Anthony Albanese, ASA

Albo rips Greens’ ‘fantasy world’ transport policy

The NSW election took place over a month ago, but it’s not too late for federal shadow transport and infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese to lampoon the Greens for their pre-election transport policy.

“One of the advantages of representing a minor political party is that because you aren’t trying to win government, you never have to deliver on your promises,” Albanese wrote in an op-ed for The Australian on Tuesday, which he later re-published on his own site.

“But that fact should not excuse politicians from minor parties from offering genuine, workable solutions to policy challenges facing the community.”

Prior to the election, the Greens proposed a plan which included shutting down the existing Kingsford Smith airport, cancelling development of the second airport at Badgerys Creek, and building a new airport outside the Sydney basin, connected to the city via a high speed rail line.

Albanese isn’t a fan.

“If this were put in place, Sydney would be the only global city without an airport,” he observed.

“It’s the stuff of fantasy. It has no place in the world of serious policy debate.”

Albanese said that individual, “realistic” Greens party members know the policy is not a practical one.

“Yet the policy remains and enables the party to campaign for zero impact of aviation activity anywhere,” the former deputy prime minister wrote, “despite the fact modern aviation is a driver of economic activity.”

Albanese accused the Greens of “giving up” on the decades-long debate surrounding Sydney’s aviation needs. He said that before opposing the existing plans for another airport at Badgerys Creek, the party opposed the proposal to build the airport at an alternative site.

“The Greens opposed Wilton, too,” Albanese recalled.

“In the light of this, their proposal to banish Sydney’s airport to an unnamed site and to link it to the city with a high-speed rail line cannot be taken seriously.

“The comprehensive study into the plan to build a high-speed rail line from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra found that 67km of tunnelling in Sydney would be necessary for it to operate.

“It’s a serious project worthy of support. But, like any major infrastructure project, high-speed rail would affect communities along the route. Tunnels require ­exhausts. Construction creates ­inconvenience.

“Delivering high-speed rail, just like building the Badgerys Creek airport, will require explanation of the benefits and broad support across the political spectrum.

“Indeed, it is likely that the challenges of high-speed rail construction will create issues over a far wider area than the second airport.”

Albanese accused the Greens party of being more interested in exploiting local communities’ fear of change for political gain, than it is on acting on principle.

“Given the Greens’ record on opposing a second Sydney airport, opposing the Moorebank Intermodal – which will take freight off trucks and on to rail – as well as opposing safety upgrades to the Pacific Highway, it would be remarkable if they did not confect reasons to oppose high-speed rail in practice,” he pointed out.

“When it comes to economic infrastructure, the Greens are political opportunists.”

Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

Hot-air balloon accident could lead to new alcohol rules for rail

A 2012 hot-air balloon accident which killed 11 people could result in new rules surrounding alcohol testing in New Zealand’s rail industry.

NZ’s Ministry of Transport is seeking views on several options to manage drugs and alcohol in transport, following recommendations made by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission in its report on the 2012 Carterton hot-air balloon accident.

As a consequence of that fatal accident, the TAIC recommended legislation or regulations be introduced that will prescribe the allowable maximum levels for alcohol; prohibit the operation of aircraft, vessels or trains by people affected by drugs; require the implementation of drug and alcohol detection and deterrence regimes including random testing and the introduction of post-incident drug and alcohol testing.

NZ already manages drug and alcohol in transport through a variety of health and safety, employment and transport pieces of legislation and rules.

But the ministry is seeking feedback on whether rules, and penalties surrounding transport should be tightened.

It is asking for feedback on four ‘options’ which have emerged so far in the study:

  • Option 1 is to leave the current regime in place and increase educational efforts.
  • Option 2 would make commercial operators, that are not already under a legislative or regulatory regime, develop and implement specific management plans including mandatory testing.
  • Option 3 would require alcohol / drug testing after an incident but the tests would not include any extra enforcement or penalties beyond those that already exist.
  • Option 4 would set maximum alcohol limits across the commercial aviation, maritime and rail sectors with new specific-alcohol-related offences and penalties with police powers to test with “good cause” and also after an event.

In relation to Option 4, further comments are sought on whether limits should be the same across all modes of transport or whether they should differ sector by sector.

The paper also asks whether all safety-sensitive roles should be subject to testing.

Police would require extra powers to enter workplaces “such as ports, airports and rail yards to test employees,” the review suggests.

A further thought expressed in the options paper is giving power to the Transport Accident Investigation Commission to enable testing of any person involved in an incident regardless of whether or not that person was on a plane, ship or train.

Submissions can be made to the NZ Ministry of Transport before 5pm this Friday, May 8. Click here for more information.

This article originally appeared in our sister publication, Lloyd’s List Australia.

V/Line train. Photo: Victorian Government

11 rail commitments in Victorian Budget

Victorian transport minister Jacinta Allan has described the state’s 2015/16 Budget as “the biggest investment in public transport in Victoria’s history,” with as much as $6.32 billion committed to rail projects.

Allan said the Budget, which was handed down on Tuesday, lays the foundations for a public transport system able to move millions more people as Victoria grows into Australia’s most populous state.

“The Andrews Labor Government is investing in the transport projects that Victoria needs, so people can get to work and get back home to their families safer and sooner,” Allan said.

“This investment is a part of the Labor Government’s plan for a high-capacity, high-frequency train system where you don’t need a timetable – you just turn up and go.”

11 separate commitments directly relevant to rail are included in the 2015/16 Budget:

  1. $2.4 billion is committed to kick-start the Andrews Government’s planned removal of 50 of Victoria’s most dangerous and congested level crossings.The commitment will see the removal of at least 20 level crossings in the Government’s first term. If the Andrews Government lasts beyond that, and all 50 crossings are removed, the scheme will cost a total of between $5 and $6 billion.
  2. $2 billion  will be spent on 83 new trams and trains across the state’s metro and regional rail passenger networks. As announced on Monday, the funding will finance the delivery of:
    • 37 new high capacity metro trains ($1.3 billion)
    • 20 new E-Class trams ($274 million)
    • 21 new VLocity carriages ($257 million)
    • 5 new X’Trapolis trains ($90 million)
    • Maintenance and refurbishment to extend the life of the current Comeng train fleet ($75 million)
    • Extending the life of the B-Class Tram fleet ($21 million)
  3. $1.5 billion will go towards the first works to construct the Melbourne Metro Rail project. Premier Daniel Andrews made headlines in April by announcing the planned spending, which will go towards anticipated planning, design and significant early works for the project, which is expected to commence construction in 2018. The Melbourne Metro is expected to cost $9 to $11 billion to complete.
  4. Up to $220 million could go to the Murray Basin Rail project, once the business case for that project is finalised in coming months. $30 million has already been fast-tracked to this project, Allan said.
  5. $55.6 million is provided for Stage 1 of Victoria’s first trial of High-Capacity Signalling, set to be rolled out on the Sandringham line.
  6. $50.5 million is set aside to upgrade 52 level crossings
  7. $50 million has been committed to trial the Homesafe scheme – a plan for all night public transport on weekends, to begin on January 1, 2016. The Government says the plan is designed to get shift workers and late night travellers home safely.
  8. $18.8 million in funding is assigned to a road and rail minor works fund, intended to be used to pay for critical maintenance and improvements around the transport network.
  9. $13.1 million is committed to upgrade the Frankston Station precinct. $50 million is set to be made available for this project in future budgets, Allan said.
  10. $9 million is for the planning and preparation of the business case for the Mernda Rail Link, with remaining funds for the project to be assigned in future budgets.
  11. $2 million has been committed to the Bendigo Metro Rail Project.

All in all, the 2015/16 Budget commits to just over $6.3 billion in spending for rail or rail-related projects, but almost all of that spending sets the scene for even more state spending down the track. Projects like Melbourne Metro, the Rolling Stock plan, and the level crossing removal scheme will likely all see more money spent in coming years.

The Australasian Railway Association yesterday congratulated the Victorian Government for delivering “a strong, smart transport infrastructure plan that will not only future-proof the efficiency and productivity of the state’s heavy and light rail networks; but also provide greater certainty to local rolling stock manufacturers and suppliers”.

ARA’s new interim chairman, Bob Herbert, said the Budget was a clear sign that the state was listening to the rail industry.

“This announcement supports the ARA’s priority policies that were outlined to all the political parties prior to the Victorian election late last year, which included greater orders of rolling stock for metro and regional train services; acceleration of the renewal of Melbourne’s tram fleet with E-class light rail vehicles to meet growing demand; and a mandated 50 per cent local content in all rolling stock orders – all of which are outlined in this Budget,” Herbert said.

“Support from Government for our local rail manufacturing industry is imperative to its future, having watched the decimation of Australian rail manufacturing and the loss of jobs that goes with that over the past decade.

“This injection of funding in to the local rail manufacturing industry will ease ongoing pressures and enable industry to invest in new innovation and technologies as well as broaden the skill set of workers.”

(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’s R U OK? day “a great blueprint for other sectors”

Suicide prevention charity R U OK? has hailed rail’s first R U OK?Day in April as a success, with general manager Brendan Maher saying rail is setting a standard for other sectors to follow.

Rail R U OK?Day was launched on April 16, at a ceremony at Sydney’s Central Station. Across the country, more than 20 industry stakeholders took part in events in over 60 locations.

Reviewing the inaugural event, the R U OK? organisation said, “as an industry affected too often by suicide and other trauma, Rail R U OK?Day was a great campaign to help remind workers about the importance of looking out for one another”.

R U OK? general manager Brendan Maher said an industry-led initiative is a strong way to encourage regular, meaningful conversations 365 days of the year.

“R U OK? is committed to working with industry to ensure that everyone who has the capacity to ask ‘are you okay?’ will do so,” Maher said.

“This campaign was embraced enthusiastically by senior management and provides a great blueprint for other sectors to follow suit.”

Rail R U OK?Day was launched in conjunction with the TrackSafe Foundation.

R U OK? community ambassador Justin Geange helped with the launch, speaking at a number of events in the lead-up to the inaugural day.

Geange, a former Queensland Rail worker, has inspired many with his own experience of surviving a suicide attempt, and his progress through a difficult stage of his life.

Melbourne tram. Photo State Government Victoria

Vic commits $2bn for rail, sets out Rolling Stock Strategy

Victoria’s Labor Government will on Tuesday announce a $2 billion plan to deliver 83 new trams and trains across the state’s metro and regional trains and tram network.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday said the funding will be portioned off to kick start a long-term plan for train and tram manufacturing in Victoria.

The scheme, called Trains, Trams, Jobs 2015-25 – Victorian Rolling Stock Strategy, sets out a ten-year plan for 100 new metro trains, 100 new trams, and “a massive expansion” of Victoria’s regional tram fleet.

The 2015/16 Budget sets out to deliver the first set of these trains and trams, with funding set aside for the following:

  • 37 new high capacity metro trains ($1.3 billion)
  • 20 new E-Class trams ($274 million)
  • 21 new VLocity carriages ($257 million)
  • 5 new X’Trapolis trains ($90 million)
  • Maintenance and refurbishment to extend the life of the current Comeng train fleet ($75 million)
  • Extending the life of the B-Class Tram fleet ($21 million)

Andrews said the multi-billion dollar investment will provide greater certainty to rolling stock manufacturers and suppliers, which employ up to 10,000 people in Victoria.

“Victoria is the only state that makes trams and trains. We want to see these industries grow and employ more people, which is why we’re investing strongly,” Andrews said.

“This $2 billion investment in new trams, trains and jobs is part of our plan to transform Victoria’s public transport system and create local jobs – and we’re getting on with it.”

Beyond the initial investment, Trains, Trams, Jobs 2015-2025 aims to identify a pipeline of train and tram delivery to meet the needs of the public transport network for decades to come.

This has been done to enable companies to invest in facilities, in new technology and in workers, Andrews said, sustaining high-skill manufacturing in Victoria.

State public transport minister Jacinta Allan said the funding, and the forward-plan, were designed to address a significant need in Victoria.

“The number of people using our public transport system is growing twice as fast as our population,” Allan observed.

“Without this critical investment and a long-term plan for rolling stock, our network would grind to a halt.

“Our investment today is a key part of the Andrews Labor Government’s plan for high-frequency public transport and high-skilled manufacturing in Victoria.”

The full report is available here. Rail Express will have analysis on the plan later this week.

Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

ARTC confirms: North Coast closed to at least May 17

49 sites on the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s North Coast interstate network in NSW require repair work of some kind following last week’s flooding and storm damage.

A report from rail operator Aurizon on Wednesday suggested the interstate network between Brisbane and Sydney would be out of action until at least May 18. The ARTC on Thursday confirmed a preliminary forecast for reopening of the line of May 17.

“With a consistent supply of materials continuing, weather remaining cooperative and continued positive progress of existing works, ARTC’s initial target is to reopen the track for operations on 17 May 2015,” the ARTC said on Thursday evening.

“We will constantly review this date based on site conditions and progress and will take every opportunity to bring this forecast forward if we can.”

Since last week’s extreme weather, the ARTC has identified 49 sites on the North Coast network that require repair work of some kind.

The work ranges from minor track repairs to large washaways.

As of Thursday, April 30, ARTC engineers and track engineers had completely scoped 47 of the 49 sites, while 41 sites have had works commence, with some already completed.

“Three major sites at Tocal are a key focus for the team,” the ARTC outlined.

“These sites include completely establishing new rail track from the ground up and filling in sizeable track washaways, some greater than 10m deep and 70m wide.”

The ARTC did not identify this incident specifically, but it’s likely that the Tocal sites referenced on Thursday include the one which let to the spectacular destruction of an impromptu suspension bridge, captured on film by the local Tocal College.

“Geotechnical assessments have been completed at these locations and the engineering task to recover the track around Tocal is underway,” the ATSB said.

“ARTC will continue to provide progress reports over the coming weeks.

“We thank the community and our customers for their continued patience with us as we work to recover operations as quickly and safely as possible.”

Whyalla Derailment - Photo: ATSB

Maintenance shortcuts led to derailment: ATSB


An inadequate rail joint likely led to a South Australian derailment last July, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has found.

Genesee & Wyoming Australia (GWA) train 24KW was travelling towards the port of Whyalla on July 7, 2014, when a break in the line occurred, causing seven fully-loaded bottom-dumper wagons to derail.

The incident took place on a railway belonging to ASX-listed miner Arrium, between Iron Branch and 21km Junction.

Arrium’s track is continuous welded rail, meaning rail segments are joined together through flash welding.

But in the months prior to the incident, the section of rail in question had undergone tamping and re-railing. As a result, rail segments in that section were joined with bolted fishplates (welding was planned for a later date).

A fishplate joint features a pair of metal bars (fishplates) which are placed either side of a rail, and fastened together with a number of bolts.

Fishplate joint. Photo: Creative Commons / PixOnTrax
An example of a fishplate joint. Photo: Creative Commons / PixOnTrax


Some rail lines are joined together permanently via the fishplate method. In these cases, Australian standard joints usually feature six total bolts – three on either side of the rail joint – according to the ATSB’s report, released on April 28.

The temporary use of fishplate joints is common practice on a continuous welded line, after maintenance work has taken place. In these cases, just four bolts are typically used – two on either side of the joint – the ATSB said.

But according to the safety bureau, evidence shows that one of the fishplate joints which failed in the South Australian derailment had been secured with just two bolts – one on either side of the joint.

“Examination of the southern rail joint showed that the Iron Baron end of the joint had been fastened with only one bolt,” the ATSB said.

Whyalla derailment -- Iron Baron end of southern fishplate joint with just one bolt. Photo: ATSB
Iron Baron end of southern fishplate joint with just one bolt. Photo: ATSB


“While the Whyalla end of the southern rail joint had completely separated during the derailment sequence, the components were recovered and examined,” the bureau continued.

“The holes through both fractured fishplates and the rail web showed no definitive indication that bolting had been installed through two of the three bolt holes, suggesting that the assembly had also been secured through a single bolt through this end of the joint.”

On top of this, the ATSB found that bolt holes on the southern rail joint had been widened through a flame cutting method, making it hard for the bolts to be sufficiently tightened.

“It was … evident that both the field and gauge-side fishplates had been modified by slotting (elongating) the bolt hole using an oxy/acetylene thermal cutting tool,” the ATSB explained.

According to the safety bureau, flame cutting of joint components “is usually only acceptable for emergency repairs,” and when such repairs are made, a speed restriction of 10km/h is usually applied.

In this instance, however, no such restriction was applied. Train 24KW was travelling at 50km/h when the incident occurred.

Adding to the alleged use of just two bolts and widened holes on the southern joint, several fishplates in both the north and south rail joints showed signs of pre-existing fatigue, the ATSB said.

“The southern fishplated rail joint was assembled using inappropriately-modified fishplates with an inadequate number of through-bolts,” the bureau summarised, “reducing its structural integrity and allowing relative movement within the joint under the load of a train.”

Arrium’s rail line was shut for two days following the incident, while recovery personnel and track and train maintenance crew conducted recovery and restoration works.

Whyalla derailment -- Train 24KW. Photo: ATSB
Train 24KW. Photo: ATSB


The train sustained “serious” damage, according to the bureau’s report.

As a result of the derailment, Genesee & Wyoming Australia replaced all the fishplate joints with mechanical welding.

GWA and the contracted maintenance company, Transfield Services Australia, also completed an audit of maintenance standards and processes, and in November 2014 Transfield disseminated a document Mechanical Joint Rectification to all track maintenance staff.


Tocal washaway - Photo NSW SES

Controlled blast clears NSW’s impromptu suspension bridge

WATCH: ARTC contractors have cleared a section of rail on the damaged North Coast network with a controlled explosion, which was filmed and shared by Tocal College.

Last week’s extreme weather and flooding in northern and central NSW left many sections of track on the North Coast rail network damaged, with ballast washed away in several locations, and entire sections of land washed away in some places.

One such instance of a land washaway occurred in Tocal, creating an impromptu suspension bridge, with photos of the location, as well as other damaged sections of track, shared by NSW SES on Facebook on Wednesday.

To replace the suspended 70m section of track (shown in the first photo) at Quarry Creek, Tocal, the ARTC has had to remove the track itself, using an explosive cutting method.

Local agricultural and conservation education site Tocal College sits adjacent to the site of the controlled blast, and was able to capture it from several angles.

The video suggests the ARTC hired Precision Drill and Blast,  a Mittagong-based contractor, for the explosive cutting work.

Yarra Trams Clement Michel - Photo Yarra Trams

Know your accountabilities: The Yarra Trams safety journey

Yarra Trams chief executive Clément Michel insists accountability and strong employee-manager relationships are crucial to ensuring a safe transport network.

Michel, who was appointed chief operating officer at Keolis Downer (Victoria) Yarra Trams in 2009, before transitioning to chief executive in February 2013, spoke in late March at the Rail Safety 2015 Conference in Melbourne, organised by RISSB and Informa.

In 1988, an SNCF commuter service crashed into a stationary outbound train at the Gare de Lyon rail terminal in Paris, killing more than 50 people and injuring just as many.

Despite not joining the staff at Paris-Gare de Lyon until 2000, Michel recalled that he couldn’t help but feel a sense of responsibility when his predecessor showed him a box full of press materials, pictures, and news clippings about the incident, several years later.

From then on, Michel said, he has been inspired to instil a sense of accountability to his staff, to make them feel accountable to their organisation, and to its customers.

You can engineer a risk out only if you have somebody accountable to engineer it out. That is the transformation journey. – Clément Michel

Michel believes that in an ideal safety culture, people will consistently reflect, not to simply feel responsible for their actions, but to “feel accountable, and therefore be driven to act”.

During his presentation at the Melbourne gathering, Michel said at the heart of the issue lies employee-manager relationships.

Regardless of how many new structures and programs are established, Michel said there will always exist a high percentage of non-compliance to rules, when at the core of the organisation, employee-manager relationships are crumbling.

In the world of franchising models, there are things managers and employees are both accountable for, he said, explaining that when both sides are aware of these accountabilities, it is easier to work around pertinent issues, like safety risks, customer interaction, punctuality, processes, and leadership.

Upon arrival at Yarra Trams, Michel said he moved quickly to fix the rules and train the staff. An excellent simulator was crucial for initial driver training, he said, adding that proper and continuous training can help enhance an employee’s innate skills and talents, preparing them to do better in their assigned tasks.

Michel stressed the importance of monitoring all work through automated completion processes and programs.

An automated system, similar to the one Yarra Trams is currently using, enables managers to observe how all the employees are performing, Michel explained.

Michel concluded with an outline of the most important aspects of improving safety in a transport organisation. He said:

  • Accountabilities should be initially laid out on the table
  • Structures on the key processes and leadership must be clearly established
  • The accountability metric system (accountability matrix) must be absolutely clear and fully understood by everyone in the organisation
  • All managers should be held fully accountable for their regular directive reports
  • Managers should be held accountable for the safe outcome and safety of their teams. and the safety of their teams

RISSB and Informa will team up again for the RISSB National Rail Turnouts Workshop, to be held in Sydney from May 27 to 28. Click here for more information.

Related story: When rail meets road: Making rams safer with Clement Michel, Yarra Trams

Port of Fremantle - Photo Fremantle Ports

Rail struggle in Fremantle due to ‘shorthaul’ competition

WA transport minister Dean Nalder says while the government is trying to get more freight on rail running through the Port of Fremantle, the mode is not a natural fit for the bulk of its trade.

Nalder has told WA parliament that current market share for freight moved by rail is around 14%.

The government hopes to lift that figure to a 30% share for rail, but the distance travelled by most of Fremantle’s containers is inhibiting that transition.

“It is difficult for rail to compete effectively with road over the shorthaul distances which are involved with the greater part of the Fremantle container trade,” the minister said.

According to Nalder, the state government’s key strategies to increase the percentage of freight moved by rail from Fremantle Ports include investment in railway infrastructure at the port and on lines running to and from the port; improvements in efficiency of rail operations; and continuing subsidies for containers moved by train.

Nalder expects the port of Fremantle to reach maximum container capacity in eight years if there is a high average annual growth rate.

Alternatively a low average annual growth rate would mean the port will not reach capacity for 21 years (through to 2036).

Nalder said the current estimated annual container capacity at the port is between 1.2 and 1.4 million 20ft equivalent units (teus).

The most recent truck survey, taken in 2014, determined that an average of 2600 container vehicles were visiting the port each week day.