Further consultation on the Inland Rail flood modelling design

Members of the public are being invited to have their say on the proposed flood modelling and structural design of the Inland Rail construction.

A panel of experts is being called on by the federal and Queensland governments to provide public consultation on the draft Terms of Reference for the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) freight rail line that will cross the Condamine floodplain in Queensland.

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development said the Independent Panel of Experts will include hydrologists and engineer experts.

The independent expert panel chosen to review ARTC’s flood modelling and design will include experts with international experience and will operate at arm’s length from ARTC.

McCormack said the public consultation will reaffirm Inland Rail’s commitment to an engineering solution.

“We understand the legitimate concerns landholders have about constructing infrastructure where our farmers and communities have experienced floods – which is why the Independent Panel of Experts is important to provide public safety assurance for Inland Rail,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

McCormack said extensive work has already been undertaken by the ARTC and by Australian experts to develop and test flood modelling that will guide the structural design of Inland Rail as it crosses flood prone areas.

Mathias Cormann, Finance Minister, said the government was committed to working with affected communities and experts.

“This expert panel will provide reassurance around Inland Rail’s hydrology and engineering solutions, ensuring that Queenslanders can benefit from 7,200 jobs and from a boost of more than $7 billion which Inland Rail will deliver to the Queensland economy,” he said.

Mark Bailey, Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads said the Condamine floodplain is a complex and dynamic part of Queensland.

“The engineering solution for Inland Rail to cross the Condamine must address this, taking into account local hydraulic and hydrology patterns and local knowledge,” he said.

“The expert panel will review ARTC’s flood modelling and proposed designs against the best practice in a floodplain environment and provide advice to the Commonwealth, the State and the ARTC.”

The draft Terms of Reference is available via email for stakeholders.

Inland rail continues major construction with added safety measures

Inland Rail’s construction is continuing along with other major construction projects, with the safe delivery of freight and transport infrastructure a high priority.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has implemented additional public health and safety measures on national rail infrastructure projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development said he has the confidence that all necessary precautions are being taken to protect workers and the communities in which they operate.

“Now more than ever, we need these essential construction services and the economic stimulus to continue, not just to keep people in work, but to ensure we’re in the best place possible to build momentum when we see through this global health crisis,” he said.

“Additional measures put in place by the ARTC and its contractors to protect the health and safety of workers and the local community mean we can continue to deliver projects, such as the transformational Inland Rail.”

McCormack said everyone relies on the freight network to deliver the essential supplies such as food, medicine, and medical equipment, which are critical now more than ever.

“I thank the freight and construction workers who are essential to maintaining our supply chains and laying the ground work for Australia’s freight future,” he said.

More than 1,700 people have worked on Inland Rail since construction began, including 667 locals on the Parkes to Narromine project.

McCormack said the economic injection from this project has been immense with $89 million spent with local businesses and 97 local businesses engaged as suppliers.

More than 165,000 tonnes of ballast has been laid and one million tonnes of earthworks completed since the first sod was turned in Parkes in December 2018.

A total 70km of the 103-kilometre Parkes to Narromine section of Inland Rail is now complete, with final ancillary work under way.

Mathias Cormann, finance minister, said Inland Rail will deliver a $16 billion boost to gross domestic product during construction and the first 50 years of operation.

“Inland Rail will support 5,000 jobs in New South Wales and we are already seeing the benefits of this in Parkes and the surrounding region, with a boost to employment and supplier contracts flowing from construction,” he said.

Cormann said the government is committed to Inland Rail to build Australia’s freight capability and meet increasing demands.

“We are very happy that this vital work can continue safely,” he said.

“It is important that we progress these long-term infrastructure projects to create jobs for Australians, sustain economic activity and to support the recovery on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis.”

Inland Rail awards $80,000 in scholarships

Four regional students have been awarded scholarships valued at up to $20,000 each as part of the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) Inland Rail scholarship program.

The four students from regional Queensland are the first to be awarded scholarships under ARTC’s Inland Rail Skills Academy.

The scholarships for the University of Southern Queensland will provide the four students with support from Inland Rail as they continue their studies at the university.

In announcing the scholarships, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the Inland Rail Skills Academy was investing in Australia’s youth.

“Along with 16,000 jobs created during Inland Rail’s construction, this is a long term investment in young people and a commitment to support jobs and skill development through the delivery of Inland Rail,” McCormack said.

“Every person trained through Inland Rail will have skills and expertise to take back to their communities, wherever they are in Australia, which will help boost local economies.”

The ARTC’s scholarship program is open to undergraduate students living in areas close to the Inland Rail route, giving financial assistance of $5,000 per year to study with a total value of up to $20,000 each.

Mathias Cormann, minister for finance said that beyond the $16 billion boost from its construction, Inland Rail can add another $13 billion in value to gross regional product over its first 50 years, depending on the conditions to invest along the rail line.

“It’s good to see the Inland Rail Skills Academy doing their part to build the workforce capability that will attract and retain investment to regional Australia and boost economic output for the long-term,” he said.

“It’s fantastic that Inland Rail is providing financial support to regional students who might struggle to afford tertiary education – giving them the opportunity to graduate into fulfilling careers and give back to their communities,” Geraldine Mackenzie, University of Southern Queensland’s vice chancellor said.

Awardees of these Queensland scholarships include Sophie Boon, Samuel Butler, Rebecca Hallahan, and Braidyn Newitt.

Rebecca Pickering, ARTC’s Inland Rail director for community and environment said the academy was keen to support students by providing opportunities for them to graduate into careers, which add value to their local regions.

“These scholarships and the employment opportunities they unlock will act as a catalyst for positive change in many regional communities along the Inland Rail alignment. And we are delighted to partner with the University of Southern Queensland in support of our locals,” Pickering said.

Intermodal hubs and freight infrastructure among new $44m Inland Rail developments

16 local project proposals will be developed as part of the Australian Government’s $44 million Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program.

Michael McCormack, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development has announced an EY Australia-led consortium has been commissioned to further develop Inland Rail interface improvements.

“Sixteen projects were found eligible in this first round of applications, and those groups are now working with the EY-led consortium to develop pre-feasibility studies, feasibility studies, and strategic business cases,” he said.

McCormack said an intermodal facility at Mangalore, expanded freight infrastructure in the Riverina, and rail upgrades between Kurumbul to Thallon are projects that are being supported through the Interface Improvement Program.

“Inland Rail has always been about far more than building a rail line – it’s about investing in our national freight network, enhancing supply chains, and bringing jobs and economic opportunity to regional Australia,” McCormack said.

“Large infrastructure projects deliver great stimulus to the national economy – Inland Rail, for example, will boost GDP by $16 billion and support 16,000 jobs during construction,” he said.

Mark Coulton, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government said the Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program is investigating options for regions to maximise their connections to this national freight network.

Coulton said new supply chains enabled by Inland Rail stretch well beyond the tracks connecting Melbourne and Brisbane.

“We are backing local ideas because we know that the connections to Inland Rail will be critical to create economic uplift and ongoing jobs in our regions,” he said.

Proposals received through the Expression of Interest process were assessed by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, and by its independent assurance and technical advisor.

Proposals will be developed through pre-feasibility or feasibility studies and strategic business cases, depending on the individual project proposal.

Eligibility to progress through to an appropriate assessment gateway for proposal development was assessed against the Interface Improvement Program principles and information requirements including supporting regional economic growth, capacity to increase Inland Rail throughput and supporting National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities.

Mathias Cormann, Finance Minister, said Inland Rail would change the way freight is moved around Australia, offering a fast and efficient alternative to complement long-haul road transport along Australia’s east coast.

“Now more than ever, our investment in Inland Rail is vital to build resilience in the national freight network that provides an essential service to Australians – delivering the inputs needed to drive small business and fuel our national economy,” he said.

“Our commitment through the Interface Improvement Program will further enhance community and industry connectivity to Inland Rail, and ensure our producers and manufacturers remain competitive.”

McCormack said the complementary businesses, manufacturers, and logistics hubs that establish along this freight rail line will provide sustained employment for people in regional Australia and boost gross regional product by up to $13.3bn over the long term.

The 1,700-kilometre Inland Rail line will connect Melbourne, Brisbane and regional areas through fast and reliable freight rail and will create around 16,000 jobs during the construction phase, while supporting approximately 700 jobs once it is operational.

Rail a major component in $50bn Qld infrastructure spend

Rail had the largest growth in funded infrastructure in Queensland in 2020, according to the recently released Queensland Major Project Pipeline (QLDMPP) report.

A joint initiative of the Queensland Major Contractors Association (QMCA) and the Infrastructure Association of Queensland (IAQ), the report outlines the total pipeline of major infrastructure projects, adding up to over $50 billion of planned, funded, and in construction works.

QMCA CEO, Jon Davies was enthused about the pipeline.

“We are delighted to see significant growth in the pipeline, with works totalling $50.6bn scheduled between 2019/20 and 2023/24.”

While the largest sector is the resources and heavy industry sector, the $6.68bn worth of announced projects in that sector are not yet funded.

“However, there is still an element of risk around the total figure as $23.2bn of work is not funded at this stage. This is mostly down to planned resources and energy projects which take considerable time to plan, fund and gain approval,” said Davies.

The rail project pipeline increased by $1.74bn in funded projects and $1.03bn in unfunded projects from the 2019 to 2020 version of the report, with multiple large rail projects in the state receiving funding.

“Overall there are reasons to be optimistic, with many major projects such as Inland Rail, Cross River Rail, Brisbane Metro and upgrades to the M1, Bruce Highway and essential water infrastructure developments beginning in earnest.”

Geographically, the projects in the QLDMPP report were largely concentrated in south-east Queensland, with 40 per cent of all funded work there.

Larger projects were receiving a greater share of funding and announcements, with 70 per cent of projects by 2023/24 being valued above $500 million.

Emerging challenges could include a skills shortage in the road and rail sectors, however opportunity could come in the form of the mooted 2032 SEQ Olympics bid, which would require projects such as faster rail links between Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, and Ipswich to be advanced prior to the games.

Inland Rail sparks discussions for rail-road-air intermodal hub in Toowoomba

Pacific National and Wagner Corporation have entered into detailed discussions for a major logistics hub at Wellcamp Business Park, in Toowoomba.

The announcement is tangible evidence of the $13.3 billion in benefits that the federal government estimates Inland Rail will bring to regional communities along the alignment.

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 2.7km 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 wider Darling Downs region is not only part of the South-East Queensland food bowl, but a hub for manufacturing and resources industry. The idea for an intermodal terminal in here was sparked by another intermodal terminal connected to the Inland Rail line, said John Wagner, non-executive chairman of Wagner Corporation.

“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.

Dalla Valle highlighted that the benefits would extend beyond the industry to societal and environmental outcomes.

“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, an 1,800-metre-long freight train hauling shipping containers is equivalent to removing 140 B-double return truck trips from our roads.”

Toowoomba has been a centre for discussions about the future of rail in South East Queensland, with the Inland Rail agreement signed there, and fast passenger rail options being explored.

Meeting the growing demand for intermodal freight

CFCL Australia’s Matthew Roberts told Rail Express about the fleet lessor’s flexible approach, and how it’s responding to growing intermodal demand.

The growing volume of freight in Australia is presenting both challenges and opportunities for the rail sector. A 50 per cent increase in the decade to 2016 is putting pressure on intermodal, containerised freight, as rail is called upon to shuttle freight from ports to intermodal terminals.

In this context, logistics operators are looking to get more goods onto rail, and CFCL Australia (CFCLA) is able to provide a flexible solution, outlines Matthew Roberts, CFCLA rollingstock operations manager.

“Most of our wagon fleet is intermodal, and we hire out our wagons to all the rail operators, and some non-rail customers use them and engage other people to haul trains for them.”

CFCLA’s 1,700 wagons are supported by 78 locomotives. As a company with over two decades experience in Australia and deep roots in the home of rail freight Chicago, the integrated rail services provider is able to give peace of mind to operators and contractors.

“With our intermodal wagons we wet lease, which means we do all the maintenance,” said Roberts. “Like hiring a car, we do everything; the car is registered and we complete the servicing and repairs so all the customer needs to do is phone our 24-hour helpdesk to arrange workshop time that suits their schedule. When someone goes in and bids for a job, they don’t have to hold the wagons for 30 years, they’re only holding them for the period of the contract with their customer.”

The recent openings of intermodal terminals, particularly around the Sydney basin and further afield in NSW, have increased the need for CFCLA’s intermodal expertise.

“We have been contacted by a broad range of shippers and freight owners who are looking for assistance or advice on getting their freight between terminals, which is port to metro and regional terminals and return, there could even be regional-to-regional opportunities”, Roberts said.

When Inland Rail opens in 2025, Roberts also expects demand to increase. Of benefit would be open access terminals along the route.

“Inland rail will hopefully grow the pie by bringing new freight onto rail. The convenience of the Inland Rail line will encourage people who might currently ship by road to port to use rail instead,” he said.

IN-HOUSE CAPABILITIES
CFCLA plans to respond to increasing demand by growing its workshop productivity. Located in Goulburn, NSW and at Islington Railway Workshops in Kilburn, South Australia, the two workshops house the knowledge that CFCLA has built up over 22 years in the Australian rail industry.

“We’ve have locomotive overhaul facilities, so we can do any sort of service on a locomotive that we own. We own 78 locomotives ourselves and we also work on customer-owned locomotives and can complete a full overhaul should the customer desire,” said Roberts.

With freight movements and logistics networks functioning on tight time intervals and schedules, CFCLA enables an operator to keep its cargo moving.

“The idea is that customers passing our workshops can drop off and pick up locomotives with ease, so there’s no downtime,” said Roberts. “They can drop off a locomotive, leave it there for a couple of days for servicing, and take one of our locomotives straight out of the workshop and keep going.”

This kind of servicing and maintenance also lends itself to finding a smarter solution, based on knowledge of what factors are affecting the sector.

“The intermodal sector is picking up, but there’s presently a shortage of 40-foot wagons in the market,” said Roberts. “We’re looking at either modifying or building more 40-foot wagons. We’re looking at a program of cutting some 60-foot wagons into 40-foot wagons and that’s to allow for maximum container weight and not running with empty space on the train.”

By modifying 60-foot wagons to 40 feet, CFCLA is meeting the emerging needs of freight operators needing to fit more containers through congested terminals, such as Port Botany with limited rail infrastructure and minimising train lengths, which reduces costs in things such as access fees.

“On a 60-foot wagon you can put two heavy containers, but using up more train length to do it. We’re looking at how to get more 40-foot wagons into the market. They’re at a premium because the sidings at the port are fairly short and that’s a restricting factor; the time it takes to shunt at the ports as trains become longer,” said Roberts.

These kinds of modifications go some way to ensuring that rail can continue to move larger volumes of freight, even as port terminals are constrained in siding space.

“A lot of infrastructure owners seem to have built short sidings, around 600 metres long,” said Roberts. “The trains are getting longer and longer but the infrastructure at those places is not.”

Already, those freight operators that CFCLA is working with are putting in requests for CFCLA to provide more, shorter wagons, a service that CFCLA can offer because of the flexibility enabled by having its own workshops.

“We’ve been working with Crawfords Freight Lines and they have a demand for more 40-foot wagons, and also Bowmans Rail in South Australia, they’ve got a demand for more 40-foot wagons,” highlighted Roberts. “They can still carry the freight on longer wagons, but you can’t put a third maximum loaded container on the wagon making the train longer.”

Work for both of these clients will be handled by CFCLA itself.

“Our own workshops will do the work, our own workshops will make the modifications,” said Roberts.

SAFETY AND COMPLIANCE: THE BACKBONE TO INTERMODAL FREIGHT
To continue to responsively meet the demand of rail operators, CFCLA sees an ever-growing need for workshop capabilities.

“We’ll have to look at expansion of the workshop sector. If the sector grows, we grow with it, so we will have more intermodal wagons for the increasing traffic,” said Roberts.

CFCLA’s workshop staff will bring to intermodal wagons their expertise in a variety of rail operations, highlighted Roberts.

“We do all types of rail maintenance work; whether it’s rail equipment that is used out on the line for track maintenance, or passenger cars for the Ghan and Indian Pacific, including wagons and locomotives.”

Beyond the range of jobs able to be completed, what distinguishes CFCLA’s workshops is the intensive safety and compliance regime that is applied from the shop floor up to senior management.

“On the subject of safety, it goes without saying there is no compromise as without doubt rail is a risk management business,” said Roberts.

“We have a very strong safety management system with the regulator, the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator. They visit and audit us three times a year or more. Customers can come to us, knowing that the regulator visits, checks what we’re doing, visits the workshops, and comes into the office and looks at all our records. We need to demonstrate we are competent at what we do.

“Where it does count for maintenance is the shop floor. The guys on the shop floor have access to the documentation because there is quite a bit of documentation on how to change a wheel, how to measure a wheel even, so that everything is recorded and completed properly.”

Implementing these standards is an experienced and specialised workforce, many of whom come to CFCLA with a background in rail, and if not are trained by CFCLA to become part of what Roberts described as a “family”.

“We try and treat everyone like we would our own family, so our CEO knows people on the shop floor by name and they know her. We talk to each other.”

In sum, noted Roberts, “what we really do is simple – we have workshops wagons and locomotives – we just try and do that well”.

Inland Rail to boost regional Australia by $13.3b

Regional communities across Australia are set to benefit from $13.3 billion in gross regional product due to the Inland Rail project.

According to an eight month study by EY, Inland Rail can add up to $13 billion in today’s terms to the value of goods and services produced over its first 50 years of operation.

The report was undertaken throughout 2019 and released by the Deputy Prime Minister in March 2020. The report builds on the projected 16,000 jobs and $16 billion boost to the national economy outlined in the 2015 Inland Rail Business Case

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development said Inland Rail is going to draw industry to regional Australia where the enhanced freight rail network will connect companies and consumers both domestically and internationally

“What the EY report is assessing is the additional benefit to communities from the opportunities that arise for local businesses and people from the completion of Inland Rail,” he said.

“For example, it might be a cereal manufacturer whose freight costs drop by 30 per cent allowing the employment of additional staff, or it might be the expansion of regional processing that takes advantage of Inland Rail’s lower cost and greater capacity and connectivity.”

EY looked at case studies, international examples, and local knowledge to determine the potential for investment, employment and growth along, and beyond, the alignment.

“The benefits of this project are going to be felt across generations. Right now, young people from regional areas are directly benefiting from working on Inland Rail’s construction including the 656 locals who have worked on the project in the Parkes region and the more than $75 million spent with local businesses,” he said.

“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,” he said.

Mathias Cormann, Finance Minister said the first wave of developments are taking shape.

“We are very confident that many other regional towns in and around the Inland Rail corridor will secure further significant investment, development and job creation opportunities for their towns on the back of this exciting project,” Cormann said.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communication said in a statement that this work was tested with industry, governments, and communities with the study team heading to Narrabri, Toowoomba, Wagga Wagga, and Wodonga to get people’s views. 

That input shaped the forecasting and tested the study’s early findings. 

“We thank the communities, industry groups and local government who helped shape this work with local data and evidence,” the department stated.

The report followed another week of speculation on the impact of flooding on the regional rail link’s route via the Condamine floodplain. Shadow Member for Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Development Catherine King said that the government needs to consider hydrological modelling commissioned by farmers close to the alignment.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) released a statement standing by its own modelling, which it said showed that the selected route is the right one.

“The science tells us there is no premise to change the route based on flood modelling and the economics tells us that this route was the most viable, cost effective option,” said ARTC Inland Rail chief executive Richard Wankmuller.

Local concerns have been incorporated into the design of the route, said Wankmuller.

“It’s important governments and the community have confidence in the engineering and science that allows countries like Australia to deliver world-class infrastructure.”

As part of the deal signed between the federal and Queensland governments which gave the Border to Gowrie section the go-ahead, an international review panel will review the floodplain modelling.

Bumper year for ARA

Danny Broad shared some parting thoughts to the rail industry about the importance of smart rail technology and the need for young blood.

Outgoing Australasian Railway Association CEO Danny Broad hosted his last AusRAIL as CEO before handing over the reins to incoming CEO Caroline Wilkie.

Broad was elected ARA chair at the 2019 ARA Annual General Meeting (AGM), taking over from Bob Herbert – who will continue his contribution to the rail industry as Chairman of the ARA’s harm prevention charity, TrackSAFE Foundation.

“I thank Bob for his strategic leadership and achievements as chairman of the ARA, specifically the development of a new constitution, leading to improved governance and democracy within the ARA,” Broad said.

As part of his outgoing address, Herbert addressed some of the issues he considered significant to the rail industry.

“Rail is a victim of our federation. There is no one sovereign government calling all the shots for rail like there is for industries like defence or shipbuilding. Make no mistake, this holds rail back, with nine governments to deal with on key national issues,” Herbert said.

“It has stopped rail throughout its history, from the time the first rail tracks were carried. The cause lies in the way our political imperatives play out, it brings a natural cautiousness in decision making. Governments are always in different stages of the election process and rail is disadvantaged as a consequence.”

As an example, Herbert cites the operation of the Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC).

“This is the forum where transport ministers across the jurisdictions come together twice a year and are supported by a body of senior bureaucrats. Unfortunately, outcomes from this process can only be described as last common denominator.”

As such, he explained how trying to achieve a National Rail Plan is “still illusory”.

“The bureaucrats so often have differing priorities to industry, and they become entrenched within government departments. In some cases, meeting with industry seems to be anathema to them, so progress is at a snail’s pace and this is extremely frustrating for industry.”

In August 2018, members of the ARA met with the council so that companies could present their challenges to the council.

“These were telling representations from our members on challenges relating to skills, resources, and standards,” Herbert said. As a result, the council decided to develop the Rail Action Plan through the National Transport Commission.

“We’ve seen the first cut of this plan and so far, I regret to say, it falls a short of what we would like. So, there’s a lot more argy bargy to be doing with the National Transport Commission.”

However, he warned industry against relying on government to deliver “what we can deliver ourselves”.

As part of his own AusRAIL address, Broad recapped some of the ARA’s activities in what he called “an exciting and demanding year in all sectors of rail”.

The ARA, Broad said, spent 2019 advocating to governments about some of the biggest issues facing the industry.

“We have focused on advocating to governments on how best to address the skills shortage, resulting in the development in the National Rail Action Plan, by the National Transport Commission.”

The ARA has been calling on state, territory and federal governments to commit to a unified pipeline for major rail projects, to allow the private sector to better prepare itself with adequate skills and equipment to ensure contracts are executed as efficiently as possible.

As part of this, the organisation recommended the federal government resource the Australia & New Zealand Infrastructure Pipeline in its 2019-20 Budget Submission.

The ARA lodged seventeen submissions to parliamentary and government inquiries on behalf of the sector over the last year.

One of the key issues for a number of its submissions to government in 2019 included advocating for fairer rules for freight rail operators.

“As far as possible, domestic rail freight markets should operate on an even footing with other modal choices. This requires an environment with equitable regulatory settings to enable competitive neutrality between competing modes of transport,” says the ARA’s annual report 2019.

The ARA also called for an extension of the Inland Rail line, the largest freight rail project in Australia.

“The current project has the Inland Rail line ceasing at Acacia Ridge. The ARA calls for a commensurate project to ensure a freight rail line continues all the way to the Port of Brisbane. Research undertaken by Deloitte shows that building a dedicated freight rail connection to the Port of Brisbane could achieve a 30 per cent rail modal share, which would remove 2.4 million truck movements from the local road network,” according to the annual report.

Among other issues, the ARA also calls for a “pragmatic approach to fast rail that recognises the need to plan for an invest in elements such as modernised signalling systems, passing loops, track duplication, and other critical requirements to increase infrastructure capacity and speed of passenger services”.

“We have been progressing the smart rail and technology agendas, working with industry and governments on improving accessibility, advocating for rail and supporting rail careers through programs such as the women in rail pilot mentoring program and the formation of the young leaders advisory board, a potential attraction and retention campaign and the future leaders program to name just a few,” Broad said.

“I’m very proud of where the ARA is now, and feel it is the right time to pass on the reigns to our new CEO,” Broad concluded.

Additional $44m investment to fast track Lockyer Valley Inland Rail

The Australian federal government has invested an extra $44 million to the Inland Rail II Program (II Program) to fast track improvements.

The Lockyer Valley Inland Rail connection is one of four projects selected to be fast tracked part of the II Program.

The additional investment will assess the costs and benefits of various additional connections to the national freight rail network.

This will include investigating ways to build industry and supply chain resilience and improve market access for farmers and manufacturers through enhanced connection to Inland Rail.

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development said the impacts of fire and drought in the Lockyer region mandated an investigation of possible expansion of the network

“Farmers and producers need to know they have access to a reliable, interconnected, national freight network that will deliver their produce to markets when and where it is needed.

McCormack said the Lockyer Valley, located between Ipswich and Toowoomba in South East Queensland, is traditionally one of Australia’s strongest horticulture producing regions and under the II Program, strategic business cases will identify opportunities to support more productive rail-based supply chains at regional centres and help build capacity on key country rail lines.

Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance said he is very happy the Lockyer Valley component under the Infrastructure Investment Program would be fast tracked.

“Better freight connectivity and efficiency helps drive stronger economic growth and will maximise the returns for our national productivity which we know Inland Rail will deliver,” Cormann said.

“Transport costs are a significant overhead for Australian businesses which inevitably are then passed on to consumers. By maximising the community and business connections to Inland Rail, our investments to improve the interface with existing infrastructure ensures more people can enjoy high quality competitively priced and locally grown produce.”

Mark Coulton, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communities and Local Government said enhancing supply chain efficiencies means more money stays in the pockets of local producers, building more resilient communities and industries. 

“Inland Rail provides the opportunities for cost savings, with the fast and reliable freight transport option placing our products on supermarket shelves across Australia and beyond our shores,” Coulton said.