Inland Rail independent flood panel members announced

The federal and Queensland governments have announced the members of the independent Inland Rail flood modelling review panel.

The five members are Mark Babister, Tina O’Connell, Ferdinand Diermanse, Steve Clark, and Martin Giles.

The panel will analyse flood modelling done by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), after local landholders on the Condamine River floodplain raised concerns with the modelling.

Babister will chair the panel and is the managing director of specialist water engineering firm WMAwater. O’Connell, Clark, and Giles are also from independent water engineering consultancy businesses. Diermanse is an expert researcher at Dutch applied research institute Deltares.

“We have now finalised the members of the independent panel of international experts and their terms of reference,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“Collectively they have more than 130 years’ of experience and will use their knowledge to analyse existing flood modelling and the proposed engineering solutions against national and state guidelines and industry best practice. This process is independent of the ARTC.”

The review by the independent panel follows a comprehensive design process for the section from the Border to Gowrie. AECOM and Aurecon provided an analysis of corridor options in 2016-2017 which was overseen by an independent project reference group. Arup and SMEC reviewed compliance of the flood modelling and hydrology reports against industry standards.

The Southern Darling Downs Community Consultative Committee had John Macintosh from Water Solutions provide quality assurance of the already undertaken work.

“The rigorous approvals process put in place by the Australian and Queensland governments means that before a sod is turned the project has undergone robust and transparent analysis, including independent community feedback and multiple layers of expert peer review,” said McCormack.

“The panel will test and provide expert advice on all existing flood models to ensure that they are fit-for-purpose while the ARTC continues to progress the design, consultation and approvals processes required to get construction underway. The panel is not tasked with reviewing alignment options.”

The independent panel was a precondition of the agreement between the federal and Queensland government signed in 2019. Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey said that the final results and evaluation will ensure that floodplain and river crossings meet state and national engineering requirements.

“The panel members’ conclusions will also inform the Queensland Coordinator General’s assessment of ARTC’s draft Environmental Impact Statements for this state. The findings of the panel will be publicly released once their work has been completed.”

approvals

Inland Rail approvals get fast-tracked in $1.5bn federal infrastructure spend

The approvals for the construction of Inland Rail will be sped up, as part of a $1.5 billion investment in infrastructure.

The Melbourne to Brisbane freight rail link is one of 15 priority projects that Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday, June 15, announced would benefit from expedited approvals. The list of projects also includes rail works in Western Australia.

Morrison said that joint assessment teams will be established between the Commonwealth, state, and territory governments to fast-track approvals.

The new spending on infrastructure follows a meeting of Australia’s transport and infrastructure ministers on Friday June 5, where the role of government to publicly fund infrastructure to spur an economic recovery following coronavirus (COVID-19) was prioritised.

Transport infrastructure was singled out as not only contributing to economic activity in its construction, but ongoing resilience to disasters such as bushfires. Ministers said that they would work to reduce administrative bottlenecks to get existing infrastructure projects underway.

In a communique released after the meeting, ministers said they would aim to have infrastructure lead the nation’s recovery from COVID-19.

“Ministers further agreed to work together to harmonise and streamline processes to clear the way for an infrastructure-led recovery to Australia’s current economic condition including consideration of infrastructure bodies processes and environmental approvals.”

At the June 5 meeting, ministers also discussed measures to get commuters back onto public transport, while ensuring safety.

Industry calls for certainty on Inland Rail route

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has criticised last-ditch attempts to re-route the Inland Rail project from the Queensland border to Gowrie.

Another review of the controversial route over the Condamine River floodplain was confirmed in early June, with the so-called forestry route back on the table. The route, via Cecil Plains, was previously considered but ruled out in favour of the current route because of the extra length. ALC CEO Kirk Coningham said that previous reviews had already found the best route.

“With construction on the project already underway, some groups are now attempting to have changes on the Border to Gowrie section of the route. Despite the fact that extensive and independent analysis of corridor options has previously confirmed the route chosen in 2017 is the best option, there is now a further review taking place.”

The review of the forestry route is in addition to a review of the hydrology and flood modelling of the current route, which is being conducted by an independent expert panel.

An extended route would limit the effectiveness of the entire Inland Rail route, said Coningham.

“The whole point of constructing Inland Rail is to provide a safe and efficient freight rail link for Australia’s east coast that permits a transit time of 24 hours or less for freight between Melbourne and Brisbane. Altering the route to the more complex one being advocated by some will make travel times longer and will make construction a more complicated and costly exercise,” he said.

“At a time when Australia should be moving ahead with shovel-ready infrastructure projects that can deliver economic development and employment opportunities for communities, it is disappointing that those benefits are being delayed by another review process.”

A recent study of the Inland Rail route found that the line would create a long-term benefit of $2.9-3.1 billion to gross regional product and 560-590 full time equivalent jobs in the 10th year of operations.

“ALC calls on all parties to respect the findings of this latest review once it is concluded, so that certainty is maintained and this once-in-a-generation freight rail project can start delivering benefits for local workers, businesses, exporters, and consumers,” said Coningham.

Further scholarships awarded as part of Inland Rail

Four undergraduate scholarships worth up to $20,000 each have been awarded to Charles Sturt University students and three scholarships worth the same amount have been awarded to La Trobe University students.

The scholarships are part of the Inland Rail Skills Academy program which aims to enables students who live close to the rail alignment to undertake study and grow into careers that will enrich the regions, said Inland Rail director community & environment Rebecca Pickering.

“These scholarships, and any employment opportunities they unlock, will act as a catalyst for positive change in many regional communities along the Inland Rail project alignment,” said Pickering.

The scholarships cover costs such as accommodation, equipment, relocation, as well as daily necessities. ¬¬¬

EOI for Victorian section of Inland Rail released

Expressions of interest (EOI) are now open for the design and construct contract for the Tottenham to Albury (T2A) section of Inland Rail.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has begun the EOI process as part of the early contractor involvement procurement process.

The contract will cover the design and rebuilding of bridges, civil works and track lowering, in addition to overhead wiring, signal gantry installation, and track slews along the existing North East rail line from Beveridge to Albury.

“We’re asking contractors to express their interest in the works, especially those with experience delivering a program of complex road and rail infrastructure in regional locations, with a value in excess of $200 million,” said ARTC general manager projects Victoria Ed Walker.

The announcement signals that work is getting underway on the Victorian section of the Inland Rail project. The entire project from Melbourne to Brisbane has been broken up into 13 projects, with Tottenham to Albury being the only Victorian segment of the project.

Once complete, the project will allow double for 1,800m long double stacked freight trains to run on the existing North East rail line. The current EOI covers works on stage one of T2A from Beveridge to Albury while a decision on where a new intermodal terminal on the outskirts of Melbourne will be located is finalised.

Construction is expected to commence in 2021 with the line becoming operational in 2025.

Walker said this would have benefits for freight operators and the wider community.

“Inland Rail will cut over ten hours and 200 kilometres off the transit from Victoria to Queensland for freight, and provides a direct connection to Queensland, bypassing the heavily constrained route through Sydney and the circuitous route via the NSW North Coast.

“A recent EY report into Inland Rail Regional Opportunities estimated that Inland Rail will boost the Victorian Gross Regional Product by up to $4.6 billion over a 50-year operating period, on top of the positive impacts during the construction period,” said Walker.

Tender documents can be submitted until 5pm on July 13. Dual early contractor involvement contractors will be shortlisted by August 2020 and a final selection will be made by early 2021.

Work on existing line continues
Over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend upgrades on the existing North East line passed a major milestone, with over 150,000 tonnes of ballast dropped on the line.

The $235m program of works has also seen 105km of tamping, 50km of reinstated drainage, 17 level crossing renewals, 6 bridge deck replacements, and 4 pedestrian crossing renewals completed.

Walker said that a key focus of the works is on their benefit to the local community.

“A key focus of the North East Rail Line upgrade is to ensure regional centres in North East Victoria directly benefit and we are proud that 38 local suppliers including 20 North East Victorian and 18 businesses from Melbourne are already contracted to work on the multi-million-dollar project.”

Achieving sustainability

Australia’s largest rail infrastructure project, Inland Rail and Australia’s largest rail freight operator, Aurizon, share how they’re meeting sustainability targets.

Successful management of sustainability- related targets requires a collaborative effort. Once the 1,700km rail network is complete, Inland Rail will be the backbone of Australia’s national freight rail network. The scale and the significance of the project creates an opportunity to set new benchmarks and standards in environmental and socio- economic performance.

Similarly, as the operator of a rail network distributed across regional Australia, Aurizon’s has the potential to contribute to sustainability in the communities in which it operates. The company’s sustainability strategy sets out that it aims to achieve resilience and resourcefulness through the transportation of bulk goods and commodities. While environmental strategies are an essential focus for both Aurizon and Inland Rail’s network, social sustainability is key facet of their approach to sustainability.

Most directly, social sustainability is promoted by both network managers in the design, maintenance and construction of rail track and associated infrastructure. As Inland Rail is transitioning from the design phase to construction, the company is primarily focused on benefiting regional towns along the alignment over the next stages of the project. Meanwhile, Aurizon is ensuring it is sustaining employment and enhancing businesses in the non-metropolitan areas of its rail network.

Creating opportunities for the development of a skilled local workforce through construction and operation is helping to deliver key national priorities for infrastructure and economic policy. In Inland Rail and Aurizon’s respective rail transport system, linking communities and strengthening the rail and national supply chain industries go hand in hand.

INLAND RAIL’S SUSTAINABLE PRIORITIES
Richard Wankmuller, Inland Rail CEO, stated in last year’s annual sustainability report that Inland Rail’s focus on social, environmental, and economic sustainability ensures the organisation is continuously striving to deliver the best possible outcomes for communities and the natural environment. Wankmuller acknowledged in the 2018-19 report that the once-in-a-generation rail project is only in its early phase, enabling Inland Rail to provide a unique opportunity to influence the effectiveness, benefits, and outcomes from its model for future rail infrastructure.

With the first stage of construction of the 103km Parkes to Narromine project expected to be completed in mid-2020, the billions of dollars invested to create the Brisbane to Melbourne rail freight network is also an investment for local communities and affected landowners to mitigate long-term economic and environmental impacts and create ongoing community benefits. With the separate sections of Inland Rail’s alignment at under varying stages of development, going forward, the sustainability program will commence annual public reporting of environmental and socio- economic benefits realised during the design and construction of the program.

According to Rebecca Pickering, Inland Rail director of engagement, environment, and property, Inland Rail is aiming to establish a new sustainability benchmark for environmental and socio-economic performance for Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) operations and the rail industry more widely. “Our engineers don’t need prompting about Inland Rail’s sustainability opportunities. Largely in this design phase, the team is driving smarter and innovative strategies that have never been seen in the industry before,” she said.

Pickering credits the wider strategic business framework of Inland Rail for empowering regional and local communities to take advantage of the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of procurement that will be generated during construction of the Inland Rail alignment. “To achieve our vision, we need to be innovative, agile and global in our thinking. Sustainability provides a framework to drive and support this culture,” she said.

Pickering said the environmental, social, and cultural outcomes are of equal importance to Inland Rail’s economic objectives. “We’ve already achieved success in managing impacts and creating connectivity in regional communities. A major chunk of recent success is the ability to provide sustainable jobs, which has been crucial during the current state of the economy,” she said. At the peak of construction, Inland Rail will create more than 16,000 direct and indirect jobs. An additional 700 ongoing jobs will be created once Inland Rail is operational. Pickering said $89 million has been spent with local businesses on-top of wages and every stage of construction is another opportunity to improve engagement and achieve ongoing sustainability.

“Not everything is set in stone, it’s a changing landscape so it’s super exciting and inspiring to connect so many regional communities. Recycling of materials, further consultation, and exceeding sustainability requirements are a focus as our strategies evolve,” Pickering said.

AURIZON’S SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Aurizon’s reporting of its environmental, social, and financial sustainability has given an insight into how the ASX-listed company is managing the impact of a widely dispersed railway network throughout central Queensland. According to its 2019 sustainably report, Aurizon is committed to continuing its strong track record in supporting a highly efficient and globally competitive supply chain for Australian commodity exports, especially for coal. Aurizon takes a direct approach to reporting environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures to stakeholders with the publication of its annual Sustainability Report. In August 2019, Aurizon maintained a ‘Leading’ rating for the fifth consecutive year from the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) for corporate sustainability reporting in Australia. Having received this rating for over four consecutive years, Aurizon has again been considered a ‘leader’ by ACSI, along with 45 other ASX200 companies.

Andrew Harding, Aurizon CEO and managing director said it’s important that the company creates a business that is not only strong commercially and performs well for customers, but also plays a positive role in the regional communities. “It is a genuine demonstration that while we develop our business and operations to ensure the company’s ongoing success, it is the strength, resilience and resourcefulness of our people that are key to our sustainability,” Harding stated in the opening to Aurizon’s most recent sustainability report.

An Aurizon spokesperson said the company’s current priority and focus is sustainably managing the business through the COVID-19  pandemic.“Understanding our material impacts is necessary to develop our strategy and operate sustainably, and that addressing these impacts is key in creating sustainable value for our stakeholders,” the spokesperson said.

Sustainability is central to Aurizon’s response to the current challenging times. “Our core value is safety, and Aurizon has implemented a range of proactive and practical measures to protect the health and safety of employees as well as provide business continuity to our customers. We cannot achieve operational performance objectives or maintain our social licence to operate unless we ensure the safety of our employees, our contractors, and our communities,” the spokesperson said.

Aurizon reset its strategic framework in 2018. Since the re-modelling to ensure the sustainable success of the business, the new Strategy in Action framework has been driving focus in Aurizon’s short-term activity within a framework of what is required for long-term growth and success. “We strive to ensure that our sustainability framework reflects significant economic, environmental, and social priorities that may influence strategic decision-making or have significant impacts on our business and our key stakeholders. As such, we continuously assess the material issues that affect our business, our stakeholders, and our operating environment,” the spokesperson said.

In taking a broad approach to sustainability, both Aurizon and Inland rail demonstrate the importance of resilient freight rail transport networks to the ongoing vitality of regional communities.

Inland Rail to grow northern NSW by $160m in first 10 years

An in-depth report on the benefits of Inland Rail to northern NSW has found that the rail line will support $160 million worth of value of goods and services across 16 local government areas in its 10th year of operations.

In particular, sectors including food, grain, transport, and logistics are expected to benefit from additional investment once Inland Rail begins operating from Goondiwindi to Narromine.

The findings are part of an ongoing study conducted by accounting firm EY on behalf of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications into the regional opportunities that will be derived from Inland Rail’s operation. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said that the report should motivate industry to invest in regional NSW.

“Inland Rail will provide benefits in regional communities for decades to come so we want to see industries expand outside metropolitan areas by taking advantage of the significant infrastructure we are delivering, lower land costs, resources and the ready and willing regional workforce.”

An overall report was released in March, which found that the rail line will deliver a boost of $11.5 to $13.3 billion in the first 50 years of operation.

The Northern NSW Regional Intelligence Report delves into the particular benefits that northern NSW will receive from Inland Rail. Already, the region contributes $11.5bn in gross value to the state and handles 50 million tonnes of freight a year.

In terms of jobs, the report estimates that 5,000 jobs will be created in construction across NSW, and by the 50th year of operations 360-470 full time equivalent positions will be created just in northern NSW.

In investment terms, construction will bring $2.5bn in gross state product to NSW, and by the 50th year of operations $320-360 million in gross regional product would be added to northern NSW.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said that the project would enable efficient access to global markets.

“Giving businesses and communities along Inland Rail’s path access to fast, efficient and cost-competitive freight transport will connect them to new markets and will drive new investments from industries looking to expand in our regions.”

The report highlights some investments that are currently underway. These include the Northern NSW Inland Port, which is taking $300,000 of NSW government funding for the Narrabri Shire Council to undertake an optimisation study for an intermodal facility near the Inland Rail route. Other potential investments include the expansion of food and livestock processing and growth in mining investment.

Federal member for Parkes Mark Coulton said that Inland Rail will empower regional industries.

“The time is now for industry to start planning for the coming decades and strategically position themselves to build resilience in their supply chains and take full advantage of the huge benefits Inland Rail is going to offer.”

“Inland Rail could be pivotal in shaping and sustaining long-term economic growth and prosperity in the regions along the corridor,” write the authors of the report. “With the right policy settings, Inland Rail can deliver economic growth through two response pathways – supply chain efficiencies and value chain growth.”

Industry welcomes appointment of Inland Rail expert panel

Pacific National and Wagner Corporation have welcomed the establishment of an independent panel of experts to resolve concerns regarding flooding along the Inland Rail route.

The two companies have joined as part of an initial business agreement to develop a rail freight and logistics hub in Toowoomba, alongside the Inland Rail corridor.

“Expert advice and reassurance about flood modelling and engineering solutions is urgently needed for both affected regional communities and future potential investors,” said Pacific National CEO Dean Dalla Valle.

The expert panel was formed in April 2020 and seeks to understand and alleviate the concerns of landholders on the Condamine floodplain, who have raised issues with the flood modelling which guided the design of Inland Rail. The panel’s draft Terms of Reference are currently available for public comment.

Dalla Valle said that the formation of the panel and the adoption of its findings is essential to realising the estimated $13.3 billion in benefits of the freight rail line.

“Make no mistake, in the current economic climate, private sector investment along the Inland Rail route will quickly dry up if this project gets ‘stuck in the mud’ on the Condamine Floodplain.”

As a leader of a locally-based business, non-executive chairman of Wagner Corporation John Wagner said that the panel was a step in the right direction.

“I’m heartened to see the Australian Government placing a keen focus and effort on resolving any remaining hydrological and engineering issues of the Inland Rail project across the Condamine Floodplain.”

Pacific National and Wagner Corporation highlighted that once the project passes its final hurdles, the community will immediately benefit.

“Inland Rail is largely a shovel-ready project, meaning hundreds of Queensland construction workers, contractors and suppliers can be mobilised quickly to help revive regional economies hard hit by years of drought and now the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic,” said Wagner.

The partnership between Pacific National and Wagner Corporation is one example of the step change that could occur in Australia’s logistics network and supply chains. The companies are exploring the development of a rail to air intermodal terminal in Toowoomba that could export rail borne freight internationally from Toowoomba, via the Wellcamp international airport, located next to the proposed intermodal terminal. The logistics hub would also enable primary producers in the Darling Downs access to the national rail freight network, said Wagner.

“Wellcamp Business Park is the perfect place to develop a major logistics hub in south east Queensland. The Darling Downs is one of the most productive agricultural regions in Australia, while Toowoomba is an incredibly progressive and vibrant regional city.”

Dalla Valle also highlighted the community benefits that come with getting more freight on rail.

“Integrated with Inland Rail, a future Wellcamp Logistics Hub would help reduce road accidents and fatalities, traffic congestion, vehicle emissions, and road ‘wear and tear’,” said Dalla Valle.

Pacific National

Rail showcasing what’s possible in regional Australia

Smart thinking between Pacific National and Wagner Corporation highlights the many possibilities of rail freight.

News broke in early March that two powerhouses of regional transport and logistics were coming together for potentially Australia’s only rail-air intermodal terminal.

Pacific National and Wagner Corporation are now deep into discussions for a major logistics hub at Wellcamp Business Park, just outside of Toowoomba.

The two companies are looking to build a 250ha logistics hub at the site next to the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport, said Pacific National CEO, Dean Dalla Valle.

“The proposed 250-hectare Wellcamp Logistics Hub also has frontage to the future Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project, allowing extensive future intermodal operations for freight to be transferred between trains, planes and trucks,” he said.

The future Wellcamp Logistics Hub would include 2.7 kilometres of frontage to the rail corridor, allowing for 1,800m long freight trains to operate.

Daily cargo jet flights operate from a fully licensed and bonded international air cargo terminal next door, and the site has the potential to process up to 350,000 shipping containers by 2030, and up to half a million by 2040. The airport in question, the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport, is owned by the Wagner Corporation, and is an example of how that company has pedigree when it comes to innovative investing in regional logistics.

The family-owned property and infrastructure developer was behind the first, privately funded major airport, built on an old quarry site owned by the Wagner family. Today, the airport connects Toowoomba and the surrounding Darling Downs region not only to domestic jet services, but also direct freight connections to Hong Kong with weekly flights operated by Cathay Pacific Cargo.

Building and operating an intermodal terminal next door, at the connected Wellcamp Business Park, allows for rail freight services along in the Inland Rail corridor to connect to global freight and logistics supply chains.

While such a connection between rail and freight would be new for Australia, it has been successfully adopted elsewhere. In Germany, the Leipzig-Halle airport forms logistics company DHL’s European hub, with plans for a network of high-speed rail spanning from the airport. Despite being the 11th largest airport in Germany for passengers, the regional airport is the second largest in the country in terms of freight, and the 5th busiest in Europe.

Similarly, at the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport in France, two air-rail cargo interchanges allow for air cargo to be seamlessly transported from air to a high- speed rail network connecting France, Belgium, and the UK.

Although both these projects have had a focus on moving mail and parcels, rather than bulk cargos, there is potential for rail to air freight playing a role in the movement of food and produce. Here, the Darling Downs can play its part as the food bowl of South- East Queensland, and a producer of foodstuffs intended for export to growing markets in Hong Kong and Asia. As Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) CEO John Fullerton outlined, locating intermodal freight and expert facilities close to where the food is being produced, allows for value adding in terms of advanced processing and packaging occurring locally, ensuring these benefits remain in the community.

“Inland Rail is a once in a lifetime project which will better link regional businesses to our fast-growing capital cities, farmers and producers to national and global markets, generate new opportunities for industries and regions and reduce large truck congestion on our roads.”

Inland rail leads to spark
The initial idea for the project came from another transformative Pacific National intermodal terminal, 800 kilometres south. The idea of being the private developer behind an intermodal terminal came to John Wagner, non-executive chairman of the Wagner Corporation, when he saw what other projects were underway in Parkes.

“When Wagner Corporation attended the October 2019 opening of Pacific National’s logistics terminal in Parkes – also located on the Inland Rail alignment – it gave us an exciting picture of what could be achieved with future rail freight services at Wellcamp,” he said.

The potential for rail to improve communities was also highlighted by Fullerton.

“The growth opportunities are endless, with Inland Rail unlocking job security potential not seen in decades through strategic industry investment.”

Partly due to the region’s topography, Toowoomba and the Darling Downs region had lacked interstate rail freight connections and was thus unable to access the benefits of rail transportation. Not only will the future hub improve supply chains, but lead to community benefits, highlighted Dalla Valle.

“Integrated with Inland Rail, a future Wellcamp Logistics Hub would help reduce road accidents and fatalities, traffic congestion, vehicle emissions, and road ‘wear and tear’,” he said.

“Picture this – at a minimum, a 1,800-metre- long freight train hauling shipping containers is equivalent to removing 140 B-double return truck trips from our roads.”

Freight rail delivering community benefits
The Wellcamp Logistics Hub announcement is tangible evidence of the $13.3 billion in benefits that a new report estimates that Inland Rail will bring to regional communities along the alignment.

Prepared by consultancy EY on behalf of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, the report identified the key role that intermodal hubs would play in Inland Rail’s delivery of billions of dollars of economic benefit back to regional communities over the next 50 years.

The report found two key growth pathways as a result of Inland Rail, Supply Chain Efficiencies and Value Chain Growth.

Prepared in 2019, the report accurately predicted the kinds of outcomes that the Wellcamp Business Park could deliver.

“Inland Rail may lead to a reorganisation of supply chains and fundamentally change how freight is moved in Australia,” write the authors of the report.

The findings, spread across the four regions of South-East Queensland, northern NSW, southern NSW and Victoria, point to how greater connectivity can benefit regional communities, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“Inland Rail gives these communities new ways to grow and rebuild with better connections to interstate and international markets, new jobs and a stronger case for attracting public and private investment.”

Fullerton reiterated the importance of rail in exporting Australia’s commodities.

“Without freight trains, bulk exports like grain, meat, fresh and dry produce, cotton and coal cannot be efficiently hauled to ports, the gateways to global markets.”

While the Inland Rail project itself may be focused on ensuring that the rail corridor is built, to access the benefits of such a major infrastructure project, the links between Inland Rail and the communities it serves will be essential. Demonstrating this, the EY report found that in each of the regions studied, intermodal terminals opening from 0-10 years after the completion of the Inland Rail project will be part of the first wave of investment.

As nodes within the network, Fullerton highlighted the role that intermodal hubs will play.

“Intermodal freight hubs drive increased investment, growth and more jobs across regional Australia the added safety and environmental benefits of shifting more freight volumes from trucks to trains.”

These are then expected to lead to the development of industry hubs, which take advantage of the supply chain efficiencies offered by Inland Rail and congregate complementary businesses. In the case of the Darling Downs and South East Queensland, this could see grain and cotton being transported to the Wellcamp Logistics Hub, manufactured at the Wellcamp Business Park and then shipped by Pacific National on rail to other locations in Australia or via air to the globe.

As a comparative example, EY looked to the Santa Teresa Intermodal Facility in New Mexico, as an example of how an intermodal terminal can lead to the aggregation of businesses, not only in the transport and logistics sectors, but manufacturing and professional services.

Mark Campbell

New CEO announced for ARTC

Mark Campbell is the new CEO of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).

Campbell will take over from John Fullerton after his appointment was confirmed by the board of the ARTC.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack welcomed Campbell to the top of the national rail track manager.

“We look forward to working closely with Campbell and continuing a strong professional relationship with the ARTC board and management as we deliver the 1,700-kilometre Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail and improve and maintain some 8,500 kilometres of rail,” said McCormack.

Campbell will oversee some of the many projects that Fullerton led, including the Inland Rail project which began during Fullerton’s time as CEO, as well as improvements to Australia’s national freight network. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann thanked Fullerton for his time at the head of ARTC.

“During Fullerton’s tenure, the ARTC made significant improvements to the efficiency and competitiveness of Australia’s interstate rail network.

“The ARTC also commenced delivery of Inland Rail under Fullerton’s leadership. Inland Rail will be the spine of Australia’s freight network, supporting 16,000 jobs during construction and providing a $16 billion boost to our national economy over the long term.”

Warren Truss, ARTC chairman, welcomed Campbell to the organisation and acknowledged the work done by Fullerton.

“We look forward to Campbell leading ARTC into an exciting future for Australia’s rail sector, which is set to play an increased role in the freight and transport industry over the next decade to help drive national productivity and the economic growth of the nation.

“On behalf of the ARTC Board, I would like to pay tribute to Fullerton for his outstanding career in the rail industry, which has spanned more than 40 years, including the past nine as head of ARTC. Unyielding in his efforts to promote the value of rail and transport supply chains to the national economy, Fullerton’s knowledge and guidance will be greatly missed, but we wish him every happiness in the future.”

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie welcomed Campbell’s appointment and thanked Fullerton for his work in the rail industry.

“Under his leadership, the ARTC has been reinvigorated through a wide-reaching transformation program that has seen the company become more competitive, customer-focused and results-oriented.”

Fullerton has put in place an organisation with the capacity to construct and maintain billions of dollars’ worth of rail infrastructure, and led change within ARTC itself, resulting in major advances in the company’s safety performance, customer focus, and asset improvement.”

Kirk Coningham, CEO of the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) highlighted the significant steps forward taken during Fullerton’s time as CEO.

“The decision of the Federal Government to fund the construction of Inland Rail in 2017 was a watershed moment, following many years of advocacy by our organisation and the leading transport and logistics companies we represent.

The success of the industry-led Inland Rail Conference first staged by ALC and the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) in Parkes in 2018 and then in Toowoomba last year was greatly enhanced by ARTC’s active support, and in particular by Fullerton’s commitment to ensuring regional communities share in the economic benefits of this once-in-a-generation freight infrastructure project.”

Campbell was most recently the CEO and managing director of Holcim Australia and New Zealand, which supplies aggregates, concrete, and concrete products in Australia and New Zealand. Prior to Holcim, Campbell worked in other construction materials and quarrying companies in Australia, Malaysia, and the UK and has a background in civil engineering.

“Campbell’s extensive prior experience in the construction and infrastructure sectors means he is well-placed to continue driving the improvements to rail infrastructure and safety which are at the heart of all ARTC’s activities,” said Coningham.

“ALC looks forward to working closely with Mr Campbell and the entire ARTC team when he takes up his new position.”

A resilient freight network is key in times of uncertainty

In her column, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association Caroline Wilkie highlights that Australia’s rail freight network is facing challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic but its importance now is greater than ever.

Australia’s population is forecast to double by 2070, reaching almost 45 million people. This growing population requires an increased allocation of goods, adding pressure on our existing freight networks to deliver. According to the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, Australia’s freight task is expected to grow by over 35 per cent between 2018 and 2040, an increase of 270 billion tonnes, bringing the total volume moved to just over 1,000 billion tonne-kilometres.

The role of rail freight is critical in meeting this future demand and maintaining our international competitiveness. The Value of Rail study commissioned by ARA in 2017 highlights that a one per cent improvement in freight productivity could generate $8-20 billion in savings to the national economy over 20 years. Rail freight provides a cost-effective, safe and environmentally sound solution for reducing congestion from heavy vehicles on urban, regional, and interstate roads. Just one freight train alone can take 110 trucks off our already congested roads and rail is up to nine times safer than road freight. In light of these significant benefits, the ARA is working with governments and industry on behalf of our members to get more freight on to rail, and to improve the efficiency and productivity of Australia’s rail freight supply chains. Achieving modal shift to rail is critical to increasing economic growth, improving the liveability of our cities and supporting regional communities.

Delivery of the Inland Rail project is an important step in achieving this. This nation building project will see a 1,700km freight rail line directly connecting Melbourne and Brisbane, via Toowoomba, Parkes, and Albury. The route will utilise approximately 1,100 km of upgraded existing track and 600 km of new track in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria. Most importantly though, it will bypass the heavily congested Sydney network and bring rail freight travel times between Melbourne and Brisbane down from 33 hours to less than 24 hours. This is a game changer and will make rail freight much more competitive over long haulage routes.

In a period of economic uncertainty, the Inland Rail project is bringing a much needed boost to the economy. Construction is already underway on the Parkes to Narromine project and planning is well advanced on a number of other sections. Approximately $747m has already been spent, with much of this spend being injected into rural communities.

Inland Rail has been in the public domain for over fifteen years. It is also one of the most heavily studied projects in recent Australian history, having been through an extensive consultation, planning, route analysis, engineering and costing process.

We are aware of issues that have been raised in relation to flooding of the Condamine crossing in Queensland.

Without a doubt, the project is receiving the best possible expert advice and can manage these issues using tested and proven mitigation measures. These issues need to be worked through carefully and collaboratively, but they should not delay the delivery of the project.

The delivery of Inland Rail is a start, but more must be done. Investment in rail freight delivers enormous benefits in the long term. Improved supply chain connectivity and productivity benefits the economy and the environment and helps provide resilience in the face of emergencies like to COVID-19 pandemic.

The current crisis has just reinforced the importance of a highly productive and efficient supply chain. This unprecedented event has challenged our supply chain like never before, but our rail freight members continue to ensure that essential goods such as canned food, toilet paper, and cleaning products are moving across the country and to customers.

When state border crossing restrictions came into force in later March, the ARA wrote to state and the Commonwealth transport minsters to ensure rail freight was considered an essential service and exempt from border restrictions.

However, the stark difference between road and rail freight regulation is never more apparent than it is during times like these. Regulation by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has a focus on both safety and productivity, whereas the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR’s) remit is purely safety-related.

The ARA have long held the view that we must take a national approach with all modes working together to deliver an integrated freight market. However, this approach can only work if all modes operate from a level playing field with equal treatment in terms of access pricing, government policies, and the role of productivity in regulation.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, trucks were able to have curfews lifted to extend delivery windows in NSW and Queensland. However, due to the nature of our infrastructure and the shared tracks of passenger and rail networks, our industry does not have the same flexibility. As a result, we must look for other solutions to improve the productivity of rail freight.

Rail freight operators are committed to the highest levels of safety compliance but are routinely challenged by Rail Safety National Law (RSNL) derogations that exist, most notably the differing fatigue management requirements in NSW and Queensland, and the different drug and alcohol management requirements in NSW.

As I outlined in my March 2020 article, these inconsistent, state-based regulatory requirements go against the objective of national regulation and add costs to rail freight without any proven safety benefit. The ARA believes that multiple layers of often conflicting regulation impacts rail freight productivity.

A modern, risk-based approach to rail safety that focuses on productivity will improve our supply chain resilience and unlock significant economic and environmental benefits for the whole country.