services more reliable for Sydney Trains customers,” the former London Underground chief operating officer said.

“We’re using mechanised track inspection vehicles to find issues with rails before they cause delays and we’ve improved incident response times by creating a single incident management centre monitoring the entire network.

“There is more to be done to improve our services and we are looking forward to the opportunities to come next financial year.”

Alstom-built SNCF TGV and Deutsche Bahn-built Intercity-Express (ICE) at Paris Gare de l'Est. Photo: Oliver Probert

Fast Freight Rail could prove catalyst for HSR

COMMENT: The mother of all infrastructure projects has been stifled by the self-interest of two major industries, the jealousies and suspicions that plague our federal system, and a lack of will in Canberra, Peter Knight writes.

Infrastructure is the buzzword in political and economic debate in the second decade of the 21st century. Tony Abbott wants to be the ‘Infrastructure Prime Minister’. State budgets in recent weeks have announced big projects to spark flagging economies and boost jobs. This is all good news and good policy.

High Speed Rail (HSR) connecting the eastern seaboard cities of Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane is feasible, practical and profitable today. It can be done for around $30 billion, about a quarter of the cost estimated on old paradigms in 2013. And it can be done in less than seven years, not the 30 to 35 years previously suggested.

HSR could be the 21st century equivalent of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, and it would need little or no direct Government funding.

Vast cost savings could be made by laying tracks in trenches rather than tunnels near the cities and building housing over new inner-city land created by the trenches. Profitability of the system could be ensured by building a Fast Freight Rail (FFR) parallel to the HSR line.

This would halve the cost and delivery time of freight between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. FFR would lift productivity and international competitiveness. It would end the isolation of the major cities caused by high freight costs.

The HSR/FFR project would best be accomplished by a private consortium rather than government. Government guarantee of private finance would ensure the project would proceed. This guarantee would be a contingent liability, not an increase in Government debt.

Australia has a population now large enough to support the project. The HSR/FFR project would aid budget recovery, spread non-mining investment along the east coast, create thousands of jobs and stimulate the economy.

Population is likely to double in the coming decades. Congestion will grow out of hand. HSR reduces congestion and maintains liveability by distributing more people into the regions.

HSR would mean fewer people living in major cities and more in regional cities within 30-60 minutes commuting time of the CBDs at speeds of up to 350km/h.

The project would build low-density housing over 30km of 100m-wide trenches into and out of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. This would create 21 square km of free inner-city land. There would be huge value capture.

Many more people would live close to rail stations in easy walking distance for access to shops, public facilities and jobs instead of in poorly served new outer fringe suburbs.

When the first railway was conceived 200 years ago in England, it was blocked by powerful landed canal owners and stagecoach owners. Eventually this was overcome and an Act was passed enabling the first railway to be built for the 30 miles from Liverpool to Manchester. It was inaugurated on 15 September 1830. In the following 10 years, 1775 miles of track was built by hand with pick and shovel, horse and cart. Railways then drove the Industrial Revolution and economic development.

HSR/FFR would do the same. Together they would increase innovation, productivity, competitiveness and growth. Today, HSR/FFR are opposed by airlines and truck owners.

The main thing holding back development of HSR/FFR, besides competitors, is the Government’s risk aversion, which comes in the face of a historic level of business risk aversion and caution, which is slowing economic recovery.

The Government does not want to increase debt even for a profitable, economic Government infrastructure project.

A Government guarantee would be a contingent liability that would be unlikely to be exercised because of the profitability of the project and the incentive for government to do everything possible to make it work. There would be little or no direct cost to government.

The HSR/FFR project would give a huge stimulus to the economy when it needs it. Many of the adjustments necessary to bring the budget back to balance could be made with less pain with the economy growing at above trend for some years. The project would moderate the next recession without much extra debt or lower interest rates being needed.

In the national interest, the Government should guarantee private finance, and bring together the best minds, management and companies in the country in a private consortium to undertake a commercial feasibility study. It is justified now.

Peter Knight

The aim is to grow liveability and prosperity while the population doubles.

The technology is well-known. It was first introduced in Japan 50 years ago. There is vast experience in its application around the world. HSR is an economic game-changer waiting to happen. Australia needs to think big and act smart.

Peter Knight is a former senior manage at BHP and a former Reserve Bank economist. He has studied high-speed rail for 20 years and is the author of a new book, High Speed Rail for Australia-Now.

Melbourne B-series tram, B2 class. Photo: Creative Commons / Liamdavies

Graphic: Proposed route changes in Melbourne

Yarra Trams and Public Transport Victoria are consulting passengers on planned changes to major services along St Kilda Road.

More people are using trams and public than ever, and travel patterns are changing, PTV chief executive Mark Wild said.

“Patronage data shows that employment opportunities in the western end of the CBD from William Street through to the Docklands is meaning that more people are wanting to access these areas,” Wild explained.

“Currently, Melbourne’s tram network is designed to funnel customers to Swanston Street, Collins Street and Bourke Street locations in the CBD. This has put a lot of pressure along major roads such as St Kilda Road which holds the title of being the world’s busiest tram corridor.

“The tram stop at Federation Square is used something like 22,000 times every day.”

Proposed changes include the merging of Routes 8 and 55 into one route, Route 58. Route 55 passengers’ travel would be unchanged, while existing Route 8 customers would be able to travel directly into the western end of the CBD, up William Street and on to West Coburg at one end, and Toorak at the other.

Customers wanting to head to Swanston Street would need to interchange at Domain to another tram that, during weekdays, would only result in a one minute delay, according to PTV.

Click image to enlarge

PTV tram consultation proposed route map. Graphic: Public Transport Victoria
Graphic: Public Transport Victoria

The introduction of Route 58 also means that high-capacity low-floor trams will serve three of Victoria’s largest hospitals – Royal Melbourne, Royal Women’s and Royal Children’s – PTV pointed out.

Other changes as a result of the proposed new Route 58 would be alterations to the start and finish locations of Routes 1 and 6. Route 6 currently finishes at Melbourne University but under the new proposal would instead be extended to East Coburg. Route 1 would instead terminate at Moreland Station.

Yarra Trams and PTV are using the month of July to consult customers on the proposed changes, which the authorities say are chiefly aimed at addressing over-crowding, and moving major routes on St Kilda Road towards ‘turn-up-and-go’ status.

Yarra Trams boss Clement Michel said that the proposal to reduce this heavy reliance on St Kilda Road will have knock-on benefits across the network.

“Time is precious and we want to give time back to our customers by reducing wait times and improving reliability of our services,” he said.

“At the same time we want to maintain or improve the current level of service where we can. This is why we are moving towards having a tram at least every ten minutes, 7am to 7pm, every weekday and 10am to 7pm on weekends.

“It means that you can turn up at your local tram stop with the certainty of waiting no more than ten minutes on a weekday for your next tram.”

Both Michel and Wild encouraged people impacted by the changes to take the opportunity to have their say. PTV has launched the ‘Get Involved’ page, accessible here, for customers to voice their opinions.

SA train derailmend April 2014. Photo: ATSB

Report questions ATSB’s intent

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau too often hides behind a ‘no-blame’ policy and hesitates to label the true cause of rail incidents, a new paper suggests.

Rail engineer Ross Mitchell and solicitor Adam Bisits teamed up to put together the paper Lessons from Australian Derailment Investigations, which they presented recently at the International Heavy Haul Association Conference in Perth.

The paper finds some reports of derailments from the ATSB’s national railway accident investigation unit do not identify cause, or proper cause, when a cause seems fair – or even obvious – to identify.

Mitchell and Bisits believe investigators are too hesitant to label the cause of an incident, because they are instructed by legislation and the Bureau to not attribute blame, but they are also not explicitly instructed to label cause.

“The issue is that the ATSB looks at factors rather than causes,” Bisits told Rail Express.

“The ATSB hides behind the provision in their legislation that their job is not to distribute blame … well that’s fine, but you should still have to find a cause.”

The ATSB says on its website, “An ATSB investigation is purely aimed at determining the factors which led to an accident or safety incident so that lessons can be learned and transport safety improved in the future.”

“This is not practical and too general,” Mitchell and Bisits respond in their paper. “Rail operators and others want to know causes.”

Establishing cause is the dominant purpose of incident investigations in the United States, the United Kingdom, and in many other jurisdictions, the pair said in their presentation. But in Australian legislation – with one exception being Queensland’s – does not ask for cause.

Speaking with Rail Express, Bisits recalled one incident in 2006 where a bridge repairer at Geelong was seriously injured when a freight train collided with the elevated platform he was working on. The train had gone through a signalbox which should have instructed the driver to stop, but was instead cleared well before the train got there – a fact which Bisits tells Rail Express should have been clearly labelled as the ‘cause’ of the incident.

But because investigators could not identify whether the missing stop signal was caused by a single-person error, or a misunderstanding between multiple people, the report did not identify a “single decisive factor leading to the collision,” instead choosing to label a number of potential safety factors which contributed to the incident.

“That’s just not good enough,” Bisits said, adding in his presentation: “This does not show a proper regard for railway workers.”

Ross Mitchell is a Sydney-based rail operations and design engineer, who has consulted to engineering and mining companies. Adam Bisits is a Melbourne-based solicitor, who has for a long time had a ports and railway specialty.

The pair’s report also suggests investigations take too long to put together, and finds there is a possible lack of independence and conflict of interest, due to the Bureau working with a high level of anonymity.

“In Australia the actual investigators (assuming the commissioners are not personally investigating) are a mystery,” the report says, “including those who come from outside the public service, the special investigators, or consultants.

“Yet in Australia the pool of actual investigators is small and their past may have been with current important train operators or track owners.

“Thus there is a potential for ATSB investigations not to be completely independent, and for this to be hidden because the actual investigators are not publicly identified.”

Sydney Train

TfNSW gets new deputy secretary

Transport for NSW secretary Tim Reardon on Wednesday announced who will take up the newly-established role of deputy secretary for freight, strategy and planning at the department.

Clare Gardiner-Barnes has been named to the new role, and will move from her current role as chief executive at the Northern Territory Department of Transport.

Gardiner-Barnes has over 20 years’ experience in the public sector with leadership roles across a number of areas of government, Reardon said.

The new position of deputy secretary of freight, strategy and planning is tasked with bringing together all of Transport for NSW’s policy, planning and regulation into the one area, streamlining decision making and accountability.

“Transport for NSW is undergoing organisational reform to ensure that it can effectively deliver the government’s significant investment in new infrastructure and service improvements,” Reardon said.

“Ms Gardiner-Barnes will play a critical role in the development of strategy and policy for public transport and roads networks and work closely with industry to ensure the safe and efficient movement of freight in the State.

“I am pleased to have someone of Ms Gardiner-Barnes’ calibre join Transport for NSW at this important time,” Mr Reardon said.

Gardiner-Barnes will take up her position in August.

Melbourne Metro cutaway - Photo Victorian Government

Research can improve Australia’s transport, experts urge

A trio of transport experts respond to the transport priorities recently announced among a series of science and research priorities by the Federal Government, and they all agree: Research will be key to moving forward.


Marion Terrill
Transport Program Director at the Grattan Institute

The transport priorities announced by the government recommend that departments and agencies should give priority to research that will lead to:

  1. Low emission fuels and technologies for domestic and global markets
  2. Improved logistics, modelling and regulation: urban design, autonomous vehicles, electrified transport, sensor technologies, real time data and spatial analysis
  3. Effective pricing, operation, and resource allocation.

Transport’s value lies not so much in the service itself, but in its power to enable us to move around and enjoy the things we care about. Transport research in general should focus on efficiency, productivity, reliability and access. Decisions we make about transport are very long-lived, not only committing us to decades of infrastructure maintenance but also locking us in to today’s technologies and usage.

Scientific research in the transport field should focus on those areas where Australia has unique or unusual characteristics. Transport activity accounts for more than a third of Australia’s energy consumption and close to three quarters of our use of liquid fuels, due to long distances between population and economic centres. With demand for transport fuel rising, Australia has a stronger need than many nations to improve technology for domestic and export markets.

Second, scientific research can be most effective by focusing on the right stages of the technology lifecycle. Exciting as it may be to invent a brand new technology, in most cases economic and social benefit comes about through the adaptation of new technology to local circumstances and its diffusion into widespread use. As a small player, Australia will always struggle to play a big role in original creation, but we can be swift adapters and effective spreaders of productive technology.

As well as shaping future transport developments, scientific research can also increase the efficient use of what we already have. Never before has there been such capacity to regulate traffic flows on city roads, share cars among multiple users, intervene swiftly when equipment shows signs of wear or breakdown, or unload freight containers safely.

Cheaper, safer and more environmentally friendly transport technology needs smart regulation and allocation of funding to the most valuable transport infrastructure and services.


Rob Fitzpatrick
Director of Infrastructure, Transport & Logistics at NICTA

Populations in our urban areas are on track to double. You can bet that the amount of roads we have to drive on will certainly not double.

Australians need to use what we already have, and do so far more efficiently, before we invest in new capacity. And when we do invest, it must be through “d3”: Data-Driven Decision-making.

There is simply no excuse in today’s world not to harness data from myriad sources, develop living simulations of what’s going on in the world around us, learn from history (yes, it does repeat itself) to predict future outcomes and from that base, shape planning priorities.

What can we solve, and why should transport be a priority?

  • Congestion. It can be solved, but what does it take?
    • Commitment from government departments, agencies and bureaucrats to “own the answer”. They shouldn’t accept views from traditional consultants, and not hold back data
    • Recognition that there’s no silver bullet, other than the science of data analytics and optimisation. Myriad solutions combine to transport people from A to B. Factoring in freight, which has to share the same road and rail infrastructure, adds complexity in largely predictable ways
    • Increasing visibility and transparency of data from both public and private sector organisations so that individuals and organisations can make decisions based on fact, not speculation
    • New analytic techniques. There are loads of these that fundamentally challenge traditional consultants’ “insights” on latent capacity, required infrastructure and options for alternate, integrated, modality.
  • Demand management. Our roads can appear as if kids are on permanent school holiday in term-time. That only takes 3-5% reduction in traffic volumes. Do we seriously believe well-informed, data-driven public policy can’t encourage a 3-5% improvement in road utilisation?
  • Infrastructure investment prioritisation. With increasing “visibility” of freight flows into, out of and within Australia, we can develop a dynamic picture of the “beating heart” of our nation. With this, we can visualise which roads and bridges, which urban areas and port districts, are under stress at particular times of the year, and more pragmatically align the A$150 billion of new annual infrastructure investment to areas that need it most.

Why should transport be a research priority? Because hard-working mums and dads of Australia are spending too much time in traffic going to and from work, and not enough time with their kids. And because Australia has some of the world’s most serious talent addressing these challenges. Australia is already one of the most highly urbanised countries on the planet. Solve these challenges here and we can commercialise outcomes for years to come.

In October 2016, the World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems, where the world’s leading brains meet to share insights and new ideas, is convening in Melbourne. Let this be a rallying cry for liberating our transport capabilities!


Susan Pond
Adjunct Professor in Sustainability at the United States Study Centre at the University of Sydney and Leader of the Alternative Transport Fuels Initiative

Aviation is one of the transport areas where Australia has unique or unusual characteristics. Australia is more reliant on domestic and international aviation than most countries because of the long distances within the country and to international markets.

Aviation is more reliant on liquid fossil fuels, mainly in the form of kerosene, than most other transport modes. Australia is heavily reliant on imported liquid fossil fuels, either in the form of crude oil for refining onshore or refined petroleum products.

Development of an Australian renewable jet fuel industry will provide solutions for our liquid fuel supply security concerns, our aviation sector’s demand for low carbon emission fuels and our need for industry diversification through the introduction of new value-adding manufacturing industries.

Importantly, the renewable jet fuels industry sits at the interface between aviation and agriculture, another sector that is critical for Australia’s future.

Many processing and conversion technologies to convert feedstocks, such as agricultural waste streams, into renewable jet fuel are already available “off the shelf”, mostly from international suppliers. The renewable fuels drop in to all existing infrastructure built to handle conventional jet fuel and meet the same international standards as their fossil fuel equivalents.

Even so, there is much research to be done before the renewable aviation fuel industry can become viable in Australia. Issues to be addressed in the Australian context include feedstock availability and costs, best practice integration of new, economically self-sustaining supply chains, biorefinery product portfolios and progress towards final cost per unit outputs that are competitive in the market.

It’s hard to think of a better, large-scale industry growth opportunity for Australia and a better time to play to our strengths.


Marion Terrill is Transport Program Director at Grattan Institute.

Rob Fitzpatrick is Director, Infrastructure, Transport & Logistics at NICTA.

Susan Pond is Adjunct Professor, United States Study Centre at University of Sydney.

This article was originally published on The Conversation, as part of its series on the Science and Research Priorities recently announced by the Federal Government. You can read the introduction to the series by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, here. Read the original article.

Confirmed: Canberra boosts Tasmanian rail upgrades with $60m

The Federal government is releasing $54.6m of the $59.8m committed for rail upgrade projects as part of Tasmania’s Freight Rail Revitalisation Scheme.

The near funding will be provided over four years and matched by the state government which has re-allocated $33m previously set aside to subsidise a direct international shipping service under the scheme.

The Liberal government in Hobart argues the scheme will better enable Tasmanian freight to reach export markets by moving containers and bulk goods from points of manufacture or extraction, to the island’s ports for shipping.

Works will include sleeper and rail replacement, upgrades to rail bridges and culverts, level crossing upgrades and remediation of land slips.

Deputy prime minister and Federal minister for infrastructure Warren Truss said there are currently mining regions with high-volume potential that are disadvantaged by ageing infrastructure, such as the Melba Line in the west of the state.

“Without action, Tasmania’s rail freight network would soon deteriorate beyond repair, forcing all freight on to roads resulting in higher costs and consequently less cross-modal competition for freight tasks,” Truss said.

“This could erode the commercial viability and economic benefits of the state’s high tonnage industries such as the cement and paper, where large volumes must be transported to port.”

Should Tasmania propose further capital words on the rail network, supported by a matched funding commitment, the Federal government says it will provide a further $59.8m in future budgets.

Already this year, joint investment by the Federal and state governments has enabled TasRail to progress its new $7m freight terminal development at George Town and has contribute to the $12m Burnie Port Optimisation Project in partnership with TasPorts and its private enterprise partner, Toll.

Moorebank Intermodal Terminal. Graphic: MICL

Community concerns over Moorebank

The deal between the two neighbouring stakeholders at Moorebank leaves many questions unanswered, community spokesperson Allan Corben writes.

The following is a Letter to the Editor of Rail Express sister publication, Lloyd’s List Australia. It appeared in the print edition of Lloyd’s List Australia on June 25, 2015.

Dear Sir,

I write in reference to the recent announcement that the SIMTA & the Federal government have agreed to jointly develop the Moorebank intermodal.

Firstly and foremost, the EIS process should commence again from the start.

For the last five years, members of the community have had to contend with the confusion of having to relate to two different proposals, both relating to their own predicted operations.

Now that the development will be substantially larger than previously proposed, it will have a much larger impact on the infrastructure, noise, air quality and traffic.

To put it simply, it’s a new ball game. One of my major concerns is air quality which as you would be aware, has the ability to devastate the local communities’ health. At the time that PAC approved the SIMTA Concept plan, the number of additional diesel truck movements coming into the site on daily basis was suggested to be in the vicinity of 2600.

In mid 2015 we are now talking a figure more like 10,000. When you consider that the PAC determination released in September 2014 clearly stated that the PM2.5 concentrations are close to or above the advisory criteria, would suggest that at full operation, the joint development will substantially exceed the advisory criteria.

As a result of the above, no further approvals should given until such time that independent, qualified evidence is provided that shows what the predicted PM2.5 levels will be when the terminal is in full operation.

Its fine for the proponents to predict levels at various stages of development, as it gives a false impression of the facilities suitability sited in the midst of residential suburbs.

I, like many others, am not particularly interested in knowing what the levels are at completion of stage 1 or 2, but what the level will be at the completion of the development when nothing can be done to mitigate this very harmful pollutant.

Secondly, the proponents have made little commitment in regards to the required road and intersection upgrades that will be required to cope with the massive increase in traffic, other than Moorebank Avenue (Site access point) which will not be carried out till 2029/2030. It should be noted that Moorebank Avenue is the only suitable access to the site. One upgrade is outrageous, when you consider that the facility will be handling up to 500,000 teu annually before any upgrades to the already, near capacity road network are completed.

A comparison of the vehicle accidents noted in SIMTA Concept plan 2004 – 2009 (Appendix K_Transport and Traffic Assessment_Volume 1.pdf, page 16) and Stage 1 2009 – 2013 (Appendix L_SIMTA Stage 1_Traffic and Accessibility Impact Assessment.pdf, page 18) clearly shows there has been an increase of 20% in heavy vehicle accidents, which is of great concern.

It should be noted that this information is only up to 2009. These people advocate to operate at 500,000 teu annually without virtually any roads upgrades, which questions at what percentage of heavy vehicle accidents will increase by that period.

In a speech on the intermodal proposal made by NSW MP Melanie Gibbons in the Legislative Assembly on June 4, she made the following statement: “I have read through the information provided by the company for the next period of community consultation. It says that, should there be an accident on the M5 or Moorebank Avenue, the facility will need to close while the accident is being cleared”.

I could imagine what the transport companies, warehouse tenants and their customers would think of this strategy. This clearly shows that the surrounding road network cannot handle any additional traffic as it stands.

A quick look at the SIMTA Stage 1 EIS suggest that the noise level created by the facility will be below requirements.

This is regardless of the fact that residents living within three km of the Port Botany container terminal are currently suffering from sleep disturbance, yet many people in the suburbs surrounding the proposed site live as close as 400 metres from the site in modern homes that were never designed to deflect excessive noise.

From Allan Corben, member of Liverpool City’s no intermodal committee and community group and RAID (Residents Against Intermodal Development).

Kwinana Freeway. Photo: Creative Commons / Arno Kohlem

Road users must pay, sooner rather than later

COMMENT: The idea of motorists paying for the roads they use beyond tolls, fuel excise or registration fees has taken hold in Australia, Michael de Percy writes.

A user-pays system might replace existing fees with charges based on motorists’ actual use of roads. New technologies would allow charges to be applied at different rates during peak periods in the same way we pay for the use of telecommunications or electricity networks.

The Henry Tax Review, the Harper Competition Review, the Productivity Commission’s Public Infrastructure Inquiry, last week’s AFR National Infrastructure Summit, and now the Australian Automobile Association, agree it’s time. But politicians aren’t sure it will pass the “pub test” with voters.

A user-pays system is necessary to reduce congestion on our roads and improve productivity into the future. We must have a debate over how, not if, we should implement a road user-pays system. But chances are political debates will send the user-pays idea down a rabbit hole before it even begins.

Can it pass the “pub test”?

No politician wants to be the one who implements a user-pays system for roads. But while the jury is still out on whether motorists support the idea of user-pays, the current fuel excise hits those who can least afford it the hardest.

A well-designed user-pays system would be fairer. And road users would know exactly what they were getting for their money.

There can be no such thing as a simple debate about transport reform. A debate about user-pays must cover:

The debate will be intense. But business-as-usual will only lead to mounting congestion in our cities, decreased productivity and ultimately a decline in our standard of living. And it will be very difficult to implement the necessary reforms without a user-pays system.

Pricing and charging are not the same

Two important issues must be considered separately in the debate: pricing and charging. First, there needs to be a way to recognise the price – the amount consumers are willing to pay for using roads – relative to the costs associated with the funding, construction and maintenance of roads. Second, there needs to be a way to charge users for actually using the roads where the amount charged reflects the price.

Much of the political debate will likely focus on charging, though pricing will be the major reform. Even though voters are already paying for roads, they don’t really know how much and the contribution has little to do with their actual use of roads.

Without accurate pricing, we can only guess at how to prioritise road construction and maintenance. In the absence of such market information, simply building more roads will not address the underlying issues.

Although a simple per kilometre charge is supported by many, accurate pricing would mean different charges to reflect demand. This may require a combination of per kilometre and congestion charging. Also, charges would need to vary to reflect how much motorists would be willing to pay under different circumstances. A broad user-pays system might even encourage more flexible work practices as the cost of commuting becomes more transparent.

But there are many sticking points. For one thing, the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party is opposed to any user-charges for existing roads, even though road pricing may make it fairer for motorists in regional areas.

We can’t afford another GST ‘birthday cake’

The introduction of road pricing may prove as difficult – if not more – than the introduction of the GST. That took 30 years to happen. Can we really afford to wait that long?

At 650 pages, the Coalition’s Fightback! policy was known as the “longest political suicide note in history”. But more than two decades later, most of Fightback! has been implemented.

However, the GST debate was less complex than the road user-pays debate is shaping up to be. For one thing, John Howard had the backing of the States to introduce the GST. The introduction of road pricing will require getting the States on board again, but in an area that is clearly within the States’ constitutional powers.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s relationships with Queensland and Victoria are far from congenial. And transport reform is shaping up to be a major issue for all levels of government. So it is not difficult to see why politicians “are wary of a voter backlash ” over transport reform.

Media one-liners will hinder reform

To make matters worse, the complexity of transport reform will be more difficult to explain in media-grabbing one-liners than the impact of the GST on a birthday cake. And history suggests that another “birthday cake” incident has the potential to put transport reform on hold for several years.

We cannot put all of the responsibility on our politicians. Sensible debate with large-scale community support for reform is essential. Otherwise, achieving transport reform will make the implementation of the GST look like a political cake-walk.

In the meantime, whether user-pays happens now or in the future, the longer we wait, the more we will pay.The Conversation


Michael de Percy is Senior Lecturer in Political Science at University of Canberra. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.