Interislander

RFP begun for new, rail-enabled Interislander ferries

KiwiRail has released a request for proposal (RFP) for new Interislander ferries with 300 per cent greater capacity for freight rail wagons.

The announcement is the next step in the process of replacing the current three ferries with two rail-capable ships. KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said the ferries form a critical link in the country’s rail network, transporting goods along the Main Trunk Line.

“The new ships will strengthen and enhance the vital transport link between the North and South Islands and represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the Cook Strait crossing.”

Each year, the Interislander ferries move 800,000 passengers and up to $14 billion worth of road and rail freight between the North and South Islands.

The NZ 2020 Budget allocated $400 million towards the purchase of the two ships, following a request for information process that was completed in February 2020.

“Our new ferries and the associated port infrastructure will provide greater resilience for this crucial link that unites our country and will serve New Zealand for the next generation and beyond,” said Miller.

The new ships will be significantly larger than the current ferries. The ships will be 40 metres longer and 5 metres wider and can carry twice as many passengers, trucks, and other vehicles. At full capacity, the ship will carry 42 rail wagons.

KiwiRail has also stated that the ships will be more environmentally friendly and produce fewer CO2 emissions, with the ability to run on battery power at times.

KiwiRail expects to identify a builder before the end of 2020.

TAIC investigates KiwiRail derailment

A distracted driver and excessive speed caused a KiwiRail freight train to derail in March last year.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) found that the freight train had exceeded the maximum permissible track speed when exiting the crossing loop.

The TAIC report said this was due to the driver becoming distracted and the downhill gradient of the track allowing the train to accelerate to above the maximum permissible line speed.

The incident occurred on March 29, 2019 when the three rear wagons of the KiwiRail freight train derailed as the train exited a crossing loop at Clinton on the way from Invercargill to Dunedin, New Zealand.

Two of the three derailed wagons overturned onto their sides, causing damage to the wagons, track, and a signal.

“A train driver can become distracted even when carrying out tasks specific to their role which, if poorly timed, can have unintended consequences,” the commission said in the investigation report.

The TAIC reported in its investigation findings that a phenomenon known as dynamic interaction was very likely the cause of the derailment.

Dynamic interaction occurred where the excessive speed combined with the track geometry at the point of derailment and the centre of gravity of the fully loaded coal wagons caused the wagon to oscillate from side to side. One or more wheels then lifted and climbed the rail, resulting in derailment.

The wagon condition and loading were found to be within KiwiRail’s maximum permissible limits, the TAIC found.

A similar derailment occurred at the Clinton crossing loop in 2016, which was not investigated by the TAIC.

“At that time KiwiRail took a number of safety actions after the incident, including speed monitoring and track repair,” the TAIC stated.

“However, a procedural control measure to ensure that loaded trains did not use the crossing loop was not adopted.”

The TAIC acknowledged in the investigation report that KiwiRail has taken a number of safety actions that addressed the issues raised in this report and that therefore no new recommendations needed to be made.

“To avoid repeat accidents and incidents it is important to learn from previous incidents,” the TAIC stated.

“This requires a focus on implementing corrective action in accordance with the hierarchy of controls.

“However, when procedural control measures have been identified they should be implemented, checked and monitored properly to ensure the desired results are achieved.”

Siva Sivapakkiam, KiwiRail executive general manager operations told Rail Express that the derailment of three wagons last year at Clinton was a serious incident, and KiwiRail has treated it as such.

“As the TAIC report notes, we have already made a change to our operating procedures to ensure that fully laden coal trains heading to Dunedin use only the main line when passing through Clinton,” she said.

Sivapakkiam said this avoids fully laden trains having to proceed through the crossing loop points, and it also means that the speed of empty Invercargill bound trains entering the loop is reduced by the uphill geometry of the track.

“Drivers have again been briefed on the need to ensure that the whole length of the train remains within the appropriate speed limit when entering or exiting crossing loops,” she said.

“We have instituted a non-technical skills training programme which provides staff with the knowledge to identify and manage distraction.

“In addition a redesign of the points configuration at Clinton is planned. We note that TAIC did not make any new recommendations for further action.”

NSW EPA trying to put the brakes on rail freight

Draft changes to NSW environmental standards could end regional branch freight lines, warns an alliance of rail industry leaders.

The joint letter signed by freight operators, farmers, and grain growers, and seen by Rail Express, responds to draft NSW EPA standards for rollingstock emissions and noise.

The draft standards set a noise ceiling of 85 decibels, a similar volume to a lawnmower, which would rule out diesel locomotives of the type used to transport grain from silos to port.

The 48 Class locomotives which service these branch lines have a low axel load of 12.5 tonnes, and are able to run on the older steel track which are restricted to locomotive axle loads of 17 tonnes.

The letter outlines that rather than improving environmental outcomes, the restrictions on noise, if implemented would force grain to be transported by trucks. The authors write that this could lead to an extra 25,000 B-double trucks on a “conservative” estimate. This would generate a 500 per cent increase in CO2 emissions compared with rail freight.

“In short, proposed new EPA environmental standards for diesel locomotives will significantly increase net [greenhouse gas] emissions in regional NSW,” write the authors. “This is a perverse outcome.”

Other costs include increased road accidents and fatalities and job losses of locomotive drivers and seasonal silo workers.

Additionally, by forcing grain onto trucks, the cost of exporting grain would increase, placing pressure on farmers’ margins at a time when drought is impacting upon agricultural profitability.

Emissions standards proposed by the NSW EPA also place a restriction on rail freight. While emissions kits can be installed in diesel locomotives, the cost of installing them would be prohibitive and would increase the consumption of diesel by five per cent, increasing greenhouse gas emissions. The weight of these emission kits can also push a locomotive over the axel load threshold.

The signatories to the letter are:

Dean Dalla Valle, Pacific National CEO

Klaus Pamminger, GrainCorp COO

Dick Honan, Manildra Group chairman

Jason Ferguson, Southern Shorthaul Railroad director

Maurice James, Qube Holdings managing director

Matthew Madden, NSW Farmers Association Grains Committee chair

Danny Broad, Australasian Railway Association chair

Geoff Smith, SCT Logistics managing director

Luke Anderson, Genesee & Wyoming Australia CEO

Anthony Jones, LINX Cargo Care Group CEO

Ian Gibbs, CF Asia Pacific / CFCL Australia executive chairman

New name for Genesee & Wyoming Australia

Having completed the sale of Genesee & Wyoming Australia, the freight rail operator is now known as One Rail Australia.

The name change was published by the Australian Business Register on February 18, and follows a change of ownership for the operator.

The company has operated freight rail services in South Australia, the Northern Territory, and the Hunter Valley, and Genesee & Wyoming Australia also previously operated services in Western Australia in a joint venture with Wesfarmers.

Until 2019, Genesee & Wyoming Australia’s US parent company owned 51.1 per cent of the Australian arm of the business. The other 48.9 per cent is owned by a consortium of funds and clients, managed by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets.

The announcement in December finalised the sale of the US parent company to Canadian investment fund Brookfield Infrastructure and Singaporean investment firm GIC.

The transaction’s total value for the entire Genesee & Wyoming business is approximately $8.4 billion.

The Australian portion of the sale had to be completed separately due to Brookfield already owning rail assets in Australia. Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets and Dutch pension manager PGGM will own the remainder of the company previously owned by Genesee & Wyoming’s US parent company.

According to reports, One Rail Australia will retain the Genesee & Wyoming livery however with a new logo.

In the US, Genesee & Wyoming is known for owning a number of short line railroads. The company also has operations in the UK and Europe.

Hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in New Zealand’s KiwiRail network

The New Zealand Government has announced a further $109.7 million rail investment in Northland rail freight on the KiwiRail network.

This follows the injection of  $211 million to upgrade Wellington networks and services for Auckland rail.

Greg Miller, KiwiRail Group chief executive, said the Northland investment will enable hi-cube container freight to be transported by rail in the region for the first time ever.

$69.7m will be spent on lowering tracks in the 13 tunnels between Swanson and Whangarei; reopening the currently mothballed rail line north of Whangarei, between Kauri and Otiria; and building a container terminal at the Otiria rail yard, in Moerewa.

“Currently 18m tonnes of cargo is moved in and out of the region every year. Of that, around 30,000 containers leave Northland by road. Most aren’t able to fit through the tunnels, but this investment will change that – opening up a whole new market to rail,” Miller said.

“The tunnel work will have a huge impact on how freight is moved in and out of Northland.

“I’m really impressed by the ingenuity of KiwiRail’s engineering staff to be able to lower the tracks in the tunnels – which is a lot less expensive than boring bigger tunnels.”

This is the second Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) investment in Northland rail, following the $94.8m provided to make significant improvements to the Northland Line between Swanson and Whangarei, announced last year.

An additional $40m will be used by KiwiRail to purchase land along the designated rail route between Oakleigh and Northport/Marsden Point.

Miller said works in Auckland have already commenced, and will be completed in about four years.

“The third main adds an extra rail line between Westfield and Wiri in South Auckland, a section of line that is congested with freight trains going to and from Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga, and increasingly frequent metro commuter services. For CRL to deliver the level of commuter service Auckland needs, the 3rd main is crucial,” he said.

David Gordon, KiwiRail chief operating officer – capital projects and asset development, said work on the Wairarapa Line will start later this year, following the government’s $96m investment announced in 2018.

“$70m will be spent on improving the signalling system and track approach to Wellington Station, particularly the area north of the stadium where the Johnsonville, Hutt Valley, and Kapiti Lines all come together,” Gordan said.

A $15m investment in carriages for the Capital Connection service will allow KiwiRail to fully refurbish ex-Auckland Transport carriages including new interiors, seats, and toilets.

Track repairs commence following V/Line and freight train crash

Work is now under way to replace more than 1,800 damaged sleepers and more than 180 metres of damaged rail.

Last week an incident involving a freight and passenger train between Chiltern and Barnawartha in south of Wodonga, Victoria caused all services on the line to be suspended until further notice.

A northbound freight train derailed, and a passenger train travelling south on the adjacent track struck a wagon of the derailed freight train.

A spokesperson from the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) provided an update on the investigation following the incident that occurred on Wednesday, January 29. 

“The ARTC is continuing to work with rail safety regulators and operators on the recovery effort,” the spokesperson said.

After safety regulators completed their initial assessments the day after the incident, the recovery operation started involving around 60 workers.

“Work so far has focused on recovering wagons, components, and containers from the track and moving the V/Line train and majority of freight containers,” the spokesperson said.

“While repairs are underway, timing for the line to reopen is not yet confirmed.

“With temperatures reaching more than 44 degrees in the recovery site area, hot works are being extremely carefully managed and crews provided additional rest breaks and hydration measures.

“ARTC will provide further updates to media and our customers as soon as they become available.”

Qld, NSW experience freight rail incidents during holiday season

In late December, four Pacific National freight train wagons, transporting copper anodes, derailed at Mingela on the Mount Isa line.

In response, Queensland Rail immediately closed the rail corridor between Sellheim and Mingela for all rail traffic while response crews worked to secure and inspect the site.

Recovery crews soon commenced necessary repairs and the network was opened less than a week later.

Crews broke down the damaged track, completed reballasting and replaced the damaged sleepers and rail. Recovery works were fast-tracked by the ability to source locally and services were able to resume before the start of the new year.

Meanwhile, the unprecedented bushfire season forced the closure of the Main Southern railway line in NSW, for two days from 4thJanuary to 6th.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) said it suspended operations due to extreme fire conditions and high wind activity in the rail corridor between Macarthur and Goulburn.

As of the 6th of January, ARTC reopened the Main South railway line, following completion of tree removal and restoration of power lines by power supply companies.

“We would like to thank our customers for their patience and cooperation during these unforeseen circumstances. We would also like to thank all emergency services for their support and acknowledge their continuing efforts at this time,” an ARTC spokesperson said.

TfNSW launches Freight Data Hub

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) launched the Freight Data Hub on Monday. The hub is intended to help businesses and governments make better operational and investment decisions supported by data with freight forecasts, performance, and other statistics.

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) says that timely and accurate information about freight movement is essential to effective policy reform and infrastructure investment decisions.

“TfNSW is to be congratulated for its leadership in launching this Freight Data Hub, and providing industry and the community with fresh insights into the way freight is moving around NSW, and freight performance at key trading gateways,” ALC CEO Kirk Coningham said.

However, the initiative depends on industry participants contributing their data sets in order to deliver beneficial outcomes. Being able to visualise how freight moves through the supply chain, the prioritisation of investment on key freight routes, and the identification of bottlenecks and other challenges that inhibit efficient freight movement will enable better decision-making.

“Importantly, the project will also build industry confidence that data can be shared in a manner which provides useful information to industry and governments, but still protects commercially sensitive information relating to individual operators and customers,” Coningham said.

“In the lead-up to the release of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy earlier this year, there was widespread acknowledgement that improving the quality and quantity of data available regarding freight movement was essential. This thinking drove the Federal Government’s decision to allocate $8.5m to design and pilot a National Freight Data Hub.”

In early November, the federal government announced a National Freight Data Hub with a total $8.5 million commitment. Of that, $5.2 million will go towards the design of, including arrangements for data collection, protection, dissemination and hosting. The remaining $3.3 million will go towards the establishment of a freight data exchange pilot to allow industry to access freight data in real time and a survey of road usage for freight purpose.

NZ reveals long-term rail plan

A draft plan would facilitate a long-term planning and funding model for rail in New Zealand, with the aim of boosting passenger figures and freight share on rail to help achieve the government’s zero-emissions goal by 2050.

The draft New Zealand Rail Plan, released by the Ministry of Transport on December 13, outlines the government’s long-term vision and priorities for New Zealand’s national rail network.

It stems from the recommendations of the Future of Rail review, a cross-agency project led by the Ministry of Transport working alongside KiwiRail, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, and the Treasury.

The plan aims to put in place a sustainable approach to rail funding over the longer-term.

Key to this is the Land Transport (Rail) Legislation Bill, presented to Parliament on December 12.

The Bill proposes the implementation of a new planning and funding framework for the heavy rail network owned by KiwiRail. It also proposes funding for the rail network from the National Land Transport Fund, and giving rail ministers decision-making rights on funding rail network investments.

The Bill would make amendments to the Land Transport Management Act 2003 and the Land Transport Act 1998, to implement the new framework.

It also introduces track user charges.

“After years of rail being run into the ground by the previous government, our government is getting rail back on track,” deputy prime minister Winston Peters said.

“We need our rail network to be able to cope with New Zealand’s growing freight needs. Freight is expected to increase by 55 per cent by 2042. Freight carried by rail not only reduces wear and tear on our roads, it reduces carbon emissions by 66 per cent.”

This year’s federal budget included $1 billion in funding for the national freight rail network, $741 million of which for the first phase of works to restore a reliable, resilient and safe freight and tourism network.

“Passenger rail is also the key to unlocking gridlock in our largest cities and boosting productivity,” transport minister Phil Twyford said. “The more people take the train, the more our roads are freed up for those who have to drive.

“Building alternative transport options for people and freight is a vital part of achieving the government’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050. It also helps make our roads safer by reducing the number of cars and trucks on our roads.”

The draft plan will become final when the next Government Policy Statement of Land Transport is finalised in the second half of 2020.

Until then the government is inviting feedback from industry and community groups.