Bowen Rail Company to enter Queensland haulage market

A new rollingstock operator is in the process of establishing itself to haul coal to Abbot Point.

Bowen Rail Company has applied for accreditation as a rollingstock operator with the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR). If the application is successful, the Bowen Rail Company will legally be able to operate rollingstock.

The Bowen-based business, which according to reports is owned by mining company Adani, stated in an August press release that it will be focused on servicing the Abbot Point terminal, where Adani will export the coal mined at its Carmichael mine.

“Bowen Rail Company’s initial focus will be to provide haulage services to the existing Abbot Point export terminal using the industry’s most technologically advanced rail fleet.”

The press release states that the company has purchased locomotives and rollingstock, with the first four locomotives to arrive in 2021. Bowen Rail Company head of project delivery David Wassel said the type of locomotives purchased would enable the company to hire more broadly.

“The benefit of our fleet is that it can be operated by anyone once they have had the right training, regardless of their physical size, age or experience, which means we can open up operator-type roles to a much broader workforce and to people who haven’t necessarily worked in the rail sector,” he said.

“Our goal is to ensure approximately half of our workforce is comprised of new-to-rail industry employees.”

The establishment of the company follows Adani’s struggle to secure an above-rail haulage agreement with an established operator.

In 2019, Adani was snubbed by Genesee & Wyoming Australia, now known as One Rail Australia, and Aurizon had been under pressure from shareholders to not provide above-rail services to Adani. Aurizon said it was not aware of Adani seeking to negotiate above-rail services.

“We are not aware Adani has commenced any commercial process with regard to the tender of above-rail haulage contracts or indeed whether they intend to,” said an Aurizon spokesperson.

Adani will still have to negotiate an access agreement with Aurizon to use the Central Queensland Coal Network, which connects that Carmichael Rail Network to the Abbot Point terminal. Aurizon is legally obliged to consider and assess all access requests however a spokesperson said that all requests are confidential.

“We cannot comment on any discussions that may occur as part of any application made by Adani,” the Aurizon spokesperson said.

To meet the other requirements of operating a rail haulage company, a Bowen Rail Company spokesperson said the company would go it alone.

“Bowen Rail Company will be self-sufficient with respect to rollingstock maintenance and supporting infrastructure. All contract arrangements are commercial in confidence.”

Construction of the Carmichael Rail Network is currently underway, with piling for bridge structures about to begin.

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.

GWA to haul concentrate from NT mine

Genesee & Wyoming Australia (GWA) has signed a binding heads of agreement to provide haulage services for mining company TNG.

TNG will use GWA’s freight line to run the roughly 1,100km journey from a rail siding near its Mount Peake mine to a processing facility in Darwin.

Mount Peake, located around 235 kilometres to the north of Alice Springs, is still in development. The project is focused on the production of vanadium, titanium and iron and is expected to become one of the largest global vanadium projects once mining commences in 2020.

TNG’s concentrate will be loaded at a proposed rail siding at Adnera, on the Tarcoola-to-Darwin rail line around 85 kilometres from the Mount Peake site, for transportation to TNG’s Tivan facility. GWA will also transport the final product from the Tivan facility to Darwin Port for unloading. The company will also supply all necessary locomotives, wagons, vans and fuelling equipment to accommodate the process.

“We are delighted to have engaged GWA as Mount Peake’s rail haulage service provider,” said TNG managing director and CEO Paul Burton. 

“GWA’s presence and expertise in logistics and transportation further strengthens TNG’s global network of high-quality partners assigned for the development and operation of Mount Peake.” 

GWA CEO Luke Anderson added that the company’s rail haulage solutions would ensure a successful logistics supply chain for the burgeoning project.