repairs

WA to progress business cases for reopening three Tier 3 grain lines

The Western Australian government has committed to developing three business cases for the reopening of three Tier 3 grain lines in the state.

The three lines to be looked at for reopening at, Quairading to York, Kulin via Yilliminning to Narrogin, and Kondining via Narembeen to West Merredin.

The combined cost of upgrading the three lines to narrow gauge standard is $486 million. As part of the investigation the WA government will consider upgrading the Kondinin to West Merredin line to standard gauge at an extra cost of $27.41m.

The three lines were chosen based on an engineering assessment released on September 24 which estimated the cost of reopening Tier 3 lines throughout the wheatbelt.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said that the report found that certain lines could be reopened.

“While the engineering report confirms restoring the entire network would involve significant costs, there are arguably specific lines where the cost of investment could be offset by ongoing commercial and community benefits such as reduced truck volumes on local roads and cost savings to farmers.”

Arc Infrastructure, which manages the WA freight rail network, said it would support the government and grain growers cooperate CBH Group in the submission of business cases to Infrastructure Australia.

“Arc acknowledges that the government has identified an opportunity for the development of business cases to be submitted to Infrastructure Australia, for rail freight investment proposals on the Tier 1, 2 and 3 rail networks. Arc will support government and CBH in this process,” said an Arc Infrastructure spokesperson.

CBH Group, which represents grain growers throughout the state, said it would also support the efforts to make grain transport economically viable.

“We will work with the state government to progress those business cases, including providing information on any impacts of re-instating those lines on the grain supply chain or grower freight rates,” said a CBH Group spokesperson.

“CBH supports grain transport by rail where it is economically viable and the least cost pathway to port.”

The government announcement was also welcomed by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), with WA secretary Craig McKinley calling on the federal government to support the reopening of these lines.

“The Western Australian government is supportive of the need to rebuild key sections of track, and the commitment to undertaking business cases is very heartening,” he said.

“We hope that the business case stage can be completed quickly, so we can move on to securing funding and getting construction underway.

“The reconstruction of Tier 3 lines is exactly the sort of project that the Australian government should be investing in.”

Saffioti said the business cases will be developed in consultation with CBH Group and Arc Infrastructure before being submitted to Infrastructure Australia for potential federal funding.

“Significant funding contributions from the federal government – as per other major regional infrastructure projects – would be required for any potential Tier 3 restoration work in the future.”

The Tier 3 grain lines were closed by Arc Infrastructure in 2014, then known as Brookfield Rail. The Tier 3 lines were seen at the time as not commercially viable. With the resultant shift of grain volumes to road, road maintenance costs have increased, and safety concerns have been raised by the local community. These factors led to the WA government investigating the viability of reopening the lines earlier in 2020.

Fibre optic network in WA rail easements takes next step forward

A project to install fibre optic cables along nearly 5,000km of rail easements has taken a major step forward to construction.

The project, called WA SuperNet is now seeking private sector funding and engagement with Infrastructure WA and Infrastructure Australia to cover the project’s $160 million cost.

Once completed, fibre optic cables will run alongside 4,700km of Arc Infrastructure’s rail track throughout WA’s grain belt.

In addition to providing connectivity for rural businesses and communities, the fibre optic cables will future proof the freight rail network, allowing for communications and the future installation of in-cab signalling, when required. Further developments such as real-time video feeds could also be supported with the fibre optic network.

Fibre optic connections are already in use on the South West main line to support rail communication between Perth and Bunbury.

Arc Infrastructure have supported the project so far with $10m in capital contributions. CEO Murray Cook is a board member of WA SuperNet and said the company was getting behind improving regional connectivity.

“Arc Infrastructure has submitted the WA SuperNet Grainbelt Digital Enhancement Project as part of Infrastructure WA’s Discussion Paper consultation process. We are fully supportive of the focus on regional digital connectivity in IWA’s Discussion Paper and look forward to supporting the development of the 20-year State Infrastructure Strategy,” said Cook.

WA SuperNet will now begin discussions with telecommunication operators to establish partnerships to develop the infrastructure.

WA SuperNet Chairman Tim Shanahan said the installation of the technology would improve the rollout of connected technologies.

“We believe that fibre optic cable is the solution and is a proven technology that will future proof the Grainbelt of Western Australia and WA SuperNet has gathered significant support for this solution,” he said.

repairs

Repairs return WA grain line to service

The Piawaning to Miling section of the Toodyay West to Miling line has reopened to freight traffic, after repairs were completed to return the line to working condition.

The section of line, north-east of Perth, is used by growers to transport grain to ports such as Fremantle and Kwinana. Arc Infrastructure manages the network and carried out the work to repair the line.

This particular section of track was damaged in September 2019 when a CBH grain train derailed. Six wagons on the Watco-operated train derailed and no injuries occurred. The derailment was the second in the same area that year.

After the derailment, the line was closed to traffic but suffered significant damage in subsequent storms during the summer.

To get the line back into service work teams have re-railed almost 7.5km of track and replaced 2,500 sleepers.

Arc Infrastructure general manager commercial and development Nathan Speed said the credit should go to the teams involved.

“This is a great result for the teams who worked to complete this key maintenance task safely, enabling us to re-open this section of the line on schedule for the benefit of CBH and local grain farmers.”

Arc’s Mobile Maintenance Team and Central Team 3 completed the repairs, while ensuring that environmentally sensitive areas were not disturbed, said head of maintenance delivery Dan Ellis.

“These works were completed incident free by the Mobile Maintenance Team and Central Team 3 in 35 days which is a fantastic effort, especially considering they had to deal with washaways and changes arising from COVID-19.”

Ellis said the work required experience from many areas.

“This is a great example of major works completed with input from across the business, including but not limited to; Engineering, Network Strategy, Plant Department, Flashbutt Team, Planning Team, NIS, Central Teams, Commercial, Operations and Stakeholder Engagement.”

The line was reopened to traffic in May.

WA grain growers to support rail freight

Grain growers cooperative CBH Group has welcomed the Western Australian government’s Revitalising Agricultural Region Freight (RARF) Strategy and committed to work on business cases to fund improvements to rail lines.

The RARF was released on June 29 and outlines a targeted program of upgrades and improvements to WA’s regional freight lines, particularly those that enable grain to be transported from growers to ports.

CBH Group, which provides grain haulage services to its member growers, has been working with the state government and infrastructure manager Arc Infrastructure on the project, said CEO Jimmy Wilson.

“CBH has had the opportunity to give practical and pragmatic input to the development of the strategy, including data on forecast grain production growth and a focus on what will deliver the greatest transfer of grain tonnes from road to rail,” said Wilson.

Wilson said the RARF is “an important and essential step in improving the efficiency of the Western Australian grain supply chain through strategic rail and road investment”.

The RARF named upgrades to rail lines from Perth to Geraldton, Mullewa to Perenjori, Albany to Hyden/Newdegate, and Esperance to Salmon Gums, as priority project packages. CBH is already working on business cases for a new passing loop at Broomehill and rail siding extensions at Brookton, Cranbrook and Moora, which will allow for longer trains to be loaded at those sites.

It is expected that CBH and Arc Infrastructure will lead the improvements, with support from the WA government.

“The low-cost, high benefit projects outlined in the strategy would facilitate the transfer of more grain tonnes off road onto rail, deliver more rapid rail movement from site to port to capture the market window when the Black Sea is least active, as well as improve efficiencies in the road network where rail is not an option,” said Wilson.

In her foreword to the strategy, WA Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti said that she hoped the works would improve efficiency, safety, and productivity in WA’s supply chain, and enable Australian growers to compete in international markets.

The strategy sets the foundation for improvements to WA’s network over the next 10-15 years.

“We look forward to working with the state government on progressing business cases for funding the priority projects identified in the strategy that will support the ongoing international competitiveness of Western Australian grain growers,” said Wilson.

Regional freight strategy identifies upgrades to WA network

The Western Australia state government has released a targeted program of regional freight rail upgrades to get more agricultural freight onto rail.

Rail improvements are suggested in each of the regions studied in the Revitalising Agricultural Regional Freight Strategy (RARF) report, released on Monday, June 29.

These upgrades include rail lines from Perth to Geraldton, Mullewa to Perenjori, Albany to Hyden/Newdegate, and Esperance to Salmon Gums, in addition to rail improvements throughout the Wheatbelt region.

The RARF strategy also recommends a review of the interface agreements for disused Tier 3 rail corridors and the inclusion of rail lines into the National Land Transport Network.

With the strategy now published, the state government will now prepare a submission to Infrastructure Australia for investment in regional freight networks. WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said that the report will guide investment and that work is already underway.

“The RARF Strategy is a blueprint for strategic investment for agricultural infrastructure in our WA regions, underpinning the agricultural sector in our State.

“Work has already started with industry on progressing project packages, with the State Government working with CBH and Arc Infrastructure to progress business cases for Tier 1 and Tier 2 railway packages identified as a priority in this strategy.”

Arc Infrastructure general manager commercial & development, Nathan Speed, said that Arc would work with CBH and the state government to upgrade lines it manages.

“Arc Infrastructure congratulates the Government for the release of the State’s agricultural freight strategy,” he said.

“We look forward to working with Government on these and other projects from RARF that will support the ongoing international competitiveness of WA grain growers, and deliver long-term benefits to the economy and state.”

The report notes that where private or leased infrastructure is concerned, as in the case of WA’s freight rail lines which are leased to Arc Infrastructure, the private sector is expected to lead the development of business cases.

As well as upgrades to track infrastructure, the report highlights the need for intermodal terminals around the network, including on the Avon (Northam) rail corridor, between Perth and Geraldton, Brookton and Northam, and Albany and Hyden/Newdegate.

Based on feedback received on the draft strategy, a more targeted list of projects were included in the final RARF strategy.

Earlier in June, the WA government confirmed it was undertaking an assessment of the cost of reopening the disused Tier 3 grain lines.

“We recognise there is a lot of sentiment around the Tier 3 lines and have commissioned an engineering assessment to advise on the cost and time required for potential rehabilitation,” said Saffioti.

Coinciding with the release of the RARF strategy is the release of the South West Supply Chain Strategy for public comment.

“The draft South West Supply Chain Strategy identifies and prioritises future road, rail, air and port infrastructure requirements in the South-West region and establishes a framework and direction for future freight transport related investment in the region for the next 10-15 years,” said Saffioti.

The report identifies a need for investment in the region’s rail network as strategic locations are approaching operational capacity. In addition, the reconfiguration of rail access to Bunbury Port will allow for the rail infrastructure to meet the needs of bulk exporters. Another area the report identifies as needing investment is the establishment of container rail services between Bunbury and Perth for broader export and domestic market.

To address these challenges, the report cites the need for line duplication, new passing loops, and rail sidings. The report also explores the possibility of a intermodal freight terminal at the Waterloo Industrial Precinct.

Speed said that Arc is working towards getting lithium ore onto rail.

“We continue to collaborate with Talison Lithium and government on the development of the business case for the rail based supply chain from the Greenbushes mine, as outlined in the South West Supply Chain Strategy. We hope to commence detailed project feasibility in late 2020.”

Tier 3 grain lines assessment to evaluate cost, time to re-open

The Western Australian government has committed to an engineering assessment of unused Tier 3 grain lines in the state.

The assessment will determine the cost and time of bringing the mothballed freight lines back up to scratch.

The lines, which stretch over 500km, are managed by rail network operator Arc Infrastructure but were put into care and maintenance by the WA government in 2014. An Arc Infrastructure spokesperson said that it would facilitate the assessment.

“Arc Infrastructure understands the Public Transport Authority (PTA) has engaged a third party to conduct an engineering assessment on the Tier 3 lines. Arc is facilitating the assessment as required, by providing access to the network and some baseline data, however it is being completed independent to Arc.”

Grain handler CBH Group, whose grain freight trains, operated by Watco, take its grain to port, has also supported getting grain onto rail.

“CBH’s long-standing policy is that it supports grain on rail where it is economically viable to do so,” said CBH Group chief operations officer Ben Macnamara.

In 2014, the ABC estimated that it would cost $120 million to return the lines to operating conditions.

Following the closure, CBH Group and Arc Infrastructure entered into an arbitration process over access to the rail network. That process was completed in 2019, and the final agreement decided not to reopen the Tier 3 lines due to the deterioration in quality.

The WA government is close to completion of the Revitalising Agricultural Regional Freight Strategy (RARF) and is currently considering submissions. The draft strategy recommended improving the rail network in all regions, however noted that the re-opening of the Tier 3 lines is not part of the strategy.

The Arc Infrastructure spokesperson said that it was working with CBH on initiatives proposed in the RARF.

“We will continue to support the planning and design on any of the high priority RARF initiatives that will increase volume of grain being moved on rail for the benefit of WA growers.”

CBH’s Macnamara also looked forward to improving the rail network.

“The grain rail freight network is a significant part of the WA grain industry supply chain and CBH has welcomed the State Government’s development of the Revitalising Agricultural Region Freight Strategy,” he said.

“We look forward to continuing working with the government and industry on this important initiative.”

Container rail into Port Botany. Photo: Sydney Ports

Extra freight trains threaded through the Sydney network

Extra freight services have been running across the Sydney network to service the increased demand for essential supplies and to ensure Australia’s exports get to ports.

Chair of the Freight on Rail Group of Australia, Dean Dalla Valle, highlighted that by working with the Transport for NSW Freight Access and Performance Unit and the Rail Operations Centre (ROC) extra capacity on Sydney’s normally busy network has been opened up.

“Freeing up extra paths on Sydney’s rail network, notably for goods trains, is a smart, quick and cost-efficient way to help support and amplify critical freight activity in the economy.

“It means freight trains can access more paths during peak morning and afternoon periods, which normally would not be available, to better service the transport supply chain.”

Under normal conditions, freight trains cannot run on the Sydney network between 6am to 10am and 3pm to 7pm due to the priority being given to commuter services, and access is limited on the shoulder of these peaks. In all, there is only 10 hours of access for freight trains to vital ports such as Botany, Kembla, and Newcastle.

Access to Port Botany, in particular, is restricted, being located just south of the Sydney CBD and accessible via some of the most heavily congested lines in the network. However, Dalla Valle noted, the Sydney network is a critical hub for freight in NSW.

“For example, each day thousands of import and export shipping containers arriving or leaving Port Botany pass through key rail depots and terminals at Chullora, Enfield, Minto, Cooks River and Moorebank,” he said.

“Similarly, goods trains running between Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth have to be threaded through the Flemington rail junction – rail’s equivalent of passing through the eye of a national logistics needle.

“Likewise, grain originating from central west NSW to be converted into food and industrial ingredients like flour, starch, and ethanol at Manildra Group’s Nowra facility is hauled via the Flemington junction to eventually join the South Coast-Illawarra railway line,” said Dalla Valle.

With demand for household goods increasing and key supplies such as ethanol for handsantiser more essential than ever, having easy access to the Sydney network is critical for the national supply chain to function smoothly.

“Every grocery item delivered to a supermarket, every batch of medical supplies made available to hospitals, every tonne of grain delivered to a flour mill or ethanol plant, every tonne of coking coal delivered to a steel mill, or every tonne of thermal coal delivered to a power station to provide baseload electricity to Australian cities and towns – all this counts,” said Dalla Valle.

As the economy starts to get going again, having smooth and efficient supply chains will only become more critical, said Dalla Valle.

“Economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will benefit greatly from essential rail freight services having greater access in the future to the Sydney Trains’ network.

“Our proud sector helps underpin a vital and finely tuned component of our economy. If we don’t plug away 24/7, 365 days of the year, rain, hail or shine then the arteries of our economic trade will quickly clog up,” he said.

To limit the possibility of any spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) strict protocols have been put in place at depots, terminals, and maintenance facilities.

The Freight on Rail Group of Australia is made of up major rail freight businesses including Pacific National, Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), One Rail Australia, Aurizon, Qube Holdings, SCT Logistics, Arc Infrastructure, WatCo Australia and Southern Shorthaul Railroad (SSR).

Preliminary report into Jumperkine collision released

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released its preliminary report into a freight train collision at Jumperkine in Western Australia.

The collision occurred on 24 December, 2019, when a Pacific National freight train travelling towards Perth collided with the rear of a stationary grain train, operated by Watco. The driver of the Pacific National train, Greg Reid, suffered fatal injuries.

Prior to the collision the freight train passed a signal set at caution, then a temporary speed restriction ahead sign warning of a 30km/h speed restriction. The preliminary report then establishes that the freight train passed a signal set at stop when travelling at 72km/h.

Roughly 60 metres after the stop signal, the freight train passed a temporary speed restriction start sign, and the driver applied the brake three seconds later. This slowed the train down as it travelled around a left hand curve and then onto a straight section of track. The report then notes that the rear of the grain train would have come into view, leading the driver to apply the emergency brake. 13 seconds after the brake was applied the freight train collided with the grain train.

The collision occurred at 2am and the driver was acknowledging the vigilance system alerts. Before the collision a network controlled had attempted to contact the driver, but there was no response.

ATSB director transport safety Stuart Godley said that further investigations would be undertaken.

“In the coming months transport safety investigators will examine the functionality of the locomotive’s braking and vigilance control systems and undertake further analysis of event data recorders and video recordings,” said Godley.

A spokesperson for Pacific National said the company acknowledges the report.

“At Pacific National the safety of our employees and contractors is our highest priority and as a business we are devastated by the loss of our train driver Greg Reid in this very unfortunate incident.  We continue to offer support to Greg’s family.”

Arc Infrastructure, the operator and manager of the accident site, also noted the report.

“Arc Infrastructure fully cooperated with the ATSB in their investigation including providing an internal investigation report into the Jumperkine incident. Arc Infrastructure remains committed to working with industry to continue to improve the safety of the rail industry,” said an Arc Infrastructure spokesperson.

“We wish to thank the ATSB for the detailed factual information contained in the report and for their ongoing commitment to safety in our industry.”

Proactive safety actions have been taken by both Pacific National and Arc Infrastructure and cover operations carried out between midnight and 6am, the calling of train routes, and processes for when a train has stopped.

Joint communiqué affirms indispensability of rail freight

Australia’s largest rail freight operators and infrastructure managers have welcomed statements by Australian governments ensuring that rail freight services continue despite state border closures and shutdowns of non-essential services.

Chair of the the Freight on Rail Group, Dean Dalla Valle highlighted that rail freight services are critical for the supply of domestic and imported goods such as food, medical supplies, cleaning products, and fuel.

“Paddock to port, pit to port, or manufacturing plant to port – essential rail freight services stretch across state borders, servicing finely-tuned supply chains across our continent,” he said.

In collaboration with truck drivers working the ‘last mile’ of supply chains, rail services have hauled significant amounts of items in urgent need during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“A single-stacked 1,800-metre interstate goods train can haul 260 shipping containers, thereby helping to free-up hundreds of truck drivers each week to focus on delivering goods and products the remaining ‘last mile’ from warehouses to stores where consumers need shelves restocked,” said Dalla Valle.

“To put this in perspective, a single shipping container can hold approximately 25,000 toilet paper rolls, 55,000 food cans or 1,500 cases of beer.”

The move follows a meeting of the Transport and Infrastructure Council, made up of state, territory and federal infrastructure and transport ministers, on Wednesday, March 25, which affirmed that freight movements are an essential service, and will continue to operate despite restrictions on activity around the country.

“We, Australia’s Transport and Infrastructure Ministers, wanted to reassure Australians that supporting freight movements and supply of goods to individuals, businesses and service providers is a high priority for all governments,” wrote the ministers in a joint communique.

While Queensland was the latest state to close its borders, following Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory, and Tasmania, the ministers confirmed that these would not inhibit the efficient movement of freight across Australia.

“All jurisdictions where restrictions are in place have provided exemptions to these measures to ensure Australia’s supply chains are maintained,” wrote the ministers.

“We want to thank all those Australians involved in the freight industry who are serving Australia so diligently despite the challenges we face.”

To ensure that rail freight operators do not become susceptible to COVID-19, additional measures have been put in place, said Dalla Valle.

“In recent weeks, rail freight operators have implemented strict hygiene protocols at depots, terminals and maintenance facilities, including social distancing, to protect the health of essential staff,” he said.

“Rail freight has the added benefit of operating within secure railway corridors and facilities prohibited to members of the general public.”

The Freight on Rail Group is made up of nine rail freight businesses, Pacific National, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), Aurizon, Qube, One Rail Australia, SCT Logistics, Arc Infrastructure, WatCo Australia, and Southern Shorthaul Railroad.

The effect of extreme weather on rail and track infrastructure

As severe weather events become more intense and frequent, rail infrastructure owners and mangers are responding to this new reality.

Documenting the risks that climate change poses to the Australian rail sector, the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) listed six types of impacts. These were: track failures due to extreme temperature days, increased risk of flood and storm damage to track infrastructure, sea level rise flooding coastal tracks, yards and other infrastructure, wind damage to overhead lines, track failure due to decreased soil stability and increased erosion, and increased bushfire damage risk.

During the summer of 2019-2020 the rail industry experienced almost all of these impacts.

In New South Wales, bushfires closed multiple major train lines, including the Main Western Line through the Blue Mountains, the Southern Highlands Line between Goulburn and Macarthur and the Unanderra Line between Moss Vale and Unanderra.

Rail infrastructure owners around the country felt a number of these impacts, and Arc Infrastructure, the manager of the WA rail freight network, was no exception.

“This summer we have seen bushfires in the South West, Mid West (Mogumber) and Kalgoorlie/Esperance cause interruptions to rail traffic, heavy rainfall impacting track infrastructure, and an electrical storm in the Mid West affect signalling and communications infrastructure on the Eastern Goldfields Railway,” said an Arc Infrastructure spokesperson.

Sydney Trains also acknowledged how the weather can impact infrastructure.

“Extreme weather events, such as high temperatures, strong winds, lightning, bushfires, high rainfall, and flooding, can have a significant effect on the performance, efficiency and operation of Sydney Trains’ infrastructure,” said a Sydney Trains spokesperson.

With these increasingly severe and frequent weather events recognised as constituting a new normal, rail network managers and infrastructure owners are having to grapple with what this means for their assets.

BUILDING RESILIENCE

In Infrastructure Australia’s Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019, resilience was a key theme. The report acknowledged that although Australia’s extremes have been well known – floods, drought, fires, and cyclones being an almost yearly occurrence – resilience, the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, was not reflected in planning processes.

Resilience takes a different kind of thinking than had been previously reflected in planning documents. Although methods and protocols to repair damaged infrastructure were established, the data to be able to predict future events was not always available.

“Timely access to evidence that aids the evaluation of likelihood and consequence can help the planning of construction, maintenance and resilience. However, evidence about the scale of risks, their impacts and the costs of addressing them is often weak or not accessible,” write the authors of the report.

In this context, climate change becomes a compounding factor. The modelling of risks is based upon events that have happened in the past. When events start becoming more frequent and outside the historical range of severity, these models have to be re-evaluated.

“In a rapidly changing environment, risks shift in nature and severity, complicating assessment. This can lead to reactive, rather than proactive, responses to both short- and long-term risks to networks,” write Infrastructure Australia.

The report notes that there is much to be done.

“Australia’s infrastructure sector lacks clear, publicly available guidance on how to manage risk and plan for greater resilience in the future.”

Image credit: Sydney Trains.

THE RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE OF 2100, BUILT NOW
While Infrastructure Australia’s assessment was made for Australia’s infrastructure as a whole, rail itself has some key challenges. Rail networks are expected to last for up to 100 years, with some track in use today laid in the early 20th century.

The longevity of rail infrastructure presents a critical issue, as the cost of relocating infrastructure has been so high as to be prohibitive. However, as noted in Building resilient infrastructure prepared by Deloitte Access Economics for the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience & Safer Communities, the increased cost of natural disasters will lead to the replacement of damaged assets becoming equivalent to the entire cost of large infrastructure programs, suggesting that resilience building is a nationally significant infrastructure project on its own.

Within this context, the rail infrastructure being built now has to account for changes expected to occur in the next 100 years. In the best-case scenario of global temperature rise being kept to between 1.5 and 2O°C, sea level rises of up to a metre are predicted. The knock on effects of this on rail track infrastructure have been catalogued by the ARA.

Sea level rise will directly impact low lying sections of track, particularly those freight lines that carry bulk cargo for export. Increases in extreme rainfall, leading to flooding, can cause assets to be inundated and landslides. With sea level rising, coastal and inland areas will be vulnerable to inundation, and increased frequency and severity of heat waves will cause track buckling and brownouts and blackouts.

With these risks in mind, the ARA calls for the industry to look at mitigating risks via a long-term program of activities. Whether collaborative or led by individual organisations, the ARA notes that successful planning will require the embedding of adaptation and continuity into planning, development, maintenance and improvement programs of all major rail infrastructure owners.

Some infrastructure owners are already planning of how to respond to this changed environment.

Sydney Trains, whose network was significantly affected during the summer of 2019-2020, is building resilience into the physical nature of the network.

“In recent years, Sydney Trains has undertaken a number of initiatives to protect the network from weather events. These include replacing timber sleepers with concrete to reduce the likelihood of significant rail head movement, tension- regulated overheard wiring, improved lightning and surge protection at assets like control centres and substations and improving advanced weather warning systems,” said a Sydney Trains spokesperson.

These works are part of a $1.5 billion annual program of routine and periodic maintenance across the network.

In Western Australia, Arc Infrastructure is currently looking into how to build in resilience to its network, as Arc Infrastructure CEO Murray Cook, told Rail Express.

“We have an innovative research project underway across our network to prevent the risk of derailment through the use of research, data and technology, supported by the deep knowledge and experience of our people.”

Arc Infrastructure is currently in the process of building a system to predict, detect, and prevent derailments that occur as a result of track section washaways, said an Arc spokesperson.

“In order to predict washaways, we are using various sources of information (including historical track washaway data, historical rainfall data and topographical data) to understand and quantify the potential damage caused by various intensities of extreme weather across our network. This data is then being correlated with realtime rainfall data to generate alarms for probable washaways on specific sections of track.”

So far, the project is being tested on historical events, with results showing that of the washaway events that occurred in February 2017, 47 per cent of the locations were predictable, based on the analysis.

Across Australia, a combination of planning, technological innovation, and consistent maintenance will be required to ensure that the rail netowrks laid down today can be used safely and efficiently in 2100.