Coal train derails in central Queensland

Coal trains have been disrupted in central Queensland, near the town of Middlemount.

An unloaded coal train operated by Aurizon derailed on January 19, at roughly 1pm AEST.

According to statements reported in local media, a locomotive and a number of wagons have been derailed, and Aurizon is mobilising recovery crews.

Aurizon notified other coal miners in the area as their shipments may also be affected. Nearby mines include German Creek, owned by Anglo American, and Glencore’s Oaky North.

After 25 to 30 coal bins tipped over, power lines were brought down, and a small grass fire ignited. The fire was subsequently brought under control.

Reports suggested that the line will reopen by Friday, January 24.

The two train drivers were uninjured.

Aurizon operates the largest export coal rail network in Australia, the Central Queensland Coal Network. The 2,670 multi-user track stretches from Bowen to Gladstone.

CBH moves bumper crop by rail

Grain storage, handling, transport, marketing, and processing cooperative, CBH Group has announced that their rail infrastructure moved the largest amount of grain in the company’s history.

8.9 million tonnes of grain was moved by rail to port terminals in the 12 months to September 2019. These figures included six million tonnes of grain from the Kwinana Zone to the Kwinana Grain Terminal for bulk export.

These figures were the result of a record harvest of 16.4m tonnes, 13.8m tonnes of which was shipped from CBH Group’s four grain terminals. 6.2m tonnes were shipped from the Kwinana Grain Terminal.

While these figures were record breaking, global grain market forces left the group with a net loss after tax of $29.7 million and a deficit of $13.3 million.

During the year, CBH invested $285.3m in its network. These funds went towards an expansion of storage capacity, improving supply chain efficiency, and infrastructure maintenance.

CBH Group owns 574 wagons, 26 locomotives, and 12 trains, and in the 2019 year leased two additional locomotives and 131 standard and narrow gauge wagons for parts of the year. Due to the bumper year, three standard gauge fleets and nine narrow gauge fleets moved the grain crop.

Cane rail line continues apace

Following approvals in 2019, a rail line connecting Isis Central’s sugar mills from Cordalba to Wallaville is running ahead of schedule.

The 39km line connects cane growing communities to the Isis Central sugar mill.

Costing $15 million, the project has been supported by $5 million from the federal government, and hopes to increase cane production in the region, south of Bundaberg. The new rail line will allow for the transportation of cane from farms in Wallaville and Gin Gin.

The project began in November, after the 2019 cane crushing season, and redeploy workers from the mill from sugar production to laying rail. However, as reported by local news outlet, Bundaberg Now, the workforce has previous experience in laying rail.

“A major plus is the fact that our staff have engaged in constructing these cane railways in the past and that experience is invaluable. A good crew can lay about a kilometre of line a day,” said chief field officer of Isis Central Sugar Mill, Paul Nicol.

Bundaberg Region mayor, Jack Dempsey highlighted that the new rail line will reduce truck movements, eliminating 6,000 heavy vehicle movements, while reducing the journey distance by half.

ARTC shortlists contractors for Sydney freight projects

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has shortlisted contractors to construct the Botany Rail Duplication and Cabramatta Loop projects.

For the Botany Rail Duplication project, CPB Contractors, Laing O’Rouke, and John Holland are shortlisted. For the Cabramatta Loop Project, ARTC has shortlisted Downer EDI, Fulton Hogan, and John Holland. The formal tender process will be undertaken in 2020 for both projects.

ARTC CEO and managing director, John Fullerton, noted that these projects will grow the potential of freight in Sydney.

“These major projects aim to improve rail capacity, flexibility and reliability for freight rail customers, encouraging more freight to shift from road to rail, and we are getting on with delivering these massive improvements.”

Both projects aim to increase rail capacity and service reliability to and from Port Botany, while increasing capacity across the Sydney freight network. According to NSW Ports’ 30-year Master Plan, 80 per cent of containers that arrive in Port Botany are delivered to sites closer than 40km away. Increasing freight rail frequency will allow for these containers to be moved to industrial and logistics sites in Western and South Western Sydney.

“Improving freight performance at Port Botany is critical for the economic growth and prosperity of Sydney, NSW and Australia with the amount of container freight handled by the Port set to significantly increase by 77 per cent to 25.5 million tonnes by 2036,” said Fullerton.

“These two landmark projects will strike the balance between rail and road by duplicating the remaining single freight rail track section of the Botany Line between Mascot and Botany and constructing a new passing loop on the Southern Sydney Freight Line (SSFL) between Cabramatta Station and Warwick Farm Station to allow for freight trains up to 1300 metres in length.

“Once completed, the Cabramatta Loop Project will allow freight trains travelling in either direction along the Southern Sydney Freight Line to pass each other and provide additional rail freight capacity for the network.”

Work on the Sydney freight network will also increase rail’s share of freight, and alleviate congestion on the Sydney road network, highlighted Fullerton.

“Each freight train can take up to 54 trucks worth of freight off the road, tackling congestion and improving the everyday commute in Sydney.”

Viterra receives 115,000 tonnes in two weeks

The 2019/20 harvest season has seen Viterra, the grain storage and handling network for South Australia and western Victoria, receiving just over 3.9 million tonnes for the harvest so far this season.

Within the last two weeks Viterra received 115,000 tonnes of wheat, barley and canola.

In those two weeks, the grain handler’s outturn schedule continued with five trains loaded with wheat, barley and canola from Gladstone, Snowtown and Bowmans.

“Although receivals have slowed across the state, Viterra is continuing to provide delivery options for growers,” a spokesperson said.

Most of the grain received in the past two weeks was delivered into Viterra’s Eastern region sites, with 36 sites receiving the grain between 25 December and 5 January according to Viterra’s first monthly receivals report.

Viterra’s total storage capacity is around 10 million tonnes which they store in facilities servicing 5000 growers and supplying directly to around 40 buyers through the Viterra supply chain.

Viterra provides: storage and warehousing, receival and elevation, quality assessment, logistics and accumulation, quality control and food safety, electronic transactional services, container packing and bulk ship loading.

The main commodities grown in the area include wheat, barley, canola, lentils, faba beans, field peas and lupins, which the handler then segregates depending on the variety, grade and quality specifications of their individual loads to better match the needs of buyers.

John Holland. Photo John Holland

John Holland partners with Strukton for new CRN bid

John Holland has announced a partnership with global track maintenance firm Strukton Rail to bid on the next operations and maintenance deal for the New South Wales Country Regional Network (CRN).

John Holland has operated and maintained the CRN under a ten-year state government contract since 2012. With that contract due to end in June 2021, Transport for NSW commenced a market sounding process for the next contract in May 2019.

With a long list of good work done since 2012, John Holland’s executive general manager for Rail, Steve Butcher, said a partnership with Strukton will help do an even better job if it is awarded the work over the next decade.

“We have a decade-long record of ensuring passengers and freight can move around regional NSW safely and reliably, and now we want to take this to the next level,” Butcher said.

“We want to drive innovation on the network in order to boost regional economies. This partnership will help us to better connect our regions with global leading-edge technology.”

Butcher noted in its decade operating and maintaining the CRN, John Holland has helped cut lost time due to speed restrictions by 50 per cent on passenger and grain lines. During its first three years running the network, John Holland managed to remove 99 of 103 temporary restrictions.

The firm has also replaced more than 1.5 million sleepers along the network, resurfaced more than 7,000 kilometres of track, and upgraded 155 level crossings.

The CRN comprises 2,386 route kilometres of operational passenger and freight rail lines and 3,139 route kilometres of non-operational lines, as well as 27,000 hectares of land and infrastructure.

In all the network includes 1,312 level crossings, 300 of which are active. It has 1,200 property assets, including 356 heritage assets. There are 600 rail under-bridges and 384 road over-bridges to be maintained.


NSW regional rail map with CRN shown.

Australia commits $8.5 million for National Freight Data Hub

A $8.5 million National Freight Data Hub, intended to help businesses and governments make better operational and investment decisions, has been announced.

“A well-designed Hub will improve access to and sharing of valuable freight location and performance data,” said federal minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development Michael McCormack.

“Access to better data means a more productive and resilient freight sector.”

Of the total $8.5 million commitment, $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.

The first discussion paper on the design of the National Freight Data Hub was released last week. It noted that there are several possible datasets to be incorporated into the hub, but that there is also an opportunity to improve accessibility to existing data sets.

“Sharing of freight data is also hampered by inconsistent and disparate approaches, such as data that cannot be compared across supply chains or states,” the paper notes.

Assistant minister for road safety and freight transport Scott Buchholz said the government is committed to helping meet Australia’s growing freight challenges and improve international competitiveness.

“Enhanced access to freight data helps industry, governments and others streamline day-to-day freight operations, make better investment decisions and evaluate the performance of Australia’s freight system,” Mr Buchholz said.

The Hub commitment builds on the comprehensive “Freight Data Requirements Study” from the iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre.

Upgrades to signalling systems will streamline exportation from Geelong

Final improvements are being made to Victoria’s rail freight infrastructure to streamline the journey of this year’s grain harvest to the Port of Geelong.

Signalling systems are now being upgraded in the North Geelong and North Shore area, making up the final stage of the Geelong C Box Project.

Rail signals into and out of the Port of Geelong are currently changed manually, which ultimately slows down grain exports and limits the type of trains that can access the terminal.

“The Geelong C Box Project will remove the need for manual signalling, doubling the capacity of the grain loop and eliminating wait times,” said Minister for Ports and Freight, Melissa Horne.

The upgrades are intended to enable more grain freight trains to travel from the state’s grain growing regions to the Port of Geelong for exportation.

“With Victorian grain growers set to experience a bumper harvest this year, it is important we can move grain efficiently from the farm gate to port via Geelong’s rail freight network,” said minister for ports and freight Melissa Horne.

Automating the C-Box will enable better control of train movements from V/Line’s train control centre, allowing both standard and broad-gauge trains to access the grain site.

Rail engineering and signalling experts are carrying out the work within the rail corridor and at rail crossings.

As such, traffic management will be in place at rail crossings in the area during the works to ensure the safety of all road users.

The works are expected to be completed by the end of next week.

BHP reports positive year despite productivity hit

BHP has overcome productivity issues faced in the 2019 financial year including a costly derailment with the release of a solid final quarter report.

BHP reported a $US1 billion ($1.42 billion) hit to productivity in the 2019 financial year, led by $US835 million of impacts from unplanned production outages in the December 2018 half year, in addition to higher-than-expected costs at several of its mining operations in the June 2019 half year.

The $US835 million figure included the blowouts caused by the company’s forced derailment of a runaway freight train in the Pilbara region of Western Australia in November 2018.

The train, whcih consisted of 268 wagons carrying 30,000 tonnes of iron ore, travelled 92 kilometres in 50 minutes before being derailed at Turner’s Siding, 120 kilometres south of its destination at Port Hedland. 

This led to a five-day suspension of rail operations and contributed to a roughly $US600 million negative impact in the first half when combined with production outages at the company’s Olympic Dam, Spence and WA Iron Ore projects.

The $US1 billion productivity loss did not include the impacts of Tropical Cyclone Veronica on BHP’s Western Australian Iron Ore operations, which affected BHP’s rail and port operations at Port Hedland in March 2019.

Despite these issues, BHP exceeded full year production guidance for petroleum and met its revised guidance for copper and iron ore, posting an 11 per cent increase in quarterly production across its entire portfolio.

BHP chief executive officer Andrew Mackenzie said that the company was positioned to deliver higher volumes in the 2020 financial year.

“Our overall production was broadly in line with last year, overcoming the impacts of weather, grade and natural field decline, and unplanned outages in the first half,” Mackenzie said.

“Our exploration program delivered encouraging results, with seven out of nine petroleum wells successful and further evaluation of the Oak Dam copper prospect underway.”

Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

ALC calls out lack of cohesive freight policy among election candidates

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has stated that both major parties involved in the upcoming federal election have displayed a “lack of focus” regarding Australia’s supply chain.

The ALC stated that while the Liberal and Labor parties had made campaign announcements tangentially related to freight movement, there hadn’t been much regarding “freight-specific commitments”.

The comments came two weeks after the ALC’s delivery of the Freight: Delivering Opportunity for Australia report, which listed 39 freight-related priorities for the next Australian Government.

This list included a wide range of topics such as electric vehicles, Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) funding, rail corridors, heavy vehicle reform, airport curfews, and many more.

“If we are going to meet the challenges that arise from a growing population and remain internationally competitive, it is essential that our next Federal Government is ready to take decisive action,” said Coningham.

Coningham added that the freight logistics industry and related communities needed to hear more from both sides in the campaign’s final week to improve efficiency and safety of supply chains and enhance Australia’s international competitiveness.

He referred to Labor’s plans to establish an EV manufacturing and innovation strategy (Labor’s Plan for Electric Vehicle Innovation and Manufacturing) as a “positive step”, but added that moves such as a contestable fund for low emission vehicles and tax concessions for electric delivery vehicles would help to take this further.

“With our industry having secured a bipartisan commitment to finalise the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, this campaign is an ideal opportunity for both sides to set out clear plans to address the issues ALC members have identified as industry priorities,” he said.

The Australian Government released a report in April entitled Delivering on Freight.

The report details the Coalition’s commitment to a National Action Plan with the aim of achieving a nationally integrated freight system capable of benefiting from “a consistent and integrated regulatory environment”.

According to the report, freight volume in Australia is on track to double over the 20 years to 2030, with urban freight in particular set for significant growth of 80 per cent over the 20-year period from 2016–2036, a forecast that requires considerable supply chain efficiency improvements.