Private plan for $200bn high speed line

A private company has unveiled its plan to build a high speed rail line between Sydney and Melbourne via eight new cities without spending a cent of taxpayer money.

Consolidated Land and Rail Australia, or CLARA, is a private firm which on July 14 announced its plans for eight compact cities between Melbourne and Sydney, all linked by a high speed rail line.

Supported through financing from Australia and the US, the project would rely largely on value capture and uplift derived from developing new cities along the inland route.

In this way, CLARA aims to provide an innovative answer to the question always raised when high speed rail is discussed: how do you pay for it?

“I take the point that it’s been around for a long time: a proposal to build a high speed rail between Sydney and Melbourne,” CLARA co-founder and chairman Nick Cleary told ABC Radio, “but our plan is about decentralisation. It’s actually a cities plan.”

Cleary says the group has negotiated the rights to buy roughly half of the private land it needs to build the rail lines and eight new cities along the route.

A train running express from Sydney to Melbourne would take roughly 110 minutes, while a train stopping at all eight city centres would take 165 minutes between the two.

CLARA isn’t yet specific in its plans for the high speed technology itself – its website discusses magnetic levitation trains in Japan, and more traditional high speed rail networks in France and China – but Cleary is more concerned with land acquisition and government support at this stage.

“This is all about us working collaboratively with government: and there’s three tiers of government that we need to engage with,” he told the ABC.

“It’s about hitting certain milestones which will trigger other parts of those agreements to be released and they’re multi-year option agreements and they give us legal control over the land that we’re talking about.”

Cleary served as vice chairman of the NSW Nationals between 2013 and 2016.

His fellow CLARA co-founder is Jay Grant, a private equity and property specialist who has also worked in government policy development and consulting. Grant is listed as CLARA’s managing director.



CLARA is also supported by a large advisory board including former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell, former Victorian premier Steve Bracks, recently-departed federal trade and investment minister Andrew Robb, and former US Department of Transportation secretary Ray Lahood.

Bracks also spoke with ABC, saying the private group’s plan would take the financial strain of the project off the government.

“It doesn’t need money from state or federal governments, but it obviously needs cooperation and approval for it to proceed,” Bracks said.

“This is about regional development, decentralisation and the land capture which will occur on the corridor between Melbourne and Sydney.

“And that will pay for the capital cost of the fast rail between Melbourne and Sydney.

“And the fare box, with a large population of Melbourne and Sydney, will pay for the operation.”

Canberra light rail. Graphic: ACT Government

Transport Canberra launched

ACT minister for transport and city services Meegan Fitzharris has launched the Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) Directorate, to bring together public transport and local services in the nation’s capital.

TCCS will bring together Canberra’s public transport services including bus, light rail and “active travel” under one umbrella.

“Over the last few months, there has been extensive work to prepare for the start of TCCS,” Fitzharris said.

“The directorate will continue this work to further improve customer services, including through the use of emerging technology.”

Emma Thomas, the former director general of the light rail project director Capital Metro Authority, will lead the TCCS team as its director general.

“TCCS will continue to manage and deliver the essential services Canberrans rely on each day, including our public libraries, recycling and waste services, road management, graffiti removal, shop and playground upgrades, maintenance of open public spaces including shopping centres, animal welfare and grass mowing,” Fitzharris explained.

“Through providing these vital city services and an integrated transport network, the new directorate will ensure Canberra remains a great place to live, work, study and relax.”

Australasian Railway Association boss Danny Broad said the new body represented a modern approach to transport.

“An efficient, affordable, reliable, safe and integrated public transport network is the beating heart of a city,” Broad said.

“It contributes to a city’s health and happiness, creates jobs and advances innovation and economic development initiatives.”

Broad stressed the importance of cities planning for future growth if they are to reduce congestion and enhance liveability.

“There must be an affordable and reliable alternative to driving and the establishment of Transport Canberra is a significant step in implementing this long term vision for the nation’s capital,” he continued.

“Although we recognise there are divergent views on public transport in the community, the ARA believes the debate should not be one about light rail versus bus, but rather how the two can best work together to provide the most efficient public transport system for Australia’s capital city.

“Concentrating investment in one mode of transport creates an unbalanced, inefficient transport system that cannot meet the growing needs of the population.”

Fallout postponed as hung parliament looms

It will take a little longer than expected for the pin to drop in Canberra, with the final result of the weekend’s Federal Election too close to call, and voting stalled until Tuesday.

Millions of voters took to the voting booths on Saturday, July 2, but by the end of the day, no clear victor had emerged.

With 76 seats needed in the House of Representatives to form a Government, the Liberal/National Party (the Coalition) looks to have won 65 seats, and the Labor Party appears to have won 67.

The ABC has called one seat for the Greens, one for Nick Xenophon’s party, and a further three for independents.

While 13 seats remain in doubt, many analysts are predicting that neither of the major parties will form a majority government on their own, and horse-trading between the majors, the smaller parties and independents will be needed before a government can be formed.

But incumbent prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was confident at his Sunday press conference, saying postal votes – which are counted towards the end of the process – would lean more heavily towards the Coalition, swinging the result in that party’s favour.

“Like all of us, Australians would have no doubt preferred a clearer outcome last night,” Turnbull said.

“I remain quietly confident that a majority Coalition government will be returned at this election when the counting is completed.”

The Australian Electoral Commission put counting on hold late on Saturday night, with less than 80% of votes so far counted. Work will resume on Tuesday.

“The reason the result was not clear last night was that around a third of Australians voted in pre-polling or via a postal vote,” the prime minister continued. “That will determine the result in as many as 12 undecided seats.

“Our experience is that these postal votes and pre-poll votes, indeed, traditionally favour Liberal and National Party candidates, especially when they are incumbents,” he added.

“So, if that trend were to be manifest again here, that is likely to deliver majority government to the Coalition, but time will tell.”

Labor leader Bill Shorten took a different approach to the drama, saying the voters had sent a clear message to the prime minister, by making his policies the “clear loser” of the election.

“What I’m very sure of is that whilst we don’t know who the winner was, there’s clearly one loser: Malcolm Turnbull’s agenda for Australia and his efforts to cut Medicare,” Shorten said.

The incumbent Opposition leader said Labor would work with the Coalition and other parties to find “common ground” on major issues.

He encouraged Turnbull to “go back to being the centrist he used to be before he rolled Tony Abbott,” adding, “I have no doubt there is some common ground we can work with them.”

Melba line re-opened after Tas flooding

Freight movements to the port of Burnie are a little easier with the reopening of the so-called Melba line from the Tasmanian West Coast.

This follows the line’s closure after heavy weather led to flooding earlier this month.

A train left Burnie on Tuesday morning for the MMG mine at Rosebery which has resumed operations following a landslip in early June.

According to infrastructure minister Rene Hidding, TasRail crews worked alongside VEC Civil Engineering in “extremely difficult conditions” to reopen the line.

“Trains will now run twice a day on the Melba Line over the next week to move mineral concentrates to the Port of Burnie, with trucks also being used over the next couple of days to help catch up,” Hidding said.

The Rosebery mine is a significant regional employer and an important customer of state-owned TasRail.

“The Government is pleased that even after such a significant flood event, disruptions have been kept to a minimum,” Hidding said.

“With the Melba Line reopened, TasRail’s focus is now on completing repairs on the Western Line, including particularly the Kimberley Rail Bridge.”

Hidding said the Government was working across departments and businesses to help Tasmanians to recover from the floods.

This article was originally published by Rail Express affiliate Lloyd’s List Australia.

Moorebank Map. Graphic: MIC

Conditional approval for Moorebank from PAC

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.

Bad weather shuts TasRail

Tasmanian rail operator TasRail has temporarily suspended all operations across its network in response to heavy rain and flood conditions.

TasRail boss Damien White said the shutdown was a precautionary measure.

While the closure was regrettable, he said, the safe operation of rail services is paramount.

“TasRAil has deployed all available staff to inspect and assess the track and critical infrastructure including rail bridges and facilities,” he said on Monday.

“While heavy rain is continuing to fall across the state, the rail network appears to be withstanding the flood conditions reasonably well,” he explained.

“But there are a number of areas, particularly on the North West Coast, where water levels are a concern.”

White acknowledged the efforts of his staff, who he said were out in difficult conditions to monitor the safety of the network.

TasRail said it was in contact with customers to keep them in the loop as to when the network would re-open.

Resources council boss slams Shorten’s “long pause” on coal

Queensland Resources Council boss Michael Roche has criticised Opposition leader Bill Shorten for not coming out in full support of the state’s coal sector during an interview with ABC Brisbane on Wednesday.

Shorten, speaking with Steve Austin on ABC 612, was asked, “Does the Australian Labor Party support coal mining?”

After roughly a second of silence, the Opposition leader responded: “Ah…yes. We think coal mining is part of the energy mix going forward.”

Roche’s view of that response? Not good enough.

“That was as positive as Mr Shorten could be about the Queensland coal sector that delivered last year, directly and indirectly, 183,000 jobs, spent $12 billion buying goods and services from 11,000 Queensland businesses and delivered $1.6 billion royalties to the Queensland government,” Roche said in a heated press release on Wednesday.

“Yesterday the Queensland Resources Council called on Queensland workers whose jobs depend on the resources sector – an estimated 360,000 of them in Queensland – to back candidates who will support their industry, their jobs and the livelihoods of their families.

“We did so following statements from political candidates, particularly ALP candidates, who were demonising coal and saying they did not support new coal projects such as the Carmichael mine.

“This morning was the perfect opportunity for the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten to clarify the ALP’s position …”

“Mr Shorten’s response said it all.”

Roche also criticised the Opposition leader for refusing to back the Carmichael coal mine and rail project, “even though the people of Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton are desperate to see that project proceed”.

Carmichael, which is being developed by Indian energy giant Adani, would include construction of a new 189 kilometre rail line to connect the mine to the Goonyella system.

Carmichael coal would be exported from Hay Point and Abbot Point.

“The voters in Herbert, Dawson and Capricornia will take note,” the Resources Council boss concluded.

WSP/Parsons team recognised for Roy Hill project

Roy Hill contractor WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has raked in two awards in the space of a fortnight for its work on the rail line connecting the mega iron ore mine to Port Hedland, in WA’s Pilbara region.

The Gina Rinehart-owned Roy Hill mine, rail and port project exported first ore at the end of 2015.

WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, formed in 2014 when WSP Global acquired Parsons Brinckerhoff, was integral to the delivery of the 344 kilometre standard gauge railway from the minesite to the port.

Midway through May the team was successful at the 2016 Railway Technical Society of Australasia (RTSA) Awards, winning the RTSA Railway Project Award for the Roy Hill work.

“We are proud to have supported this complex and multifaceted project since 2013 and to have lent our global expertise to help Hancock Prospecting and Roy Hill Holdings deliver this project on time, on budget and to world-class standards,” WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff chief executive of Asia Pacific Guy Templeton said of the RTSA award.

“This award recognises the depth of talent and dedication of a highly-committed project and multi-disciplinary management team.”

The contractor followed up the RTSA win when the Roy Hill Project was given a Project Management Institute (PMI) Project of the Year Award this week.

“The Roy Hill team should be rightfully proud of this landmark project,” WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s managing director for property, environment and resources Andrew Mather commented.

“This project spans mining, rail, port, power, roads, buildings, water, telecommunications and other enabling infrastructure development – which requires a depth of global project management capabilities.”

Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting owns 70% of Roy Hill, while Posco (12.5%) is joined by fellow minority stakeholders including Japan’s Marubeni  (15%) and China Steel Corp (2.5%).

Smart Cities Plan must let people have their say

COMMENT: Cities are home to many different people who will not always agree. We need to learn to embrace public debate as an ongoing, constructive process for working through diverse views and values, Crystal Legacy, Dallas RogersKristian Ruming, and Nicole Cook write.

The federal government’s Smart Cities Plan is framed around the “30-minute city”. In this city, journeys will take no more than half an hour, regardless of your location.

The recently released plan has significant implications for population, transport provision and land-use intensity in neighbourhoods – the places where people live and how they get around. The realisation of its goals will require ongoing densification of Australian suburbs.

Cities with more houses, more people, more NIMBYs

The doubling of the population in some Australian cities by 2045 is likely to generate fierce opposition to housing and transport projects.

Many medium-density housing projects prompt residents to act strategically to protect their neighbourhoods, even when these projects improve housing affordability and access to jobs and services.

Resistance is also directed at major infrastructure. Fierce campaigns are being (or have been) waged against Melbourne’s “sky rail” project and East West Link, Sydney’s ANZAC Parade light rail and Westconnex projects, and the Perth Freight Link.

Such opposition is not only felt through the planning system. Residents also use political channels to stop projects, as with the East West Link.

How should government respond to community resistance?

Contestation over city planning should not be shut down. Rather, we need to think about citizen opposition as a constructive process for working through difference. Here are five points to consider when including people in the delivery of the 30-minute city.

Point 1: We need active governments and active citizens

Private-sector lobbyists argue government is poorly placed to deliver small- and large-scale infrastructure. But think about a city with no roads, sewers, hospitals or schools. Without government-led planning, our cities would be dysfunctional places to live.

However, governments are not benevolent institutions. Active citizenries have long scrutinised the efficacy of government decisions.

The introduction of private and non-government infrastructure providers further complicates the relationship between citizens and governments. Whose interests does urban development then serve – a local community, regional community, or developers?

Governments need to be ready to answer questions about the role of the private sector and to change their plans following community input.

Point 2: More than finding better participation tools

Urban planning systems play important roles in engaging residents. However, community consultation has been sporadic. Neighbourhood meetings and letterbox notifications often fail to ignite engagement.

Then there is the question of representation. Community consultations attract the “usual suspects”. Time-poor working-age households and young professionals find it difficult to fit engagement with planning into their busy lives. Even more rarely does planning engage with youth and children about their visions and hopes for cities.

However, when planning departments use social media the uptake by communities is poor. Our research suggests opponents to planned projects, rather than planning departments, are more likely to use social media.Local and state governments are aware of the need for new ways to bring citizens into decision-making. Infrastructure Victoria’s citizen jury panels are meeting mid-2016. Social media is also being considered as a way to engage a broader public about city futures.

The problem with current participation tools is their failure to account for conversations, debates and protests that take place outside the formal planning process. We need ways to include these discussions.

Point 3: Moving beyond NIMBYism

Not all community campaigns are the same. The dominant narrative around community participation in urban planning centres on the pejorative idea of “the NIMBY” (not in my backyard).

The term NIMBY is frequently used to delegitimise the claims of citizens opposing planned developments. They are characterised as self-interested residents who resist the inclusion of new social groups in their neighbourhoods, or any change to the built or natural environment.

Deliberately labelling these residents as self-interested fails to recognise the positive roles they can play. Local resident campaigns can focus on city-wide or local issues. They can range from unwavering opposition to more flexible and reflexive engagement in an urban discussion.

Some community campaigns might be viewed as vital forms of urban citizenship. Others are seen as “protecting their patch” against the best interests of the broader citizenry. Both views should be part of our discussion about city planning.

Point 4: The conversation never stops

An active citizenry is involved in short-term “one-off” planning and long-term strategic planning. Too often, public participation roles are confined to one end of this spectrum. For example, the NSW government recently attempted to limit public participation to high-level strategic planning documents, reducing community input into individual developments.

Most people have little knowledge of the urban planning system. A recent study found only 24% of Sydney residents surveyed were aware of the Sydney metropolitan plan. Confining participation to upfront strategic consultation limits community involvement.

For most people, engagement with planning and development issues will be reactionary. People engage with the planning system when a development is proposed for their area.

However, a recent national survey revealed that 65% of responses believed urban residents should be involved in each stage of the strategy-making process. Most will not be involved, but options for participation should not be confined to upfront consultation.

By engaging the community in an ongoing discussion we can listen and respond to local interests without compromising the broader strategic and long-term vision for our cities.

Point 5: Metropolitan-wide but locally situated debate

There will be winners and losers in the 30-minute city. Houses will be acquired, buildings will be demolished and sections of the natural environment will make way for new infrastructure.

Over the last decade, the idea of consensus has dominated participatory approaches. However, consensus-seeking is not always the best way to work through community disagreement. In some cases, consensus can be manipulative, or useful for mobilising resident opposition.

We need to recognise that cities are home to many different people who hold diverse views and values, and who will not always agree. Rather than aiming for consensus, we should set our sights on metropolitan-wide, locally situated debate, which supports an active citizenry.

In the end, the difference between no action and implementation may be in “agreeing to disagree” through open discussion about the planning of the city.


The Conversation logo

This article draws on research by the authors and recent discussions about a possible crisis of participation in Australian cities at a symposium in Sydney in April 2016.

The ConversationCrystal Legacy is an Australian Research Council (DECRA) Fellow and Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow, Centre for Urban Research, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University. Dallas Rogers is Lecturer in Urban Studies, Western Sydney UniversityKristian Ruming is Associate Professor in Urban Geography, and Nicole Cook is Researcher, School of Geography, University of MelbourneThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

Puffing Billy big winner of Turnbull’s Dandenong promise

Malcolm Turnbull has made a $6.5 million commitment to the Puffing Billy heritage railway in the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne.

The prime minister made the announcement on a pre-election visit to the narrow-gauge tourist railway on Wednesday, May 25.

The funding is part of a $20 million plan to improve tourism infrastructure in the Dandenong Ranges.

Turnbull said tourism will be critical to Australia’s economic transition, forming an important part of the Coalition’s national economic plan.

The $6.5 million to upgrade the Puffing Billy will include construction of all-weather facilities for the site, the PM said.

The 21.5 kilometre single-track railway hosts tourists and other visitors who buy tickets at Belgrave railway station, which forms an interchange with the terminus of the Belgrave line on the Melbourne Metro Trains network.

Also included in Turnbull’s $20 million tourism announcement was $1 million to extend the Emerald-Cockatoo multi-use trail in the region, $2.5 million for the Ridge Walk, and $10 million for the widening of the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road to reduce congestion and improve safety.

Turnbull said tourism was a key element of his Government’s plan for managing the transition from the mining construction boom.

“Improving access and raising the visitor experience at iconic local tourist attractions will raise investment and drive jobs and growth,” he said.

“And now that China has proclaimed next year to be the ‘Australia-China Year of Tourism’ we can look forward to hotels, restaurants and tour operators all over the country investing in new capacity and hiring more employees to meet this new demand.”

Tourism minister Richard Colbeck added: “We are ensuring the regions can capitalise on Australia’s tourism boom, making a big contribution to regional employment.”

One million Chinese tourists visited Australia last year.