Labor commits to National Rail Plan as boost to local manufacturing

The federal Labor opposition has announced that, if it wins the next election, it will introduce a National Rail Plan to help co-ordinate all rail projects in Australia and help local manufacturers secure a larger slice of government rail contracts.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten announced that almost $6 million would be committed in Labor’s forward estimates for the Plan, which is designed to link federal funding in rail infrastructure projects to objectives including co-operation between states on procurement and delivery via local manufacturing.

“Labor believes that investment in rail should create local jobs and boost our domestic manufacturing capability – rather than just flowing to overseas industry competitors,” Shorten said.

“With more than $100 billion to be spent by governments and private companies in rail-based public transport projects throughout Australia in the next two decades, a national plan is critical to ensure we harness the massive opportunities for this investment.”

The various projects that are in the national infrastructure pipeline – including the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, the Perth Metronet, and the Inland Rail freight corridor – will require over 1100 new trains and trams over the next 10 years, according to shadow infrastructure and transport minister Anthony Albanese, who said that Labor’s Plan would provide a “blueprint for co-operation” between state and federal governments, business and unions.

“According to the most-recent census, between 2011 and 2016, the number of jobs in Australian manufacturing fell by 24 per cent to about 680,000,” Albanese said.

“The expansion of rail provides a chance to reverse this trend and create thousands of new, well-paid jobs, including apprenticeships for young people.”

Albanese pointed to the example of the Victorian government’s partnership with Evolution Rail, the private consortium building 65 new high capacity metro trains and employing 1,100 locals.

“That includes 100 apprenticeships – 100 young people earning a wage while learning skills that will last them a lifetime.

“This is the sort of investment Labor would aim to promote under a rail industry plan.”

As part of the plan, Labor would, if elected, establish an Office of National Rail Industry Coordination – which would carry national audit of the adequacy, capacity and condition of passenger trains throughout Australia, and develop priority plans for train procurement, including a delivery schedule for the next decade – and reinstate the Rail Supplier Advocate to boost the share of small and medium-sized business of future rail contracts.

“A key element of the plan is to seek to create certainty for manufacturers by ironing out the peaks and troughs in market demand through better co-ordination on procurement between state governments,” Albanese said.

“If every state government orders a new fleet of trains at the same time, local industry cannot deliver. Better coordination of tenders would allow for a steady stream of work that could sustain and indeed grow the local industry.”

The Plan would also establish a Rail Industry Council, which would prevent loss of more jobs and address the need for more local research and development.

“At the same time as the industry is seeing jobs decline, we’ve seen huge projects go to companies overseas – with local manufacturing workers missing out,” Shorten said.

“Labor’s plan will maximise the amount of work that goes to Australian firms.”

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) welcomed Labor’s commitment to the plan, with CEO Danny Broad saying he hoped it would achieve cross-party support.

“This is the first sum of money we have seen committed from a political party to a national rail plan,” Broad said.

“We would welcome bipartisan support for such a plan in the national interest.”

Indeed, Broad noted that elements of Labor’s plan resembled the ARA’s National Rail Industry Plan released in September 2017 at a Ministerial Roundtable, which comprised Coalition ministers Darren Chester, Arthur Sinodinos and Paul Fletcher.

“Since then there has been wide support for the Plan. However, this has been the first significant financial backing we have seen specifically earmarked for a national rail plan. We would welcome Coalition support in the upcoming Federal Budget,” he said

“Labor’s Rail Plan embraces many of the key elements ARA has been actively advocating for, including involvement of COAG and a coordination group to engage government and the rail industry in progressing implementation.”

 

$1.6 billion for WA-based train build

The McGowan Government wants 246 new railcars at least 50%-built in Western Australia over the next 10 years, with a pre-qualification tender released this week.

A total of 246 “C-series” railcars are to be built over 10 years under the newly-announced deal.

102 new railcars (i.e. 17 six-carriage sets) will be for the added capacity of the Metronet projects, and 144 railcars (i.e. 24 six-carriage sets) will replace the existing A-series trains, the Transperth network’s first electric railcars.

The government’s State Budget last year provided $508 million for the construction of the Metronet railcars; however, due to consideration of the aging of the A-series trains (with many approaching the end of their 30-year operational lifespan), the project has now been expanded to a total of $1.6 billion, with additional funding for their replacement.

The McGowan government has presented the project as a boost for local manufacturing: the contract will require that the supplier commit to manufacture or assemble 50% of the railcars in Western Australia, while a part of the project budget will go toward funding the construction of a local railcar assembly facility and associated infrastructure.

“These will be our Metronet trains, so it makes sense that they are our local jobs,” WA’s premier Mark McGowan said. “Not only will Metronet deliver thousands of new constructions jobs, but the increased demand for new railcars will create a pipeline of work to boost our local manufacturing industry and maximise WA jobs.

“My government’s number one priority is WA jobs and with a long-term plan to boost local manufacturing, it makes sense that we cement this strategy in place to build these extra railcars in WA.”

China’s CRRC Corporation, French-based Alstom, and a joint-venture of Bombardier and EDI Downer – all of whom attended the government’s procurement project briefing last October – are among those expected to compete for the railcar contract.

The companies that apply for the contract will be placed on a short-listed to progress to an interactive tendering process. The supplier is expected to be chosen in early 2019.

“These trains will travel up to 280,000km a year for 35 years, so we need to get it right,” state transport minister Rita Saffioti said.

“This is a great opportunity to deliver the next generation of trains that can provide more capacity, and faster transfers, and tap into our local workforce to deliver WA projects with local skills.”

Delivery of the first 17 train sets will reportedly be due sometime in 2021, with the further 24 sets expected between 2023 and 2026.

New wagons delivered to Aurizon

Bulk operator Aurizon says the arrival of a new batch of wagons at the Port of Newcastle represents the continuing growth of the Hunter Valley’s coal industry.

32 newly-built QCHC-class wagons arrived last week at Newcastle, part of a 284-wagon order from a Chinese manufacturer.

The wagons will help Aurizon fulfil a 10-year contract to deliver 8 million tonnes of coal per annum from the Mount Pleasant mine, which Mach Energy bought off Rio Tinto in 2016.

The 15.4-metre-long, stainless steel wagons have steel underframes, and measure 4.3 metres high, and 3 metres wide. Each can carry up to 97.8 tonnes of coal, meaning the 88-wagon trains Aurizon will run from Mount Pleasant will handle roughly 8,600 tonnes per trip.

Aurizon’s NSW coal operations general manager Catherine Baxter said the wagons’ arrival in Newcastle was symbolic of the operator’s continued growth in the Hunter Valley market.

“Our coal haulage has increased from 180,000 tonnes in 2005 to 48 million tonnes in 2017, underlining the broader opportunities in the coal sector for regional employment and income generated in, and for the local community,” she said.

Baxter also pointed to figures released by the Minerals Council of NSW in March indicating stronger coal prices have added over 1,000 mining jobs in the Hunter Valley over the last year.

“When we started out in the Hunter Valley, we had less than 10 employees and we now proudly employ more than 450 people across our operations,” Baxter said.

The latest figures from the Department of Trade and Foreign Affairs show Australia’s coal exports grew 35% in 2017 to a new record of $56.5 billion.

“It’s encouraging to see this is the highest ever annual value of Australian coal exports, surpassing the $46.7 billion record that was achieved in 2011 on the back of the Chinese construction boom,” Baxter said.

“What’s even more encouraging at a local level is the continued global demand for Hunter Valley coal, with 162 million tonnes of coal exported through the Port of Newcastle in FY17.

“While Australia’s high-quality coal remains in strong demand in our key markets, these latest trade figures demonstrate that Newcastle and the Hunter Valley sits at the very heart of this demand.”

Local manufacturing, catenary-free light rail and more in March-April edition

Rail Express is pleased to present the March-April Edition of the magazine in its digital format.

Click here to check out the digital edition of Rail Express March-April!

Click here for the pull-out special supplement on Rolling Stock Manufacturing & Rail Supply!

The latest issue of Rail Express includes a wrap-up of the ARA’s Light Rail event, held in Sydney in March, including comments from ARA boss Danny Broad on why more and more cities are choosing light rail.

Our special pull-out feature covers the challenges facing local manufacturing, and how a strong local rail sector can help the industry.

The magazine also includes the latest news and analysis from around the region, including a dramatic start to the year in Canberra, and the latest on Inland Rail.

Job Opportunity: Rail Express

Mohi Media, publisher of Rail Express, is seeking a very special sales person to spearhead the growth of Australia’s leading rail industry publication.

Rail Express has grown exponentially from a single annual edition in 2016 to six editions per year for 2018, now serving 13,000 people a day via email, 4,800 people bi-monthly via print and countless more direct to our website.

We’ve achieved this by focusing on high-quality editorial content, creating an efficient print and digital mix, and ensuring we always do our best to champion the challenges, achievements and interests of the people who keep Australia’s rail networks moving.

Our continuous growth now provides an opportunity for Rail Express to take on a strategic sales specialist to drive the publication forward.

However, we’re not looking for any salesperson. We’re seeking one who will bring in new ideas and new energy the publication and, most importantly, someone who puts our readers first.

One of the many reasons Rail Express enjoys strong editorial credibility is our strict policy that we don’t (and never will) accept advertorial disguised as editorial content, so our perfect candidate will be one who can come up with amazing display, digital and sponsorship ideas that sync with our content and provide compelling opportunities for the businesses that have highly relevant products and services to offer our readers.

The person we’re looking for has a passion for the Australian rail industry, loves to network at industry events, is familiar with product we currently produce, is someone who can see the possibilities of we already have and is not afraid to think outside the box when putting forward concepts for improvement and/or new offerings for our readers and advertisers alike.

This is full-time position based in the Sydney CBD, with flexible working arrangements negotiable, and an appropriate remuneration package will be offered based on what you have to offer.

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Please express your interest directly to Mohi Media managing director, Michael Mohi, via email: Michael.Mohi@mohimedia.com.

‘Rapid response’ maintenance hubs to cope with Commonwealth Games

Maintenance hubs are being installed along the Gold Coast line to help the network cope with the extra demands expected during the Commonwealth Games.

According to QLDs’ transport and main roads minister, Mark Bailey, the temporary hubs with enable teams to more quickly address network issues when they arise and maintain service reliability.

“The rapid response maintenance hubs are purpose-built temporary facilities to position key employees from network, security, operations and the Queensland Police Service rail squad where they are needed most,” Bailey said.

“The hubs also house additional tools and spare equipment in order to rectify network issues as soon as possible and minimise potential delays to those travelling to or from the Games.”

A permanent maintenance hub has been built at Beenleigh, with other currently being installed at Roma Street, Dutton Park and Banoon.

Temporary hubs will be established at the busy Coomera and Robina stations. Bailey said they would enable an “enhanced response” to incidences.

“The hubs will interact with Queensland Rail’s Rail Management Centre in Brisbane, who will feed information through and coordinate a response to the incident,” he said.

“Like any rail network across the world, unplanned disruptions can occur on Queensland Rail’s network from time to time.

“What’s important is that Queensland Rail recovers services as quickly as possible following an unplanned disruption and these rapid response hubs best place Queensland Rail to do that.”

Final preparations are reportedly underway to relocate staff and resources to the new maintenance hubs.

Sydney Light Rail: Alison Road ready for first testing

All track installation is now complete on Alison Road in Randwick, and the first poles and wires have been installed to allow testing of the first light rail vehicle to take place on the new Sydney CBD & South East Light Rail project.

Finishing work, including fencing, landscaping, traffic signals and footpath upgrades, continues on Alison Road between Darley and Wansey Roads, and on Wansey Road, track slab construction is underway.

To make way for extensive utility relocation work and track installation, the intersection of Market and George Streets is to be closed to traffic on most weekends until early April, with local access to be maintained for residents, businesses and hotel guests in the area.

With light rail track (and the third track that will power the light rail) installed at the intersection of George Street with Bridge and Grosvenor Streets, utility and finishing work is currently underway.

Track installation has been underway on George Street between Bathurst and Liverpool Streets, and on George Street between Hay Street and Rawson Place, while, near Bathurst Street, a track cross-over has been installed.

Over 4.5 kilometres of track are now in place on Anzac Parade, with all track work between Anzac Parade and Nine Ways soon to be complete, while, Anzac Parade between Todman Avenue and High Street, work is continuing to underground electrical and communications networks, that will enable the installation of new smart poles that will overhead wiring for the light rail.

In Surrey Hills, on Chalmers and Devonshire Streets, extensive utility work is also still underway across much of the construction zone, alongside stormwater and drainage work and include footpath, kerb and utility work.

Track installation is almost complete on Devonshire Street between Crown and Bourke Streets, which has caused alterations of traffic routes in the area.

Sydney Trains to halve Richmond speed limit after January collision

Sydney Trains has imposed a temporary speed restriction of 20km/h between Richmond East and Richmond railway stations, after 15 people were hospitalised in a collision at Richmond on January 22.

Preliminary information from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s investigation does not come up with any clear cause for the incident, but does say Sydney Trains will temporarily enforce a 20km/h speed restriction, as it prepares to apply a permanent 25km/h restriction.

The speed limit on the section of track between Richmond and Richmond East was 50km/h prior to the collision.

A few minutes before 10am on January 22, 2018, a Waratah-model train carrying 24 passengers and three Sydney Trains employees hit the buffer stop at Richmond station, 60.7 kilometres by rail from Central, where the train had left roughly 80 minutes earlier.

The ATSB’s initial information doesn’t detail how fast the train was travelling when it actually collided with the buffer stop, but says the train travelled the 169-metre length of Richmond station at “an estimated average speed of 35km/h”.

“The impact caused all cars to concertina together, with some lifting from the normal position,” the Bureau outlined in its initial report. “The rear wheelset of the rear bogie on the third position car had raised above the rail and all wheels of the rear bogie on the fifth position car derailed.”

The report details damage to the front of the train, and the interconnecting areas and coupling systems between cars.

Minimal damage was reported to the inside of the train, but 15 of the 27 people on the train were hospitalised with various injuries, including suspected fractures.

The ATSB believes there was little-to-no warning that the collision was about to occur: passengers’ injuries were consistent with standing up (as Richmond was the final stop on the journey), and few appeared to be holding handrails or fixtures.

The three Sydney Trains crew on the train included the driver, who sustained minor injuries; the guard, who was standing at the door of the driver’s compartment at the rear of the train, and suffered facial and chest injuries; and a Sydney Trains cleaner who was in the passenger area of one of the cars, and was treated by NSW Ambulance at the scene.

The train’s driver had been a train driver since 2007, was familiar with the route, and was passed as medically fit. The train was below the speed limit of the line between Richmond East and Richmond, and no environmental factors have yet been found to have possibly contributed to the incident, based on the ATSB’s initial information.

The Bureau will continue its research, with train, track and infrastructure investigations to take place, a collision sequence to be developed, and a variety of other investigations scheduled.

Bombardier denies suing Queensland, hits back at NGR critics

Bombardier has insisted it is not suing the Queensland Government over the $4.4 billion Next Generation Rollingstock contract, and has questioned what it considers to be unfair and sustained criticism from the Courier-Mail over the train delivery program.

A report published over the weekend in the Courier-Mail said the Canadian train manufacturer had “hit the State Government with a $100 million damages claim” over the “troubled” contract.

Rollout of the first NGR trainsets was delayed after dynamic testing on the QR network found a number of issues which had to be fixed prior to the trains entering service.

A management crisis at Queensland Rail also delayed the train delivery program.

Bombardier has said the issues discovered with the trains were not at all unusual for a contract of this scale, and for the first dynamic testing of a new fleet of vehicles.

On Sunday the manufacturer refuted the latest report from the Courier-Mail, which said Bombardier is seeking over $100 million in liquidated damages costs over contractual delays it blames on the State Government.

“Bombardier Transportation is not suing the Queensland Government,” a statement from the company said.

“The contract with the State of Queensland is commercial-in-confidence. Commercial and legal detail regarding the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) project is confidential.”

The statement went on to criticise the Courier-Mail for its reporting on the NGR rollout.

“The NGR trains have been manufactured to the specifications as set out contractually by the Queensland Government,” the statement read.

“Bombardier has, and will, continue to ensure its obligations are met in full. Claims that the trains are being manufactured by Bombardier with ‘design flaws’ and are ‘faulty’ therefore misrepresent the situation and are simply not accurate.

“Bombardier staunchly refutes incessant reports by the Courier Mail that the company has failed to meet its obligations under its agreement signed with the Queensland Government. This is simply untrue.”

Your Rail Express January-February digital edition has arrived

Rail Express is pleased to release its latest instalment for online readers in a digital, true-to-life format.

The January/February issue of Rail Express is now available to view, for free, on your desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device.

  • Click here to read the main magazine (68 pages)
  • Click here to read our special Light Rail pull-out supplement, sponsored by Transdev

“With the ARA’s Light Rail Conference coming up, we’ve put together a great supplement on light rail in our first issue for 2018,” editor Oliver Probert said. “We’ve also got plenty of coverage on the recent AusRAIL Coference & Exhibition in Brisbane, and of course our regular, reliable updates on rail news across the country.”

Instructions: simply use your mouse to drag the pages as if you were reading a magazine. Alternatively, you can use the left and right arrows on your keyboard. To zoom in on a page, use the magnifying glass icon on the bottom centre menu. To download the magazine as a PDF, click the downward arrow icon in the bottom centre menu.