Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Extreme weather knocks out ARTC’s Hunter Valley network

No coal trains are running into Newcastle on Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) lines, and extensive repairs are needed before the ARTC can reopen its Hunter Valley coal and North Coast networks, after wild weather forced closures on Tuesday.

“All coal and freight services into Maitland and Newcastle have been suspended due to flooding,” the ARTC reported on Tuesday afternoon.

“The ARTC network in the Hunter Valley and North Coast, NSW, has been impacted significantly by the extreme weather conditions being experienced across northern NSW at the moment.

“High rainfall, severe flooding, strong winds, fallen trees and debris, power failures and fallen power lines and power poles have all contributed to operations being halted in the Hunter Valley coal network and trains travelling via the North Coast of NSW.”

As a result of that damage, the rail manager said extensive repairs will be needed, with no timetable set for the line to be reopened.

“The track will require extensive repairs in order to return services safely,” the ARTC said.

“Given the current weather conditions and forecast further weather events and rising water over track, it is not possible to provide a forecast for when services might return.

“Access to locations is difficult and while the weather continues, staff will continue to monitor the situation, begin initial planning and mobilise resources in readiness for when the repair works can safely begin.

“ARTC is working hard to return services as quickly as possible, however there is currently no forecast for return to operations.

“The track washaways on the North Coast will take some time to repair.”

The weather conditions also halted several passenger services in the region, with NSW TrainLink reporting the closure of its Hunter Line services, and partial closure of its Central Coast & Newcastle Line services.

Les Wielinga Photo Transport Victoria UNSW

Andrews appoints big name to Transport Infrastructure Board

The Victorian Government has named the new chair of its Major Transport Infrastructure Board – the body tasked with the delivery of the state’s $15 billion in planned infrastructure spending.

Les Wielinga, formerly the director general at Transport for NSW, will chair the board.

“The delivery of the Andrews Labor Government’s unprecedented transport infrastructure program will be overseen by an expert board, to ensure all projects are delivered in a coordinated and cost-effective way,” the Victorian Government said last Friday.

Wielinga, who has also in the past been chief executive of the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (what is now Roads and Maritime Services), will be responsible for governing the delivery of the Melbourne Metro Rail Project, the Level Crossing Removal Project, and the Mernda rail extension.

Minister for public transport Jacinta Allan said Wielinga’s appointment was a valuable move by the new government.

“With $15 billion of new transport infrastructure being planned and delivered by the Andrews Labor Government, it is critical that we secure the very best leaders in project delivery,” Allan said.

“Mr Wielinga’s experience will be invaluable in overseeing the governance and delivery of the Andrews Labor Government’s multi-billion dollar transport infrastructure program.”

The announcement of Wielinga’s appointment was made just days after Allan, and premier Daniel Andrews, announced the preferred alignment for the Melbourne Metro rail project.

“The Major Transport Infrastructure Board will work closely with the new project delivery authorities to ensure the projects this state needs are delivered on time and on budget, in partnership with local communities.”

In his time at Transport for NSW, Wielinga oversaw the development and planning of projects including the North West Rail Link and the Sydney Light Rail Project.

The Andrews Government will now work with Wielinga to make additional board appointments, “with a focus on securing highly skilled members with expertise in different project delivery disciplines”.

Wielinga retired from his role at Transport for NSW in September 2013, with sincere thanks from NSW’s then-minister for transport Gladys Berejiklian.

“Few people have ever made such a contribution to transport and infrastructure,” Berejiklian said in June 2013. “Les has left a lasting legacy for the people of this state.”

Wild weather affects Melbourne trains. Photo: Shutterstock

Wild weather forces multiple outages for NSW trains

Gale-force winds and driving rain have forced several NSW rail lines to close, as Transport NSW scrambles to cope with flooding and other adverse weather conditions.

“The weather bureau has forecast another wet and windy day and we’re encouraging you to know if your trip will be affected this morning,” Transport NSW Info posted to its Facebook page this morning.

“Severe weather conditions have caused problems on some NSW TrainLink lines and customers may have to delay travel or make new travel plans.

“Please be patient and listen to advice from Transport staff.”

Transport NSW posted the following information (as at Tuesday 11am):

  • Closure of the Hunter Line between Scone and Dungog due to flooding at Hexam. Passengers were advised to delay their journey and avoid unnecessary travel, or to make alternative travel arrangements. A limited bus service was set up to replace trains.
  • A partial closure is in place on the South Coast Line between Oak Flats and Kiama due to adverse weather conditions; buses are replacing trains between the stations and passengers are advised to allow additional travel time.
  • The Central Coast & Newcastle line is partially closed between Hamilton and Woy Woy due to overhead wiring repairs at Gosford, a tree on the line at Teralba and power supply repairs at Wyong. Limited trains are operating between Woy Woy and Central, and a limited bus service is in place.

Precipitation and wind is expected to continue in NSW and the greater Sydney Metropolitan area through to Thursday, but the wind is expected to be at its heaviest on Tuesday.

Visit TransportNSW.info for more information.

Photo: DP World

Stevedore considers competition ruling in Melbourne rent stoush

One of Melbourne’s biggest container stevedores, DP World, has told Rail Express affiliate Lloyd’s List Australia it’s considering filing an application to the National Competition Council for services provided by the port to be declared under the National Access Regime.

If the port infrastructure is established as officially vital to national infrastructure, access to it could be mediated or regulated by the government.

This potential application follows the proposal of a 767% rental increase at the stevedores’ Melbourne terminal.

Under the Port of Melbourne’s proposal, rent at DPWA Melbourne’s West Swanson Terminal would rise from $15 per square metre to $120 per square metre.

“We have started down that path, but [the application] is all very much in speculation-land at the moment,” a spokesperson for the stevedore told Lloyd’s List Australia, adding that the stevedore was “considering all options, including asking for regulated access at the port of Melbourne.”

Lloyd’s List Australia understands from one well-informed executive that, contrary to speculation in the general media, a National Access Regime declaration would not “sink” the privatisation of the port on a 40-year lease.

But any potential future lessee of the port would be subject to greater restrictions than previously anticipated.

Such uncertainty would impact the level of market interest and may impact the price paid.

The Department of Treasury and Finance, which represents the port’s owner – the state of Victoria, said that the Port of Melbourne is “rigorously regulated” by the Essential Services Commission.

“Preparations for the lease transaction will continue with policy settings designed to maximise the overall economic outcome for all Victorians,” the department’s spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Victorian ports minister Luke Donnellan said these issues are part of normal business lease negotiations between the PoMC and its users, over which disagreements around market-based rent are not unexpected.

“This is why there are provisions in the lease to appoint an independent third-party valuer to assess what the market based rent should be,” the ministerial spokesperson said.

Shipping Australia chief Rod Nairn argued that access to essential infrastructure and services under the National Access Regime needs to be considered generally, owing to pricing issues.

“This is something that needs to be considered because prices seem to be getting out of hand in a number of areas, and maybe it is not limited to Melbourne,” Nairn said.

Andrew Hudson, a partner at law firm Gadens, thinks the suggestion that Melbourne’s port infrastructure may fall within the scope of the National Access Regime will give potential bidders for the privatisation/lease reason to even more carefully consider their bidding.

And that is because a declaration could, ultimately, put some conditions on how the port can be operated.

“Basically, it comes down to the ACCC to prescribe how they charge things. It will still be in the hands of the buyer to run the regime, to run the port and the like,” Hudson said.

“But how the buyer will charge things and how it will operate the place will be subject to a competition regime, which is probably more prescriptive than they anticipated.

“So it will be a more limiting and restrictive operation. The declaration hasn’t been used very much, but it certainly could be of concern.”

Port of Melbourne Corporation declined to comment.


This is an edited version of an article which originally appeared on Lloyd’s List Australia. Additional reportage by Jim Wilson.

Bryan Nye photo Informa

National prosperity drives Nye’s passion for reform

Departing ARA chief executive Bryan Nye says the industry needs to continue working together to achieve future prosperity for Australia’s economy, and its people.

Nye doesn’t describe himself as a rail tragic. Instead, he sees himself as being passionate about transport reform.

“We’ve got it wrong in Australia,” Nye told Rail Express, “and we’re lagging behind the rest of the world … We’ve got to change that.

“You think about Australia’s geography, the demographics, the size of the country and where the centres are: Rail is a mode of choice that we have failed to address, and we’re just beginning to address it properly now.”

Nye this week announced his decision to leave the ARA after 12 years of hard work as its chief executive. When he joined the association in 2003, he and his staff had to build from the ground up.

“We had to build a credibility within the industry first, to establish ourselves,” he explained.

“We did that by getting the companies to work together, developing some policies, papers … As soon as the government realised the industry could get itself together, it started to listen.

“I think that’s the importance of it,” he continued. “If everybody says, for example, ‘The number one priority right now is Inland Rail,’ then the government will sit up and listen.

“That’s what excites me. Trying to get governments to pick up good reforms.

“Look at Sydney: it’s getting another harbour crossing, new light rail, the North West Rail Link … all of that comes from the public and the industry getting together to put pressure to make the government respond.

“That’s the benefit of the industry working together.”

Nye, who championed the establishment of the Rail Industry and Safety Standards Board in 2005, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to the rail transport industry in January 2014.

He plans to continue to work with the rail industry, and feels he can be a valuable contributor to industry boards and panels in the future.

“Rail is crucial to Australia’s economy, and it’s whole productivity,” Nye said.

“If we’re going to get greater government involvement and investment in rail, the industry needs to come together and be of one voice. That’s vital.”

 

A full profile of Bryan Nye and his career with the ARA will feature in the AusRAIL edition of Rail Express, which will be released at this year’s AusRAIL PLUS, scheduled for Melbourne from November 24 to 26.

(Left to Right) R U OK? chairman Mike Connaghan, ARA chief executive Bryan Nye, Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins, TrackSAFE chairman Bob Herbert, Minister for Health Sussan Ley, R U OK? ambassador Phil Waugh, NSW Trains chief executive Rob Mason. Photo: Oliver Probert

Rail boss calls for cultural shift for mental health

Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins says the Australian rail industry needs to undergo a cultural change if it is to get serious about the mental health of its employees.

Speaking at the launch of the inaugural Rail R U OK? Day at Central station on Thursday morning, Collins said the rail industry needs to shift away from its stiff upper lip culture, and also needs to be more aware of the multicultural nature of its workforce.

“We as an industry … face a lot of issues,” Collins said. “We see everything that the public throws at us, and sometimes that is a real, tragic experience.

“As an ex-train driver – someone who’s been on the front line – I think there’s a lot of issues. Culturally, ‘macho blokes’ don’t talk about it.

“Now, not only have we been male-dominated – and that’s changing – but culturally, 50% of my employees are from other places around the world. And different cultures can also find it difficult to talk about things, like saying ‘Are you okay?’ We must support them in this exercise as well.”

Collins was joined at the opening event by his counterpart at NSW Trains, Rob Mason, as well as outgoing ARA chief executive Bryan Nye, federal minister for health Sussan Ley, TrackSAFE chairman Bob Herbert, R U OK? chairman Mike Connaghan and several other key R U OK? figures.

Rail R U OK? Day is a new initiative; the result of a joint effort by the TrackSAFE Foundation and R U OK?.

“We now understand that this day is important to us,” Collins said.

“To our rail employees, to their partners, to our contractors – the whole industry is coming together today.

“It’s all about being safer, being supportive, and doing what managers often fail to do: To use your two ears, and one mouth to communicate, and understand what people have to say.

“We’re all busy people … But you do need to find the time to ask.”

Melbourne Metro alignment

Andrews details alignment for Metro tunnels

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has vowed to “get on” with the Melbourne Metro project, announcing the preferred alignment and depth of rail tunnels.

Andrews was joined on Thursday morning by minister for public transport Jacinta Allan to announce the Labor Government’s plan to align the twin 9km tunnels under Swanston Street through the Melbourne CBD.

Andrews and Allan also announced that the tunnels will be at a depth of just 10m below surface, rather than an earlier proposal of 40m.

“Aligning Melbourne Metro with Swanston Street is better for passengers and taxpayers,” Andrews said.

“Confirming the preferred alignment and not proceeding with the Liberals’ East West Link means we can get on with the project our state needs and the project our state voted for: Melbourne Metro Rail.”

The alignment announcement follows planning and technical work undertaken by the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority, which was established with $40 million in funding in February.

The work shows the Swanston Street alignment to be “the most convenient location for commuters and the most cost-effective option for construction,” according to the Government.

A proposed alignment with Russell Street was ruled out as it wouldn’t allow passengers to transfer directly between the City Loop and the new Melbourne Metro tunnels.

Another proposed alignment, beneath Elizabeth Street, revealed unstable ground conditions and significant and costly engineering challenges, the Government detailed on Thursday.

The 10m depth for the tunnels was chosen as it was decided deeper tunnels were not convenient for commuters, and were not as safe in case of emergency.

The reduced depth of the tunnels also means construction of the project can take place “more efficiently,” the Government said.

Melbourne Metro Rail Authority plans to investigate a number of measures to reduce disruption throughout the CBD during construction.

“During the procurement phase, bidders will be encouraged to further improve the design and minimise disruption,” the Government said.

“Identifying a preferred route and depth for the rail tunnels allows more detailed investigations to be undertaken in the project’s ongoing planning and development.

“It will also allow the Authority to undertake detailed consultation with stakeholders, including Swanston Street traders, later this year.”

Public transport minister Jacinta Allan said the preferred alignment was a good result for commuters.

“Two new underground city stations, connected to the City Loop and close to street level, will make it easier to get into and around Melbourne,” Allan said.

“Victoria needs a bigger, better train system and the Andrews Labor Government is getting on with it.”

Sydney Train

Rail takes proactive approach with R U OK? initiative

TrackSAFE chairman Bob Herbert says the launch of the inaugural Rail R U OK? Day is a sign that the Australian rail industry is proactive when it comes to the emotional wellbeing of its 110,000 employees.

“The rail network is a workplace,” Herbert said. “Train drivers, guards, emergency services and other rail industry employees are the first people on the scene when incidents take place on the network and for them, severe mental, physical and emotional trauma can result from witnessing such an event.”

Launched at Sydney’s Central Station on Thursday morning, Rail R U OK? Day is a joint initiative between suicide and harm prevention charities R U OK? and the TrackSAFE Foundation.

It’s aimed at giving rail staff the confidence and capacity to talk about their mental wellbeing, and to help them feel safe and supported while at work, by asking the simple question: ‘Are you ok?’

“Rail R U OK? Day supports our existing trauma management program and aims to increase awareness about the importance of looking out for each other in the workplace, which is crucial to an industry that is too often affected by suicide and the consequential trauma suffered by rail employees,” Herbert said.

Suicide is the biggest cause of death for Australians under the age of 44, with more than 2400 Australians suiciding each year, and 65,000 attempting suicide.

Mike Connaghan, chairman of R U OK?, said the partnership with TrackSAFE promotes an important message to a national industry.

“Rail R U OK? Day will see industry employers and employees foster an environment of support and encouragement, so that asking ‘are you ok?’ becomes standard practice,” Connaghan said.

“We believe that this day of action will empower people to help a workmate, whether it be on Rail R U OK? Day or any day,” he said.

Federal minister for health Sussan Ley, who spoke at the launch in Sydney, said the Government was committed to working with communities to raise awareness of suicide risk, to help those at risk of taking their own lives and to assist those affected by suicide.

“Any suicide is one too many and it is devastating for families and communities,” Ley said.

“I am committed to working with communities and organisations such as R U OK? and the TrackSAFE Foundation to reduce the tragic impact of suicide.”

Paris - Roubaix level crossing incident. Graphic: Eurosport

SNCF wants police action following Paris-Roubaix incident

French rail operator SNCF is reportedly demanding police take action to investigate the level crossing ‘near miss’ which took place at the Paris-Roubaix one-day bike race this weekend.

A number of competitors in the well-known annual event went through a set of boom gates which had already lowered, with the final rider crossing ahead of the train just 12 seconds before it went through the junction.

While race organisers took no action against the offending riders, saying most were unable to stop in time, SNCF wants riders who crossed the tracks to be prosecuted.

The operator reportedly told a number of media agencies that the cyclists had acted “against all safety rules”.

“Millions of television viewers saw live this extremely serious and irresponsible action which could have been tragic,” SNCF was quoted across a number of sources.

“A few seconds later, a TGV ran on this line and could have hit the peleton.”

Riders were reportedly 10 minutes ahead of schedule due to a strong tail wind, leading to the unfortunate timing of the train and the peleton.

While some riders made it through the junction, others ducked and dodged the lowering boom gates, while several more riders wound their way past the lowered gates, before a policeman onboard a motorcycle ordered riders to stop.

The dramatic footage has been viewed several million times on YouTube since it was posted by one user.

Shortly after the event finished, race organisers played down the incident, saying riders would not be punished.

“It wasn’t possible for the leading riders to stop sufficiently safely,” president of the jury of race commissioners Guy Dobbelaere was quoted by the BBC. “The peloton was 10 metres away when the barrier started to close.”

The International Cycling Union (UCI) requested a comprehensive report from organisers, describing the incident as “extremely worrying”.

This year’s Paris-Roubaix featured 10 level crossings. Rail junctions have come into play in the past, with riders punished in 2006 after going through a pair of lowered boom gates in that year’s race.

Rail turnout - RISSB

Nye, Tanner to leave ARA

Australasian Railway Association chief executive Bryan Nye will leave the organisation by April 30, following the association’s split with the Rail Industry and Safety Standards Board (RISSB) announced earlier this year.

ARA chairman Lindsay Tanner will also leave the association following the end of his term this year.

“This is a new phase for the ARA, and it will be led by a new CEO, following the decision by existing CEO Bryan Nye to stand down as of 30 April 2015,” Tanner said this morning.

“Bryan has made an enormous contribution to the industry since he was appointed as CEO of the ARA in 2003, some twelve years ago.

“In January 2014 he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to the rail transport industry, and to the business sector.

“On behalf of all of its members, the ARA would like to thank Bryan for his leadership over the past 12 years and wish him the very best for the future.”

Tanner continued: “After a two year period assisting the organisation with its transition I will finish my term in April 2015.”

Bob Herbert has been appointed as interim chair to complete the review process.

The ARA has been undergoing lengthy reviews in recent months, with the first major result being the announcement of the separation of the ARA and RISSB.

“This decision was aimed at driving further progress in improving rail’s safety and productivity and to more closely align to the objectives of the newly established Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR),” Tanner said of the split.

RISSB will be formally established as a separate body on July 1.

“The ARA is now well positioned to review its own important role within the industry as the peak representative body for rail,” Tanner concluded.

“This review is being led by a sub-committee of the ARA Board and will be completed over the next three months.”