Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

KiwiRail services suspended after magnitude-7.5 quake

KiwiRail suspended services on Monday after New Zealand was hit by a powerful earthquake and hundreds of aftershocks, with the operator warning customers there could be “extensive damage” to parts of the rail network.

KiwiRail advised rail services were back up and running between Christchurch and Invercargill after the network-wide closure, but said passenger train services the TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific in the South Island are not running.

“The Northern Explorer is currently running only to Palmerston North and the Capital Connection is not running while the lines are inspected,” KiwiRail said.

“An inspection of the North Island Main Truck Line (NIMT) is underway but has been impeded by strong aftershocks.

“A train has stopped near Kaikoura, as is procedure when an earthquake hits. The driver is safe and the train will remain stationary for the time being.”

New Zealand prime minister John Key announced two people had so far been confirmed dad after the massive earthquake hit the country, about 90 kilometres north-east of Christchurch, overnight on Sunday.

In its initial update after the quake, KiwiRail shut all lines and said there could be major damage to parts of the network.

“We believe there could be extensive damage to the rail network south of Picton, though we will have a clearer picture of that as the morning progresses,” the operator said.

Melbourne Metro train. Photo: Creative Commons / Marcus Wong

Daily commutes are draining our water reserves

COMMENT: Melbourne’s transport uses 311 billion litres of water each year – equivalent to flooding the city’s centre 8 metres deep. That’s just one of the findings of authors André Stephan and Robert Crawford’s study looking at how much water different modes of transport use.

We found that cars are the most water-intensive mode of transport, using on average 6.4 litres of water per passenger, per kilometre. Diesel trains use 5.2L per passenger-kilometre (pkm) and electric trains use the least, at 3.4L per pkm.

This means that a typical commuter can use between 140L and 350L of water per day to travel to work and back. This is at least as much as a Melbourne resident’s daily household water use of 160L.

Water use is thus a significant part of transport sustainability, but it is often ignored in favour of focusing on energy use and greenhouse emissions. So what can we do to stop transport draining our water resources?

How is water used in transport?

Water is needed in nearly all aspects of transport. It’s needed to make cars, to produce fuels, to replace tyres, and to build roads, among other processes.

Similarly, trains require water for the administration of the public transport network, manufacturing engines and rolling stock, constructing railways and stations, and providing customer services.

So the entire supply chain supporting the delivery of passenger transport needs to be considered in evaluating total water use.

To estimate the total water intensities of different transport modes, we used input-output analysis. This statistical technique models the entire economy of a nation or region, capturing the economic transactions between each sector of the economy and another.

The resulting input-output tables are then extended with environmental data that allow us to estimate the environmental intensity of each sector – in this case the amount of water per dollar. Using detailed financial expenditure data for each transport mode, we can figure out how much water is being used.

How much water is Melbourne’s transport using?

Transport in Melbourne is dominated by cars, as in all Australian cities and many others around the world. This is in contrast to urban centres such as Copenhagen, which relies heavily on bikes.

Melbourne does offer a range of public transport systems, including regional and metropolitan trains. These represent the large majority of public transport trips. For these reasons we focused on petrol cars and trains as the main passenger transport modes. The infographic below summarises our findings.

Water requirements of passenger transport modes in Melbourne, Australia.

A 50km round trip to work by car requires 320L of water – more than two months of drinking water for a single person. Travelling alone by car is the most water-intensive way to travel.

For train travel, the water use associated with transporting 175 people for 20km in an electric train would be equivalent to having 6cm of water on the floor of the train at arrival. This is equivalent to more than three years worth of drinking water for one person.

You can imagine trains filling up with water relatively quickly throughout the day.

Beyond Melbourne

While our study focused on Melbourne, the water intensity of transport modes is also likely to be significant in other cities of Australia and globally. This is because we need a significant amount of water for many manufacturing processes, water supply, electricity generation, fuel production and for other products and services. A study on the water requirements of road vehicles in Finland found similar water intensities for cars and supports this argument.

But it is important to highlight that there is uncertainty in the data. One of the most influential factors is the number of people per vehicle. This is typically very low for cars (around 1.2 people in Melbourne ) and relatively high for trains (around 55-66% full).

This could be improved by car-pooling. We found that if five people travelled together in a car, cars become the most efficient mode of transport. Car-pooling is far from being used at its full potential, but the recent advent of ride-sharing companies can help change this.

However, cars are probably not the best solution as they lead to other negative impacts on the built environment. These include favouring low-density suburban sprawl, air pollution, threatening street life and requiring large costs for infrastructure and land-use.

If this is the case, how can we reduce the water requirements associated with our travel?

Moving forward

Reducing the water requirements associated with passenger transport is a shared responsibility for travellers and transport providers.

There are two main things you can do as a commuter.

First, ditch cars in favour of public transport, which uses less water and resources per person. If public transport isn’t available, make sure your car contains as many passengers as possible.

Second, walk or cycle more often. Both significantly reduce indirect requirements for water, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

It could be argued that with more physical activity comes greater need for water and food, which in turn requires huge amounts of water to produce. However, the health benefits of active transport and the resulting savings in public health schemes probably outweigh this additional demand. Some further research is needed to determine whether this is truly the case.

For public transport providers, it is critical to ensure that the entire supply chain is managed better. While water efficiency in administrative buildings is praiseworthy, the majority of the demand occurs further upstream in the supply chain. This can be accomplished through supply chain management. For example, providing incentives for subcontractors and partners to implement integrated water saving strategies.

It is clear that further research is needed to better understand and assess water use associated with transport. More cities and modes of transport need to be assessed to provide a more comprehensive understanding of water use. This will ultimately contribute to reducing our total use of water and help preserve the natural systems on which we depend.

The paper on which this article is based is available for free here until November 6

The Conversation

André Stephan, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Melbourne and Robert Crawford, Senior Lecturer in Construction and Environmental Assessment, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

TfNSW takes advice from public on Metro tunnel

Transport for NSW has announced several refinements it will make to the delivery of the second stage of the massive Sydney Metro project, as a result of community feedback.

Set to open in 2024, the City & Southwest stage of the Sydney Metro project will see the new line extended from Chatswood to a new tunnel under the harbour and CBD, before connecting with existing tracks at Sydenham, which will then be converted to metro standard as far as Bankstown.

With key contracts for the work still up in the air, Transport for NSW has conducted a community feedback stage it says generated more than 300 suggestions from the public, leading to four considerations.

First, TfNSW agreed to look into using barges on Sydney Harbour to move tunnel boring machine parts from north of the harbour, and to take crushed rock from the new Barangaroo Station site, in an effort to reduce impacts on roads and traffic.

It also said it would “safeguard” a future underground pedestrian link between Martin Place Station and O’Connell Street.

Third, “rock-breaking using heavy construction equipment will only take place during standard construction hours, with the exception of Central Station, significantly reducing potential noise impacts”.

And finally, it said an alternative site will be investigated within the Artarmon Industrial Estate for the Artarmon power substation.

“After the Environmental Impact Statement was put on public exhibition earlier this year, 301 submissions were received from the community and businesses and 17 from local councils and government departments,” Transport said in a statement.

“Transport for NSW will continue to work with the community at every stage of the project as we deliver this world-class metro railway for Sydney.

“The Department of Planning and Environment will now consider the responses and make a recommendation in coming months.”

Carmichael coal map. Photo: Shutterstock / Graphic: Adani

Carmichael granted ‘critical’ status

Queensland’s Palaszczuk Government has declared Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine and rail project as ‘critical infrastructure’, in an effort to reduce the red tape remaining for the $22 billion project to go ahead.

The state government announced on Sunday, October 9 the combined mine, rail and associated water infrastructure had all been declared critical.

“This step bundles together major elements of the project for the first time,” state development minister Dr Anthony Lynham said.

Together in the critical infrastructure package are the mine, the 389-kilometre rail line, and the water infrastructure which includes a pipeline, pumping stations and a dam upgrade.

Lynham said the move from the Government would make it easier for Adani to get approvals for the infrastructure.

The Indian coal miner and energy business has already won 22 Commonwealth, state and local government approvals for the Carmichael project since the Palaszczuk Government came into government in early 2015.

“At a state level, the only key approvals remaining are water licenses and Adani is actively working on those with my Department of Natural Resources and Mines,” Lynham said.

“I know that regional communities particularly will welcome the advice from Adani that construction of the project is set to begin in 2017.”

Aurizon coal wagons. Photo: Aurizon

Aurizon bullish on coal

Increasing global demand for steel and Australia’s export infrastructure advantage will help drive strong business in the coming decades for Aurizon’s bulk haulage division, the rail operator said on Monday.

The Queensland-based rail business on Monday released its annual Sustainability Report, detailing its ongoing efficiency drive, and assessing the outlook for its key market sectors.

Coal represents 68% of Aurizon’s revenue. The company says 73% of Australian coal exports are carried on Aurizon trains or Aurizon railways, or both.

So it should come as little surprise the ASX-listed operator sought to paint a good picture for the future of both thermal (i.e. energy) and metallurgical (i.e. steel-making) coal in its 2016 report.

“We believe Aurizon’s assets are well placed to serve continued demand for Australian coal as demonstrated by the steady  increase in Australia’s coal exports since 2010,” the company said.

Aurizon believes demand for metallurgical coal will increase as India and other major emerging economies are entering “a highly steel-intensive period” of economic growth. “China, Japan and South Korea are also expected to maintain a high level of steel consumption,” it added.

Australian miners will benefit especially from a significant imbalance of met-coal production and consumption in Asian countries, Aurizon said, thanks to the country’s “export infrastructure advantage” over international rivals.

“Australia has the lowest average transportation and port costs compared to other significant metallurgical coal exporting nations,” the operator said.

According to Aurizon’s figures, met coal rail haulage costs an average of just US$8 per tonne in Australia, compared with US$20 a tonne in Canada, US$23 a tonne in Russia, US$26 a tonne in the United States, and US$36 in Mozambique.

As for thermal coal, Aurizon said global electricity demand will be driven by economic demand in China, India and other emerging Asian economies.

“Over one billion additional people will gain access to electricity by 2040 while an additional two billion will double their current levels of per capita consumption.”

While Aurizon believes a greater share of investment in Asia will go towards renewable energy capacity, the operator still expects coal-fired generation in the region to increase 43% in absolute terms by 2030.

ARTC dealing with washout at Cootamundra

A grain locomotive was left on unsupported tracks after a washaway occurred on the rail line north-west of Cootamundra on Wednesday afternoon.

An Australian Rail Track Corporation spokesperson on Thursday, October 6 said the Corporation was expecting to return freight services to the line that (Thursday) evening, but with a 20km/h speed restriction in place.

The line was shut from Wednesday afternoon after a sudden, large amount of water entered the rail corridor and washed away a small section of rail line.

“A loaded grain train was stranded on the rail line due to this incident, where the lead locomotive of the train had to stop due to the track washaway,” the spokesperson said.

“The locomotive stopped over a section of the washed away track but remained upright on the rails.”

No injuries were reported, and the incident is currently under investigation. Emergency services have also attended the incident site.

“Overnight [on Wednesday night], ARTC continued planning for the safe removal of the train from the site, delivery of materials and for track repairs to commence,” the spokesperson detailed.

“As of 10.30am [Thursday] morning the locomotives were being prepared for removal from the site.

“The second locomotive of the train will be used to carefully reverse the lead locomotive from the incident location.”

Track repair works were scheduled to begin after the rollingstock was removed.

The works largely involve delivery of and packing in new foundation and track ballast into the section that has washed away.

“This will then be compacted and the track will be inspected prior to operations resuming,” the spokesperson concluded.

North Road level crossing in Ormond. Photo: Level Crossing Removal Authority

Victoria needs a big-picture transport plan that isn’t about winners and losers

COMMENT: Most enlightened governments have realised the focus on private cars at the expense of active and public transport is not viable. But, Crystal Legacy and Ian Woodcock write, big picture planning is needed to keep the right projects on track.

There has been no shortage of ideas about how to spend the A$9.7 billion the Victorian government will receive from selling a 50-year lease for the Port of Melbourne. While Premier Daniel Andrews lamented the Melbourne Metro rail project is already fully funded, the government was quick to announce its program of level-crossing removals would be fast-tracked.

Victoria’s major media outlets have also used this announcement to push for their favourite projects to be funded. These include a rail line to the airport, a second rail tunnel beneath the city, a new tollway in the northeastern suburbs, and even a revival of the zombie East West Link, which was dumped after the last state election.

No doubt, the proceeds from the port lease signal an exciting and productive period of transport infrastructure construction for the state. This is particularly so with Infrastructure Victoria’s 30-year Infrastructure Strategy due out by the end of the year. The release of the draft strategy for public comment until the end of October has further fuelled the debate over competing projects.

However, this strategy is not, and was never intended to be, an integrated land use and transport strategy. Instead it lists a pipeline of projects to meet Victoria’s short-, medium- and long-term infrastructure needs and priorities. It also calls for a congestion tax to ease the pressure on roads.

Infrastructure Victoria will provide guidance to governments, which must then determine what projects are of greatest “need”.

It is still not clear how this strategy will complement and be used in conjunction with the metropolitan strategy Plan Melbourne, which is being “refreshed”. There is no evidence that public consultations to support the development of these two plans have intersected.

Building without a plan?

Melbourne has had 11 metropolitan strategic land use plans since 1954, but has really only ever had one transport plan. The core elements of the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan have dominated and driven transport planning ever since.

The 1969 plan included a network of more than 500 kilometres of freeways, new and upgraded arterial roads, the City Loop rail system, new rail lines to Doncaster, Rowville and between Frankston and Dandenong, and 80 level-crossing removals.

The total budget was equivalent to about $30 billion in today’s money. Of this, 86% was devoted to roads – and three-quarters of that was earmarked for freeways.

The plan reflected the thinking of the time globally: cars had come to dominate planning ideology. Few of the rail projects – apart from the City Loop – were realised, while most of the freeways have been built and expanded numerous times. Even the Andrews government’s signature level-crossing removal project is 30 crossings short of the 1969 plan, leaving more than 100 still in place.

Much of the world has moved on since then. Most enlightened governments have realised the focus on private cars at the expense of active and public transport is not viable.

However, the car-based logic of Melbourne’s 1969 plan has been deeply implanted into Victorians’ collective consciousness. The Infrastructure Victoria citizen jury report showed interest in the “completion of existing roads and the existing freeway network”.

It is problematic to not think critically about what “completing the network” means when it is conceived only for private cars. It has long been known that building more and bigger roads cannot solve the congestion problems created by relying on cars to move people around.

It is a problem of spatial efficiency where cars cannot compete. All other modes of transport use space more efficiently and can be extended and upgraded to move millions more people without destroying the city.

The lack of a new strategic transport plan means there is a lack of coherent guidance on how Victoria might tackle its mobility challenges. The need is especially pressing in light of the contemporary environmental and social challenges of climate change and rising social inequality.

Without a new plan, there is no clarity about the values that should frame transport investments and priorities. Infrastructure Australia and Infrastructure Victoria must resort to evaluating “worthy projects” on a case-by-case basis of costs and benefits.

What’s missing is a transparent, coherent and rigorous framework that integrates future transport and land use to meet 21st-century goals of sustainability and social equity.

In the absence of a new plan, politicians focus on the election cycle to win a mandate for projects. The projects that win these “popularity contests” cannot be subjected to rigorous analysis until after the fact.

Today’s priorities for a transport plan

What would a contemporary transport plan need to do?

It would first acknowledge the importance of network connectivity to make the shift to the sustainable modes the 21st-century Australian city demands.

Road networks are the most well-connected and continuous surfaces in our cities, which is why most travel is by private car. To induce significant shifts to active and public transport, any new plan must recognise the massive deficits in networks for cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users, then seek to rectify the gaps.

Such a plan would highlight the network of networks necessary to meet these goals. It would tackle questions of sequencing, design, funding and financing options, and prioritisation of infrastructure needs. Who wins and who loses from a range of scenarios would form part of the process of planning.

These scenarios would allow fundamental questions to be raised. For example, with the creeping privatisation of roads and shifts to tolling instead of taxation, should everyday commuters be forced to subsidise transport projects for road freight corporations? Or should there be viable public transport alternatives?

Surely our transport markets should be competitive for the average user, rather than a monopoly that makes ever-larger numbers of Australians highly vulnerable.

For at least two decades, voters have called for better public transport. Australian cities need a new kind of plan. We need a plan that can survive the vicissitudes of electoral fortune and profit motives to secure an equitable and sustainable future.

The ConversationThe Conversation logo

Crystal Legacy is Australian Research Council (DECRA) Fellow and Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow, Centre for Urban Research, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University and Ian Woodcock is Associate Lecturer, School of Global, Urban & Social Studies, RMIT University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Inner West Light Rail, CAF rollingstock. Photo: Creative Commons / Abesty

Light rail bridge installed for Sydney project

VIDEO: A 750 tonne crawler crane has put a new light rail bridge into place over the Eastern Distributor, marking an important milestone in the $2.1 billion Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail project.

The newly-installed Eastern Distributor Bridge connects the missing link of the route between the CBD and the South East.

Transport for NSW said the bridge enables crews to continue tunnelling in Moore Park and expand construction in Surry Hills.



The bridge took five nights to complete and ongoing work including track laying, landscaping and roadwork is expected to be complete in early 2017.

NSW transport and infrastructure minister Andrew Constance said more than seven kilometres of the 12 kilometre route is now under construction.

“It’s exciting to see this project coming to life,” Constance said.

The minister said Surry Hills was one of the key focuses of project crews in the next few months, with footpaths and pocket parks, outdoor dining and a green corridor along Devonshire Street on the cards.

“Our focus is to maintain that unique personality that residents and visitors all love about Surry Hills, while improving the streetscape and providing a fantastic new public transport service at the same time,” Constance said.

“There’s an opportunity for us to make massive improvements that will add to the culture and environment of Devonshire Street, and as well as new pocket parks, we are undergrounding the current overhead powerlines and widening footpaths where we can.”

Alstom unveils hydrogen-fuelled train at InnoTrans

Rollingstock manufacturer Alstom has revealed its solution to the challenge of reducing emissions on a non-electrified rail network, announcing the hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint train at the InnoTrans trade fair in Berlin.

The first of the zero-emission trains will hit the rails in Germany in 2017.

Alstom’s Coradia range of intercity and regional trains operate in the UK, mainland Europe and North America, and are typically diesel-powered so they can be used on non-electrified networks.

The iLint is designed as Alstom’s zero-emission solution for the types of networks Coradia trains usually operate.

“Despite numerous electrification projects in several countries, a significant part of Europe’s rail network will remain non-electrified in the long term,” Alstom said on September 20 in Berlin.

The train is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, which emits only steam.

Alstom says it will provide operators all the infrastructure required for the hydrogen cells, to make using the new technology as simple as possible.

The train is the result of a 2014 letter of intent between Alstom and the German Landers of Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg, and the Public Transportation Authorities of Hesse.

The letter called for the creation of an emission-free train equipped with fuel cell drive, Alstom said.

Chief executive Henri Poupart-Lafarge said the hydrogen-fuelled trains completed the Coradia family of regional sets.

“[The iLint] shows our ability to work in close collaboration with our customers and develop a train in only two years,” he said.

Alstom will manufacture the new trains at its largest factory, in Salzgitter, Germany.

Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

ACRI-funded study to boost life cycle of tracks

A $545,000 grant will allow a team from CQUniversity’s Centre for Railway Engineering to deliver research aimed at boosting the life cycle of railway tracks.

CQUniversity associate professor Maksym Spiryagin, the project’s leader, said the work needs to be done to remedy the impacts modern, more powerful trains have on the railway track infrastructure.

“We are advancing our computer simulation methodologies to understand the behaviour of locomotives used for heavy-haul trains, in order to determine the best possible driving strategies each locomotive should use,” Spiryagin said.

“The project will investigate the impact of increasing locomotive traction and braking forces, provide insight into track damage prevention and focus on the development of proper maintenance strategies.”

The project is expected to take place over the next three-and-a-half years, and has been funded by the Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation (ACRI).

Spiryagin’s project team includes chief investigators Professor Peter Wolfs, Professor Colin Cole, Dr Nirmal Mandal and Dr Yan Quan Sun.

In addition, the project team will be joined by Dr Qing Wu, who is a recent graduate of a PhD program at CQUniversity, in the role of postdoctoral researcher.