Environment and Sustainability, Freight Rail

Conditional approval for Moorebank from PAC

Moorebank Map. Graphic: MIC

The Qube/Aurizon joint venture developing Sydney’s Moorebank Intermodal Terminal will have to prove their rail activity does not breach noise pollution levels before they can expand capacity at the site.

The New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) recently approved concept plans from the Sydney Intermodal Terminal Alliance (SIMTA) to build the intermodal terminal in Sydney’s west, with a scheduled opening of 2017.

SIMTA – a 50/50 joint venture between Queensland-based rail operator Aurizon and port, road and rail logistics firm Qube Holdings – was selected as the winning bidder for Moorebank in June last year. It signed a 99-year lease for a 158 hectare package of land next to its initial 83 hectare area, creating a total precinct area of 241 hectares, or 2.41 square kilometres.

On June 3 this year, the alliance’s concept plan to build the terminal was formally approved by the NSW PAC.

However, the PAC has approved staged capacity limits for the terminal based on proof of limited environmental impact.

From day one, Moorebank’s interstate terminal can be launched with its targeted capacity of 500,000 twenty-foot container equivalent (TEU) per annum.

But the import/export (IMEX) terminal can only have a 250,000 TEU per annum capacity at launch.

An increase of up to an additional 300,000 TEU per annum will be approved for the IMEX terminal if the authority is satisfied with traffic and noise monitoring and modelling during operation.

After further operation, another capacity increase of 500,000 more TEU per annum will also be on the table, pending the results of more monitoring and modelling.

In total the terminal will be limited to 1.55 million TEU per annum (500,000 TEU for interstate, 1.05 million TEU for IMEX).

It’s a fair bet that SIMTA will be alright with this progression: the joint venture has in the past expressed a desire to start both the IMEX and interstate terminals off with a capacity of just 250,000 TEU each per annum, and build from there.

Aurizon and Qube will have to conduct rail noise monitoring along the rail link between Moorebank and the South Sydney Freight Line, which will connect it to both Port Botany and the interstate network.

“The Applicant shall install and maintain a rail noise monitoring system on the rail link at the commencement of operation to continuously monitor the noise from rail operations,” the PAC said on June 3.

“The system shall capture the noise from each individual train passby noise generation event …”

Information captured will have to include the time and date of every train passby, imagery to identify the rollingstock, the precise sound levels recorded and “other alternative information as agreed…”

The results from noise monitoring must be made public online, and information will be published within 24 hours.

Every year for its first five years, SIMTA will have to provide a noise monitoring report to the PAC. After the fifth year, the Commission will consider the need for continued reporting.

Also in the PAC’s conditions were restrictions to the types of rollingstock that can access the intermodal site.

“Port shuttle operations must use locomotives that incorporate available best practice technologies or technologies as agreed by the [PAC],” the Conditions of Approval report states.

In addition, shuttles must use “wagons that incorporate available best practice technologies … such as permanently coupled ‘multi-pack’ steering wagons using Electronically Controlled Pneumatic braking with a wire based distributed power system”.

Next on the schedule for Moorebank is approval for its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from the Commonwealth Department of Environment.