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.

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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

Grain. Photo: Shutterstock

For farmers, Inland Rail is about options

An Inland Rail line between Brisbane and Melbourne could give farmers the options they want and need to get their products to overseas customers, an industry representative has said.

“As a producer it’s all about getting product from farmgate to customer as efficiently as you can,” Victorian Farmers Federation vice president David Jochinke said at Wednesday’s forum on Inland Rail at AusRAIL in Melbourne.

“That’s where you’ve seen, previously, roads fill the void in many ways.

“We produce more than we consume, we have expanding markets, we have free trade agreements, which is all fantastic, but it doesn’t mean a pinch if we can’t get our product – efficiently – to the customers.”

Jochinke said a well-planned Inland Rail could provide a cost-efficient option for farmers to send their products to export markets.

“If the Inland Rail can give me more options, that’s the benefit of it,” he said.

The presence of an active Inland Rail line would also fit well with Australian farmers, Jochinke reasoned, because of the seasonal nature of their production.

“We’re probably the hardest customers you’ll ever have, because one year we’ll want to triple your service to us, and the next year we basically don’t want to know you, because we don’t have the product,” he said.

With well-selected intermodal hubs, and consistently-available capacity, however, he said Inland Rail could cater well to farmers’ needs.

Inland Rail could have the added benefit of providing farmers with a more traceable and direct freight path to customers, he added.

“My markets are getting very savvy about what they want,” Jochinke said. “I want to be able to look at traceability through my [transport] system, and I want to be able to deliver it on time.”

Jochinke was one of five members of the Inland Rail forum, which also included Genesee & Wyoming Australia managing director Greg Pauline, and deputy secretary of the Department of Agriculture Lyn O’Connell.

Your digital edition of Rail Express AusRAIL PLUS 2015 has arrived!

The electronic version of Rail Express AusRAIL 2015 magazine is now available to read online, free of charge.

Click here to read our AusRAIL 2015 edition.

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.

Our AusRAIL PLUS 2015 edition is 92 pages and includes:

  • ARA: Introducing new CEO Danny Broad.
  • Workforce: Women have more to offer in rail.
  • Inland Rail & Intermodal: Looking in to the Inland Rail Implementation Group report
  • Research & Technology: Experts meet to talk wheel detection.

We hope that you enjoy the magazine. If you have any feedback, please feel free to email our editor:

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

Ross River in Townsville, Queensland. Photo: Rabs003 / Creative Commons

Queensland set to open EoIs for urban design panel

Expressions of interest will soon be called for the newly-created Queensland Urban Design and Places Panel, which will assist state and local governments in the delivery of infrastructure, planning and urban projects.

Infrastructure, local government and planning minister Jackie Trad, who introduced new planning legislation to Parliament last week, said good design could enhance quality of life and provide social and economic benefits.

“The establishment of the Queensland Urban Design and Places Panel is another important step in the journey of Better Planning for Queensland, and recognises that good design is a critical ingredient in a globally competitive society and locally inclusive communities,” Trad explained.

The new panel will have an advisory role, she said, informing the government about the design of major infrastructure and urban development projects across the state, and providing expert advice across such fields as urban design, planning, architecture, sustainability and sub-tropical design.

“By promoting better design outcomes, we will be building on our already strong sense of place and attracting the interest of those who see this as an essential ingredient in their businesses or lifestyles.

“Queensland has more cities above 100,000 people than any other jurisdiction in Australia – and as we move towards a knowledge economy these urban centres will become increasingly central to productivity and economic growth and we need to ensure we can attract the best and brightest to Queensland to create jobs, to innovate and to invest.”

Trad made the announcement at the Internatoinal Urban Design Conference in Brisbane on Monday.

She said the panel will be chaired by the Queensland Government Architect, Malcolm Middleton.

“My department will soon be launching a nation-wide call for expressions of interest for membership of the panel,” Trad added.

“The Queensland Urban Design and Places Panel will build on the work of the former Board for Urban Places, which was ignored by the former government.

“I see the Queensland Urban Design and Places Panel picking up where the board left off some years ago, but I will be asking it to take a more holistic approach and champion best practice place making to ensure we make the most of the opportunity to maximise community and economic benefits through superior design.”

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Hawkesbury River rail bridge. Photo: Tim Stewart / Creative Commons

Seven bid for Hawkesbury River bridge work

Sydney Trains boss Howard Collins says seven specialist engineering firms have expressed interest in carrying out maintenance on the Hawkesbury River rail bridge.

Transport for NSW responded to Opposition claims earlier this year that the bridge may be unsafe, commissioning engineering inspections which Sydney Trains says prove the bridge is safe for trains to run.

Nonetheless, there is still repair work to be done.

“While the weight-bearing core of the pier is in good condition, there is deteriorated concrete around this core that doesn’t impact the bridge’s safety,” Collins said.

Sydney Trains has gone to market to find an organisation to complete the work, with tenders closing November 20, and seven EoIs received thus far. The maintenance will begin early next year.

“Since September, both Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW have commissioned separate structural engineering experts to carry out independent underwater inspections that confirmed it is safe to run trains,” Collins continued.

“If we had any safety concerns, we would not allow trains to run.

“We do need to carry out maintenance and we’ll soon be in a position to determine which company will undertake the work.”

The Office of Transport Safety Investigations this week updated its statement about the bridge, highlighting that independent inspections support that it is safe to run trains. It also says the national rail regulator has concluded there are no immediate safety issues.

Collins said the maintenance work was due to be carried out in 2014, but the company which tendered for the work requested a change in the scope.

“The change in scope meant we were required to go to tender again,” he said.

“The bridge is entirely safe to operate on and we therefore had time to re-tender and ensure we had the right people to carry out the job.”

The NSW Opposition in September said reports showed vital repairs to Pier 2 on the Hawkesbury River rail bridge were recommended in 2013.

“This is a disaster waiting to happen,” opposition leader Luke Foley said at the time. “The bridge is quite literally crumbling at its foundations while the Baird Government does nothing.”

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Airport. Photo: Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development

Truss to re-think Western Sydney Airport link

Hope may not yet be lost for an opening-day rail line for Sydney’s second airport, after federal infrastructure minister Warren Truss announced plans to examine transport options in Western Sydney.

With a site officially declared, and community consultation underway on a detailed draft plan and environmental impact statement, the process of developing a major passenger airport in Western Sydney is well underway.

While the airport is currently designed to be ‘rail ready’ – with space for a station and tunnels excavated – community groups and the rail industry have raised concerns over the lack of a direct rail link between the new airport and the CBD from day one.

But the announcement by Truss on Friday could fix that issue.

A new study will aim to define “the right route, when to build it and how best to fund it,” the minister explained.

“We know Western Sydney’s population is set to increase from two million to three million over the next 20 years so this options plan will look at rail transport needs for the airport, as well as surrounding communities and employment lands,” he said.

“This options plan will consider rail as part of the broader transport network needed to support an airport and Western Sydney’s growth.”

Truss said there is “no doubt” a rail line will link to the airport “one day,” but said the options plan would help the state and federal governments determine “the type of rail, when it will be required and how much it will cost”.

The scoping study will also consider whether value capture techniques could assist meeting the funding requirement, Truss added.

The news was welcomed by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA).

“The rail industry cannot stress enough the importance of including a rail line from the start of the construction of the Airport,” ARA boss Danny Broad said on Friday.

“A rail plan presenting options is a common sense approach – rail is the vital link, enabling people to move in and out of the Airport safely and efficiently.

“It’s pleasing to see the Federal Government now considering rail options for Badgerys Creek Airport, while establishing a new partnership with the NSW Government.

“Government must collaborate with industry to ensure the long term viability of the Airport, namely through a robust and efficient transport system.”

Broad said the ARA would continue to support the construction of a second Sydney airport, but said the plan “must include rail options to support not only the Airport, but the surrounding growth areas.”

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