Rail track. Photo: Shutterstock

ARTC plans ‘mega’ holiday maintenance

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is preparing for a ‘mega maintenance shutdown’ in North East Victoria, the Riverina and Southern Highlands over the Christmas and New Years break.

65 projects will make up a package of essential rail upgrades between Melbourne and Sydney, the ARTC said, with $6 million in works planned over a four day stretch from December 27 to 31.

“This time every year we take the opportunity to deliver a large package of maintenance work when fewer trains are running after the Christmas freight rush,” ARTC executive general manager for interstate Peter Winder said.

“We do this to get the maximum amount of rail maintenance done efficiently in the safest possible environment for our people as well as minimising impact on everyday operations.”

Rail maintenance tasks will include rail grinding, ballast resurfacing, re-railing, upgrading rail turnouts, track undercutting, drainage maintenance and technical jobs like signalling work.

Roughly 600km of track will be worked on.

Track reconstruction work will take place within Junee, Moss Vale and Goulburn railway yards. The Bethungra level crossing (Olympic Highway) will be upgraded. Major repairs will take place at on the Spring Street underbridge at Moss Vale, and more underbridge repairs will take place in Tallong.

Almost 500 metres of track undercutting will also be delivered in various locations in North East Victoria from Craigieburn to Seymour, the ARTC outlined.

“We would like to get wide awareness of this work taking place, so the community knows what is happening around their neighbourhood and can ask us questions to find out how they are affected,” Winder continued.

“We know this period is a time when families are visiting and travel to different events is regular, so we want as many people as possible to know about what is going on, when.

“Around $6 million worth of work will take place in this shutdown, which is an important part of making sure we continue to run the safest possible network and maintain high reliability levels for our customers.”

The bulk of the work will take place between December 27 and 28 at the Victoria end of the corridor, and between December 29 and 31 in NSW.

The ARTC says most work will be during day time hours only, but some track machine and major work packages will require night work.

Christmas reading: Rail Express AusRAIL edition

In case you missed it, Rail Express published a digital edition of its AusRAIL magazine in November. You can read the magazine, which includes features, interviews, analysis and comment covering the Australian and New Zealand rail industry, in digital format on our website.

The 92-page magazine can be viewed in digital format by clicking here.

Instructions: simply use your mouse to drag the pages just like you were reading a magazine. Alternatively, you can use the left and right arrows on your keyboard. To zoom in on a page, use the magnifying glass icon on the bottom left menu.

We hope that you enjoy the magazine. If you have any feedback, please feel free to email our editor: oliver.probert@informa.com.au

For more information about advertising in Rail Express, please click here.

New Acland station. Artists Impression: City of Port Philip

Makeover for Route 96 terminus

The Council of Port Philip has endorsed a new streetscape framework for the tram terminus at Acland Street, St Kilda.

The renewal plan is part of Public Transport Victoria’s Route 96 Upgrade project.

Under the proposal, which was endorsed at a Council meeting on December 8, Acland Street will include “an integrated streetscape with a promenade feel to encourage pedestrians to stroll along the street”.

A new level-access tram terminus for Yarra Trams’ route 96 will be located just before the entrance to Acland Court, and will be designed for use by people with disabilities, parents with prams and people with luggage and shopping bags, the Council explained.

A new public plaza will be built between Acland Court and Barkly Street.

The Council decision came after a two phase community engagement stage during 2015, which yielded roughly 1500 individual consultation responses. The Council also worked with PTV and Yarra Trams to come to a proposed design for the project.

Now it has endorsed the proposal, the Council will draft a Memorandum of Understanding with PTV to detail each organisation’s responsibilities in the plan, and the delivery and co-funding of the project.

Construction is planned to start in mid-2016 and is set to be complete by summer 2016.

Waterloo station. Artists impression: Transport for NSW

Waterloo selected over Sydney Uni for final Sydney Metro station

The last major alignment decision for stage two of the Sydney Metro line has been made, with an alignment under Waterloo chosen ahead of an alternate option under Sydney University.

Waterloo is the 31st station chosen for the Sydney Metro line, after the state government heard from community and business representatives over the past month to consider options for the line between Central and the existing train line at Sydenham.

NSW Premier Mike Baird said the government would look to develop a value capture around Waterloo station to be reserved for the Metro project and associated infrastructure, under a similar model to that recently proposed for the Parramatta Light Rail project.

“The metro station creates the opportunity to transform Waterloo and make it a better place to live for future and existing residents, many of whom are amongst the most vulnerable people in NSW,” Baird said.

As part of the station’s construction the government’s plan is to replace and renew the “ageing” Waterloo social housing estate, with a mix of private, affordable and social housing.

The government says there will be no loss of social housing from the current figure of 2000 dwellings as a result of the project.

While some residents may need to move into other housing in the local area during redevelopment, the government said many will be able to relocate into new social housing on the estate as the renewal progresses.

“Waterloo Station will help bring new jobs to the area as well as providing a direct public transport link to employment hubs at Barangaroo and Martin Place,” Baird explained.

“Sydney Metro is a game-changer for our city,” transport and infrastructure minister Andrew Constance added. “The station at Waterloo will make this rapidly growing part of Sydney more accessible and take pressure off Redfern and Green Square stations.”

Planning minister Rob Stokes said: “Waterloo metro station will be the catalyst for the delivery of an additional 10,000 homes and thousands of new jobs in the precinct for families who live in the area.”

Social housing minister Brad Hazzard said the community will be consulted about the future of the neighbourhood to help prepare more detailed precinct plans with new parks, homes and community facilities.

“The metro station will transform the Waterloo housing estate for the better, building a dynamic community with better amenity, better homes, better facilities, fantastic transport and more jobs,” Hazzard said.

“I can assure Waterloo tenants that if they want to remain in Waterloo after the redevelopment, they can do so.”

An Environmental Impact Statement for the station development is expected by mid-2016. The government is planning to stage the area’s renewal progress over a 15-20 year period, with the first relocations not expected until midway-through 2017.

Sydney Metro is a 75km rail project.

The first stage of the project, known as Sydney Metro Northwest, is already under construction, with a new metro under construction from Rouse Hill to Epping. The existing line between Epping and Chatswood will be converted to metro standard, to create ‘stage one’ of the project between Rouse Hill and Chatswood.

Announced more recently, the second stage of the project – Sydney Metro City & Southwest – will see the line extended from Chatswood, through North Sydney and under the harbour to the CBD. It will continue under the city at several new stops, to re-join the existing rail line at Sydenham. The line between Sydenham and Redfern would then also be converted to metro standard, to create the full Sydney Metro line, from Rouse Hill to Bankstown.

The final major alignment decision was whether to run the line from Central to Sydenham on a western curve under the University of Sydney, or to run it on an eastern curve under Waterloo.

With Waterloo the chosen alignment, the government said it will look into improving public transport at the University of Sydney, through significant upgrades to Redfern Station and improved pedestrian connectivity through Redfern and Darlington.

Coal. Photo: Shutterstock

Boost for Adani mine and rail in Land Court

A Queensland court has recommended the state approve Indian giant Adani’s proposed $16.5bn Carmichael coal mine, rejecting claims by environmental groups the mine would be unprofitable and would not find the finance it needs to go ahead.

Land Court president Carmel MacDonald rejected the environmental group Coast and Country’s case against the proposed mega-mine in the Galilee Basin on Tuesday.

MacDonald said the economic benefits of the Adani mine and rail project would outweigh the potential environmental damage.

She said strict water and fauna conditions should apply to Adani, but the Carmichael mine should be allowed to go ahead.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said the Land Court approval, along with re-approval from the Commonwealth for the mine earlier this year, cleared another obstacle for Adani, which Roche says has been the target of green activist ‘lawfare’ since 2010.

With that in mind, Roche warned the court’s decision still left the door ajar for green groups to come back and cause more trouble for the prospective miner.

“Coast and Country are serial abusers of the Queensland court system and we fear that they will not respect the Land Court’s recommendation as the final word,” Roche said.

“Adani has become the target of green activists’ vexatious litigation, having already faced two federal appeals and a string of cases against the Abbot Point expansion.”

Shortly after the Land Court decision was made, the Environmental Defenders Office – which represented Coast and Country in court – tweeted to its followers to help “supercharge” its Federal Court challenge through donations on its website.

Roche said this was only more evidence of the environmental group’s vexatious tactics.

“The activists’ disrupt and delay tactics are clearly outlined in their anti-coal playbook Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom, and continue to deny Queenslanders thousands of needed jobs and millions of dollars to help pay for state services such as schools, police and hospitals,” Roche said.

“Everyday Queenslanders are increasingly frustrated that a handful of inner-city green activists can continue to deny communities crucial jobs.”

Container ships at East Swanson Dock, Patrick terminal. Photo: David Sexton

Rail shuttles needed for port sale success

Expressions of Interest should be called immediately for Melbourne’s Port Rail Shuttle project, a government committee investigating the privatisation of the Port of Melbourne has said.

A Victorian Government committee on Tuesday presented its recommended alterations to the Delivering Victorian Infrastructure (Port of Melbourne Lease Transaction) Bill 2015, introduced by treasurer Tim Pallas in May this year.

The Bill concerns the proposed sale of the Port of Melbourne to the private sector, which the government says is crucial to funding Victoria’s level crossing removal program.

The committee’s report into the matter raised two key issues concerning road and rail efficiency at the port.

“Maintaining and enhancing the Port of Melbourne’s competitiveness and efficiency is a high priority particularly given the critical role that the port plays in Victorian import and export markets,” it said.

“However, the Port of Melbourne’s competitive position and standing as Australia’s largest container port is under challenge. Recent port privatisations in New South Wales and Queensland and improvements in interstate road and rail links are improving the competitiveness of other ports.”

According to the report, “there is already evidence that some of Port Botany’s growth may be occurring at the expense of the Port of Melbourne”.

While the committee indicated privatisation would help improve the port’s competitiveness, it recommended significant action by the government to improve both road and rail access.

The Port Rail Shuttle project should go to Expressions of Interest as soon as possible, the committee said.

“The Port Rail Shuttle is a project that has been contemplated for nearly two decades,” the report outlined.

“It involves moving containers from the port by rail (rather than road) to a series of metropolitan intermodal terminals.”

The committee said the project, which has the support of several key logistics and intermodal players, would significantly reduce truck traffic around the port precinct.

Given $58 million of funding was included in the 2014/15 State Budget for the project, the committee said it sees no reason why the state should not commit to the project immediately.

The report’s second “urgent priority” concerning port efficiency is to improve transport and logistics planning to manage the projected growth in port capacity.

With the state projecting the port’s container capacity to grow to 8 million twenty-foot equivalent units (teu) per annum (it is currently just over 2 million), the report said more needs to be done to forward-plan road and rail planning.

“The committee considers that there has been inadequate planning in relation to the road and rail upgrades required to accommodate the port expanding to the 8 million teu capacity envisaged by the government.

“The committee recommends that the government develop a comprehensive plan setting out the transport and logistics to support further port expansion, including a rail line to [the new container terminal at] Webb Dock,” it added.

In all, the paper presented 15 recommended changes to the proposed legislation.

Road projects - Ingram Publishing

Driverless cars no fix for transport woes

COMMENT: Self-driving cars may not be the solution to all our transport woes, Peter Newman writes.

Australia is gearing up for self-driving cars, or autonomous vehicles, and doesn’t want to be left behind in this so-called disruptive innovation.

Autonomous vehicles are being spruiked as the solution to peak hour congestion in terms of their economic benefits along with a lesser value of reduced road accidents. The attraction is that they will save time and human lives.

But will they be significant improvements or just facilitate our ongoing car dependence that is an even bigger economic problem?


Saving time?

A few numbers can help put autonomous vehicles in perspective. In the table below you can see the number of people who can be carried down a lane of traffic.

Assuming autonomous vehicles were one metre apart and travelling at 100 kilometres per hour (an aim that has been stated as the ultimate hope) this would mean around 25,000 people per hour could be taken down a freeway lane. While impressive, this movement capacity is only half that of a train.

But getting to this capacity means 100% of vehicles are under control of a guidance system, with none under independent control. As soon as one car does this, the whole system would slow down considerably, as is seen on freeways now.

To avoid this would require removing the ability of people to take over their vehicles and imposing a total ban on driver freedom. Otherwise, the freeway would become not much better than at present, where at peak times cars crawl along with around two-metre gaps between cars, or at higher speeds with larger space between vehicles. This is not saving much time. While individual autonomous cars may take up less space, cars overall are less spatially efficient than public transport, especially trains.

The guidance system needed to manage autonomous cars on a freeway could also apply to public transport. Buses and trains could use the same technology to upgrade their signalling systems and go much faster and closer together than anything yet seen in our cities. Buses crawling down a corridor could be simply transformed into a Bus Rapid Transit system with one-metre spacing in a long convoy very similar to a train.

Train signalling could be transformed and this could lead to capacities of around 100,000 people per hour being taken down a rail line. One train line would thus be able to carry 50 times what a present freeway lane carries. It would mean that Australian cities could manage significantly higher numbers of commuters on existing train lines. This would be massive savings in time and costs compared to whole new train lines being built down crowded rail corridors.

Autonomous vehicles also need to slow down to enter freeway exits. These would need to be lengthened to avoid pile-ups and slow traffic flow, however the substantial land required would be politically and financially difficult to find. Without such extensive off-ramps freeways will be as slow as they are now at peak time.

Considering these significant problems, we are unlikely to see autonomous vehicle freeways. Like the dream of all freeways they will in reality remain stuck in traffic at peak times with or without autonomous vehicles.



Another spruiked benefit of autonomous vehicles is increased safety. Brendan Gogarty has written on The Conversation that the record in testing is certainly not fail safe. He shows that:

human error is perhaps the most problematic issue facing autonomous cars. This applies not only to drivers but also other road users. Roads are not isolated places, nor are they restricted to car use.

Autonomous trains have been around for 30 years and have a very good track record. That’s because they don’t require humans suddenly being able to intervene. Nor do they have a chance of harming others as they are completely isolated on separate tracks. But autonomous cars present both these problems.

The need to remove all human intervention is a real issue for autonomous freeways. Unless this is done traffic flow will constantly be interrupted by those wanting to take over control to get out of the column or through some preference or panic.

When autonomous vehicles want to leave the freeway, they will be in a much less predictable space, one that is shared with vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians that are not under any kind of control system. The likelihood of accidents in this space is high unless autonomous vehicles are tuned to react beyond anything yet imagined. This would likely result in highly sensitive autonomous vehicles that will be crawling along reacting to every little movement.

What are we left with? Not much really. In terms of time savings and safety, autonomous vehicles will not be a disruptive innovation to urban transport systems. So what potential use is there for autonomous vehicles?


Getting that ‘first mile’

The new urban economics movement shows that cities can save time and reduce road accidents if they spend their precious infrastructure resources on fast rail that can go around, under or over traffic, and createhighly walkable, pedestrian-friendly city centres and sub-centres.

It means that new rail lines and new centres need to be built deep into car-based suburbs struggling to find a disruptive transport system. We need to think about how autonomous vehicles can help in this transition.

Autonomous vehicles will need to be banned from city centres that are prioritising pedestrians. But, out in the suburbs, there will be increasing numbers of people who need help getting to the nearest train station so they can travel quickly across the city, then at the other end with the short distance to a destination.

This is the “last mile” or “first mile” issue in public transport planning. Solutions have involved buses, bikes and car drop-offs but could include autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous vehicle “taxis” could find an important niche with their demand-responsive system. Such vehicles could be electric along with the trains making an oil-free, equitable and efficient system.

Now, that would be disruptive.

The ConversationPeter Newman is Professor of Sustainability, Curtin University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Coal chute. Photo: WICET

Tinkler puts positive spin on coal market

Mining entrepreneur Nathan Tinkler has remained upbeat on the future of coal at his first annual presentation at ASX junior Australian Pacific Coal on Monday.

Tinkler, who became managing director of APC in July, acknowledged metallurgical and thermal coal markets were significantly down over the last two years. But he outlined a positive future for coal investment in Australia.

“Australia’s rich and abundant metallurgical and thermal coals are the highest quality in the seaborne market,” Tinkler wrote in his presentation to shareholders. “Australia has tier 1 assets and first class infrastructure to hold its position as the premier seaborne coal province globally.”

Tinkler called on better policy to manage these resources and maximise their value, but said climate change conscious countries and consumers in South East Asia should be favouring Australian thermal coal for their baseline power.

“Australia has some of the highest productivity mines in the world,” he said. “Let’s use the considerable skills and experience of our people to progress innovation in better ways to mine and to use the products.”

Tinkler, who has lost a fortune in the coal slump, expanded on his positive comments after the APC Annual General Meeting, reportedly telling The Australian he was increasingly confident that the market was resettling and there would be emerging opportunities in coal.

“If you’re putting money into coal now, you’ve got to be prepared to sit there for a number of years,” Tinkler was quoted to have said.

“I’m a long-term investor and it’s what I know. I see the prices getting more attractive now, and some of the bigger guys are going to need to let go of some of their operations.”

The Commons apartment building. Photo: Youtube / ArchitecTube

Car-centric laws stymie sustainable development

COMMENT: The blocking of a car-free apartment by a Victorian tribunal goes against shared sustainability goals, Swinburne University of Technology researcher Andrea Sharam writes.

The Commons apartment building in the inner Melbourne suburb of Brunswick has won swags of awards, including the Best of Best at the 2014 BPN Sustainability Awards. Among its many lauded attributes is its total lack of on-site car parking.

Residents get a yearly public transport ticket and membership of a car share scheme with a prepaid usage allowance. A share car is located on the street in front of the building. Cycling is the fastest mode of transport into the city, so there are 76 bike spaces for just 24 apartments.

The council waived the car parking requirement on the proviso that no on-street parking permits would ever be issued to residents. More than 620 people are on the waiting list for a Commons-type apartment. The proponents, Breathe Architecture, thought they’d do The Commons again, across the road. With the Nightingale they intended to add a bicycle maintenance service as part of the package.

Again Moreland City Council waived the requirement for car parking. But the neighbouring site owner, a developer, objected on the grounds that a reduction in car parking was acceptable but not a full waiver. The matter went to appeal.

The Nightingale proponents and supporters were shocked when Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) member Russell Byard agreed with the developer and revoked the planning permit.

The VCAT decision has been roundly criticised. Byard’s decision is 180 degrees from a 2012 VCAT decision, which accepted that the waiver of parking for dwellings was an important component of sustainability. This was deemed a “Red Dot Decision”, meaning it is of interest or significance, but as there is no doctrine of precedent at VCAT, members are not obliged to be guided by previous VCAT decisions.

Sustainability is a test of political will

Byard has left himself open to opprobrium because his defence of personal car ownership would do a human rights lawyer proud: he could have been more circumspect in attacking the objectives of policy he so obviously disagrees with. At the end of the day, however, his decision is based on the law and thus highlights deep flaws in policymaking and the administration of the planning system.

Byard stated that the Moreland Planning Scheme contains:

… repeated reference to encouragement and enablement, reduction and sustainability, but not to policy provisions that actually get down to, or think through, strategic questions in relation to waiver or reduction to zero.

That is, the scheme has no teeth. At the most basic level, planning law does not sufficiently support the over-arching objectives for sustainability in planning policy.

Moreland and other councils have attempted to put teeth into their planning schemes in relation to matters such as sustainability, housing affordability and disability requirements, but each time the state planning minister has overruled them. The ball is firmly in the Victorian government’s court.

The Commons got a waiver because no one appealed the council’s decision to grant the permit, so the adequacy of the law was not tested in that case. A few kilometres away in the Capital City Zone (which covers the Melbourne CBD) the law indisputably permits waivers and sets a maximum of one car parking space per dwelling for developments over four storeys.

Apartment parking has many costs

Incredibly, the southern hemisphere’s tallest residential building, Australia108, which will have more than 1100 apartments, will include a 10-storey podium car park for 500 cars.

Initial analysis of high-rise development permits and proposals for nearby Fishermans Bend (which has been incorporated in the Capital City Zone) indicates that the sheer volume of proposed car parking means the place will be gridlocked much of the day.

Nightingale, which proposes 20 apartments, is located two minutes from a railway station, four minutes from a bus route and a tram service, and is a few steps away from one of Melbourne’s busiest cycling routes. Nightingale is closer to public transport than Australia108. The future residents of Fishermans Bend will need to get on their bikes as the area will not have any public transport for a long time.

Urban consolidation policies premised on the suburban ideal of car ownership can only deliver the worst of outcomes; intensification without relief from traffic and less efficiency rather than more. The time has come for housing provision in certain areas to be separated from car parking provision. Both would be cheaper and housing affordability improved.

As for VCAT’s concern for buyers of apartments who want car parking, it’s a market: no-one can force them to buy an apartment they do not want. But today people are forced to buy car parks they do not want, which many can ill afford to do.

The ConversationAndrea Sharam is Research Fellow, Housing & Homelessness, at Swinburne University of Technology. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Warren Truss

Truss unveils third Trainline report

Acting prime minister Warren Truss has released the third Trainline report on Australian rail.

Trainline 3 outlines the key role freight, urban and non-urban passenger rail plays in the national economy.

Truss, the guest of honour at Thursday night’s AusRAIL Gala Dinner in Melbourne, said the report would present rail enthusiasts and industry experts with key trends, statistics, and government commitments to rail.

Trainline 3 is a joint annual publication from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) and the Australasian Railway Association (ARA).

“The publication provides an overview of freight, urban and non-urban passenger rail.

“The report reveals that the end of the mining construction boom has transformed into a production boom and rail is moving more bulk tonnage than ever. “

According to the paper, Australian railways moved almost 1.3 billion tonnes of bulk freight in 2013/14, with WA iron ore transport representing roughly 70% of that figure.

“On the passenger side, Australia’s rail network transported approximately 627 million passengers in 2013-14, with Sydney carrying 272.5 million via heavy rail and Melbourne moving 177 million passengers via light rail in the same year,” Truss said.

Truss, who is acting prime minister while Malcolm Turnbull is out of the country, said the Australian Government is committed to investing in rail projects that deliver economic benefits to Australia including freight rail, inland rail, the intermodal sector and passenger rail.

“Rail is no longer only being viewed as just a long distance and bulk carrier,” he said.

“Indeed, freight rail will need to play an increasingly important role in the movement of goods across the short distances between ports and inland freight terminals.”

Truss said the development of the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal would enable future expansion of Port Botany’s container handling capacity, and investment and employment opportunities in Western Sydney.

“Effective rail connections to our national ports are vital for economic growth, and the Government is committed to enhancing these connections,” he said.

“The Australian Governent is also committed to deliver Inland Rail which carries clear benefits for rail freight.

“It promises to deliver economic benefits of around $22.5 billion and create up to 16,000 direct jobs during it’s 10-year construction period.”

Truss also said the Australian Government recognises that investment in public transport is critical to easing congestion and boosting productivity in major cities and regions.

“Our $4.2 billion Asset Recycling Initiative, a key element of the Infrastructure Growth Package includes $60 million to support light rail development in the ACT,” he said.

“The Australian Government’s Infrastructure Investment Programme includes $95 million towards the second stage of the Gold Coast Light Rail which will link the Gold Coast and Brisbane and will be delivered in time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

“Up to $1.6 billion will also be contributed towards urban rail projects in NSW including the Sydney Rapid Transit and a second harbor crossing.

“The project will create around 7,700 ongoing operating jobs and more than 1,300 construction jobs in south-west Sydney.”

Trainline 3 is available to access online at www.bitre.gov.au