Illawarra, Central Coast commuters concerned for safety as public transport usage increases

Local MPs in the Illawarra and Central Coast are concerned that passengers travelling on trains in these regions may not be able to safely distance themselves from other passengers.

Illawarra MP Ryan Park said that the ‘no dot, no spot’ campaign did not account for the realities of regional commuters.

“It takes commuters in the Illawarra and the South Coast an over an hour to get into Sydney, on trains that are regularly overcapacity already,” he said.

“These changes mean that some people won’t be able to get on their regular trains if there isn’t enough space, leaving them waiting to see if they can fit on the next train.”

Wyong MP David Harris said that trains were already at capacity, leaving Central Coast commuters unable to catch a train into Sydney.

“For Coast rail commuters the reality is trains from Newcastle will already be full before they reach Central Coast stations,” he said.

“Trains starting from Wyong will be full before they reach Woy Woy. Most commuters won’t even know if seats are available until they get onto the train and then will they be required to leave the train?”

While patronage had dropped by 73 per cent, in the last week a nine per cent increase has been recorded on the previous week.

A Transport for NSW spokesperson said that the department is looking at where it can add services to increase capacity, having run to a full schedule while COVID-19 restrictions have been in place.

“Changes will be considered to increase public transport services where capacity and resources are available. TfNSW is looking to add services during off-peak times, where possible.”

Shellharbour MP Anna Watson said in the absence of real-time data on the capacity Illawarra and South Coast trains, extra station staff should assist commuters.

“Any public transport strategy for our region needs to include surging the number of public transport workers at stations helping people get to work on time, and helping make sure there is capacity for them to safely board trains and buses,” she said.

The TfNSW spokesperson said that information is available.

“Customers should plan ahead and use real time information provided through apps, social media and Transport Info to see which public transport services have space available to maintain physical distancing.

“We do need everyone to take personal responsibility when using our services.”

While the NSW government has been encouraging employers to stagger work times, Wollongong MP Paul Scully said that decentralisation could reduce crowding.

“It could be greatly improved by working with employers to stagger start and finish times; setting up satellite offices in large centres like Wollongong and the provision of additional services both in Wollongong and between Wollongong and Sydney,” he said.

In a changed world, freight sector shows its agility

The Australian Logistics Council’s CEO, Kirk Coningham, explains how the industry has been on the front foot during a time of crisis.

Like every other industry, Australia’s freight and logistics sector has spent recent weeks grappling with the realities of doing business in a changed world.

While for many this has meant transitioning to working from home arrangements, contemplating shifts from bricks and mortar retail arrangements to online sales in retail, and a changed focus for hospitality businesses towards takeaway and delivery sales, the challenge for this sector is somewhat different.

The simple reality is this; those on the front line of Australia’s freight logistics industry can’t work from home. Our ports, stevedores, road, rail, and air freight operators are working tirelessly to keep supply chains flowing and make sure Australian communities can access the goods they need day-to-day.

As challenging as the COVID-19 crisis is, it would be far worse without the dedicated support and service offered by those working in Australia’s logistics industry.

All levels of government have made it clear that freight transport and logistics remain an essential service. In turn, this means that those who are working around the clock to support households and communities at this challenging time deserve the strongest levels of support and flexibility from governments and from the wider community.

In the difficult circumstances that all of us are currently enduring, the health and security of our workforce must remain paramount.

As instances of panic buying occurred in the early days of the COVID-19 event, it was distressing to hear instances of transport workers and in-store retail personnel being accosted by angry consumers.

The current situation is having an impact on the day-to-day lives of all Australians – and perhaps it is inevitable that this is causing frustration and irritation for some. However, taking those frustrations out on delivery drivers or retail workers is completely unacceptable.

Far more positive has been the determined and collegiate way in which all parts of the supply chain have worked effectively to address challenges as they have arisen, to ensure that freight can continue getting to the places it needs to go, efficiently and safely.

This has included working to remove barriers that prevented overnight deliveries to supermarkets and retail outlets such as noise curfews that stopped heavy vehicle access and the use of loading docks. Industry worked quickly with state and territory governments around Australia to either remove these curfews or have their enforcement suspended for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. This helped stock levels to recover and reduced the occurrence of panic buying.

The decision of several state and territory governments to effectively close their borders posed significant potential threats to the efficiency of freight movement on both road and rail.

Again, it was impressive to see the way that representatives of both modes set aside commercial considerations and worked collaboratively with industry groups to ensure restrictions on cross-border movement caused as little delay to freight movement as possible.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the COVID-19 situation is the uncertainty over its duration. Naturally, this causes anxiety in the community and makes business planning especially difficult.

However, what is certain is that in addition to ensuring the community can continue to access essential goods, the freight and logistics sector also has a vital role to play in providing economic opportunity.

Already, there is evidence of some pick-up in consumer demand and economic activity in China, which will remain a critical export market for Australia.

As we look to sustain Australian businesses and create employment opportunities, our freight sector will be essential in supporting our exporters’ efforts to get their goods into recovering markets. Governments and local communities must understand the importance of their task as part of Australia’s economic recovery, and provide every support possible to help our workforce achieve it.

$328m for transport upgrades around Victoria

300km of regional rail track and 15 train stations will be upgraded as part of a $2.7 billion spending plan to help Victoria recover after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The spending will be spread across the economy, including education, social housing, and tourism upgrades, however $328 million is targeted at the transport sector.

Part of the funding will go towards upgrades of trains and trams and is in addition to the $107bn Big Build program.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that the funding will go to projects that will begin immediately.

“We’re getting to work on hundreds of new projects across the state, meaning shovels in the ground – and boots in the mud – within a matter of weeks and months,” he said.

“From upgrading our roads and rail, to critical maintenance for social housing and new projects for our tourist destinations, this package will create jobs for our local tradies and so many others – and support local businesses all over Victoria.”

$90m will be invested in upgrading and replacing sleepers, structures, and signalling across the regional rail network. This funding will cover the renewal of 300km of sleepers and ballast across the regional network.

$62.6m will go towards the maintenance and restoration of trams and regional trains. Over half of this funding will go towards improving the reliability of V/Line trains.

$23m will be spent on improving stations and stops, including better seating, passenger information, toilets, and accessibility upgrades.

$5.6m will be spent on removing rubbish and graffiti as well as managing vegetation along transport corridors.

Chief executive of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia Adrian Dwyer said that the funding was well structured.

“The phase one package provides the right blend of projects and programs that will support job creation and stimulate economic activity,” he said.

“The focus on new and existing projects across schools, social housing, and road and rail maintenance means that the benefits of this stimulus will be broad-based.”

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said that the funding will help the wider economy.

“We’ve always said Victoria is the engine room of the nation – with this package, we’re cranking the engine and kickstarting our economy.”

The entire funding package is expected to create 3,700 direct jobs with many thousands more in the supply chain. For companies which need to hire extra employees, the Victorian government has mandated that new hires are to be found through the Working for Victoria scheme.

In a press conference on May 18, Andrews said that this announcement would be followed by other announcements which will target particular sectors. Andrews would not confirm whether the Melbourne Airport Rail Link would be announced, however he suggested that a decision would be made soon.

team

Commuters warned to stay off public transport during peak hour

Commuters are being warned to avoid taking public transport in peak hours to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

In a press conference on Friday, May 15, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that people should not get on buses and trains in the state unless necessary.

“We don’t want any more people at this stage catching public transport in the peak. If you’re not already on the bus or train in the morning do not catch public transport,” she said.

Throughout the lockdown period NSW has run trains to a normal schedule to maintain capacity so that passengers can social distance, however with more workplaces opening up and people returning to work, there are concerns about the number of people on the services. Berejiklian said limiting passenger numbers would help to limit the spread.

“And I stress that strongly because we know overseas public transport was the main reason why the disease spread. At this stage we are maintaining good social distancing but we’re going to be very strict about that.”

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that current patronage levels were reaching the capacity limits set to ensure physical distancing on public transport.

“Everyone will need to maintain physical distancing during this pandemic,” said Constance.

“That means if you are not already using public transport during the peak times, please do not use public transport during peak periods.”

Transport for NSW and Sydney Trains have put in extra measures to reduce crowding on services, including communication campaigns and managing numbers at stations using Opal gates.

“We will be monitoring patronage and have staff at key locations across the metropolitan area to assist customers,” said Constance.

A ‘no dot, no spot’ campaign will be used on trans to indicate where the safest places to sit and stand are. If a service is full, passengers will be asked to wait. Data will also be used to communicate what services have space via apps, social media and Transport Info.

Commuters in Adelaide were also asked to avoid using public transport. Travellers on the Gawler Line have been experiencing crowding partly due to 50 of the city’s 70 diesel trains being taken out of service due to a mechanical fault. South Australia chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier told local radio that crowded public transport should be avoided.

“I think it would be much safer to avoid getting on any public transport where you can’t do the social distancing,” she said.

Some jurisdictions around Australia have been encouraging commuters to use more active modes of transport such as walking or cycling to counter overcrowding on public transport and roads once work patterns begin to return to pre-COVID-19 norms.

ARTC

ARTC extends payment terms and defers price increase for freight operators

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has provided financial relief for rail freight operators to allow them to continue supply Australians with essential goods during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The ARTC has extended payment terms for existing access charges and deferred the consumer price index (CPI) increase that was scheduled for July.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack welcomed the ARTC’s decision.

“Rail freight companies have worked tirelessly to service the initial growth in consumer demand during the pandemic to keep Australia open for business by supplying the essential goods that have supported our nation through this global health crisis,” he said.

While demand initially peaked at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a fall in consumer demand followed along with drops in production, which have put strain on some operators. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said that the ARTC’s measures would enable freight operators to manage the uncertain environment.

“The government is very pleased to see ARTC working with its customers, government and industry to build resilience in our freight and supply chain network during what is a difficult period.”

Pacific National CEO Dean Dalla Valle said that the ARTC’s decision would support the rail freight sector.

“Pacific National very much welcomes the initiative by the Australian Government and ARTC board to extend payment terms for rail freight operators for ARTC access charges from 30 to 90 days, not to mention the freeze in CPI increase from 1 July to 1 October. It’s a great step in the right direction for interstate rail freight.”

Dalla Valle also highlighted that the move would increase the competitiveness of rail, as road transport had benefited from fixed user charges for the past four years.

“We do need to point out that in the last 12 years, rail access charges on the ARTC interstate network have increased annually by CPI. In comparison, for the last four years the Transport and Infrastructure Council of Australia have frozen heavy vehicle road user charges (2015-16 to 2019-20). This pricing setting has now been extended for another financial year (2020-21),” said Dalla Valle.

“The lack of competitive neutrality in pricing between rail and road freight has created an uneven playing field. It has been a large contributing factor in perverse outcomes like 98 percent of containerised and palletised freight now being transported by truck between Sydney and Melbourne (equivalent to more than 700,000 B-double truck return trips on the Hume Highway each year).”

Dalla Valle said that the current decision reconfirmed the need to review freight transport pricing arrangements.

“Pacific National understands and appreciates ARTC is a ‘wholly-owned Commonwealth company’ and, as such, must earn a rate of return for the Australian taxpayer. However, when the focus on delivering government dividends becomes all-consuming to the point of making interstate and regional rail freight uncompetitive with road (and increasingly coastal shipping) and ignoring the many beneficial externalities of rail freight, then current pricing models must be seriously looked at.

“This is happening at a time when Australians want less traffic congestion, reduced road accidents and fatalities (of which we have seen a spate of terrible incidents recently), lower vehicle emissions, and less ‘wear and tear’ on roads.”

CEO of the Australian Logistics Council, Kirk Coningham, welcomed the ARTC’s decision.

“This is a positive move that provides practical support for freight rail operators at a challenging time as they keep our supply chains moving. ALC applauds this proactive approach from ARTC,” he said.

“This practical relief is a useful reminder of the incredible job freight and logistics operators are doing as they continue to deliver for Australian communities, despite the significant economic hurdles many are now facing.”

Both McCormack and Cormann highlighted how vital the freight network is to Australia.

“Our efficient freight network is critical to ensuring our supermarket shelves are stocked and our valuable export commodities can reach overseas markets – both of which have been vital during this pandemic,” said McCormack.

“Each year, Australia’s freight and supply chain networks deliver billions of tonnes of goods across the country,” said Cormann.

“ARTC plays a significant role in making this possible through its management of national rail infrastructure. We welcome its response to the COVID-19 crisis, which has ensured freight rail operators are able to continue providing an important service Australians and the Australian economy rely on.”

infrastructure

Why the industry must spend resources wisely to drive Australia out of the current economic crisis

Rudolf Rose, associate director at DCWC, explains how the current COVID-19 crisis should influence Australia’s thinking on infrastructure.

THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING INFRASTRUCTURE JOBS
It’s an age-old economic principle. When people earn, they spend; when they do this, funds are further distributed, enabling even more spending. Infrastructure is one of the biggest employers in Australia, so the more we invest in keeping people in these jobs, the better the economy performs as a whole. With COVID-19’s economic fallout, it has never been more critical to ramp up impetus across our beloved industry.

For the most part, infrastructure jobs have been more secure than in other industries, with sectors such as construction deemed an ‘essential service’. But what other security is out there? For workers restricted by current pandemic measures, there is a big appetite to get people back into the workplace. According to surveys conducted throughout the construction industry, civil contractors are prepared to make significant investments in employment if government infrastructure projects are fast tracked. So capacity is there – especially for tier 2 and 3 companies with significant ability to create these employment opportunities. But what else do we need to consider?

While we’ve all been following recent government stimulus packages aimed at boosting infrastructure growth, the trick now is where to spend to achieve maximum benefit.

LinkedIn- Construction Variations

SPEND WISELY AND WITH PRUDENCE
Instead of ‘clustering’ projects in a small area, it may be more beneficial to spread the projects into rural and regional areas. The communities in these areas would benefit greatly from infrastructure investment by creating employment, as well as opportunities for training. Ultimately this translates to community spending filtering down to local businesses. This sentiment is echoing throughout our industry.

Treasury Secretary, Steven Kennedy, told a Senate hearing in October 2019, that spending big on large infrastructure projects is not the way to stimulate the economy. This point of view may have some merit, insofar as large-scale projects take significant time to plan to get the business cases and budget right. Spending more on smaller projects to match demand would make more sense – particularly when planning through to shovelling can be done within a much shorter timeline. This would allow for the main focus on larger projects to remain on planning, scoping and budgeting accurately.

Having said that, larger projects must not be abandoned in favour of the smaller ones. The smaller ones would merely provide shorter term relief in economic downturn, whereas the larger projects would stimulate the economy in the longer run. Mr Kennedy appears to reject the idea of extra spending except “in an emergency”.  That was before COVID-19 became what it is now – an emergency.

WHY IS THE COVID-19 CRISIS DIFFERENT AND HOW MIGHT IT INFLUENCE HOW INFRASTRUCTURE IS DELIVERED GOING FORWARD?
What COVID-19 has taught us so far, is that we are very adaptable. With a significant number of people getting used to working from home (and many coping well with this scenario), people may start to consider whether travelling to an office is really needed. They may think; why bother if they can achieve the same amount of work (and more) from the comfort of their own environment? This may be considered a radical approach and certainly is not without its own pitfalls, but still could be a consideration. This new dynamic also raises a number of questions around the allocation of industry resources in general.

Are train lines into the city from all around the metropolitan areas really going to be used for current or planned increased capacity? Should the spending on these planned projects be channelled to developments where digital connectivity can be vastly improved (let us face it, the NBN still struggles somewhat)? Should we invest more in renewable energy sources instead? Should there be a larger focus on innovation perhaps, and what does this look like?  Maybe if local rail network spending gets pushed back to a lower priority, intercity or fast rail could get more funding to compete with domestic air travel. Or now there could be less spent on transport and more on other forms of infrastructure. These are all alternative options if funds for planned transport projects get redistributed.

But what about the flow on? Although these proposed infrastructure opportunities may lack similarly skilled resources as for civil road & rail construction projects, they could open up training and upskilling for people to work in these industries.  This will promote increased capacity of tertiary educational institutions – again more infrastructure spending, creating more jobs.

WHO PAYS FOR ALL THIS?
While we can promote and encourage big spending on infrastructure to stimulate the economy in times of crisis, people will rightly ask where the funding for these planned projects will come from?

Both federal and state governments have already spent significant amounts of money on cash stimulus packages including JobKeeper allowances. This may well be unplanned and we, in the general public, may not really know whether funds earmarked for other areas of the economy, including infrastructure spending, have been redirected to pay for the various cash stimulus packages introduced. They may have come from some form of contingency fund in the government coffers. We certainly do not know.  However, if funds from other projects were redirected, including planned infrastructure investments, and those projects required ‘new’ funding, all levels of government may have to rethink where the capital would come from to pay for these projects. Let us face it, short term cash stimulus only goes so far – what happens if that runs out or gets wound back early?

One of the major contributors to reinvestment in infrastructure could be the sale of assets, as NSW did when they sold the state’s electricity assets. This provided a major boost to infrastructure spending and could be done again. Alternatives to this could be increased borrowing, higher taxes (GST), print more money, etc. All these have their own pros and pitfalls and identifying the healthy balance would be the key to getting this right. No option will be perfect, but some may be more perfect than others.

In any case, in our current environment loaded with uncertainty, some surety remains. As a historically vital player, infrastructure continues to play a pivotal role in boosting our country’s economy during economic downturn. The key is not only to spend wisely, fairly and equally, but to embrace the potential redistribution of funds across fresh opportunities arising out of this novel landscape.

Contact Rudolf Rose at: https://www.dcwc.com.au/contact-us

New Zealand limits capacity as public transport returns to schedule

Public transport is returning to normal in New Zealand, however capacity will be limited on services.

To maintain physical distancing when the country enters level 2 restrictions, rail operators are reducing and enforcing capacity limits.

Standing will not be allowed on Auckland and Wellington trains, with Auckland running at about 43 per cent of normal passenger capacity while operating normal schedules, while in Wellington trains will be carrying 30 per cent of their regular load.

Passengers are being advised that they may not be able to catch their regular service.

“Physical distancing and no standing means our fleets will still be operating below their maximum seated load and we thank passengers for their patience and understanding if they are unable to catch their first choice bus, train or ferry,” said Scott Gallacher, general manager of Metlink, Wellington’s public transport operator.

In Auckland, the AT Mobile app will inform passengers how many people are on a train, to know if there is space to board. People who must travel are also being encouraged to take public transport outside of peak hours, when possible, and employers are being asked to stagger their return to work plans.

Extra cleaning and hygiene practices are continuing across public transport as well as public communication practices to inform travellers of the new requirements.

“Please remember to keep up with physical distancing and the heightened hygiene focus which we have learned over recent months,” said Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

“And we need, all of us, to avoid any behaviour which might increase the risk of transmitting COVID-19. The last thing we want is to have to return to Level 3 or Level 4 lockdown.”

Alstom results

Alstom releases results for the 2019-2020 financial year

Alstom has released its results for the financial year 2019-2020, ending March 31, 2020.

The Paris-based, Euronext listed rollingstock and signalling manufacturer booked orders of €9.9 billion ($16.6bn) over the year, and had sales results totalling €8.2bn ($13.76bn).

The figures were driven by orders in Europe, including very high speed trains in France, metros, and regional trains, as well as Alstom’s winning of the Metronet railcar build and maintenance contract in Perth and the contract to supply further rollingstock and signalling to the Sydney Metro Southwest extension.

“Although considered a stabilisation year, Alstom enjoyed strong commercial momentum in a very dynamic railway market,” said Henri Poupart-Lafarge, Alstom chairman and chief executive officer.

“We won major orders especially in Europe and in Asia-Pacific. In addition, we secured pioneering orders for our green mobility solutions, illustrating the potential of such technologies and the dynamism of the shift to carbon free transportation modes.”

Research and development spending accounted for 3.7 per cent of sales in 2019/20, with focus particularly on emissions-free mobility, including electric motors, hydrogen fuel-cells, and battery traction systems. Alstom was awarded contracts for its hydrogen train and battery electric train in regions in Germany.

The effect of COVID-19 is not fully realised in these accounts, as they finish at the end of March, 2020, however Alstom noted that it would not issue dividends to shareholders in July. The company calculated that the impact on sales of COVID-19 is roughly €100 million ($167.9m), due to a slowdown of sales recognition. As of May 12 a restart of production is occurring, and the company expects a fast recovery in the rail market.

“Alstom considers the health and safety of its employees and stakeholders as its top priority during this period. We are confident for the resilience of Alstom’s business in the mid-term, given the fundamentals of the rail market and in particular, the need for greener mobility,” said Poupart-Lafarge.

CRL

CRL stepping-up after COVID-19 lockdown

Construction sites in central Auckland will be working double shifts to complete the City Rail Link (CRL) as quick as possible.

From Monday, May 18, working hours at the Mt Eden and Karangahape will be extended to up to 16 hours per day, from 7am to 10pm Monday to Friday and 7am to 7pm on Saturday.

Although essential back-office work was able to be completed while New Zealand’s level 4 restrictions prohibited site access, CRL chief executive Sean Sweeney said that the project has changed.

“I think we have come out of the lockdown pretty well – apparently faster than most projects – but one thing is certain, COVID-19’s legacy means CRL is now going to be a very different project than it was two months ago.”

The scale of the project, as the largest transport infrastructure project ever undertaken in New Zealand, has meant that the full restart of the project has a wider impact on the economy.

“This project plays a key role in the economic recovery post-COVID-19. The scale of CRL means there is so much we can do right now and into the future to create much needed jobs and to help get the economy pumping again,” said Sweeney.

“Operating two shifts on a site means more people working and more money in their pockets to go and spend locally.”

Currently, 40 key workers are stuck overseas and have been unable to travel to New Zealand, however the project is seeking to be classified as an essential service to enable the workers to come to New Zealand.

“If we able to persuade the Government to support our request, those CRL workers overseas together with their skills should find it easier to get to New Zealand,” said Sweeney.

While the project remains on track, some other delays have been caused by the arrival of the boring machine pushed back until late 2020, with tunnelling to begin in early 2021. The lockdown’s full effect on costs and project timings is being investigated.

“That work will take several months, and the outcome will depend on the health of the economy, how our suppliers here at home and overseas are faring, and on international efforts to curb COVID-19,” said Sweeney. “CRL is important for Auckland’s future and the measures announced today are an important first step to keep to our timetable and to our budget.”

The dangers of going dark: Why a strong marketing presence now is key to increasing market share post-COVID-19

Prime Creative Media continues its Engine Room series, offering complimentary resources to companies to help navigate the COVID-19 crisis.

John Murphy, CEO Prime Creative Media, offers this guide on the dangers of ‘going dark’ in times of crisis, and how to drive a strategy to maintain or even increase market share as the economy recovers.