Inland Rail independent flood panel members announced

The federal and Queensland governments have announced the members of the independent Inland Rail flood modelling review panel.

The five members are Mark Babister, Tina O’Connell, Ferdinand Diermanse, Steve Clark, and Martin Giles.

The panel will analyse flood modelling done by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), after local landholders on the Condamine River floodplain raised concerns with the modelling.

Babister will chair the panel and is the managing director of specialist water engineering firm WMAwater. O’Connell, Clark, and Giles are also from independent water engineering consultancy businesses. Diermanse is an expert researcher at Dutch applied research institute Deltares.

“We have now finalised the members of the independent panel of international experts and their terms of reference,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“Collectively they have more than 130 years’ of experience and will use their knowledge to analyse existing flood modelling and the proposed engineering solutions against national and state guidelines and industry best practice. This process is independent of the ARTC.”

The review by the independent panel follows a comprehensive design process for the section from the Border to Gowrie. AECOM and Aurecon provided an analysis of corridor options in 2016-2017 which was overseen by an independent project reference group. Arup and SMEC reviewed compliance of the flood modelling and hydrology reports against industry standards.

The Southern Darling Downs Community Consultative Committee had John Macintosh from Water Solutions provide quality assurance of the already undertaken work.

“The rigorous approvals process put in place by the Australian and Queensland governments means that before a sod is turned the project has undergone robust and transparent analysis, including independent community feedback and multiple layers of expert peer review,” said McCormack.

“The panel will test and provide expert advice on all existing flood models to ensure that they are fit-for-purpose while the ARTC continues to progress the design, consultation and approvals processes required to get construction underway. The panel is not tasked with reviewing alignment options.”

The independent panel was a precondition of the agreement between the federal and Queensland government signed in 2019. Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey said that the final results and evaluation will ensure that floodplain and river crossings meet state and national engineering requirements.

“The panel members’ conclusions will also inform the Queensland Coordinator General’s assessment of ARTC’s draft Environmental Impact Statements for this state. The findings of the panel will be publicly released once their work has been completed.”

supply chain

COVID-19 makes supply chain resilience more imperative

Kirk Coningham, CEO of the ALC, outlines why the current crisis should refocus attention on rail freight connectivity and the national supply chain.

As the effects of the COVID-19 crisis continue to unfold, the reality is that the world that emerges on the other side may look very different. In terms of the operation of Australia’s supply chains going forward, the pandemic is likely to force industry and governments to more urgently consider some key questions.

Already, there is some commentary about the extent to which Australia relies on China, both for the import of manufactured goods and as an export destination. Although Australia has concluded trade agreements with other key growth markets over recent years, including Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia, there remain opportunities to expedite similar arrangements with India and the United Kingdom.

This would stimulate further employment growth in Australia’s key export sectors, help to further diversify our supply chains and enhance their resilience.

Some of the disruptions to the global supply chain that we witnessed in the earliest days of the COVID-19 crisis may also give Australian companies reason to consider the global- local balance within their supply chains – and engineer an uptick in certain aspects of local manufacturing that, prior to COVID-19, was thought by some to be in terminal decline.

These factors should spur consideration in the rail freight sector about infrastructure projects that need to be prioritised, not only to promote employment growth, but to support Australia’s export and manufacturing efforts going forward.

These should include enhancing the connectivity of the Inland Rail project currently under construction with key ports – particularly the provision of a dedicated freight rail link connecting Acacia Ridge and the Port of Brisbane.

Similarly, increased investment in on-dock rail and construction of intermodal hinterland terminals serving major ports around Australia will help to address road congestion in many of our cities.

The level and sophistication of technology in our supply chains is likely to be another discussion with a renewed sense of urgency in the wake of the COVID-19 experience, particularly if the pandemic and its attendant restrictions endure for longer than initially forecast.

The automation and digitalisation of manual and paper-based processes will become especially important if the impacts of COVID-19 affect labour supplies in the freight and logistics sector. Progressing the implementation of the Advanced Train Management System (ATMS) on the interstate freight rail network will certainly permit the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to enhance the safety and reliability of the network, while simultaneously boosting its capacity.

COVID-19 had unquestionably had a disruptive impact on the operation of many businesses, and this will undoubtedly alter the operation of supply chains in the months ahead. However, the challenges also present a clear opportunity to boost the resilience of our supply chains through enhanced infrastructure, so that they can better serve our communities. As an industry, we should not be afraid to pursue those opportunities in partnership with governments.

Industry calls for certainty on Inland Rail route

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has criticised last-ditch attempts to re-route the Inland Rail project from the Queensland border to Gowrie.

Another review of the controversial route over the Condamine River floodplain was confirmed in early June, with the so-called forestry route back on the table. The route, via Cecil Plains, was previously considered but ruled out in favour of the current route because of the extra length. ALC CEO Kirk Coningham said that previous reviews had already found the best route.

“With construction on the project already underway, some groups are now attempting to have changes on the Border to Gowrie section of the route. Despite the fact that extensive and independent analysis of corridor options has previously confirmed the route chosen in 2017 is the best option, there is now a further review taking place.”

The review of the forestry route is in addition to a review of the hydrology and flood modelling of the current route, which is being conducted by an independent expert panel.

An extended route would limit the effectiveness of the entire Inland Rail route, said Coningham.

“The whole point of constructing Inland Rail is to provide a safe and efficient freight rail link for Australia’s east coast that permits a transit time of 24 hours or less for freight between Melbourne and Brisbane. Altering the route to the more complex one being advocated by some will make travel times longer and will make construction a more complicated and costly exercise,” he said.

“At a time when Australia should be moving ahead with shovel-ready infrastructure projects that can deliver economic development and employment opportunities for communities, it is disappointing that those benefits are being delayed by another review process.”

A recent study of the Inland Rail route found that the line would create a long-term benefit of $2.9-3.1 billion to gross regional product and 560-590 full time equivalent jobs in the 10th year of operations.

“ALC calls on all parties to respect the findings of this latest review once it is concluded, so that certainty is maintained and this once-in-a-generation freight rail project can start delivering benefits for local workers, businesses, exporters, and consumers,” said Coningham.

Further scholarships awarded as part of Inland Rail

Four undergraduate scholarships worth up to $20,000 each have been awarded to Charles Sturt University students and three scholarships worth the same amount have been awarded to La Trobe University students.

The scholarships are part of the Inland Rail Skills Academy program which aims to enables students who live close to the rail alignment to undertake study and grow into careers that will enrich the regions, said Inland Rail director community & environment Rebecca Pickering.

“These scholarships, and any employment opportunities they unlock, will act as a catalyst for positive change in many regional communities along the Inland Rail project alignment,” said Pickering.

The scholarships cover costs such as accommodation, equipment, relocation, as well as daily necessities. ¬¬¬

Tamworth

Mount Murray freight passing loop improvement construction begins

Work has begun on extending the Mount Murray loop in the NSW southern highlands to accommodate kilometre long trains.

The passing loop, located on the Moss Vale to Unanderra line, is being upgraded as part of the Fixing Country Rail program and received $7.5 million under the scheme in 2018.

Freight operators will benefit from the upgrade as it will enable more regional freight trains to access Port Kembla and improve connectivity between the port and regional exporters.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said the upgrade provided a significant increase.

“The Mount Murray Loop Extension will see an increase in the length of trains from 41 to 62 wagons with three million tonnes of freight expected to pass through this section of track each year.”

Freight rail access to Port Kembla has been identified by Infrastructure Australia as a priority project. 60 per cent of freight to Port Kembla is brought by rail, however capacity is limited by passenger services on the Illawarra line. Additionally, improvements to container handling at Port Kembla and limits on truck movements will further increase the demand for freight rail services.

The NSW government has selected the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to deliver the 300 metre extension and the project is expected to be completed later in 2020, allowing for productivity improvements.

“The longer trains will enable a higher volume of grain and mineral ore per trip, which will increase productivity and improve competitiveness for producers in the region, opening up new markets,” said Toole.

Local member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman welcomed the impact that works would have on her electorate, with 140 jobs expected to be created by the extension.

“While the Mount Murray Loop Extension will increase efficiency along this section of railway line allowing for more cost-effective freight transport, particularly for the grain and mining industries, it is also supporting local jobs and businesses,” said Tuckerman.

EOI for Victorian section of Inland Rail released

Expressions of interest (EOI) are now open for the design and construct contract for the Tottenham to Albury (T2A) section of Inland Rail.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has begun the EOI process as part of the early contractor involvement procurement process.

The contract will cover the design and rebuilding of bridges, civil works and track lowering, in addition to overhead wiring, signal gantry installation, and track slews along the existing North East rail line from Beveridge to Albury.

“We’re asking contractors to express their interest in the works, especially those with experience delivering a program of complex road and rail infrastructure in regional locations, with a value in excess of $200 million,” said ARTC general manager projects Victoria Ed Walker.

The announcement signals that work is getting underway on the Victorian section of the Inland Rail project. The entire project from Melbourne to Brisbane has been broken up into 13 projects, with Tottenham to Albury being the only Victorian segment of the project.

Once complete, the project will allow double for 1,800m long double stacked freight trains to run on the existing North East rail line. The current EOI covers works on stage one of T2A from Beveridge to Albury while a decision on where a new intermodal terminal on the outskirts of Melbourne will be located is finalised.

Construction is expected to commence in 2021 with the line becoming operational in 2025.

Walker said this would have benefits for freight operators and the wider community.

“Inland Rail will cut over ten hours and 200 kilometres off the transit from Victoria to Queensland for freight, and provides a direct connection to Queensland, bypassing the heavily constrained route through Sydney and the circuitous route via the NSW North Coast.

“A recent EY report into Inland Rail Regional Opportunities estimated that Inland Rail will boost the Victorian Gross Regional Product by up to $4.6 billion over a 50-year operating period, on top of the positive impacts during the construction period,” said Walker.

Tender documents can be submitted until 5pm on July 13. Dual early contractor involvement contractors will be shortlisted by August 2020 and a final selection will be made by early 2021.

Work on existing line continues
Over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend upgrades on the existing North East line passed a major milestone, with over 150,000 tonnes of ballast dropped on the line.

The $235m program of works has also seen 105km of tamping, 50km of reinstated drainage, 17 level crossing renewals, 6 bridge deck replacements, and 4 pedestrian crossing renewals completed.

Walker said that a key focus of the works is on their benefit to the local community.

“A key focus of the North East Rail Line upgrade is to ensure regional centres in North East Victoria directly benefit and we are proud that 38 local suppliers including 20 North East Victorian and 18 businesses from Melbourne are already contracted to work on the multi-million-dollar project.”

investigations

Incidents highlight need for effective track and infrastructure monitoring

Recent investigations by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) have highlighted the importance of ensuring effective track monitoring and infrastructure maintenance.

The ATSB recently concluded two separate investigations, one into a derailment of a grain train in north-western NSW that occurred in 2017.

The train, travelling from Nevertire to Manildra derailed causing substantial damage to wagons and track infrastructure, however there were no injuries. The investigation, conducted on behalf of the ATSB by the NSW Office of Transport Safety Investigation (OTSI), found that maintenance of identified defects did not prevent these defects from re-occurring.

The train was also travelling 20km/h above the 60km/h speed limit for that section of track.

OTSI CEO and chief investigator Mick Quinn said that defects around a rail joint as well as speed contributed to the derailment.

“The incident highlights the importance of ensuring that track is free of defects that effect safety and that trains travel at or below the speed specified in rail network standards.”

Following the derailment, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), which manages that section of track, has made changes to its track maintenance systems and processes, and is replacing sleepers and removing rail joints.

In a separate incident, at Eagle Junction in Brisbane, a newly replaced points machine resulted in an incorrect authority displayed by a signal.

The driver and signal electrician at the time, in 2018, noticed the irregularity, and reported it, however a short time later another train approach and crossed over the conflicting route.

An ATSB investigation found that the master circuit diagram had not been updated to reflect modifications. ATSB director transport safety Stuart Godley said that to avoid this, safety critical infrastructure must be supported by precise documentation.

“Accurate and up-to-date engineering documents correlating with in‑field equipment are fundamental to the effectiveness of an engineered interlocked signalling system to maintain train separation.”

Rapid adoption of ATMS key to freight rail competitiveness

Rail freight cannot afford to be left “in the age of steam” chair of the Freight on Rail Group (FORG) Dean Dalla Valle has said in the inaugural industry-led Advanced Train Management System (ATMS) oversight group.

Dalla Valle, who chaired the first meeting, was referring to the adoption of semi-autonomous trucks in the road freight sector, and the need for rail to adopt similar digital technologies such as ATMS.

The group, formed in May, held its first meeting on June 2 and will oversee the rapid rollout of the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) ATMS system.

ATMS will allow for more trains to run on Australia’s freight network by reducing headways and improve safety by allowed for remote control and automatic braking.

Using GPS navigation and mobile internet, ATMS removes the need for trackside infrastructure and operators will communicate with drivers via in-cab equipment. Dalla Valle said that this would shift the public perception of rail freight.

“Innovative in-cab technologies not only help enhance safety and productivity, they also allow us to better monitor the performance of networks. Smart technology to better utilise existing physical assets is often overshadowed by ‘glamorous’ big-money infrastructure projects, albeit the two need to go together.”

Dalla Valle also highlighted that the adoption of ATMS would remove the tendency towards distinct train control systems, a trend that could limit the effectiveness of the rail freight sector as the different state-based gauge networks did in the 20th century.

“Lack of harmonisation of train control systems across the country – the last count is at least 11 different systems are currently in use – is starting to act as a handbrake on safety and efficiency improvements in our sector.”

Now formed, the oversight group will deliver a business case to fast-track the implementation of ATMS. The business case will involve detailing the deployment of ATMS and its integration with existing train control systems including European Train Control System – Level 2 on metropolitan networks. A business case is hoped to be delivered to the Australian government before the end of July.

The system is currently in trials on the Port Augusta – Whyalla rail line and will soon be the primary safe working system on this section of track. The next section will be between Tarcoola and Kalgoorlie, beginning in 2021.

Dalla Valle highlighted how recent events have reinforced the value of a safe, efficient rail freight network, in particular the demands on the freight network during the COVID-19 pandemic. As an Australia-developed system, ATMS will ensure that the efficiencies and advantages of rail freight are continued.

“To help recover from the deep economic shocks of the coronavirus pandemic, Australia must get better at both leveraging and synchronising new and improved technologies in our transport supply chains,” said Dalla Valle.

Members of the ATMS implementation oversight group include:

  • Dean Dalla Valle – in his capacity as FORG Chair
  • Mark Campbell – ARTC CEO
  • Simon Ormsby – group executive strategy and corporate development, ARTC
  • Shane Curtin – head of project Management, Aurizon
  • Louise Collins – chief of operational planning, Pacific National
  • Ian Hall – chief operating officer, OneRail Australia
  • Chris Jones – executive general manager, Southern Shorthaul Railroad (SSR)
  • Dani Gentle – national safety manager, Qube
  • Andrew Williams – chief operating officer rail, SCT Logistics
  • Murray Cook – Arc Infrastructure CEO
  • Paul Lowney – general manager, network strategy and customer operations, Arc Infrastructure
  • Paul Hamersley – corporate affairs and marketing, WatCo Australia
  • Kerryn Vine-Camp – first assistant secretary, Major Transport and Infrastructure Division – Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development & Communications
  • Dale Merrick – chief operating officer, NSW TrainLink
  • Alex Panayi – executive general manager asset management, V/Line

Achieving sustainability

Australia’s largest rail infrastructure project, Inland Rail and Australia’s largest rail freight operator, Aurizon, share how they’re meeting sustainability targets.

Successful management of sustainability- related targets requires a collaborative effort. Once the 1,700km rail network is complete, Inland Rail will be the backbone of Australia’s national freight rail network. The scale and the significance of the project creates an opportunity to set new benchmarks and standards in environmental and socio- economic performance.

Similarly, as the operator of a rail network distributed across regional Australia, Aurizon’s has the potential to contribute to sustainability in the communities in which it operates. The company’s sustainability strategy sets out that it aims to achieve resilience and resourcefulness through the transportation of bulk goods and commodities. While environmental strategies are an essential focus for both Aurizon and Inland Rail’s network, social sustainability is key facet of their approach to sustainability.

Most directly, social sustainability is promoted by both network managers in the design, maintenance and construction of rail track and associated infrastructure. As Inland Rail is transitioning from the design phase to construction, the company is primarily focused on benefiting regional towns along the alignment over the next stages of the project. Meanwhile, Aurizon is ensuring it is sustaining employment and enhancing businesses in the non-metropolitan areas of its rail network.

Creating opportunities for the development of a skilled local workforce through construction and operation is helping to deliver key national priorities for infrastructure and economic policy. In Inland Rail and Aurizon’s respective rail transport system, linking communities and strengthening the rail and national supply chain industries go hand in hand.

INLAND RAIL’S SUSTAINABLE PRIORITIES
Richard Wankmuller, Inland Rail CEO, stated in last year’s annual sustainability report that Inland Rail’s focus on social, environmental, and economic sustainability ensures the organisation is continuously striving to deliver the best possible outcomes for communities and the natural environment. Wankmuller acknowledged in the 2018-19 report that the once-in-a-generation rail project is only in its early phase, enabling Inland Rail to provide a unique opportunity to influence the effectiveness, benefits, and outcomes from its model for future rail infrastructure.

With the first stage of construction of the 103km Parkes to Narromine project expected to be completed in mid-2020, the billions of dollars invested to create the Brisbane to Melbourne rail freight network is also an investment for local communities and affected landowners to mitigate long-term economic and environmental impacts and create ongoing community benefits. With the separate sections of Inland Rail’s alignment at under varying stages of development, going forward, the sustainability program will commence annual public reporting of environmental and socio- economic benefits realised during the design and construction of the program.

According to Rebecca Pickering, Inland Rail director of engagement, environment, and property, Inland Rail is aiming to establish a new sustainability benchmark for environmental and socio-economic performance for Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) operations and the rail industry more widely. “Our engineers don’t need prompting about Inland Rail’s sustainability opportunities. Largely in this design phase, the team is driving smarter and innovative strategies that have never been seen in the industry before,” she said.

Pickering credits the wider strategic business framework of Inland Rail for empowering regional and local communities to take advantage of the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of procurement that will be generated during construction of the Inland Rail alignment. “To achieve our vision, we need to be innovative, agile and global in our thinking. Sustainability provides a framework to drive and support this culture,” she said.

Pickering said the environmental, social, and cultural outcomes are of equal importance to Inland Rail’s economic objectives. “We’ve already achieved success in managing impacts and creating connectivity in regional communities. A major chunk of recent success is the ability to provide sustainable jobs, which has been crucial during the current state of the economy,” she said. At the peak of construction, Inland Rail will create more than 16,000 direct and indirect jobs. An additional 700 ongoing jobs will be created once Inland Rail is operational. Pickering said $89 million has been spent with local businesses on-top of wages and every stage of construction is another opportunity to improve engagement and achieve ongoing sustainability.

“Not everything is set in stone, it’s a changing landscape so it’s super exciting and inspiring to connect so many regional communities. Recycling of materials, further consultation, and exceeding sustainability requirements are a focus as our strategies evolve,” Pickering said.

AURIZON’S SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Aurizon’s reporting of its environmental, social, and financial sustainability has given an insight into how the ASX-listed company is managing the impact of a widely dispersed railway network throughout central Queensland. According to its 2019 sustainably report, Aurizon is committed to continuing its strong track record in supporting a highly efficient and globally competitive supply chain for Australian commodity exports, especially for coal. Aurizon takes a direct approach to reporting environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures to stakeholders with the publication of its annual Sustainability Report. In August 2019, Aurizon maintained a ‘Leading’ rating for the fifth consecutive year from the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) for corporate sustainability reporting in Australia. Having received this rating for over four consecutive years, Aurizon has again been considered a ‘leader’ by ACSI, along with 45 other ASX200 companies.

Andrew Harding, Aurizon CEO and managing director said it’s important that the company creates a business that is not only strong commercially and performs well for customers, but also plays a positive role in the regional communities. “It is a genuine demonstration that while we develop our business and operations to ensure the company’s ongoing success, it is the strength, resilience and resourcefulness of our people that are key to our sustainability,” Harding stated in the opening to Aurizon’s most recent sustainability report.

An Aurizon spokesperson said the company’s current priority and focus is sustainably managing the business through the COVID-19  pandemic.“Understanding our material impacts is necessary to develop our strategy and operate sustainably, and that addressing these impacts is key in creating sustainable value for our stakeholders,” the spokesperson said.

Sustainability is central to Aurizon’s response to the current challenging times. “Our core value is safety, and Aurizon has implemented a range of proactive and practical measures to protect the health and safety of employees as well as provide business continuity to our customers. We cannot achieve operational performance objectives or maintain our social licence to operate unless we ensure the safety of our employees, our contractors, and our communities,” the spokesperson said.

Aurizon reset its strategic framework in 2018. Since the re-modelling to ensure the sustainable success of the business, the new Strategy in Action framework has been driving focus in Aurizon’s short-term activity within a framework of what is required for long-term growth and success. “We strive to ensure that our sustainability framework reflects significant economic, environmental, and social priorities that may influence strategic decision-making or have significant impacts on our business and our key stakeholders. As such, we continuously assess the material issues that affect our business, our stakeholders, and our operating environment,” the spokesperson said.

In taking a broad approach to sustainability, both Aurizon and Inland rail demonstrate the importance of resilient freight rail transport networks to the ongoing vitality of regional communities.

Working groups to address skills, standards to improve safety, productivity

Three working groups have been formed to improve the productivity and safety of the rail industry, and address key issue facing the sector.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack announced the working groups, which were agreed upon by Commonwealth, state, and territory government as part of the National Rail Action Plan.

“We are improving Australia’s rail system by continuing to align and harmonise operating rules, infrastructure and operational standards and systems across the national network.,” said McCormack.

The three groups cover skills and labour, interoperability, and harmonising national standards.

“The Australian government is committed to delivering critical rail infrastructure and improving the safety and productivity of rail operations and we are overseeing a major wave of investment in rail,” said McCormack.

The National Rail Action Plan was agreed upon by state and federal transport ministers as part of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Transport and Infrastructure Council, and is implemented by the National Transport Commission.

The leadership of each of the working groups includes government and industry representatives. CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Caroline Wilkie will co-chair the skills and labour working group with Tony Braxton-Smith, CEO of the South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. Simon Ormsby, group executive strategy at the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), will co-chair a group on interoperability with the NTC Chair, Carolyn Walsh. Deb Spring, CEO of the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB), will co-chair a working group on harmonising national standards with Ben Phyland from the Victorian Department of Transport.

“The National Rail Action Plan will complement the 10-year $10 billion National Rail Program, which is designed to help make our cities more liveable and efficient as they grow. The plan also aims to reduce the burden on our roads, provide more reliable transport networks and support our efforts to decentralise our economy and grow regional Australia,” said McCormack.

Wilkie said that the formation of these groups will tackle ongoing challenges in the rail sector, and encourage broader economic growth.

“We have long known that a national focus is crucial to ensuring the rail industry can continue to deliver the efficiency and productivity needed to drive Australia’s economic growth. These working groups will promote collaboration and support a truly national vision for rail.”

The National Rail Action Plan notes that the large pipeline of rail investment has created challenges in terms of critical skills in construction, operations, and manufacturing.

“There is no question we will need more skilled people in rail in the coming years. The working group will be looking at how we can collectively promote the industry as a great place to work. There is a real diversity of careers available in the industry and we need to make sure there are clear pathways to encourage the best and brightest to join us,” said Wilkie.

The Plan also sets out that the multiplicity of standards for infrastructure, rollingstock and components, safe work, and communications and control systems have presented a regulatory barrier to the rail industry. Addressing this will be one of the tasks of the working groups.

“The ARA also looks forward to engaging with the working groups on interoperability and harmonising national standards. Greater national consistency would allow us to get more value out of investment in rail and further streamline passenger and freight operations,” said Wilkie. “The calibre of industry representatives taking part in these groups really highlights how important the focus on these issues is.”

Pacific National

Rail showcasing what’s possible in regional Australia

Smart thinking between Pacific National and Wagner Corporation highlights the many possibilities of rail freight.

News broke in early March that two powerhouses of regional transport and logistics were coming together for potentially Australia’s only rail-air intermodal terminal.

Pacific National and Wagner Corporation are now deep into discussions for a major logistics hub at Wellcamp Business Park, just outside of Toowoomba.

The two companies are looking to build a 250ha logistics hub at the site next to the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport, said Pacific National CEO, Dean Dalla Valle.

“The proposed 250-hectare Wellcamp Logistics Hub also has frontage to the future Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project, allowing extensive future intermodal operations for freight to be transferred between trains, planes and trucks,” he said.

The future Wellcamp Logistics Hub would include 2.7 kilometres of frontage to the rail corridor, allowing for 1,800m long freight trains to operate.

Daily cargo jet flights operate from a fully licensed and bonded international air cargo terminal next door, and the site has the potential to process up to 350,000 shipping containers by 2030, and up to half a million by 2040. The airport in question, the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport, is owned by the Wagner Corporation, and is an example of how that company has pedigree when it comes to innovative investing in regional logistics.

The family-owned property and infrastructure developer was behind the first, privately funded major airport, built on an old quarry site owned by the Wagner family. Today, the airport connects Toowoomba and the surrounding Darling Downs region not only to domestic jet services, but also direct freight connections to Hong Kong with weekly flights operated by Cathay Pacific Cargo.

Building and operating an intermodal terminal next door, at the connected Wellcamp Business Park, allows for rail freight services along in the Inland Rail corridor to connect to global freight and logistics supply chains.

While such a connection between rail and freight would be new for Australia, it has been successfully adopted elsewhere. In Germany, the Leipzig-Halle airport forms logistics company DHL’s European hub, with plans for a network of high-speed rail spanning from the airport. Despite being the 11th largest airport in Germany for passengers, the regional airport is the second largest in the country in terms of freight, and the 5th busiest in Europe.

Similarly, at the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport in France, two air-rail cargo interchanges allow for air cargo to be seamlessly transported from air to a high- speed rail network connecting France, Belgium, and the UK.

Although both these projects have had a focus on moving mail and parcels, rather than bulk cargos, there is potential for rail to air freight playing a role in the movement of food and produce. Here, the Darling Downs can play its part as the food bowl of South- East Queensland, and a producer of foodstuffs intended for export to growing markets in Hong Kong and Asia. As Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) CEO John Fullerton outlined, locating intermodal freight and expert facilities close to where the food is being produced, allows for value adding in terms of advanced processing and packaging occurring locally, ensuring these benefits remain in the community.

“Inland Rail is a once in a lifetime project which will better link regional businesses to our fast-growing capital cities, farmers and producers to national and global markets, generate new opportunities for industries and regions and reduce large truck congestion on our roads.”

Inland rail leads to spark
The initial idea for the project came from another transformative Pacific National intermodal terminal, 800 kilometres south. The idea of being the private developer behind an intermodal terminal came to John Wagner, non-executive chairman of the Wagner Corporation, when he saw what other projects were underway in Parkes.

“When Wagner Corporation attended the October 2019 opening of Pacific National’s logistics terminal in Parkes – also located on the Inland Rail alignment – it gave us an exciting picture of what could be achieved with future rail freight services at Wellcamp,” he said.

The potential for rail to improve communities was also highlighted by Fullerton.

“The growth opportunities are endless, with Inland Rail unlocking job security potential not seen in decades through strategic industry investment.”

Partly due to the region’s topography, Toowoomba and the Darling Downs region had lacked interstate rail freight connections and was thus unable to access the benefits of rail transportation. Not only will the future hub improve supply chains, but lead to community benefits, highlighted Dalla Valle.

“Integrated with Inland Rail, a future Wellcamp Logistics Hub would help reduce road accidents and fatalities, traffic congestion, vehicle emissions, and road ‘wear and tear’,” he said.

“Picture this – at a minimum, a 1,800-metre- long freight train hauling shipping containers is equivalent to removing 140 B-double return truck trips from our roads.”

Freight rail delivering community benefits
The Wellcamp Logistics Hub announcement is tangible evidence of the $13.3 billion in benefits that a new report estimates that Inland Rail will bring to regional communities along the alignment.

Prepared by consultancy EY on behalf of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, the report identified the key role that intermodal hubs would play in Inland Rail’s delivery of billions of dollars of economic benefit back to regional communities over the next 50 years.

The report found two key growth pathways as a result of Inland Rail, Supply Chain Efficiencies and Value Chain Growth.

Prepared in 2019, the report accurately predicted the kinds of outcomes that the Wellcamp Business Park could deliver.

“Inland Rail may lead to a reorganisation of supply chains and fundamentally change how freight is moved in Australia,” write the authors of the report.

The findings, spread across the four regions of South-East Queensland, northern NSW, southern NSW and Victoria, point to how greater connectivity can benefit regional communities, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“Inland Rail gives these communities new ways to grow and rebuild with better connections to interstate and international markets, new jobs and a stronger case for attracting public and private investment.”

Fullerton reiterated the importance of rail in exporting Australia’s commodities.

“Without freight trains, bulk exports like grain, meat, fresh and dry produce, cotton and coal cannot be efficiently hauled to ports, the gateways to global markets.”

While the Inland Rail project itself may be focused on ensuring that the rail corridor is built, to access the benefits of such a major infrastructure project, the links between Inland Rail and the communities it serves will be essential. Demonstrating this, the EY report found that in each of the regions studied, intermodal terminals opening from 0-10 years after the completion of the Inland Rail project will be part of the first wave of investment.

As nodes within the network, Fullerton highlighted the role that intermodal hubs will play.

“Intermodal freight hubs drive increased investment, growth and more jobs across regional Australia the added safety and environmental benefits of shifting more freight volumes from trucks to trains.”

These are then expected to lead to the development of industry hubs, which take advantage of the supply chain efficiencies offered by Inland Rail and congregate complementary businesses. In the case of the Darling Downs and South East Queensland, this could see grain and cotton being transported to the Wellcamp Logistics Hub, manufactured at the Wellcamp Business Park and then shipped by Pacific National on rail to other locations in Australia or via air to the globe.

As a comparative example, EY looked to the Santa Teresa Intermodal Facility in New Mexico, as an example of how an intermodal terminal can lead to the aggregation of businesses, not only in the transport and logistics sectors, but manufacturing and professional services.