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.

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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.

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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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Michael Kilgariff, managing director of ALC. Photo: Oliver Probert

Report a reminder of freight priority

A Commonwealth government report showing the cost of congestion in Australia is likely to increase by billions of dollars in coming years is a reminder to governments to give equal consideration to the movement of freight as to people.

Australian Logistics Council managing director Michael Kilgariff said transport congestion in cities which the government predicts could reach $37.3 billion by 2030, affects both passenger vehicles and heavy vehicles stifling efficiency and adding to costs.

“With the logistics industry estimated to add around $131.6 billion a year or 8.6% to GDP, it is vital that all levels of government give equal consideration to the movement of freight as they do to the movement of people,” Kilgariff said.

“This particularly relates to infrastructure projects which improve the efficiency of our export supply chains, including those to and from our major city ports.

“Addressing congestion in our cities requires a multi-faceted approach from all levels of government, and the fact that the Commonwealth has strongly committed to investing in our cities is a welcome development, particularly in light of these new congestion cost figures.

“However, any new federal approach to moving people should not be at the expense of supporting supply chain projects to move freight more efficiently. “

He said failure to fund key logistics projects would not make economic sense, especially when one considered a 1% improvement in supply chain efficiency would yield a $2bn-a-year national economic benefit.

“With Australia’s freight task predicted to double between 2010 and 2030 and triple by 2050, it is crucial that policy makers give equal priority to freight in their investment and policy decision,” he said.

This article originally appeared in Rail Express affiliate Lloyd’s List Australia.

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Aurizon, Lance Hockridge - Photo Aurizon

Hockridge in war of words with green group

Aurizon boss Lance Hockridge has drawn criticism from sustainable energy group IEEFA after he suggested Australia’s coal exports to India were poised to grow significantly.

Hockridge spoke at an Australia India Institute event in Melbourne last week.

“Over coming years, India looks set to cement an even stronger position as one of Australia’s major coal export markets,” he said.

“The growth of both the steel and energy sector is India … on Australia’s high quality and abundant coal reserves … flows through the supply chain to Australian miners, and rail and port infrastructure providers.”

Hockridge cited statistical evidence from the International Energy Agency and the World Bank which he said “re-affirmed [his] confidence in India’s future economic growth, and most tellingly, counter-balances some of the uninformed and indeed blatantly biased commentary on coal that’s become commonplace.”

IEEFA took issue with these comments, pointing to the recent announcement from India’s government that coal imports last month were down 5% on October last year, and represented the fourth consecutive month of decline.

“In making this oddly optimistic pitch, Hockridge tars what he calls ‘uninformed and indeed blatantly biased commentary’,” IEEFA said on Monday.

“He’s talking about research we’ve done here at IEEFA … and work by Carbon Tracker, two of the few independent organisations to publish regularly on Indian energy markets other than industry cheerleaders Wood Mackenzie and the International Energy Agency.”

It is important to note that on its website, IEEFA says its mission “is to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy and to reduce dependence on coal and other non-renewable energy resources”.

Carbon Tracker describes itself as a “financial think tank aimed at enabling a climate secure global energy market by aligning capital market actions with climate reality”.

IEEFA criticised Hockridge’s assertion that there is a pipeline of power plants under construction in India equating to roughly 84 gigawatts of energy, which will require an additional 250 million tonnes of coal per annum.

“[Hockridge] forgets that [Indian] energy minister Piyush Goyal announced two weeks ago intentions to cease all such construction because of a looming capacity glut in the country’s coal-fired power sector,” IEEFA contends.

“Massive losses are being tallied at coal-fired plants all across India today, a problem that has been worsening for three years at least and one that does not support further build-out.”

Revitalising Newcastle. Photo: Revitalising Newcastle

Constance looks global to integrate Newcastle transport

International players are being invited to propose an integrated transport model for Newcastle, after New South Wales transport minister Andrew Constance said work was needed if light rail was to be a success in the growing city.

“Today we are asking global leaders to create Transport for Newcastle,” the minister said on Thursday, “connecting the city with one major operator to plan and run Newcastle Light Rail, buses, ferries and interchanges.”

Constance hopes an integrated approach to public transport can help turn around a negatively-trending public transport sector in the region.

“Patronage on public transport in Newcastle has dropped and customers tell us service levels are not up to scratch,” the minister said.

“It’s clear the current approach to transport in Newcastle isn’t working so it’s time to think outside the box.”

Constance said the planned light rail line gave the government an opportunity to re-think the transport network to support jobs, growth and urban renewal.

“If we want Newcastle to reach its potential, we need to create a modern and connected system that links light rail with frequent and reliable buses, ferries and trains,” he said.

“In an Australian first, we’ve put out a call to the best transport operators around the world to tell us how they could partner with the city to deliver a modern network for the city.

“Today’s announcement means that rather than having multiple operators running ad hoc services with mis-matched timetables, services would be streamlined to a sole provider, Transport for Newcastle, focused on customer service. This would be public transport run in Newcastle, for Novocastrians, not run from Sydney.”

Transport for NSW said a market sounding process has begun and will run until the end of the year, when the NSW Government will evaluate interest in the integrated transport model.

The announcement was welcomed by the Australasian Railway Association.

“This is exactly the transport approach that is needed for Newcastle in order for public transport to reach its full potential,” chief executive Danny Broad said.

“With one major operator integrating Newcastle’s bus, ferry, train and light rail routes into a single network, the city can expect to see greater efficiencies, improved customer service and increased patronage.

“This will lead to a more sophisticated transport service for the people of Newcastle which delivers directly to their needs.”

Broad said the Australian Government, like its international peers, was realising the far-reaching benefits of an integrated transport model.

“The Australasian Railway Association’s research on light rail shows that whether delivered by the public sector, the private sector, or a mix of both, successfully combining a multimodal network with light rail can drive growth in public transport use,” he said.

“Locally, the integration of the Gold Coast Light Rail line with the bus and rail systems was the catalyst for a 25% increase in public transport usage in the first year of light rail.

“Abroad, in the French city of Lyon, reorganising the buses, trains, trams and trolley buses into a multimodal approach provided an immediate 6 percent patronage increase and steady long-term growth. It’s pleasing to see Newcastle follow best practice by looking to deliver a modern, streamlined transport network for the city.

“With the Newcastle light rail project getting underway, now is the time to overhaul the transport network in Newcastle in order to get the local economy moving again, as well as revitalise the jobs market and refashion Newcastle’s CBD and urban areas,” he concluded.

Kaimai Tunnel location. Graphic: Google

Kaimai Tunnel works well underway

A multi-million dollar upgrade of New Zealand’s longest rail tunnel is well underway.

NZ rail operator and manager KiwiRail says the team repairing and upgrading the 8.8km Kaimai Tunnel, on the North Island, has gotten off to a good start.

Project manager Neil Mason and construction manager Tevita Brugger told the media last week that teams have already completed repairs on more than 300 metres of concrete slab and completed cleaning on 5.1km tunnel.

A project to upgrade and repair the tunnel, which sees roughly three-dozen freight rail movements a day, was announced in October 2014.

KiwiRail said the primary goal was to refurbish the rail track and tunnel floor to meet a forecasted growth in freight volumes and axle loads.

Brugger said the material developed to undertake repairs is very special because it is strong enough to run trains on after 90 minutes, is not flammable and does not give off any harmful gasses.

“We still have 350 metres of concrete to do and expect to have it finished by Christmas,” Brugger said.

“The project work is starting to show some effect.

“As a direct result of the work that has been done the line returned to its 80km/h speed for the first time in four years.”

Over a two-day closure in September, the repair team installed a special slot drain into the floor of the tunnel.

“The drain will be used to intercept water running underneath the tunnel,” Brugger explained.

“These water volumes were encountered when the tunnel was built but are not well understood.

“We need to control the water and to do this we need to determine the size of the pipe. The slot drain will allow us to observe the water flowing freely.

“Next year, we’ll start construction on the new leaky feeder radio system followed by a new phone system.”

Brugger said further investigation was needed into the flow of water in and around the tunnel.

The research would help determine the scope of the project, which could take up to 10 years, and cost as much as $50 million.

“Most projects would involve 5-6 days of work on-site per week, whereas we only have access to the tunnel once a week and the rest of the time it remains open, due to high volumes of trains,” Brugger continued.

“On top of that, we are working in a 9km-long tunnel with a single track, with crews who do not live around the area.

“Kaimai is a complex and challenging project and this means that to maximise our production time requires a higher degree of planning and coordination is required.”

Canberra light rail. Graphic: ACT Government

Canberra outlines plan for light rail city

IMAGE: The ACT Government has unveiled its “strategic vision” for seven light rail lines, including the committed Capital Metro Stage 1, for the nation’s capital.

Chief minister Andrew Barr, planning minister Mick Gentleman, and minister assisting the chief minister on transport reform Shane Rattenbury on Monday opened the new light rail plan for public consultation.

The designed network features the stage one light rail line, from Gungahlin to the city centre, along with six more proposed future routes for light rail, which will link to stage one.

“To manage Canberra’s growth, reduce congestion and protect our liveability we need to improve our public transport system,” Chief Minister Barr said.

“Light rail prepares us for our city’s growth, drives economic development and will integrate with buses and other modes of transport to make our city easier to get around.

“This network shows how light rail will be extended across our city in the future.”

After stage one, the next-highest-priority line currently outlined is for the Parliamentary Triangle – formed by Commonwealth, Kings and Constitution Avenues – in the centre of the city.

Another priority line would link the Woden Valley in the south-west to the other priority lines in the city centre.

The final line outlined as high priority is called ‘eastern connections’, and would link the network to Fyshwick and the Airport in the east.


Canberra light rail master plan map. Graphic: Transport for ACT

Graphic: Transport for ACT (click to enlarge)


Gentleman said the government was now turning to the community, for their views on where future stages should go and how the government can best integrate a public transport system with current infrastructure.

“The ACT Government is planning for Canberra’s transition into a significant world city through building on current foundations and opportunities to maintain the position of the world’s most liveable city, with a fully integrated transport network,” Gentleman said.

“The public consultation for the draft light rail network is an opportunity for the community to have their say on the future proposed corridors as this document will work for to direct the long term strategy and vision for Canberra’s light rail network.”

Rattenbury has also highlighted the positive impacts to be created.

“The release of the Light Rail Network opens the light rail discussion to all Canberrans and will help outline the bigger picture for public transport across the entire city.  This is a project for the future of Canberra that will help us to find real and long term solutions for the issues that trouble us today like pollution, congestion and peak oil,” he said.

New Australasian Railway Association chief executive Danny Broad welcomed the news.

“It is clear through the Light Rail Master Plan that the ACT Government has an ambitious vision for the future of Canberra,” he said.

“Canberra is set for further expansion over the coming decades, the transport needs for a city of 500,000 people is vastly different to that of 300,000, leaving the city’s car dependency unviable for a modern, sustainable city.

“Now is the time to start planning this major infrastructure project and look at how the rail network will integrate with the existing bus network.

“Continuing to plan ahead, and invest in Canberra’s transport infrastructure is crucial in order to effectively serve the needs of Canberra and its growing population.”

Public consultation is open until December 11.

The full report is available here: