Photo: Port Kembla Coal Terminal

‘Coal is amazing’ campaign shredded on social media

A marketing campaign launched this week to promote the value of coal burning to the Australian public went down like a lead balloon on social media.

“Whichever way you look at it, this little black rock provides many benefits to our economy, wages, infrastructure and everyday lifestyle,” the new campaign from the Minerals Council of Australia says.

“Coal. It’s an amazing thing.”

 

 

The campaign appeared on TV, in print and online this week. It directs people to the website littleblackrock.com.au, where viewers can read about the important role of coal in society, its benefits, the evolution of coal technology, and the future of coal.

The campaign was accepted by some. One commenter on the media and marketing site Mumbrella wrote, “Nothing this ad said was wrong. Plus, coal is the reason we had the industrial revolution – you know, that thing that is responsible for everything you currently have and hold dear.”

News Corp commentator Andrew Bolt shared the advertisement, writing, “The Minerals Council of Australia starts fighting for an industry which will be up against the wall should Labor and the Greens triumph at next year’s election.”

Others were not so accepting.

“Talk about fossil fuels,” one Mumbrella commenter wrote. “Sometimes the fossils are the ones peddling it.”

Another raised a salient point: “What tagline or idea … would NOT be lampooned by anti-coal exponents? I can’t think of one.”

Users of the popular online forum Reddit criticised the campaign for being “propaganda,” with one user labelling the video, “absolutely disgusting”.

“I really can’t believe that some people would agree to even be the voice over on this… I’m infuriated.”

On Twitter, the campaign was taken over with users employing the hashtag, #coalisamazing to criticise the coal industry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Satirical news site The Shovel, meanwhile, had a somewhat light-hearted criticism of the campaign, along with the Abbott Government.

 

Abbott Busted Watching Coal Video Instead Of Doing Work (Again!)

Posted by The Shovel on Monday, September 7, 2015

 

What do you think of the campaign? Has it been treated fairly? Is it a good idea? Share your thoughts below.

Sydney light rail. Artist's impression: Transport for NSW

Media hammering light rail is short-term view of long-term benefit

COMMENT: When I was in high school, my parents renovated the family home, and I had to move into a smaller room for six months. Outrageous, I know.

I sulked about it and dragged my feet, no doubt causing unnecessary frustration and stress for my parents along the way.

I acted that way because I lacked foresight; I was unable to recognise my short-term inconvenience would have a long-term payoff.

The installation of a light rail line is a long-term, transformational project.

Light rail is not always going to be the best option, of course. Discussion over the long-term value of any major project – both within the industry, and in mass media – should always be encouraged.

But media whining over short-term, necessary disruptions as part of a major project is just a waste of time. Worse, it will more than likely result in a waste of public money.

The NSW government has decided that a light rail line is the right choice for the Sydney CBD. So it’s moving forward with pre-construction works already underway, and a hefty construction schedule slated for the next 24 months.

As part of the plan, the state government has launched the Tomorrow’s Sydney campaign.

The gist of the campaign is to let Sydneysiders know there will be significant disruptions over the next few years, in and around the Sydney CBD. This is a fact that neither the campaign, nor the ministers involved, have shied away from.

“Building a light rail [line] will not be easy and sacrifices are needed,” transport minister Andrew Constance said in July. “There will be disruption,” he said, “but the change will eventually be for the better when light rail is in action.”

Despite this, articles on light rail in Sydney’s media have focused almost exclusively on dramatising every imaginable aspect of the works. Stories have focused on moving cycleways, narrowing footpaths, changing bus schemes, growing traffic jams, interference with retail; the list goes on.

Stories about the benefits of the finished product, however, have been few and far between.

In its latest heinous act, the state government announced on August 13 it was moving some of the George Street works forward, so they would not impact retail businesses as heavily during the Christmas shopping period.

This is how the Daily Telegraph chose to break that news in its August 14 edition:

 

Daily Telegraph, August 14, 2015.
Daily Telegraph, August 14, 2015.

 

Elsewhere, opposition transport spokesperson Ryan Park asked the ABC why the government has made this change now, considering “Christmas occurs on the same day each and every year”. A good point, you have to admit.

But Park also used the opportunity to stress the impact of temporary disruptions. “In eight weeks’ time, this city will grind to a halt,” he was quoted. “George Street will essentially be shut down.”

Sydney’s busiest retail street will be ‘shut down’? No.

Shops will remain open, and foot traffic will remain. To say the street will ‘grind to a halt’ seems a bit dramatic.

So far, the government has spent $6 million on Tomorrow’s Sydney, a change management campaign, worth spending money on.

But $6 million of public funding is already a big number to put in headlines. And Constance says he’s prepared to keep spending money on Tomorrow’s Sydney until the campaign is successful.

I’m sure the media would not hesitate to lampoon the government if that spending was to increase. But perhaps if people asked why more money was needed to win the public over, they may find the media itself is the primary culprit stalling change.

Relax, everyone. The government is renovating your already world-class city. There’s no point sulking over it.

Alstom Coradia Polyvalent for Algeria's SNTF. Graphic: Alstom

Alstom to deliver 17 intercity trains to Algeria

Alstom, one of the four organisations shortlisted to deliver NSW’s next intercity fleet, has won a contract to deliver 17 of its Coradia Polyvalent intercity trains to Algeria’s Société Nationale des Transports Ferroviaires (SNTF).

The contract, worth around 200 million euros (A$302 million), will have the first train delivered in January 2018, according to the French-headquartered Alstom.

The investment is part of SNTF’s programme to modernise and extend its network.

The trains will link capital Algiers to other cities within Algeria, including Oran (350km away), Annaba (420km), Constantine (320km) and Béchar (750km).

“We are delighted that SNTF has placed its confidence in Alstom,” the transport company’s senior vice president in the Middle East, Gian-Luca Erbacci said.

“Already adopted by SNCF and the French regions since 2009, Coradia Polyvalent is the ideal choice to meet Algeria’s transport needs.

“Algerian passengers can be sure that they are travelling on trains with the latest technical innovations, combining comfort, performance and protection of the environment.”

The Coradia Polyvalent for Algeria is a dual-mode train (diesel and electric, 25 kV) able to travel at 160km/h. With a total length of 110 metres, the train has six carriages and provides capacity for 265 passengers.

In its intercity tender, Transport for NSW is asking for trains to run on the electrified NSW TrainLink network. It’s also reportedly after double-decker trains – a key difference between TfNSW’s needs, and the trains being delivered to Algeria.

But there are also a lot of similarities between the Alstom trains for Algeria, and the ones it might offer to TfNSW in the next stage of the tender process.

Alstom says its Coradia Polyvalent fleet is adapted to hot conditions, with a highly efficient air conditioning system. The trains have low-floor entry ways, allowing for easy access.

“Accessible to everyone, particularly passengers with reduced mobility, [the train design] respects the latest [European mobility] standards,” the company said. “Finally, the train’s design and highly efficient motors eliminate noise and vibration for unparalleled comfort.”

Alstom’s site in Reichshoffen, France will design, produce and test the 17 trains. Five other French sites will contribute to the project: Saint-Ouen for the design, Le Creusot for the bogies, Ornans for the motors and alternators, Tarbes for the traction chains and Villeurbanne for the on-board electronics and passenger information system.

Alstom is competing for the NSW intercity tender with three other organisations: a consortium of Downer EDI Rail and CNR Changchun Railway Vehicles; a consortium of UGL Rail Services, Mitsubishi Electric Australia and CSR Corporation; and Swiss group Stadler Bussnang.

Hyperloop. Artist's impression: SpaceX

The future of rail travel, and why it doesn’t look like Hyperloop

As the world’s population becomes increasingly urbanised, it is estimated that the number of journeys measured in passenger-kilometres will triple by 2050. Roads simply can’t absorb this increase, but what can? Roberto Palacin investigates.


Railways, with their greater capacity for carrying more people, quickly and with greater energy efficiency, are the best bet to become our mobility backbone. Of course, engineers’ imaginations have created many alternatives to the original steel-on-steel approach to the railway. Maglev and the much-publicised but so far theoretical Hyperloop are often regarded as the ones to watch – but do they really represent the future of rail travel?

 

Maglev

Magnetic levitation (maglev) uses powerful magnets to propel the train along dedicated lines that are as straight as possible. The attractive forces between electronically controlled electromagnets in the vehicle and the ferromagnetic guide rails pull the vehicle up, while additional guidance magnets keep it laterally on track. This version of the technology was developed in Germany and is currently used to link Shanghai airport with the city centre at speeds of 430kph (267mph).

However it’s perhaps Japan that is most associated with maglev. The nation that established the modern era of high-speed trains is also attempting to define the next chapter. Superconducting magnetic levitation (SCMaglev) has been in development for decades but was recently approved to run from Tokyo to Osaka from 2027, when it will complete the 500km (311 mile) journey in just over an hour. Unlike the Transrapid system in Shanghai, the Japanese maglev principle uses more powerful “superconducting” magnets and a guideway design based on repulsive rather than attractive forces.

But while maglev is technically possible, its commercial viability is questionable. There is an extremely high initial infrastructure cost – Japan’s SCMaglev line is expected to cost ¥9 trillion (US$72 billion). It also cannot be integrated with existing rail networks and has a phenomenal energy demand, during both construction and operation. This casts serious doubts about maglev’s true potential as an alternative to conventional high-speed technology.

 

Hyperloop

Hyperloop is an elegant idea: travelling seamlessly at 1,220kph (that’s right, 760mph – just under the speed of sound) in gracefully designed pods that arrive as often as every 30 seconds is very appealing. The concept is based around very straight tubes with a partial vacuum applied under the pods. These pods have an electric compressor fan on their nose which actively transfers high-pressure air from the front to the rear, creating an air cushion once a linear electric motor has launched the pod. All this would be battery and solar powered.

Technically it’s a challenging design, although if someone can make it happen it’s the man who proposed the idea, Elon Musk, the man behind SpaceX and Tesla. However, Hyperloop is not rail travel. It is, as Musk puts it, a fifth mode of transport (after trains, cars, boats and planes). It’s designed to link Los Angeles to San Francisco; cities hundreds of miles apart that can be connected in an almost straight line over a relative flat landscape. This simply isn’t an option in much of the world.

Ultimately, if Hyperloop happens at all it will be a stand-alone system. It’s no substitute for rail.

 

What else?

In practice, the vast majority of us will continue to travel on trains that are not dissimilar to those that are around today. The UK is about to take delivery of 122 trains that will be the workhorses of most intercity travel for decades to come. They could still be in service come 2050, albeit following several refurbishments.

Greater automation are expected to dominate not just rail but all types of travel. Automatic train operation is already used in some urban railways which allows for shorter distances between trains on the same line. It is anticipated that in the future all mainline trains will be able to communicate with each other, meaning significantly more trains on the track, increasing capacity and service levels.

This in turn will make physical line-side signalling equipment redundant, leading to more simple layouts for new lines. Better use of energy on electrically powered intercity rail travel will likely play a significant role. For instance, energy storage systems and advanced substations will allow a shift to smarter rail systems.

Future predictions are to be treated with caution. But state-of-the-art railway investment around the globe is still largely based on the steel-on-steel principle of trains on tracks. And there’s no reason to doubt that this will be the define future of rail travel in coming decades – just as it has done since the birth of rail nearly 200 years ago.


Roberto Palacin is senior research associate, Railway Systems Research Group at Newcastle University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

TasRail Wagons. Photo: TasRail

Rail bests road in Tasmania, study shows

A major TasRail study has suggested moving freight by rail rather than road will deliver an estimated $159 million in savings to the Tasmanian economy over the five years to 2019.

Freight rail saved the state $26 million in 2013/14 alone, through savings over road, the TasRail study found.

The study, commissioned by the Tasmanian rail freight business and undertaken by infrastructure consultant Pitt&Sherry, found savings were generated by reducing costs related to road accidents, pollution and road maintenance, as well as the operating costs of industry and commerce.

TasRail boss Damien White said the purpose of the study was to quantify the underlying benefits of the state’s rail freight system at a time when it was enjoying significant growth.

White said the essence of the study findings was that on major freight corridors, such as between Brighton and Burnie, rail was the most efficient freight mode.

“While there is an investment cost in rail – as there is with roads and shipping – it delivers statewide benefits that are significantly greater than the investment costs,” White said.

“The study highlights one of TasRail’s important competitive advantages, which is to help industries strengthen their social licences by moving freight by rail rather than by road, is providing vital social, environmental and economic benefits,” White said last week.

“Over the past five years, the Tasmanian and Australian Governments have provided the funds to rejuvenate the state’s rail system, which they clearly recognise as a critical part of Tasmania’s transport infrastructure.”

Statistical data was drawn from a range of official government studies and reports.

In 2013/14 the use of rail freight in Tasmania rather than road freight saved around $7 million in road accident costs; $1 million in environmental costs; $9 million in road maintenance costs; and up to $9 million in the operating costs of business and industry, a Pitt&Sherry spokespan said.

The Spokesman said the savings were forecast to rise over the five year period to June 30, 2019 and continue well into the future

“The report shows freight transport efficiency is maximised when freight can be moved at the lowest possible cost to customers (senders and receivers) and the community at large,” White added.

“It explains that a single train can move hundreds of tonnes of freight and the rolling resistance faced by a steel wheel on a steel track is small compared to that of a rubber tyre on a road.

“These physical and economy-of-scale advantages translate to very low overall costs on a per tonne kilometre basis.”

White said the study justified investment in TasRail’s infrastructure.

“Track upgrades improve the performance of Tasmania’s rail network to an acceptable level that enable rail to compete with road for certain freight tasks,” he said.

“The result is an overall increase in Tasmania’s transport system efficiency, delivering lower costs in two major ways. The most obvious effect is lower costs to freight customers, which in turn reduce the drag of freight costs on the whole economy.”

The study concludes over the next five years, the total government investment in TasRail will be approximately equal to the total benefits to the Tasmanian community in dollar terms.

From that point on, it suggests, savings will far exceed investment.

Anthony Albanese, ASA

Albanese pits Tasmanians against Government

Shadow transport and infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese has called upon the Federal Government “to actually take Tasmania seriously,” by funding new infrastructure.

Albanese has been in Tasmania this week to meet with officials over infrastructure and transport in the state. “I think Tasmanians are entitled to be very disappointed at the Abbott Government,” he said on Monday.

“At the last federal election they elected three new Coalition members for the five House of Representatives seats that are here in Tasmania. You would have thought that might have resulted in something positive for Tasmania.

“However what we’ve seen is not a single new road or rail infrastructure project here in Tasmania over both budgets that the Coalition has handed down.”

Instead of infrastructure money, Albanese said Tasmania has been rewarded with cuts to funding.

“$100 million cut from the Midland Highway, $30 million cut from the rail revitalisation program funded by the former government,” Albansese said, “and a series of re-announcements by the Abbott Government … pretending that other projects that have occurred are somehow new.”

Albanese said Sid Sidebottom, former member for Bratton, Tasmania, “was annoying to the point of driving me crazy,” when he was urging Albanese – then the minister for infrastructure – to fund the West Coast Wilderness Railway in western Tasmania.

“What we saw from the previous advocates was people who were prepared to stand up for their electorates,” Albanese said.

“The three Coalition members haven’t basically troubled the scorers in Canberra. Let’s hope the Australian cricket team do a bit better than they are doing when the Third Test begins tomorrow night.”

Melbourne traffic. Photo: Creative Commons / Michael Coghlan

Don’t panic! Traffic congestion is not coming for our cities

COMMENT: There is a new fear on the block. Not just ISIS, home invasions, wind turbines and the budget deficit, but now we must fear … traffic congestion, Peter Newman writes.

The Infrastructure Australia report on the future needs of our cities emphasises the growing problem of urban traffic congestion all over the country. It is echoed by the State of Australian Cities report.

Congestion, it warns, will overwhelm our futures, making them unlivable, uneconomic and ungovernable as we fight for every piece of road space.

But do we have to accept that congestion trends will overwhelm us? Is it really right to fear congestion?

 

The fear

According to the IA report travel times are going to increase by at least 20%. The total cost of such congestion will increase from A$13.7 billion a year to A$53.3 billion by 2031, an increase of nearly three times. The loss of time will apparently cripple us.

The public policy reaction to fear is to jettison economic analysis and throw money at it. No benefit-cost ratio is needed as we need to act now or it will overwhelm us. Kneejerk reactions like this are usually regretted in hindsight but at the time we have no choice, it must be done.

In this climate of congestion-fear big roads are not being assessed, just announced. The congestion peril is coming. We must honour the Abbott government’s election commitments to around A$40 billion of high-capacity roads such as the East-West Link in Melbourne (now discredited and dropped by the Victorian Government), the Connex West system in Sydney (causing similar pain with communities subject to its impact) and most recently the Perth Freight Link (which looms as the biggest election issue facing the Barnett government that never actually wanted it). All of these roads have benefit cost ratios that make them very questionable.

Long-term plans are being drawn out of old cupboards for road projects dreamed up in the 1960s – like a plan to build a 10-km tunnel under Perth’s Swan river to link the city’s leafy western suburbs with the similarly well-heeled area around Applecross. Good luck with that one.

 

Peak car

The congestion trends being used to scare us are not based on actual data but on projections. They come from a model that is now discredited. In reality Australian cities peaked in car use per person in 2004, like all developed cities across the globe.

The chart below shows that peak car occurred in all Australian cities, regardless of their level of congestion as Canberra, Hobart and Darwin also peaked.

Peak car use in Australian cities. Credit: Newmand and Kenworthy, 2015
Peak car use in Australian cities. Credit: Newmand and Kenworthy, 2015

 

Around the world there is a new dynamic in our cities as the young and wealthy are moving back into cities where they do not need to use a car and they are preferring fast trains and buses over traffic wherever they can.

Rail patronage is booming way beyond predictions as the speed of rail leaves traffic behind. The table below shows the relative speed of public transport (bus and rail) which is gaining but still loses to traffic, and rail to traffic which is now beating the traffic in all cities in our global sample.

 

Comparative speeds of public transport (bus and rail) to traffic and also rail to traffic in global cities. Credit: Newman and Kenworthy, 2015
Comparative speeds of public transport (bus and rail) to traffic and also rail to traffic in global cities. Credit: Newman and Kenworthy, 2015

 

Predicting the traffic

For decades the transport planning profession has used what is known as the Four Step model to predict traffic and hence provide road capacity. It does not suggest any other options than increasing road capacity such as public transport or land use changes that reduce the need to travel.

It has been put aside by most European cities who quickly saw what it did to rip the heart out of American cities. Despite its obvious simplicity it remains one of the modernist tools that are used to explain the future of cities. Most of all it is a tool to create congestion-fear.

But the Four Step model now has revealed one major failing: it assumes that as wealth rises then car ownership and car use will also rise. As the data above suggest if we look to the future we can confidently predict that wealth will rise but we cannot predict that this will automatically mean more car use. They are now decoupling.

The young and the wealthy are buying locations where car dependence is minimised and where sustainable transport options are easily available. Freedom and connection is now based on smart phones and social media and these are easier to use where you can walk, cycle or use a bus and train.

In the US the cities that are decoupling GDP from car use the most are the cities which have invested in rail, such as Washington DC and Portland, as you can see in the chart below. In cities that are emphasising sustainable transport modes the economic benefits are increasingly being demonstrated (see also the book and this article by urban theorist and professor at University of Toronto Richard Florida) as the knowledge economy requires dense centres and spatially efficient modes – walking, cycling and rail transit.

Decoupling wealth from car use in Washington DC and Portland, Oregon. Credit: Newman and Kenworthy, 2015
Decoupling wealth from car use in Washington DC and Portland, Oregon. Credit: Newman and Kenworthy, 2015

 

This global trend is also not just a phenomenon of wealthy cities. Rail projects are dominating the transport agenda of Chinese cities (building metros in 82 cities) and Indian cities (51 cities are building metros now since Prime Minister Modi declared any city over a million needs quality transit).

Even if we were faced with a mountain of traffic congestion we should not be building high capacity roads as they are no longer working to deliver the transport outcomes once expected. The Texas Transportation Institute has compared miles of freeway against delay in the top 20 American cities and found no correlation, as you can see in the chart below.

Freeways and delay in American cities. Credit: Texas Transportation Institute, Urban Mobility Information
Freeways and delay in American cities. Credit: Texas Transportation Institute, Urban Mobility Information

 

The latest data on American cities shows that the top six most walkable cities have 38% higher walkability. Australian cities have been showing this in their city centres as well (Gehl, 2011). This is now the real competitive edge attracting capital for the knowledge economy and to retain the young talent. This is how we should be facing the future not quivering in fear about congestion.

It’s time to change our traffic prediction models.

It’s time to support global trends towards transit, walkability and urban regeneration.

It’s time to drop the big road fetish.

It’s time to stop fear of congestion as the core issue facing the future of our cities.


Peter Newman is Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University.

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

WICET stockpiles. Photo: WICET

From rail to sea: Dust control at Queensland’s new coal terminal

PHOTOS: Environmental impact on the surrounding community was a key consideration during construction of the new Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET). So from the rail unloading facility, all the way to the shiploader, the site is built to limit dust.

WICET made its first shipment of coal, amounting to 73,000 tonnes, in late April. A $3bn, 27mtpa facility, with considerable scope for expansion, WICET is built to provide additional export capacity at the Port of Gladstone, to service new mines and expansion of existing mines in the Surat and southern Bowen Basins.

It’s a green field coal terminal on Golding Point, located west of the existing RG Tanna Coal Terminal. The offshore wharf and loading facilities are situated north of Wiggins Island, adjacent to the Targinie Channel.

The rail unloading facilities are located immediately south of the North Coast Line and are connected to the Golding Point stockyard via a long overland conveyor.

The new WICET terminal was deliberately situated outside the built-up areas of Gladstone in order to reduce community noise and dust impacts. Coal trains to and from WICET bypass built-up areas of Gladstone.

The rail receival station is enclosed in order to increase operational efficiency and uses duplicated negative pressure bag filter systems to optimise air quality.

 

WICET rail unloading facility. Photo: WICET
Photo: WICET

 

An on-line moisture monitor analyses all arriving coal. When required, automatic sprays apply additional recycled water before coal is transported along the overland conveyor to the stockyard.

The overland conveyor structure, which transports up to 8250 tonnes of coal every hour, includes a tight-fitting wrap-around roof along its entire 5.6km length, to prevent strong winds creating dust. In fact, most elevated conveyors at the site are fitted with roofs, floors and walls on the windward side to shield product coal from strong winds.

 

WICET conveyor. Photo: WICET
Photo: WICET

 

WICET’s current stockpile area is around 1.25km by 535m, and is configured for 12 notional stockpiles in 2 rows, with an on-ground storage capacity of roughly 1.89 million tonnes of coal. The facility’s gantry stacker can automatically place coal anywhere on the footprint, and telescopic chutes which deposit the coal are fitted with internal counter-flow misting sprays which use recycled water to control dust during coal placement.

51 hi-flow water cannons are situated around the perimeter of the stockyard and along both sides of the central gantry, and are used to control dust in dry and/or windy weather. The stockyard’s water cannon control system uses real-time data such as wind-borne dust levels, and meteorological data such as wind speed, direction, air temperature and relative humidity, to activate groups of water cannons in defined patterns or sequences.

 

WICET water cannons. Photo: WICET
Photo: WICET

 

The final stage of the export process is the 1.8km jetty conveyor, which is fitted with a roof, a wall on the windward side, and a floor. The shiploader can operate at 8500 tonnes per hour, and its boom is also fitted with a roof, a floor and a wall.

All wharf conveyors are fitted with floors to catch coal spills, and the wharf conveyor tripper discharge chute contains a dust control spray system, which treats coal before it passes onto the ship-loader boom conveyor, and then down the loading chute into the ship’s hold.

 

WICET shiploader. Photo: WICET
Photo: WICET

 

This article originally appeared in Rail Express sister publication, the Australian Bulk Handling Review.

Brisbane suburbs and coal corridor. Graphic: The State of Queensland (Department of Natural Resources and Water) 2007

Mining body slams community train dust study

Community action group Clean Air Queensland will continue its fight against coal trains despite the Queensland Resources Council attacking its trackside dust study.

Clean Air Queensland (CAQ) released the results of its air quality monitoring study in early May.

The organisation says that, using industry-standard air quality monitoring equipment, its members monitored particle pollution levels along the Brisbane train line at Wynnum, Fairfield and Morningside.

CAQ is concerned that with an expansion of coal mining in south east Queensland, increased coal train traffic to the Port of Brisbane will have a deleterious effect on residents’ health.

The group says its study found “alarming rates of pollution in Brisbane associated with dust from coal trains travelling to the Port of Brisbane.”

According to CAQ’s publicity: “The study   ‘Health Hazard in our Suburbs’ – shows coal train pollution readings of 900 per cent above normal levels.”

CAQ spokesperson Michael Kane said the study showed coal trains were emitting “alarming amounts of pollution” as they passed close to homes, schools and workplaces.

“The report shows that coal trains are regularly emitting dangerous levels of air pollution in Brisbane suburbs and the government must now act to protect the community,” Kane said.

The day after CAQ’s study was released, peak state mining industry lobby group Queensland Resources Council (QRC) said it was deeply flawed and misleading.

QRC chief executive Michael Roche said the monitoring carried out by CAQ was unsound and the report wouldn’t stand up to peer review.

“It’s hardly surprising that this group, which includes anti-coal activist groups including Lock the Gate, 6 Degrees and Friends of the Earth would come up with such a report,” Roche stated.

“I would challenge them to undertake independent and peer-reviewed monitoring, which the coal industry has been doing along the rail corridor to the Port of Brisbane for more than two years.

“They undertook only nine monitoring sessions, utilising a method that is not consistent with the Australian air quality standards.

“They admit themselves in the report that they don’t know the distribution of air particles beyond the railway line.

“It’s also telling that they ignored some results from coal, freight and passenger trains that passed during the monitoring period. One would have to wonder why.

“In addition, the study included no wind direction monitoring, which means they would have no way of knowing the origins of the dust measured.

“More than two years’ worth of data from industry-funded monitoring, using methods consistent with the National Air Quality Standards, is in the public domain. I would urge people interested in learning more about air quality along the corridor to visit the Queensland Government’s air quality website where the results of the independent monitoring are reported in near real time.

“Industry has nothing to hide, as evidenced by the fact that since the start of continuous monitoring, the only instances where recorded air quality was above the national standards were independently found to be unconnected to coal-dust emissions, and usually a result of either bushfires, dust storms or track and road maintenance.

“Veneering, which is used on all Queensland coal trains to minimise dust emissions, is world-leading practice and the Queensland Department of Health noted in the 2013 independent dust monitoring findings, that ‘for people living along the rail corridor, the dust concentrations measured during the investigation are unlikely to result in any adverse health effects.’

“I would urge the Queensland Government to see this report for what it is – just another attack by anti-coal activists on our coal sector, which in 2013/14 directly employed more than 26,000 people full time, spent more than $15 billion in the state and contributed almost $2 billion in royalties to the government.”

Clean Air Queensland appeared undaunted by Queensland Resources Council’s salvo.

It said that “instead of trying to shoot the messenger, the Queensland Resources Council should support community efforts to keep Brisbane free of coal dust pollution.”

Community efforts to directly monitor coal dust are only set to grow.

A recent post on the home page of Clean Air Queensland’s web site said that “We are using the same Osiris dust monitors used in the last study and are looking for people to assist who can give 4 or more hours a week.

“Volunteers will be trained to become community scientists and use the Osiris monitoring equipment to collect data on passing coal trains. No experience is necessary.”


This article originally appeared in Rail Express sister publication, the Australian Bulk Handling Review.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill. Photo: Creative Commons / Bilby

SA could trial usage-based road charges

The industry has welcomed South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill’s push for a national scheme of usage-based road charges, saying such a scheme will help level the playing field between long distance road and rail freight.

Weatherill told the National Press Club this week that South Australia would be willing to trial such a scheme – as a guinea pig for the nation – in order to address a significant need for more infrastructure funding.

“I don’t think Australians care too much who builds our roads,” Weatherill said.

“They just want them built in a timely fashion, according to some rational set of priorities and at a reasonable cost.”

But it’s not that simple, the premier conceded; general taxation revenue is not enough for governments to cover the rising cost of infrastructure.

“Roads remain a sector that relies heavily on taxpayers to fund new projects,” he continued.

“Under [the proposed] plan, state-based registration and federal-based fuel excise charges are replaced by a charging system based on mass, distance and location, a system that reflects actual use of the road network.”

Weatherill said South Australia would be willing to trial different options for usage-based road-user charging, and would collect data across the state with the view of guiding a national scheme in the future.

Australasian Railway Association acting chief executive Phil Allan praised the premier’s comments, saying all rail freight operators have long been calling for such a scheme, which will provide “a strong incentive for freight businesses to improve the efficiency of their freight supply chains”.

“The interstate rail network has already operated with a similar regime of mass-distance charging for over a decade,” Allan said.

“The rail industry welcomes proposals for road-user charging as a way to level the playing field, meaning many types of freight will become more contestable between road and rail, ultimately lowering costs of transport for getting essential goods between ports, factories, shops and households.”

If it’s implemented in a timely and appropriate manner, the ARA believes Weatherill’s plan can reduce urban congestion, improve efficiency, and drive productivity growth.

“The ARA congratulates Mr Weatherill on his proposal,” Allan concluded. “Introducing heavy vehicle road-user charging is at the forefront of the next wave of economic reform in Australia.”