In this Q&A with Rail Express publisher Informa Australia, Australasian Railway Association boss Danny Broad talks about the crucial role heavy haul rail plays in the Australian economy, and the global trends which will continue to shape it.
Informa: How is Australia leading the way in heavy haul rail?
Danny Broad: Australia’s heavy haul coal and iron ore rail operators are world leaders in terms of capability, efficiency and innovation.
In the Pilbara, the Hunter Valley and the Bowen Basin, Australia’s heavy haul operators are recognised as leading the world in the application of new technology to stretch their assets for maximum safe performance and delivery.
Informa: How have recent shifts in commodity markets impacted the Australian rail sector?
Broad: Heavy haulers [are] increasing the efficiency of their operations, driving costs down and implementing new technology to achieve maximum performance from their assets.
Total iron ore shipments at Port Hedland increased in March 2016 to 39.53 tonne from 36.63 million tonnes in February. [The March figure] eclipses the previous high of 39.4 million tonnes set in September 2015.
Informa: How does rail help create value in the commodity sector?
Broad: Rail provides the most efficient means to haul bulk materials from mine to port. These trains are state of the art in terms of the tonnages they haul while providing improved environmental benefits and safer outcomes.
Informa: The issue of ‘jobs and growth’ was much discussed during the recent Federal Election campaign. How can Government support the Australian rail suppliers and manufacturers?
Broad: Governments, both Federal and State, can support Australian rail suppliers and manufacturers by collaboratively working together to commit to a smoothed long-term pipeline of projects while also focusing on greater harmonisation of standards, regulations and procurement practices across all rail sectors.
A report developed by Deloitte in 2013 for the ARA indicated substantial savings for the industry from such an approach.
It is pleasing to see the Victorian Government leading a push for local content in manufactured rolling stock in order to strengthen the rail manufacturing industry, grow employment as well as significantly developing the local industry supply chain.
Informa: As the voice of the rail industry, what do you believe are some of the key indicators that will shape the heavy haul rail industry in 2016 and beyond?
Broad: As commodity prices vary and worldwide demand for coal and iron ore changes, heavy haul rail operators will have to continue to be flexible and innovative further to provide a competitive offering while maximising efficiency.
Danny Broad will be providing an industry update at the ARA Heavy Haul Rail conference in Mackay on the 24 & 25 August 2016. ARA Members receive a special 20% discount to attend.
For more details, including a list things to see in Mackay after the Heavy Haul Rail conference, visit the website here.