Plenty of life in Old King Coal

A new monthly coal export record was set in December at the Port of Newcastle, helping the port achieve an annual record for trade in the 2016 calendar year.

Newcastle handled just under 168 million tonnes of trade in 2016, up 3.8 million tonnes on 2015, a 2% rise. This was driven by 161 million tonnes of coal exports, and a near-doubling in wheat exports to 761,000 tonnes.

Fuel imports rose 15% to 1.7 million tonnes on the year.

December 2016 saw 15.9 million tonnes of coal exported, breaking the old monthly record of 15.8 million tonnes set in December 2014.

Port of Newcastle chief executive officer Geoff Crowe said the record trade was a win for the Hunter region, and said he is confident the port will remain “pivotal” to the region’s economic success.

“This is a great result for the Port, the Hunter region and the state, and we continue to work with industry and businesses throughout our New South Wales catchment area to deliver new trade,” Crowe said.

“By trade volume, the Port of Newcastle is Australia’s third largest port and is ranked 24th in the world, and we have huge capacity for further diversification and growth, with 200 hectares of vacant land and a shipping channel which can handle double the current ship numbers.”

Crowe said the port authority would continue to invest in maintaining the port to optimise its use, “including through challenging weather events and peak times”.

Along with coal, wheat and fuel, the port also handles minerals, other agriculture, meat, timber, steel and aluminium.

2,258 ship visits were made to the port in 2016.

IEA forecasts stall in global coal demand

The International Energy Agency has delivered a weaker outlook for coal over the next half-decade, with a growth in alternate fuels to drive down global demand.

The international body, whose 29 member countries include Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the UK and the United States, this week handed down its 2016 coal market report for the medium term, which it classes as the next five years.

It said global coal demand will stall between now and 2021, “as the appetite for the fuel wanes and other energy sources gain ground”. The report forecasts the share of coal in global power generation will drop from 41% in 2014 to 36% by 2021, “driven by lower demand from China and the United States, along with fast growth of renewables and strong focus on energy efficiency”.

But the situation is a bit more complex than it seems, the IEA said.

“In a sign of coal’s paradoxical position, the world is still highly dependent on coal,” the body said. “While coal demand dropped in 2015 for the first time this century, the IEA forecast will not reach 2014 levels again until 2021.

“However such a path would depend greatly on the trajectory of China’s demand, which accounts for 50% of global coal demand – and almost half of coal production – and more than any other country influences global coal prices.”

IEA energy markets and security directorate Keisuke Sadamori expanded on the multiple factors pulling coal in separate directions.

“Because of the implications for air quality and carbon emissions, coal has come under fire in recent years, but it is too early to say that this is the end for coal,” Sadamori said from Beijing.

“Coal demand is moving to Asia, where emerging economies with growing populations are seeking affordable and secure energy sources to power their economies.

“This is the contradiction of coal – while it can provide essential new power generation, it can also lock-in large amounts of carbon emissions for decades to come.”

Albo slams Turnbull’s ‘reinvented wheel’

Shadow minister Anthony Albanese says the Coalition’s plans to publish a report on major cities in 2017 is “simply reinventing the wheel” after the Coalition abolished the former Labor Government’s Major Cities Unit.

Albanese on December 8 said plans for a report on cities, announced during Turnbull’s infrastructure address in November, would achieve the same aims once achieved by the annual State of Australian Cities reports.

“These reports were produced by the independent Major Cities Unit, which was abolished by the incoming Coalition Government as one of its first actions,” Albanese said.

“The State of Australian Cities report provides a comprehensive analysis of statistics and trends about the demographic and planning challenges facing Australia’s 20 largest cities.”

Albanese said the Unit’s reports were downloaded three million times, and were “heralded as a tremendous success and great resource by industry and policy experts”.

“They provided the basis for evidence-based policy decision making,” Albanese argued. “In contrast, the Coalition’s track record on cities policy and research has been dismal.”

According to Labor, the 2014 State of Australian Cities report took more than a year to publish, and was eventually published as a 2014-15 report, on July 6, 2015.

“Labor knows we need national leadership to ensure the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities,” Albanese concluded.

Local workers, regional headquarters for Adani

The Queensland Government says it has secured commitments from Indian energy giant Adani that the massive Carmichael coal mine and rail project will be built and operated by Australians.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on December 6 said Adani had agreed to not source any of its Carmichael workforce via foreign 457 visas.

The Premier said Adani had also committed to establish all its project offices in regional Queensland, with rail and port operations to be based in Bowen, and a rail maintenance and provisioning yard to be built within the Mackay-Bowen region.

“I have always made it clear: the jobs from the Carmichael Coal project are for Queenslanders,” Palaszczuk said.

“Importantly, Adani have committed to up to 600 new jobs in the next pre-construction phase of the project’s development and locations for staff.

“My Government has been determined for this project to create as many jobs for regional Queensland as possible.”

Adani had originally proposed to locate its project offices in Brisbane, but has now agreed to have its regional headquarters and remote operations centre, in Townsville.

“My Government was worked with Adani to ensure the project went through a rigorous and comprehensive assessment process for the mine, rail and port development,” the Premier continued.

“We promised the people of Queensland, at the last election, that we would protect the Great Barrier Reef and Caley Valley Wetlands from disposal of dredged spoil from the Abbot Point port expansion.”

“We also promised the Queensland Government, on behalf of taxpayers, would not fund project infrastructure.”

“We have delivered our commitments and now we look forward to the thousands of new jobs – direct and indirect – to be delivered from the Carmichael Coal project.”

Coal. Photo: Shutterstock

Adani gets approval for rail to port

The $21.7 billion Carmichael coal and rail project has secured its final major State and Federal Government approval, with an application for the project’s rail line into Abbot Point approved.

The coordinator general on Monday approved the application, along with another application for a temporary construction workers’ camp.

State development minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the latest, and final, secondary approval this week was for about 31.5 kilometres of permanent rail line, as well as a temporary construction camp with up to 300 beds.

The rail section will form part of the 389 kilometre standard gauge, heavy haul railway line from the mine in the Galilee Basin to the coal export port.

“This is another key milestone for the project, which Adani has confirmed it will start construction on next year,” Dr Lynham said.

Adani will meet Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Dr Lynham in Townsville on Tuesday.

Inland Rail

Chester names Chair to guide Inland Rail through Queensland

A reference group and chair have been established to help the Australian Rail Track Corporation finalise the alignment of Inland Rail through Queensland.

Federal infrastructure and transport minister Darren Chester on November 30 named Bruce Wilson AM to the role of chair of the Yelarbon to Gowrie Project Reference Group.

The group will provide local community input on the review of alignment options for this section of the Melbourne to Brisbane inland line.

“Mr Wilson has held many senior leadership roles including director general of Queensland Transport, and has the required technical expertise to deliver a major infrastructure project such as Inland Rail,” Chester said.

“He has worked closely with many Queensland communities during his career and this experience will hold him in good stead as he talks with people about the Inland Rail project.”

The group will meet in early December to begin their consultation.

The Australian Logistics Council welcomed the announcement.

ALC managing director Michael Kilgariff said community and industry engagement was essential throughout the planning stages of the project.

“The group’s work will complement the community engagement activities already being undertaken by ARTC with landowners and affected communities as part of the work to determine a final alignment of the Inland Rail route through southern Queensland,” Kilgariff said.

“Inland Rail is critical to improving the efficient movement of freight in Australia, and so I welcome today’s announcement.”

Why transport projects aren’t as good for your health as they could be

Transport infrastructure projects are conceived, planned and assessed in a way that makes it difficult to properly consider their major public health impacts, Patrick Harris, Emily Riley and Jennifer Kent write.

Large transport infrastructure projects, which can cost billions of dollars, are major drivers of the economy, and political flagships. They have significant impacts on health and wellbeing. Yet our research finds these impacts are not as well considered in the project assessment phase as they should be.

A recent Lancet series is the culmination of knowledge linking transport and health. For example, it recommends reducing reliance on private cars and enhancing opportunities for walking, cycling and public transport use. It argues this will improve health both by reducing air and noise pollution, and by promoting physical activity, community connectedness and better access to goods and services, particularly for the socio-economically disadvantaged.

Each transport project’s environmental assessment thus presents a crucial opportunity within the mandated planning process to consider health. This is also when the wider community can engage with the design of projects. The main output of this process, the environmental impact statement (EIS), is available for public scrutiny and comment prior to final project approval.

A health check on assessments

We recently compared the inclusion of health issues in four major transport project assessments. Three involved motorways (WestConnex M4 East and NorthConnex in New South Wales and the 2010 Darlington Upgrade in South Australia) and the fourth the Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail. We did this by first applying a “health audit” to each EIS, then interviewing a range of stakeholders.

The road assessments emphasised risks from air quality and noise, concluding these were minimal. Indeed, each project was predicted to improve air quality and, by extension, health.

When health was assessed, human health risk assessment was the method used, which we judged to be of good quality. The 2010 Darlington upgrade was the only road project not to include health data explicitly in its calculations.

Of the four environmental impact statements, WestConnex M4 East had the most detailed coverage of mental health issues, mostly related to property acquisition. Despite this, there was limited detail in the health chapter when compared to other issues like air and noise risks. Mitigation measures were limited to the provision of phone counselling services.The light rail EIS referred mainly to the connection of the project to health facilities, with some reference to noise and dust in construction. This statement’s chapter on social impacts, in which health featured strongly, reflects the tone of the recent Lancet report, albeit with less detail. It considered wider health benefits of the project, including better access to health facilities and employment opportunities, improved road safety, opportunities for walking and cycling, better air quality and enhanced social interaction.

The EIS for each of the other projects lacked assessment of mental health impacts due to construction and operation.

As outlined above, evidence that links transport and health advocates for access to a mix of transport options, giving people opportunities to walk, cycle and use public transport. The importance of this mix was excluded from the project and parameters set for the two NSW motorway projects.

While the EIS for each of NorthConnex and WestConnex acknowledged the need for multi-modal transport options, their provision was described as being outside the project’s parameters. It wasn’t clear how or when this was being done elsewhere, only that it was not the proponent’s responsibility and not within the scope of the EIS.

This mix of options was minimal in the 2010 Darlington report we analysed. However, the most recent 2016 iteration of this project design appears to emphasise walking and cycling facilities, with a recent announcement of a rail link adjacent to the motorway.

Why were health impacts neglected?

Stakeholder interviews were held with project co-ordinators, consultants, the health department and affected community members for the NSW-based projects. We were unable to conduct interviews for the Darlington case due to changing and uncertain project parameters at the time of the research.

Informants stressed the importance of the requirements issued to proponents by the state Department of Planning and Infrastructure. Health featured in these requirements, largely on the advice of the state Ministry of Health.

These requirements focused on environmental health risks, particularly concerning air quality. This corresponded to historical community concerns about motorway impacts.

Despite an overall consensus that health was an important issue, there was little appetite for comprehensive consideration of broader health impacts, such as those advocated by evidence-based research. Crucially, as reported in the environmental impact statements and confirmed through stakeholder interviews, the design of each project reflects prior financial and strategic decisions. The purpose of the EIS is focused on minimising these risks within those existing design parameters.

Supporting the considerations behind the light rail, there was reference to the cost savings from the health benefits associated with public transport use. This suggests that health was part of that project’s preceding business case. For the motorway projects, however, our research suggests these early decision points failed to comprehensively consider health impacts.

If health is to be comprehensively included in the environmental impact statement, it is clear that it needs to be considered much earlier on when the decisions are made on the parameters of the project. Our findings suggest the design of these projects – from business case to assessment – lags well behind the evidence surrounding transport and health.

The community can be confident that these assessment processes were conducted thoroughly within their set purpose. But the bar for considering the full range of health impacts needs to be raised. This will ensure communities are aware of the long-term impacts of infrastructure provision, and that opportunities to promote and protect health through transport are maximised.

The Conversation

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Patrick Harris is senior research fellow, University of Sydney; Emily Riley is Research Assistant , University of Sydney, and Jennifer Kent is Research Fellow, University of SydneyThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

AusRAIL Day 2 Blog – Check out all the action here

Check out what happened at Day 2 of AusRAIL below! Updates were posted from the bottom of the page, upwards. All times are local to Adelaide.

4.30pm ARA chief executive Danny Broad brings the 2016 edition of the AusRAIL Conference & Exhibition to a formal close, and invites delegates to tonight’s Gala Dinner.

4.20pm Currie asks the panellists for a final idea or message when it comes to new technology.

Gelston says DPTI needs to continue to listen to its customers. “Focus needs to continue to shift away from moving metal boxes, to moving people,” he says.

Dudgeon says the industry needs to be nimble to adjust to future changes in technology. He notes how far mobile phones have come in the last decade, and speculates how far they may go in the next decade. As the technology changes, so too will customers’ desires.

Palmer says social media analysis could also be an interesting and useful avenue to push patronage in the future.

Lezala says technology should also be used to create “an open architecture for fares”. By using customer technology to track movements, he explains, we could in the future see train systems without barriers.

And Miller believes technology can be used to better direct the flow of commuters throughout the network, with the potential to use data processing to send passengers to the right carriage at the right time.

4.15pm Lezala says MTR is starting to exploit its ability to share information across its widespread international businesses. “Knowledge sharing and resource sharing is an opportunity,” he says.

Collins says connectivity remains an issue on his network, which has 14 kilometres of track where no phone signal can be found. “If you can do it in a steel tube 36,000 feet up in the air over the Pacific Ocean, you should be able to do it on a train,” he says.

4.10pm Currie asks the panel what role government has to play. Collins believes government’s job is to ensure the technology systems are applicable across all modes to help create an efficient, multi-modal system.

But Lezala believes governments still aren’t sharing enough data to help operators and other rail businesses innovate.

Paul Gelston says South Australia’s DPTI has found getting an app to be as easy as sharing the transport network data with students who will create an app fit for purpose.

Miller says Downer struggles to turn its immense volumes of data into rich, “useable” datasets for its customers.

4.05pm Collins says younger rail professionals will help the industry understand how to best apply new technologies.

Michael Miller says Downer is trying to move out of the current “paradigm” of “doing everything yourself,” and is instead looking to the market more for new solutions to complex problems. “We’ve got to get practical outcomes for our customers,” he says, “and that’s not about spending piles and piles of money on our own R&D.”

Dudgeon says when a company like Bombardier needs external expertise, partnering with the right organisations can be crucial for a truly successful product delivery.

4.00pm Lezala thinks big data can help create detailed, tailored profiles for every passenger, to help deliver more services that people want. “We ought to be knowing [for example] that we’ve had 2000 people that have looked for a supermarket here,” he says. “We should put a supermarket here.”

Howard Collins says that on the Sydney Trains network, despite “record” timeliness figures, and data “flying everywhere”, people on platforms still don’t always know what is going on. But arming his staff with phones and smart tablets has allowed them to become better ambassadors for the rail network.

An unexpected side-effect of the smart devices is that lost property has become easier to report, record and track down.

3.55pm Andrew Dudgeon explains how rollingstock manufacturers have to work with operators and governments to give them what they need in an age of new technology. Air conditioning trams in Victoria, for example, are being upgraded based on customer feedback and real time data.

Andrew Lezala says Metro Trains has been developing apps to improve customer experience, as well as a social network for internal staff communication. Metro also has an app for visually impaired passengers. He says it has been important to ensure Metro’s frontline staff have access to information at least as fast as their customers do, so all have been provided with smart devices.

As for big data, Lezala says “we haven’t even scratched the surface yet”.

3.45pm The final session of the AusRAIL 2016 conference is underway, with a CEO Forum on technology, social media and big data.

Included on the panel are Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins, Metro Trains managing director Andrew Lezala, Bombardier Transportation managing director Andrew Dudgeon, Gold Coast Light Rail Keolis Downer CIO Adam Palmer, Downer Rail chief executive Michael Miller and South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure chief operating officer Paul Gelston. Professor Graham Currie from Monash University is facilitating the discussion.

3.15pm The conference breaks for Afternoon Tea.

3.05pm MTR has maintained a significant property portfolio throughout its integrated developments, providing it with an ongoing rental revenue that moves with inflation, just as its operational costs move with inflation. He says the property base also helps it more easily secure significant loan facilities, and make large investments to enhance passenger service.

He says in Hong Kong, the integrated property and railway development system has created a “win-win” result. The society wins through new developments and a world class metro system, the government wins by not taking on any risk or spending much money, and of course MTR wins by developing a major set of transport and property projects.

3.00pm Wong outlines a pair of models for the construction of infrastructure and surrounding development: one which is integrated, so the same authority is in charge of both projects, and another where the transport project is handled by one group, and surrounding developments are put out to separate tender.

While he says a decision should be made on a regional and case-by-case basis, Wong believes an integrated transport development model generally achieves better and more reliable results.

2.55pm Wong explains how MTR ascertains the rail funding gap before it considers how much land to develop around the infrastructure, thus ensuring enough value capture can take place to property fund the line, and deliver a profit to MTR.

He says the basic concept of value capture comes from the mutual value adding that occurs when train lines are built around developments. The rail line delivers more foot traffic to development centres, which in turn build up and create more volume on the rail line itself.

2.50pm MTR’s head of Australian business Terry Wong is now addressing the conference, to discuss MTR’s value capture model.

MTR earns just 14% of its profits from Hong Kong transport operations. While 5% more comes from its Mainland China and International operations, 21% of its profits come from property development, 28% from property rental and management, and 32% from commercial operations in and around stations.

2.45pm With four key packages of works providing for the Metro Tunnel construction, another contract to deliver the new trains, and additional works relating to level crossing removals on the existing lines, Tattersall says the management of various interfaces between each contract will be crucial.

The targeted completion date for the Metro Tunnel project is 2026.

2.40pm The Metro Tunnel will need to be built in three sections, in parallel. North of the CBD will be tunnels drilled with tunnel boring machines (TBMs), while road headers will be used to create the tunnels through the CBD, and TBMs will again be used south of the CBD. Tattersall says the sections must be built at the same time, as building them in order will take too long and the urgent need for capacity is too high.

2.35pm The High Capacity Metro Trains are to be launched as seven-car sets, but Tattersall says the stations will be built to allow for the trainsets to be extended to ten cars each, to prepare for future capacity increases.

2.30pm The ultimate plan for the Metro Tunnel is to facilitate the creation of a segregated metro network in Melbourne, with seven isolated lines. The tunnel’s route is expected to also relieve a significant load off the spine of the tram system through the CBD, as it will offer a faster journey for commuters looking to cross the city from north to south, or south to north.

2.25pm Melbourne’s Metro network is forecast to double in patronage by 2030. This issue is worsened, Tattersall says, by choke points at North Melbourne and Richmond, and a City Loop which is already “at capacity”. There are also pinch points on the tram network around and through the Melbourne CBD.

2.20pm Melbourne Metro Rail Authority chief executive Evan Tattersall follows Gellibrand, with a presentation detailing the challenges and drivers for the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project.

2.10pm He says there is “a good 12 to 18 months of design” to go into the complex station precincts in the CBD, where new train stations are to be built below ground level, and new buildings will be built above ground level, while both precincts will be “knitted together” at ground level.

2.05pm Sydney Metro’s full automation and platform screen doors means trains will be able to enter stations at a high velocity even during peak periods, reducing dwell time and improving train throughput metrics, Gellibrand notes. Sydney Metro will also have Australia’s first ever fully automated train yard facility.

Tracks are now being laid throughout the tunnel section of Sydney Metro Northwest, Gellibrand says.

2.00pm Sydney Metro is looking at optimising the customer experience not just on the line, but from door-to-door, origin to destination. Gellibrand says that means looking at the stations, the precincts around the stations, and how passengers travel to and from those precincts.

1.55pm Gellibrand says the Sydney Metro team is “confident” it is close to environmental approval for the tunnelling section of stage two of the project, Sydney Metro City & Southwest.

The Metro line will have a designed headway of 90 seconds and a targeted interval time between trains of 2 minutes at operational peak.

One of the key benefits of the line compared to other works in recent years in Sydney, is that it is a standalone line, which means service interruptions on other lines will not impact services on the Sydney Metro line, and vice versa.

1.50pm Sydney Metro deputy program director Tom Gellibrand opens the afternoon session with a presentation to provide an overview of the major metro project being developed in the NSW capital.

12.25pm The winner of the Young Rail Professionals Pitching Competition will be announced at the AusRAIL Gala Dinner. The session now breaks for Lunch.

12.15pm The final presentation comes from Arup economist Ben Mason. Mason is challenging the current standards used to appraise the economic value of a project. He says the current system’s reliance on a 7% discount rate, despite significantly lower interest rates, fails to leverage the current advantages in the economy, and disproportionately devalues returns over time. Having a high discount rate especially works against rail, he says, as rail projects tend to provide returns over a longer period of time than roads.

12.00pm Next up is Michelle Doolan, a civil engineer from Aurecon. Doolan says major project developers are too focused on showing the public the final product, sometimes years before they become a reality. Instead, she says project developers should promote the process, not just the product, and says virtual reality technology offers an opportunity for this to happen.

11.50am Metro Trains Melbourne graduate engineer James Donovan is the next presenter. He is pitching the use of sensors on the base of the rail head to monitor the passive sound wave recorded as a train approaches and passes a point in the railway. Donovan explains that a break in the rail would result in step change in the sound wave, while minor to significant sub-surface flaws would also impact the sound wave. The sound recorded would also change as lubrication quality changes. Analysis of these passive sound waves, he says, could save maintenance teams time and money, and could reduce risk of derailments.

11.40am Second to present is Jason Bridgman, from Sydney Trains’ operations and planning division. His idea is for an intelligent rail system that actively observes and learns how equipment is performing day to day, sending alerts when behaviours start changing. He believes a combination of rail monitoring, behaviour profiling and artificial intelligence can be used to diagnose likely issues, without the system being told what problems it is looking for in the first place.

11.30am First to present is Aurizon graduate engineer (electrical) Alexandra Baranski. Baranski’s pitch is for a greater partnership between the private sector and academia. Through collaboration, she says, emerging technologies can be more easily tested and proven. Her vision is for CBD light rail networks powered by renewable technologies, without “unsightly” catenaries.

11.25am Danny Broad opens the Young Rail Professionals Innovation Pitching Competition, which is taking part between five finalists selected from “a flood” of abstracts submitted in the lead-up to AusRAIL. Making up the judging panel are Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator chief executive Sue McCarrey, UGL executive general manager for rail and defence Alan Beacham, and Metro Trains Melbourne managing director Andrew Lezala.

11.15am Irwin asks if anyone does not agree with the idea of targeting a 50/50 gender share in rail, and nobody raises their hand. So with everyone in agreeance, he asks, are enough people actually doing what they should be doing to achieve these goals?

“We’ve got to be more bold,” he says, “we’ve got to be more aggressive, and we’ve got to have aspirational targets.” He points out that the newly-announced ARA Board has only one woman, saying “one is not enough.”

11.10am Lalande says the real change can come from the top. He says the industry is led by 50 to 100 key leaders, “many of these people are in this room today”. He encourages those listening to target 50/50 hiring of men and women within the next five years. “If we’re really genuine about that, I think we could make a huge difference,” he says.

McAuliffe says one key change is for employers to “open their eyes” in their recruitment processes. “Look at the hierarchy of men whose sons and grandsons worked for rail. We need their daughters and granddaughters to work for rail.”

11.05am Professor Wood says evidence shows flexible workers are more productive than traditional workers, and a mindset shift is needed before real progress can be made.

Eva Wood says the industry needs to make a statement to. “You actually need some bravery to say we are going to do this, and this is why,” she says. “There’s a fundamental perception of normality, and if you created a change in either the way in which you employ people … that can actually make a difference.”

11.00am McAuliffe says the ARTC’s efforts to get more women into its workforce have gone “incredibly well”. The ARTC attracted some criticism recently for advertising some new roles exclusively to women, but McAullife says the Corporation has persevered. She says unions have not worked in partnership with the ARTC well enough through the process.

10.55am Frauenfelder agrees the issue should be looked at more as aiming to achieve “diversity as a whole”. “Going forward, we need to keep focusing on diversity.” “It is really a cultural change.”

Professor Wood says research shows diversity carries some risks. Adding minority groups to a workforce can improve diversity and acceptance, he says, but it runs the risk of creating “fault lines,” when the majority group begins to feel threatened.

10.50am Jenny McAuliffe says the term ‘Women in Rail’ in Australia deserves a score of just three out of ten. “We still seem to be missing the mark,” she says, when it comes to recruiting more women into rail. She says women can be a real solution for the future shortage of skills being forecast by many. “We have young women between 18 and 45 that are ready and willing to take opportunities, but they don’t understand that they are there to be taken on.”

Rene Lalande agrees. “I don’t think we’re doing a good job … to attract young talent, especially women,” he says. “We have not done enough,” he says, “not enough flexibility … and on the retention front, we also don’t do a good enough job.”

Rowenna Walker adds that women are only part of the diversity equation. She says the more diverse the workforce becomes on more fronts than just gender, the better the sector will be.

Eva Wood says the industry is lucky to have a huge range of paths of entry, saying the barriers to getting more women in the workforce are in many places, “more perceived than real”. “Flexibility is actually essential,” she adds. “We need to look at flexibility for both men and women.”

10.45am Facilitator David Irwin encourages listeners to open themselves up to the thoughts that might come out of the conversation at the forum.

10.40am The second half of the morning conference session kicks off with a Forum on Women in Rail. Panellists are TrackSAFE Foundation executive director Naomi Frauenfelder, Aurecon global service leader for rail and mass transit Rowenna Walker, ARTC executive general manager for people Jenny McAuliffe, Jacobs transport group director of operations Eva Wood, Centre for Ethical Leadership director Professor Robert Wood, and Transdev Australia CEO Rene Lalande. The forum is being facilitated by Pacific National CEO David Irwin.

10.05am The session breaks for Morning Tea.

10.00am UTS has worked with Downer Rail and the Rail Manufacturing CRC on a complex dwell-time diagnostic tool, which uses sensors to create a 3D point cloud to highlight passengers and track their movements as they board and alight trains.

The aim of the research is to analyse standard behaviours, to potentially “spot, in real time, behaviour that may be obstructing egress of people throughout the system,” Dr Zeibots explains. The outcome of this could be to determine new ways to encourage passengers throughout the network so it can operate more efficiently.

9.55am Dr Zeibots moves on to the topic of Responsive Passenger Information Systems, which are aimed at tackling the disruption to rail operations created by passenger behaviour at major bottlenecks in the network.

The UTS centre is looking to use robotics concepts to create a new type of passenger information system. The system would use sensors and cognitive analysis to better inform passengers during peak hour to help them avoid over-crowded platforms or carriages.

9.50am Dr Zeibots talks about how new technology has created the standardised “Service Quality Loop”, which highlights the differences between a service provider’s view of a service, and a customer’s view, and how, over time, those two views should work in a loop to lift service quality.

“The perception that the customer has of what is needed, and what was actually delivered, is really what we need to be looking at,” she says.

9.45am Dr Michelle Zeibots, a transport research director from the UTS Transport Research Centre, is now talking about the centre, which was opened in May, and about some of the work being done in transport research.

9.40am Herbert moves on to another issue he sees as key: the cost of tendering. He advocates for a best practice regime to be established, and a register of companies’ key capabilities.

Another key issue he sees impacting the industry is an ongoing labour shortage in the sector. He says with a rapid increase in new transport and freight projects, there will likely soon be a significant labour shortage, which could lead to talent poaching and an unsustainable blowout in industry wages. He encourages training and education institutions to work to prevent this potential shortage.

“We will work with all stakeholders to achieve industry solutions,” he says. “With your support, we can achieve great things.”

9.38am The ARA chairman turns his attention to Inland Rail. “In the court of public opinion, the term Inland Rail is not necessarily understood,” he says. “It’s not just a direct link between Melbourne and Brisbane, it’s much more than that.” He highlights the feeder lines that will benefit from the inland route, and the communities that he says must be “heard loudly in Canberra”.

He says a precursor to Inland Rail “we need a fairer road-rail pricing regime”.

9.35am Herbert announces three scholarships for postgraduate work into level crossing safety, which TrackSAFE is administering in conjunction with CQUniversity.

He also addresses the new relationship between TrackSAFE and suicide intervention group Lifeline.

9.32am Herbert addresses debate over the ongoing local-content issue facing the sector, congratulating the recent commitment of 60% local content for the High Capacity Metro Trains being delivered to Melbourne by a Downer-led consortium. “Despite what the sceptics may say [the local content commitment] will be advantageous for the Australian economy,” he says.

9.30am Herbert says Infrastructure Australia and relevant state-level bodies, as well as some state governments, had responded well to the ARA’s ‘infrastructure pipeline’ concept. But Herbert encourages industry and government to bring all their work together for a nationally-recognised pipeline.

Herbert is looking forward to the upcoming infrastructure priority announcement from the Commonwealth, saying he hopes it will be a positive one for the ARA’s freight and passenger rail members.

9.25am ARA chairman Bob Herbert reiterates the message from Broad on Day 1: “The transitional stage of the ARA is complete,” he said. He goes over the newly-installed ARA Board, made up of the chairman (himself), Broad, eight general directors and four industry sector directors.

He pays tribute to the transitional Board which ended its duty upon the announcement of the new ARA Board.

9.15am Shadow infrastructure, regional development and cities minister Anthony Albanese addresses the conference via a video message from Canberra. He first pays tribute to former ARA chief executive, the late Bryan Nye, for the “critical” role he played during his career in the rail sector.

He then reflects on the advances made by the Labor Party while it was in power, and criticised the Coalition for cutting back on a number of projects, specifically urban rail projects.

He says light rail in Adelaide is a crucial project that could be rolled out at comparatively low cost.

9.10am ARA chief executive Danny Broad recaps Day 1 of the conference and exhibition, and welcomes delegates to the Plenary session of Day 2.

ARA members elect new board

A new 14-member board was named at the Australasian Railway Association’s Annual General Meeting on November 22.

ARA chairman Bob Herbert said the election of the new Board marks the completion of the significant transition ARA has made during the past 12 months. “I am delighted that ARA members have elected such a strong group of Directors to lead ARA over the next three years,” he said.

The incoming Board will meet early in 2017 to finalise its work program in accord with the ARA forward strategy endorsed by the AGM.

The ARA’s new constitution, which was part of its governance transition to move under the Corporations Act, initiated in 2015, provided for an ARA Board consisting of:

  • an independent chair
  • the ARA chief executive
  • eight sector directors nominated by members
  • four directors nominated by the ARA’s sector Executive Committees (passenger, freight, suppliers and contractors)

ARA chairman Bob Herbert was re-elected at the AGM, and chief executive Danny Broad formally took his place in the second seat at the ARA Board table.

The following eight rail leaders were voted in to represent the industry as ARA Board sector directors:

  • Alan Beacham, EGM Rail and Defence, UGL
  • Howard Collins OBE, Chief Executive, Sydney Trains
  • John Fullerton, CEO and MD, ARTC
  • David Irwin, CEO, Pacific National
  • Andrew Lezala, MD, Metro Trains Australia
  • Karl Mociak, EGM Strategy and International Business, John Holland Group
  • Greg Pauline, MD, Genesee and Wyoming Australia
  • Kevin Wright, COO, Queensland Rail

The following four individuals were appointed to the ARA Board as industry sector directors:

  • Representing the Passenger Transport Group: Emma Thomas, Director General, Transport Canberra and City Services
  • Representing the Freight Transport Group: Damien White, CEO, TasRail
  • Representing the Rail Industry Group: Michael Miller, CEO, Downer Rail
  • Representing the Rail Contractors Group: Julian Sharp, Project Director, CPB Contractors (AGM – LXRP Caulfield to Dandenong)
Delegates at AusRAIL PLUS 2015. Photo:

AusRAIL Day 1: Check out the live blog here

The live blog for the morning Plenary sessions for Day 1 of AusRAIL has now ended. Check it out below. Updates are posted from the bottom of the page, upwards.

12.30pm The conference breaks for lunch, and technical streams will take place from 2pm.

12.20pm Larsen says there is serious potential in increased data collection, and other new technologies such as drones, to create new efficiencies in the maintenance space. “Increased infrastructure spend is not always the answer,” Cronin agrees.

Larsen also believes autonomous trains will become more prevalent in Australia’s bulk and freight networks. Pauline adds: “The technology is there, it’s tried, proven and tested. I’m sure we’ll see some of that disruption hitting the industry.”

12.15pm Fullerton says rail has always had a competitive advantage over alternatives when it comes to safety, and signalling and communications technology can extend that advantage. “From the ARTC’s point of view we are looking at ATMS to achieve those safety outcomes,” he says. “The real benefits of those technologies is to be able to move trains around the network more efficiently.” But, he adds, the technology opportunities extend further than just communication and signalling equipment, with opportunities existing also in wayside technologies, etc.

Pauline says GWA is also looking at a wide array of technologies, including advanced weather warning systems.

12.05pm Mick Cronin outlines the issues facing ports, including urban encroachment, and reducing bottlenecks to ensure continued growth. “We need good conversation and good planning policy now … to make sure we can protect now, for the future, the benefits places like Port Botany and others bring to the economy of New South Wales.”

Paul Larsen says Brookfield has also had to deal with the changing nature of both passenger and freight rail in Western Australia. “The [rail] corridors are being built right up, because local governments, and the policing of their planning processes has been very poor.”

John Fullerton says the development of more intermodal terminals is “the most important thing” for the future of freight rail around urban areas. He says the success of Inland Rail, also, will rely on good terminals.

And Greg Pauline says getting more freight from road to rail is “incredibly important,” and finding good strategic locations for terminals will be crucial to this.

12.00pm AusRAIL’s first panel session begins, with the focus of “Investment and innovation: How can we fast-forward change in the freight game”. It includes ARTC chief executive John Fullerton, Brookfield Rail boss Paul Larsen, Genesee & Wyoming managing director Greg Pauline and NSW Ports general manager strategy & commercial Mick Cronin, and is facilitated by WA Freight and Logistics Council chair Nicole Lockwood.

11.50am Anderson is not as positive about the prospects of road pricing as prior speakers, however. Asked about the “political reality” of such ideas, he says: “Our objective ought to be … to extract the economic benefits from lower transport costs, and to recognise that [Australia] reaps the benefits … of expanded economic activity. So I would temper conversations about user charges [for roads]. Taxes, by definition, reduce economic activity. Wherever possible, [the government] ought to be striving to build infrastructure at the lowest possible price and ensure it is accessed at the lowest possible price.”

11.45am “We need to build as quickly as we can the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail,” Anderson adds. “I believe it is, and should be a national priority.” He says the industry needs to avoid “paralysis by analysis,” however, around the subject of finalising a detailed route for the project.

11.40am “Rail should be the highest priority for investment and reform, in my view, in coming years,” Anderson said, reflecting on the growing nature of Australian urbanisation.

Where ACRI comes in, he says, is to help Australia maintain a research advantage over international competition.

“If rail is to have any chance of reaching its potential … investment and careful investment is needed both in infrastructure and in innovation.”

11.30am Anderson says that, in many ways, he can “only agree” with Marion Terrill’s assertions about the challenges facing politicians and transport investment.

“We need to have a debate about how we debate,” he says. “There’s very little concern for analysis and evidence based decision making … We really do need to be much more level headed, [and] we need to learn again how to talk to one another, how to listen to one another …”

“Far too many decisions today are either influenced unwisely, or decided by either clap-o-meters or sneer-o-meters on Q&A  and not enough by evidence based analysis.”

11.25am The plenary session is now being addressed by former deputy prime minister John Anderson, the chairman of the Australian Centre for Rail Innovation (ACRI).

11.20am One of the most harmful symptoms of early project announcements, like those which plagued the most recent election cycle, is significant cost overruns when final project costs are compared to costs suggested in initial project announcements.

Terrill has a range of recommendations to fix these issues. These include having business cases tabled in Parliament before funding can be made, and even having standalone legislation for major projects, to encourage bipartisanship.

11.15am Terrill’s case is that Australian politicians too often make major investment decisions on transport projects in order to win elections, and not because those are the best projects to invest in.

She says investment has favoured country NSW and country Queensland over capital cities, despite the large proportion of people and GDP coming from cities.

Terrill is critical of the major parties (Greens, Labor, Coalition) who, in the 2016 election campaign, continually promised funding for projects which were not yet listed (via assessment) as priorities by Infrastructure Australia. She says 15%, by value, of the Coalition’s promises were supported by being on the Infrastructure Australia priority list, while just 3% of Labor’s promises, by value, were on the list, and 0% of the Greens’ promises were supported.

11.10am “We’re already a very urbanised country,” Terrill says. “And we’re becoming more so.” Even during the mining boom, she notes, the vast proportion of Australia’s GDP came from its cities. As goods have become cheaper and imports have grown, the demand for urban areas has been competitive.

11.00am Following the morning tea break, Grattan Institute transport program director Marion Terrill is explaining how investment should be prioritised to meet the growth of Australia’s cities.

10.25am Palazzolo launched GS1’s Australian Rail AIDC Guideline to help guide the sector through the “many many changes” that have to take place to achieve this goal, available here:

10.20am The end-game for GS1 is to have every asset in the sector marked with barcode or similar marking that is unique to that object, and globally standardised, to allow everyone around the world to operate on a level playing field.

“This is not rocket science,” Palazzolo says, “this is really basic stuff.”

10.15am Palazzolo says GS1, an international non-profit, can provide a global standard that could provide the platform for efficiencies across the sector. She says the company is multi-sector so it is not dependent on a single industry, and is the most widely used supply chain standard used in the world, with more than 2 million user companies.

10.10am Maria Palazzolo, chief executive officer of barcode technology business GS1, says barcoding can be used to better control inventory and supply chain assets in the rail sector, significantly improving profitability.

“The reality is that current [asset management] practices are just really inefficient and very costly,” she says. Change in several European companies has been driven by regulation, but “in Australia we don’t have [barcoding] regulations … so the best approach is to self-regulate … [to] introduce technology to have best practices in place without having to incur regulation.”

10.05am Asked by a delegate about the role of rail in keeping supermarket prices in Cairns at the level they are in Brisbane, Brooks says: “We’re a heavy user of rail on the North Coast Corridor … Using rail plays a very important role in keeping the cost of our goods comparably similar [in price] to Brisbane [along that corridor].”

10.00am Brooks reflects on Woolworths’ transition to using more rail in its supply chain: “Through direct relationships we were able to work [with the industry] … unless we had that support, we would still be using road [on those routes] today.”

The next steps for Woolworths are finding new optimisation paths, investing in the intermodal space, and working further with the industry to improve its offering to customers.

9.50am Woolworths Group head of transport Chris Brooks says the “rail is an increasingly important mode” in the retail giant’s network. He believes a direct relationship with Freightlink and now Genesee & Wyoming has resulted in a lift to the level of service received.

9.45am Hart says a road pricing scheme is a necessity, as the current state of play is placing too much strain on the road network, and the nation’s roads can’t cope with the forecast freight task in future years.

He says the rail freight network needs to be well maintained to help it better compete with the road network, a factor which he says will help create “a steady growth story” in the railway maintenance sector. “There’s another big wave coming,” he says.

A key question that needs to be answered, though, is whether the Australasian rail industry is capable of handling this growth.

9.40am Public spending is currently replacing private spending to make up the bulk of activity in the rail sector over the next five years, and spending is shifting from remote areas to urban areas, Hart outlines.

9.35am Hart says recent significant growth in coal and iron ore markets is “probably not sustainable” to this extent, but should reflect a more positive overall outlook in those sectors, too.

Civil construction such as transport projects should help make up for long-term slowdowns in resource-related infrastructure construction and residential construction – Hart says we are likely at the peak of the residential construction cycle.

9.30am Businesses should take advantage of historically low interest rates now by setting themselves up for future construction peaks and troughs, Hart says.

He lists the potential key risks to rail on the domestic front: “Public investment does not recover as forecast due to either a lack of productive infrastructure projects, lack of consensus on how to fund them, or generally lower costs than expected seeing a lower value of work”.

But for the most part, Hart is very positive about rail’s outlook, even though, he jokes, “the United States is exiting the world”.

9.25am To open his Market Outlook presentation, BIS Shrapnel senior manager infrastructure & mining Adrian Hart says “this is a really exciting time for rail”. He says rail “has one of the strongest growth outlooks in the construction industry over the next five years”.

9.20am A video message is played from infrastructure and transport minister Darren Chester, who is unable to visit AusRAIL due to Parliamentary commitments in Canberra.

9.15am Broad says the ARA has made several key achievements during its recent transition. A key aspect of this is a soon-to-be-published future plan. Recent ARA leadership lunches have been well received, and Rail Safety Week and Rail R U OK? Day were both successful.

9:10am Australasian Railway Association chief executive Danny Broad opens the conference with an emotional tribute to his late predecessor, Bryan Nye OEM. “I’m sure that all our prayers are with his family and friends.”