Moree Inland Rail regional office announces first Regional Liaison Officer

The first Inland Rail Regional Liaison Officer has been assigned to the lead the Moree Inland Rail regional office. 

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development appointed the position to long-time local resident Angela Doering.

Doering will work with communities and local businesses based from Narrabri in New South Wales to the Queensland border to help people benefit from Inland Rail. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack said it’s vital that we have specialist expertise working with businesses and local communities. 

“Inland Rail is expected to support 5,000 jobs in New South Wales and provide a boost of more than $2.5 billion to the state economy,” McCormack said.

“This office will provide the opportunity for Moree and surrounding communities to talk directly to Government about regional development outcomes and economic opportunities available ahead of the construction of the next section of Inland Rail – the Narrabri to North Star (N2NS).” 

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the opening of the Moree office will help build economic resilience in regional Australia.

“Investing in our national freight network will improve connections between our regional communities and important domestic and international markets, ensuring our producers and manufacturers remain globally competitive,” Cormann said.

Member for Parkes and Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government, Mark Coulton said Moree is one of the highest producing agricultural shires in Australia and the region is positioned to drive future freight productivity through road and rail connections to Inland Rail.

“Our investment through Inland Rail builds the essential connections that this region needs to further grow and strengthen their markets,” Coulton said.

He said he is thrilled Doering has been appointed to the Moree office.

“No one knows regional towns like the people who live there,” Coulton said.

Doering will support the implementation of Australian Government programs, including the Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program and expansion of the CSIRO’s Inland Rail TraNSIT study to model potential Inland Rail cost savings.

“The programs we’re delivering will better connect the region to far-reaching ports through an enhanced national network, creating new supply chains that build prosperity in the region – moving the wheat, barley and produce the region is famous for,” Coulton said.

She will also work with industry and community during Inland Rail’s planning and design for projects such as the Macintyre River crossing.

The Moree Office has joined a broader network of Inland Rail Regional Offices that will assist regional activities of Australian Government staff already established in Wodonga, Dubbo and Toowoomba offices.

AusRAIL: McCormack highlights rail spending, King calls for skills focus

Minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development Michael McCormack and shadow minister Catherine King have highlighted their parties’ distinct transport commitments at AusRAIL Plus 2019.

“It’s been a strong and positive year for rail. Since I last spoke to you, much has happened in two key areas over the past year. With a focus on freight, we are on track to deliver the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail, which is a world class infrastructure project,” McCormack said.

“With a focus on commuters, in the past year the government has made a significant commitment to faster rail and we are investing heavily in metropolitan rail with our state government partners, through projects such as the Sydney Metro Greater Western in NSW and Metronet in Perth, Western Australia. Over the year, we also saw the 20-year National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy and National Action Plan agreed by all governments.”

McCormack highlighted Inland Rail’s latest milestone.

“The first section of greenfield track, the North West connection, opened in August with the first trains already running on this track. This new link is scheduled to join up with the newly upgraded Parkes to Narramine line by mid next year.

“Almost 900 people worked on this section and local businesses are benefitting, in concrete, transport, fencing, earth moving, drainage, electrical and other suppliers to the tune of $41.2 million in local contracts, so we’re well on track with Inland Rail.”

In terms of passenger rail, McCormack highlighted government’s Faster Rail Plan which will be overseen by a new National Faster Rail Agency. There are business cases already underway.

“We’ve committed $2 billion to help deliver faster rail between Geelong and Melbourne, and we’re getting on with our $5 billion commitment to deliver the Melbourne Airport Rail Link,” McCormack said.

In response, King called on the government to use its current infrastructure spend to leverage better investments in training and new technology.

“Strong investment gives government as seat at the table in planning our cities and regions,” King said.

As part of this King says the opposition intends to identify and respond to the impacts of these investments on the workforce.

“With rapid change in technology deployed in transport networks, what is often overlooked is the impact of this change on the workforce. The pace of change can often be confronting. Technology can be our ally in achieving greater productivity, and it does not always have to come at a cost to jobs.

“Transitioning jobs in industries like transport doesn’t just happen, it has to be planned.

What’s why last month, Labour leader Anthony Albanese announced Labour in government will establish Jobs and Skills Australia.King described the party’s vision of a workforce forecasting and research under a similar model to Infrastructure Australia.

The body would assess the skills requirements for services where “government is the major funder and where demand is expected to change”, such as transport. It would undertake workforce and skills analysis, and conduct capacity studies. It would be expected to review the adequacy of the training and vocational system.

“This will include the manufacture, operation and maintenance of our public transport network,” said King.

AusRAIL: What’s next for Inland Rail

Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller has updated industry on the progress of  the project and what it will tackle next now that Queensland has given the greenlight to construction.

“We’re moving over the next few months to the next section. This is much larger, at least double the size of what we’ve completed so far. Now that we’ve been given the green light, we can begin the economic stimulus of this area. We’re trying to accelerate that as much as possible for these vital areas that have been impacted by the drought,” Wankmuller said, speaking at the AusRail Plus conference.

This section comprises 28km of new dual gauge track between Gowrie (north-west of Toowoomba) and Helidon (east of Toowoomba).

“This is an engineering feat. It will be very challenging, and we have to make sure that we get it right,” according to Wankmuller.

“The centrepiece is a 6.2 km long tunnel to be constructed through the Great Dividing Range of Toowomba, a mountainous terrain which leads down into the Lockyer valley, creating topographical and geological challenges requiring eleven rail and two road bridge and viaduct structures totalling 6.7km in length between Gowrie and Helidon.

“The tunnel through the Toowomba Range and I will call it The Tunnel, because The Tunnel is the second largest great tunnel in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s going to be an engineering marvel not just because of its size and its length but because of all the challenges that are involved in designing a world class and efficient system.

“But we do have to attack some of the big challenges which include ventilation. When you put a diesel freight train through a tunnel like that you have a lot of heat and you have to make sure you’re ventilating it appropriately and making it safe. We are future proofing it so passenger rail can go through if needed in the future.

“The highest of the thirteen structures along this section is the Six Mile Creek Viaduct which is expected to be about 966 metres long and 49 metres high at its maximum. By comparison the total length of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is 1149 metres and the bridge’s height clearance for shipping is around 49 metres. The second viaduct is expected to extend to about 1.8km in length, and in addition to rail bridges there are three crossing loops posed between Gowrie and Helidon, each about 2.2 kms in length.”

The extensive geotechnical investigations have been carried out with extensive stakeholder consultation, according to Inland Rail.

“This is one of the more challenging sections and it is challenging on a world scale, so we had to put together a world class team and we’ve done that. We now have 400 or so of the world’s best working directly for Inland Rail, not to mention the 1000s of service providers helping us meet this challenge. But the challenge is real.

“But Inland Rail’s ingenuity isn’t just about these really difficult challenges it’s also about what we do every day. We’re very proud of what we do every day and safety is near and dear to our heart every day. We look at innovation in all industries and one of the interesting things we’ve adopted is one we stole from the mining industry where we’re electronically tagging our people so when they enter a danger zone with equipment, that equipment automatically shuts down before there can be any reaction to that person and their equipment.

“We’ve changed the steel rail profile itself, which for many years has been the same design. We’ve rounded it out so we don’t need to grind it to get our trains in operation, this is going to lead to less maintenance.

“In 1700km we’re going to have 2-3 million concrete sleepers. We’re going to have to get those fabricated, delivered and unloaded on site. We’ve found a way to do that efficiently, by designing hydraulic machinery we can use to unload it in the most efficient way possible and touch it the least amount of times. If we can save 10 minutes or even 2 minutes every time we unload it across all those millions of sleepers, it saves a lot of time and productivity gains.”

One of the reasons for the delay in Queensland getting on board with Inland Rail has been the controversy surrounding the Condamine floodplain, Wankmuller addressed this.

“It’s not just about having global technology capabilities, it is about having local knowledge. That’s how you make a truly world class flood model. You talk to the local people and see what they’ve seen in previous storm events. By working together with global expertise and the local knowledge of people that have been there for generations, you get a model that makes sense and replicates what actually happens. So now you know you can rely on it in the future, because if you can’t, everything you do from that point is wrong.

“It is all about safety and we’re committed to not making the situation any worse than it was going to be anyhow by us being there. Water has to flow, it has to flow around and through our structures, and there’s some engineering challenges in that that we’re geared up to meet, and we’re doing the work to get it right.”

Wankmuller wrapped up with a call to federal and state governments to accelerate their uptake of the project.

“We need the federal and state governments to work together and they’re doing that but there’s still a lot left to do. We don’t know where the intermodal tunnel rails are yet, in Melbourne or Brisbane. Hard to build a rail line when you’re storing your stock.”

Queensland signs onto Inland Rail

The Queensland and federal governments have reached an understanding regarding the $9.3 billion Inland Rail project, signing a bilateral agreement in Tooowoomba on Friday.

Labelled by government as “the most significant freight infrastructure project in the nation’s history”, the 1700km freight route will link Melbourne and Brisbane via regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

“We are transforming the way freight is moved in Australia. For every dollar we are investing in Inland Rail, $2.62 will be returned to the national economy,” minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development Michael McCormack said on Friday.

“We’re already seeing the benefits in New South Wales with the first section of the new track between Parkes and Narromine now complete. For this 5.3 kilometre section, more than $46 million in contracts were committed to 84 local businesses employing almost 400 local people.”

With two thirds of the total investment towards Inland Rail to be delivered in Queensland, it is expected to create 7,000 jobs and a boost of over $7 billion for the state economy according to the government.

Finance minister Mathias Cormann said the signing of this Bilateral Agreement was a crucial step towards a more efficient freight network for the future.

“Long-haul rail is cheaper, safer and more reliable than moving freight by road over those distances. That is why the Australian Government has committed up to $9.3 billion to complete the national rail network through Inland Rail,” Minister Cormann said.

“The shift from road to rail is crucial to ensuring our freight network meets the needs of our growing population.

“It is great to have the Queensland Government on board now supporting our Inland Rail project. This project will improve the national freight rail network by connecting communities, creating jobs, reducing supply chain costs and making Australian business more competitive.”

In late 2016, farmers along some of the proposed route expressed concern that the Inglewood-Millmerran-Toowoomba route, which was selected by Australian Rail Track Corporation, was based on information gathered prior to 2010. This decision did not take into consideration that the route was along the 16km wide Condamine Floodplain.

“All parties have also agreed to establish an international panel to advise on the modelling of potential flood impacts and continuing community consultation along the project’s chosen route through Queensland,” Queensland’s transport and main roads minister Mark Bailey said on Friday.

“In addition to the expert hydrologists already engaged by the Australian Rail Track Corporation, an expert panel of international specialists will be established to advise on best practice flood structural integrity and report back to the Queensland and Australian Governments.

“Queenslanders can have confidence that a comprehensive and detailed approvals process for the project is being undertaken that includes rigorous environmental, planning and statutory approvals.”

Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller said international experts had been engaged to work through structural solutions regarding putting the line across the Condamine Floodplain.

“We want to make sure everything that comes across those flood plains is safe,” he said.

McCormack pointed out that the Inland Rail project has been in the works since the 19th century, with plans first drawn up in the early 1900s. He said that, while final details needed to be worked through, he believed construction in Queensland should start in about 2022.

 

approvals

Inland Rail seeks improvement ideas

The federal government is seeking ideas on how to improve national connectivity and drive supply chain productivity from the 1,700km freight rail line, as part of a $44 million Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program.

Supply chain managers, local businesses, community representatives and freight and train operators are invited to submit projects for investigation under the program, according to a government statement on Tuesday.

Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the first round of business cases under the program are due by the end of October. Suitable projects will be matched with a service provider funded by the Australian Government under the program.

“The Australian Government has invested up to $9.3 billion in the construction of Inland Rail and we are committed to maximising the returns for our industries, cities and regional towns to benefit from the fast, reliable and joined-up freight network,” Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said.

Under the two-year Inland Rail II Program, there is funding for a $20 million Inland Rail Productivity Enhancement Program (PEP) to assess the costs and benefits of proposed improvements to the interface between supply chains and Inland Rail, with a view to improving supply chain and community resilience.

Another Inland Rail II program is the $24 million Inland Rail Country Lines Improvement Program (CLIP) to assess the costs and benefits of proposed improvements to country lines that intersect with Inland Rail, with a view to potentially accommodating longer, heavier and faster trains.

“A CSIRO pilot study from earlier this year demonstrated Inland Rail will bring average costs savings of $76 per tonne for key agricultural products,” Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government Mark Coulton said.

“We know every town and supply chain is different and a one-size-fits-all approach to connect communities to Inland Rail won’t work.

“Inland Rail will connect our regions to an enhanced national freight network, and no one knows better how to maximise these connections than regional producers and communities.

“We are encouraging local people to come forward with innovative ideas and are committed to testing value ideas through a rigorous business case process.

Under the programme, which was announced in the 2019 Budget, strategic business cases will investigate opportunities to upgrade the Gilgandra-Coonamble line, improve road/rail interface at Narrabri and enhance the connection at Baradine’s grain silo to facilitate better connections between local communities and Inland rail.

The local city council of Logan, in central Queensland, says it will provide submissions to the Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport – which is currently examining the project management of Inland Rail. The council says that the proposed route runs through what will become one of the city’s most populated areas, and that residents have raised concerns over it.

Call out for two more Inland Rail contracts

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has commenced the procurement process for two more Inland Rail contracts.

Applicants are invited to submit Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for a construction contract on the Narrabri to North Star section of Inland Rail. The other EOI is for the supply and delivery of rail sleepers program-wide, for an estimated 1.44 million sleepers.

“Inland Rail is already securing jobs for regional Australians. The benefits of Inland Rail will be felt far beyond the route as businesses come on board to build this essential link in our national supply chain,” said ARTC Inland Rail Chief Executive, Richard Wankmuller.

The project expects to create 16,000 jobs when construction is fully underway. Inland Rail and the ARTC are focused on ensuring that in addition to the major construction industry jobs, local companies, businesses and job seekers will be able to participate in the different aspects of Inland Rail where they can, according to an Inland Rail statement.

“This once-in-a generation project will complete the backbone of the national freight network by providing a transit time of 24 hours or less for freight trains between Melbourne and Brisbane via regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland,” said Wankmuller.

Construction on the Parkes to Narromine section of the track has been underway for ten months now, and ARTC believes businesses in the area are already benefitting from the flow of work from Inland Rail. These businesses include services for concrete supply, transportation, fencing, earthmoving, drainage, electrical works, security and water bore drilling providers.

“Inland Rail construction is injecting significant dollars into local businesses and the regional economy with $41.2 million spent so far,” said Wankmuller of the Parkes to Narromine construction efforts.

ARTC hopes more such work will come from the Narrabri to North Star project, which will include upgrading around 171km of existing rail track through the reconstruction of existing track, replacement of bridges and culverts, level crossings and crossing loops.

Inland Rail’s Moree office to bolster regional community

Inland Rail will open a new office in Moree, New South Wales to support the region from Narrabri to the border of New South Wales and Queensland.

The office will complement the activities of established offices in Toowoomba, Dubbo and Wodonga, enabling regional engagement between communities and stakeholders.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said that the Moree office would maximise connections to the national freight rail network, playing “an integral part” in supporting the Government’s $44 million plan to build strategic cases for improving Inland Rail.

“It’s vital that our public service understands and serves the public and what better way to do this than employ local people to work with and among local communities,” he said.

“Regional officers play a vital role in guiding and connecting local communities and industry to information, support networks, local procurement and employment opportunities.”

The Australian Rail Track Commission’s (ARTC) Inland Rail project is the largest freight rail infrastructure project in Australia. The public-private collaboration will connect Melbourne to Brisbane through the delivery of a 1,700 kilometre route via regional routes in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government and Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton said that the new office was reflective of the Coalition Government’s decentralisation efforts. 

“This is a great example of how a department can bring those working on government initiatives into the communities they are working to benefit,” said Coulton.

“Further, local governments in the area have indicated their support and desire to develop long-term benefits through this significant infrastructure project being delivered by the Coalition Government.”

Over 63km of track removed in first phase of Inland Rail project

The Australasian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has now removed over 63 kilometres of existing rail line from the Inland Rail construction in Parkes, New South Wales.

The project, a partnership between the Australian Government and private sector, is intended to upgrade the national freight network between Melbourne and Brisbane by developing regional lines across Victoria, NSW and Queensland.

The works on the section of line between Parkes and Narromine represent the first of a planned 13 Inland Rail projects encompassing over 1700 kilometres.

The track, which has been removed from the freight line between Parkes and Narromine (the P2N project), will be recycled and repurposed for Pacific National’s Intermodal Terminal in Parkes as well as other parts of the NSW rail network.

“It’s just one of the ways we keep our commitment to sustainability,” the ARTC stated in an inaugural project newsletter.

In addition to the track removal, over 100,000 cubic metres of material has been removed as a result of ongoing earthworks.

The works are being carried out by INLink, a joint venture between BMD Group and Fulton Hogan, which is focused on upgrading existing links, building new embankments and culverts, and upgrading signage, signals, level crossings and fencing.

The ARTC stated that they would install over 4000 culverts across the project in total.

Neighbouring projects include the southerly Stockinbingal to Parkes (S2P) project and northerly Narromine to Narrabri (N2N) project, which are both currently in the project feasibility stage.

The ARTC held its first community forum on the project, with two more set to follow on June 19 at the ARTC Community and Working Hub in Parkes and on June 20 at Peak Hill RSL in Peak Hill.