Maryvale

Maryvale rail siding upgrade keeping freight on rail

The Victorian government is investing $3.5 million in upgrade works to the Maryvale rail siding in Gippsland.

The siding is primarily used by freight trains hauling paper from Australian Paper’s Maryvale mill to Melbourne.

Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the upgrade would ensure paper products continued to be transported via rail.

“This important upgrade will ensure Victoria’s busiest regional rail freight train continues to run and will support the jobs of 900 Gippsland workers,” she said.

“We’re keeping rail freight cost-effective and helping businesses like Australian Paper access key domestic and overseas markets.”

The upgrade will involve the replacement of sleepers and ballast, with ground resurfacing works also taking place. Ultimately, the works will increase the efficiency of the rail infrastructure by reducing maintenance expenditure, ensuring that rail remains competitive for Australian Paper.

Procurement will begin in early 2021 and construction should begin soon after that.

The funding for the project is part of the Victorian government’s COVID-19 response. In May, the government earmarked up to $90m for regional rail infrastructure upgrades.

“This work comes adds to the significant improvements to the signalling system in Morwell, which have already been completed – making it easier than ever to move freight through Gippsland,” said Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing.

To connect freight trains to the main Gippsland line, an automated signalling system in Morwell has been installed, replacing manual processes and improving integration across the network.

protocol

Protocol offers way to protect industry and communities

ALC CEO Kirk Coningham highlights how a united freight industry has achieved a common-sense protocol for border safety.

The COVID-19 pandemic has required all of us to deal with scenarios and situations that were hard or even impossible to anticipate.

Of course, the freight and logistics industry has long-held concerns about some of the complexities that arise from having to comply with multiple regulatory regimes as freight crosses the border from one state or territory into another. Yet the closure of those same borders at the onset of the pandemic has forced the industry to confront and adapt to a whole new set of requirements.

The fast-moving nature of the COVID-19 challenge has also required governments and regulatory authorities to move speedily – and in some instances, this has led to the imposition of rules that are simply incompatible with the realities of freight transport.

Over the past several months, ALC has worked with its members, regulatory authorities and allied industry groups to build support among governments for a nationally consistent approach that will protect the health of the freight transport sector’s workforce and the wider community, while still ensuring that our industry can get the job done.

Those efforts bore fruit in late July when the National Cabinet gave its endorsement to a Domestic Border Control Freight Movement Protocol.

The protocol has been endorsed by chief health officers from all state and territories and clearly outlines measures that all states and territories agree will allow freight to move safely and efficiently across borders.

This includes a number of common- sense measures which ALC has pursued throughout the pandemic. These include the ‘waive through’ of freight vehicles at borders, standardising the duration of border crossing permits, mutual recognition of COVIDsafe work plans developed in other jurisdictions, and not requiring rail crews to quarantine or self- isolate when crossing borders if they have not developed COVID-19 symptoms.

Obtaining agreement to this protocol has only been possible because our industry has been able to clearly and convincingly demonstrate its commitment to COVIDsafe practices to governments nation-wide.

In particular, the members of our Safety Committee provided crucial support by offering compelling examples of the extensive efforts being undertaken by freight and logistics companies to make their operations COVIDsafe. This gave policymakers added confidence that our industry takes its obligations seriously

and understands the importance of COVIDsafe behaviour in protecting the wider community. The importance of having COVID testing available for freight workers frequently crossing borders is also recognised, and the protocol calls for states and territories to offer ‘pop-up’ testing facilities in appropriate locations.

Importantly, the protocol also requires authorities to consult with industry to understand the effect and impacts of potential changes ahead of any new directions being been put place.

It will be vital for governments to follow this requirement if we are to avoid some of the confusion that has been witnessed throughout the pandemic, especially in instances where border requirements were changed with inadequate notice to industry.

Qube

Qube invests in rail despite COVID hit to profits in 2020

Qube has reported a net profit drop of over 50 per cent due to the impact of COVID-19, bushfires, and floods during the 2020 financial year.

These impacts were offset by growths in Qube’s revenue and the commencement of new rail contracts.

During the past financial year, Qube began rail operations from the IMEX terminal at the Moorebank Logistics Park as companies including Woolworths committed to significant distribution centres at the site.

Qube also signed new contracts with Shell and BlueScope Steel. For BlueScope, Qube will provide interstate rail haulage services as part of a 10-year contract and intermodal operations at Qube’s North Dynon facility in Melbourne. To deliver the contract Qube will invest $73 million in new rollingstock and infrastructure, as well as leased equipment.

Qube managing director Maurice James said that the company’s overall performance was sound.

“The events of 2020 tested the strength and resilience of the company in ways which no-one could have predicted. This result once again demonstrates the success of our diversification strategy which protected the company as markets were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“We were also able to adapt rapidly as an organisation to protect the health and safety of our people, deliver on customer requirements and minimise the economic damage to the Group. We are also well positioned for growth post pandemic with conservative gearing, and a strong balance sheet with substantial funding capacity.”

Rail will continue to play a major part in Qube’s operations during the next financial year as the company constructs the interstate rail terminal at Moorebank Precinct West along with further warehousing space. Further capital expenditure is planned in the 2021 financial year on rail terminals, precinct infrastructure and locomotives and wagons for the BlueScope contract.

Operations at Qube’s intermodal terminals will also become more automated as the company shifts from manual to automated mode at the IMEX rail terminal.

Victoria, Commonwealth fund freight connection between Dandenong and Port of Melbourne

A new freight rail connection in Dandenong South will remove 100,000 trucks of Melbourne’s roads a year.

The new rail line will connect the Salta Properties freight hub in Dandenong South with the Melbourne suburban rail network, allowing shuttle trains to run between the Port of Melbourne and Melbourne’s southeast.

The $28 million project is funded by the federal and state governments, with each contributing $18.3m and $9.7m respectively.

The project will be completed by the Level Crossing Removal Authority as part of the Cranbourne Line upgrade.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the connection would form part of a wider network of freight rail connecting the Port of Melbourne with intermodal facilities.

“The new spur line will connect the intermodal freight terminal at Dandenong South to the Cranbourne Line. As part of the Port Rail Shuttle Network it will help cut the number of trucks on inner Melbourne roads by up to 100,000 each year and support hundreds of jobs during construction and as part of the terminals ongoing operations.”

Victorian Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the project would make freight more competitive.

“We’re making rail freight a more attractive option for businesses, and this investment means containers can be transported by rail the entire way from the Port of Melbourne to Dandenong South,” she said.

“It will reduce congestion at the port gate and cut the high cost of the last mile that so often disadvantages containers moved by rail.”

The Port of Melbourne has recently made major investments to improve the capacity of rail to handle cargo. The port authority is investing $125m in on-dock rail, to enable freight to be taken directly from ship to rail and to intermodal terminals such as these.

The Victorian government has also invested in two other port rail shuttles, one to Altona and another to Somerton, with further funding to be announced.

Rangitīkei

Freight hub funded in Rangitīkei district

A new rail hub for the shipment and processing of logs will be built in the Rangitīkei district, near the town of Marton.

The facility will be supported with NZ$9.1 million ($8.3m) from the government’s $3 billion COVID-19 response and recovery fund.

Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said that the hub would get more freight onto rail.

“This rail hub will not only attract more commercial developments to the immediate area, it will also take freight trucks off the roads.”

The local council expects the hub, which will include a debarker facility, will create roughly 83 jobs during construction and 22 full time jobs once operational.

Improved efficiencies created by the Marton facility, located in an existing freight centre, will combine logistics efficiencies.

“Marton is central to significant forests in Rangitīkei, Manawatū and Horowhenua regions that are mature and will continue to produce mature trees and increased volumes for the next 15 years. It is also a key service town for agriculture in the area, making it a good location for a freight hub,” said Jones.

“Parts of this region are deprived, with few options for economic development. This construction project will benefit the building and associated industries, boosting the local economy and keeping people in jobs. It also provides potential for the region to diversify and boost the local economy.”

freight

Rail key to meet freight demand

Caroline Wilkie, CEO of the ARA, sets out the association’s advocacy agenda when it comes to rail freight.

The doubling of Australia’s population over the next 30 years will make connecting the supply of goods and services between our far-flung cities more important than ever.

Resilient freight networks will be an essential part of our national connectivity and will be key to supporting the productivity of businesses across the country.

And rail must play a growing role to meet that challenge.

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) recently released its rail freight and ports strategic plan to set its advocacy agenda on this crucial issue over the next three years.

Informed by extensive industry consultation, the plan identifies the need for rail to increase its share of our national freight task to ensure the growing demand expected in the next 20 years can be met.

While COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of resilient supply chains, that need has always been there and is only becoming more important.

The country’s freight task is expected to grow by 35 per cent by 2040, and by then our network will traverse more than 1,000 billion tonne kilometres every year.

That new demand can simply not be sustainably supported by more trucks on the roads or planes in the air alone.

A multi-modal freight sector that makes the best use of all modes of transport is a fundamental part of ensuring Australia’s supply chains can deal with the needs of the nation in the future.

Maintaining the status quo will not be enough.

There is enormous potential for rail to play a greater role in meeting our freight task, but regulatory reform is required to make that a reality.

A level playing field for all will be needed for this to be realised to make sure every mode of transport can be used efficiently and effectively to support our economic growth and development.

Common safety, environmental, and economic regulation across the country would streamline operations and put the focus firmly on delivering on the nation’s freight needs.

So too would the achievement of a truly interoperable rail network, and the ARA’s rail freight and ports strategic plan supports the ARTC’s efforts to implement its Advanced Train Management System on the interstate network.

These are big ambitions that require national focus and strong collaboration between government and industry to be realised.

We are pleased to see these conversations progressing through the National Rail Action Plan working groups and other industry forums.

As we continue to advocate for changes to support the growth of the industry, a clear understanding of the current state of play and the obstacles that the industry may face is essential.

That is why the ARA has launched three research programs to be completed over the next 12 months.

Firstly, we will be working to better understand the impediments to rail freight modal shift.

Just one freight train alone can take 110 trucks off the roads a year, busting congestion and improving the safety outcomes of the sector.

Rail freight remains a sustainable and efficient option that has proven its reliability time and again.

In urban centres, rail freight frees up the road network to create more liveable communities for people in our cities.

Given these benefits, rail should be playing a significant role as part of a multi- modal network – and this research will inform how we achieve that outcome.

Secondly, we will be looking at rail freight productivity in Australia.

It will be essential to establish a clear view of the industry’s current performance and the conditions required to make rail freight even more competitive in the future.

The 2017 Value of Rail study found a one per cent improvement in rail freight productivity could generate $8-20 billion in savings to the national economy over 20 years.

Small improvements could make a big difference and our research will seek to identify actionable outcomes to drive greater productivity in the sector.

Finally, we will research rail freight infrastructure investment.

Continued investment in the freight network will be essential to meet growing demand, but projects must be planned effectively and implemented efficiently.

Getting infrastructure investment right for the beginning will ensure the benefits of that investment are realised faster and reach further into our communities.

Combined, these projects will inform our advocacy agenda to make the case for regulatory reform.

Because we will need more than one approach to make a real difference for the benefit of Australian businesses and communities.

National protocol to reduce cross-border freight confusion

A joint national protocol to enable smooth freight movement over closed borders has been agreed upon by state and territory governments and the Commonwealth.

The national Protocol for Domestic Border Controls – Freight Movements establishes a common set of agreements for freight operators that are transporting goods across state borders that have been closed due to coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks.

The national protocol outlines that rail crew will not be required to quarantine or self-isolate for two weeks, unless they develop symptoms of COVID-19 or were in close contact with a case.

Rail crew who are crossing borders or travelling through hotspots should be required to keep a record of close contacts and should minimise non-essential contacts.

Freight operators are encouraged to have a COVIDsafe workplan which will be mutually recognised by state and territory governments.

If further changes are necessary, state and territory governments are encouraged to consult with industry to understand the impact of potential changes.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said that the protocol was the result of collaboration between government and industry.

“This is a great demonstration of how governments and industry are working together to ensure much-needed goods keep making their way to communities during the pandemic whilst keeping the health and safety of all Australians front and centre.”

Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz said that with various and rapidly changing requirements, the protocol would enable the efficient operation of supply chains across Australia.

“We know this has been tough a time for the industry, with our freight operators often required to cross multiple internal borders in a single trip – facing the critical domestic border controls state and territory governments have had to operate to stem the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

“Aligning state and territory measures through this protocol will ensure smoother inter-state journeys for our freight operators and reduce delays in the supply chain.”

Australian Logistics Council (ALC) CEO Kirk Coningham said the organisation had been working to ensure that freight continues to move when border restrictions were put in place.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined just how vital efficient, safe and resilient supply chain operations are to Australia. Yet the closure of state borders and imposition of restrictions during the pandemic has added complexity and duplication of processes associated with freight transport,” said Coningham.
Interstate border closures were a feature of the first wave of COVID-19 shutdowns in March, with freight operators required to fill out arrival forms.

In early July, when NSW closed its border for the first time with Victoria due to the outbreak in Melbourne, permits were required for rail freight staff crossing the border. This initially also required rail staff to self-isolate, however this was then overturned.

Coningham said the new protocol will reduce future confusion.

“The protocol’s explicit acknowledgement that authorities should consult with industry to understand the effect and impacts of potential changes ahead of any new directions being been put place is significant. Adherence to this commitment will be essential to avoid some of the confusion that has been witnessed throughout the pandemic, as border requirements were changed with inadequate notice to industry,” he said.

“ALC is pleased that these principles are all enshrined in the protocol that has been agreed to today. We also welcome the protocol’s commitment to mutual recognition of COVIDsafe workplans developed in other jurisdictions, and to standardising the duration and conditions of border permits.”

Parkes

$185m investment to build on Parkes rail links

The NSW government has announced $185 million investment to build on rail infrastructure delivery in Parkes.

The future site of the intersection of Australia’s major freight lines, Parkes is expected to play a central role in Australia’s logistics networks and supply chains.

Inland Rail will pass through Parkes, connecting Melbourne and Brisbane via regional NSW, Queensland, and Victoria, and will intersect in the Central West town with the rail line linking Sydney to Perth.

The NSW government’s current investment will fund the Parkes Special Activation Precinct, which will leverage these links to develop a logistics and intermodal hub. Parkes also has the advantage of being much more affordable than metropolitan cities, with land values at just 5 per cent of the capitals.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the investment in roads, sewer, and water connections will help grow regional NSW.

“This precinct is all about attracting money, economic growth and jobs to regional NSW,” he said.

“We know that where there is significant government investment, it attracts private investment ten-fold. This precinct could attract up to $1 billion in private investment over the next 10 years.”

The precinct will be developed by the Regional Growth NSW Development Corporation, who will lead design and construction, applications and approvals, and provide assistance for those businesses looking to set up in the regions.

The precinct stretches over 4,800 hectares of land, and can be used for purposes such as freight and logistics, food processing, warehousing, plastic and e-waste recycling, and cold chain storage.

The precinct will also focus on sustainability, as it will be Australia’s first UNIDO Eco Industrial zone. The initiative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation seeks to enhance the environmental, economic and social performance of industrial businesses through collaboration.

Work is now complete on the link between Inland Rail at Parkes and the Broken Hill rail line to Perth.

Freight industry shaping supply chain strategy

The federal Freight Industry Reference Panel has met for the first time to progress industry input into the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.

According to panel chair John Fullerton, the work of the panel will cover all modes.

“Our advice to government will present a holistic, cross-network, multi-modal view and I look forward to working with these members on this critical goal.”

The panel, announced in June, will provide expertise on the delivery of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, the agenda for government and industry action in freight for the next 20 years. These actions include investment, improved supply chain efficiency, better planning, coordination, and regulation, and more precise freight location and performance data.

The plan has been developed to grapple with a 35 per cent growth in freight volume between 2018 and 2040 and the changing profile of freight to more urban freight. At the same time, freight productivity and costs have plateaued, reducing competitiveness of exports.

“As we act to respond to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, we also need to maintain our focus on meeting our long-term freight challenges to support a bigger and more productive Australia and to secure a prosperous future for this critical industry,” said Fullerton.

“That’s why we’ll be working hard to ramp-up momentum on the strategy, with each of the panel members bringing a depth of knowledge and a range of experiences from across all freight modes and supply chains.”

Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz said that the shared and collaborative experience of COVID-19 for the freight industry highlighted the importance of working across government and industry.

“The strategy is important now more than ever to support this critical industry and indeed the entire nation by driving real improvements to Australia’s freight productivity, because that is good for jobs and the economy,” he said.

“The panel has an important role driving ambition for the strategy and acting as a vital conduit for industry views and providing independent advice on progress made.

“I look forward to seeing the panel’s work progress as we continue working hard to implement this critical strategy to achieve better outcomes for our national freight supply chain.”

Container rail into Port Botany. Photo: Sydney Ports

NSW provides information for freight industry to be COVID Safe

The NSW government has released industry-specific information for the transport and freight businesses to help them navigate the risk of COVID-19.

According to Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, the materials have been designed for non-customer facing businesses and to provide practical guidance to limit the spread of the virus.

“80,000 businesses have already downloaded the NSW Government’s COVID Safety Plans, and we’ve now created additional resources for transport, freight and ride shares, offices, construction sites, and manufacturing premises,” Anderson said.

The NSW government has kept borders open to rail freight throughout the crisis, with no restriction on interstate movement into NSW for rail.

In addition, freight trains were given extra access to the Sydney metropolitan rail network in what were ordinarily restricted periods for passenger rail only.

NSW Ports CEO, Marika Calfas, said such measures should remain in place for the foreseeable future.

“These measures should be continued in the longer term to deliver community-wide productivity benefits, allowing trucks to supply businesses during evening periods, to alleviate pressures on the road networks during peak hours, and freight trains and passenger trains to share the network safely,” Calfas said.

“This will be especially important during the recovery phase when road congestion is likely to be exacerbated due to reduced public transport usage.”

Anderson said that the NSW government was working to ensure that businesses can operate as smoothly as possible.

“Ultimately we want to focus on getting NSW’s economy back up and running and providing businesses with the right guidance to operate safely and successfully in the current climate.”

The online database of information includes checklists for a COVID-19 safety plan for businesses, covering wellbeing of staff and customers, physical distancing, hygiene and cleaning, and record keeping. Businesses are also encouraged to register as being COVID Safe. Links to financial assistance are also available.