Parkes

$185m investment to build on Parkes rail links

The NSW government has announced $185 million investment to build on rail infrastructure delivery in Parkes.

The future site of the intersection of Australia’s major freight lines, Parkes is expected to play a central role in Australia’s logistics networks and supply chains.

Inland Rail will pass through Parkes, connecting Melbourne and Brisbane via regional NSW, Queensland, and Victoria, and will intersect in the Central West town with the rail line linking Sydney to Perth.

The NSW government’s current investment will fund the Parkes Special Activation Precinct, which will leverage these links to develop a logistics and intermodal hub. Parkes also has the advantage of being much more affordable than metropolitan cities, with land values at just 5 per cent of the capitals.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the investment in roads, sewer, and water connections will help grow regional NSW.

“This precinct is all about attracting money, economic growth and jobs to regional NSW,” he said.

“We know that where there is significant government investment, it attracts private investment ten-fold. This precinct could attract up to $1 billion in private investment over the next 10 years.”

The precinct will be developed by the Regional Growth NSW Development Corporation, who will lead design and construction, applications and approvals, and provide assistance for those businesses looking to set up in the regions.

The precinct stretches over 4,800 hectares of land, and can be used for purposes such as freight and logistics, food processing, warehousing, plastic and e-waste recycling, and cold chain storage.

The precinct will also focus on sustainability, as it will be Australia’s first UNIDO Eco Industrial zone. The initiative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation seeks to enhance the environmental, economic and social performance of industrial businesses through collaboration.

Work is now complete on the link between Inland Rail at Parkes and the Broken Hill rail line to Perth.

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.”

In a changed world, freight sector shows its agility

The Australian Logistics Council’s CEO, Kirk Coningham, explains how the industry has been on the front foot during a time of crisis.

Like every other industry, Australia’s freight and logistics sector has spent recent weeks grappling with the realities of doing business in a changed world.

While for many this has meant transitioning to working from home arrangements, contemplating shifts from bricks and mortar retail arrangements to online sales in retail, and a changed focus for hospitality businesses towards takeaway and delivery sales, the challenge for this sector is somewhat different.

The simple reality is this; those on the front line of Australia’s freight logistics industry can’t work from home. Our ports, stevedores, road, rail, and air freight operators are working tirelessly to keep supply chains flowing and make sure Australian communities can access the goods they need day-to-day.

As challenging as the COVID-19 crisis is, it would be far worse without the dedicated support and service offered by those working in Australia’s logistics industry.

All levels of government have made it clear that freight transport and logistics remain an essential service. In turn, this means that those who are working around the clock to support households and communities at this challenging time deserve the strongest levels of support and flexibility from governments and from the wider community.

In the difficult circumstances that all of us are currently enduring, the health and security of our workforce must remain paramount.

As instances of panic buying occurred in the early days of the COVID-19 event, it was distressing to hear instances of transport workers and in-store retail personnel being accosted by angry consumers.

The current situation is having an impact on the day-to-day lives of all Australians – and perhaps it is inevitable that this is causing frustration and irritation for some. However, taking those frustrations out on delivery drivers or retail workers is completely unacceptable.

Far more positive has been the determined and collegiate way in which all parts of the supply chain have worked effectively to address challenges as they have arisen, to ensure that freight can continue getting to the places it needs to go, efficiently and safely.

This has included working to remove barriers that prevented overnight deliveries to supermarkets and retail outlets such as noise curfews that stopped heavy vehicle access and the use of loading docks. Industry worked quickly with state and territory governments around Australia to either remove these curfews or have their enforcement suspended for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. This helped stock levels to recover and reduced the occurrence of panic buying.

The decision of several state and territory governments to effectively close their borders posed significant potential threats to the efficiency of freight movement on both road and rail.

Again, it was impressive to see the way that representatives of both modes set aside commercial considerations and worked collaboratively with industry groups to ensure restrictions on cross-border movement caused as little delay to freight movement as possible.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the COVID-19 situation is the uncertainty over its duration. Naturally, this causes anxiety in the community and makes business planning especially difficult.

However, what is certain is that in addition to ensuring the community can continue to access essential goods, the freight and logistics sector also has a vital role to play in providing economic opportunity.

Already, there is evidence of some pick-up in consumer demand and economic activity in China, which will remain a critical export market for Australia.

As we look to sustain Australian businesses and create employment opportunities, our freight sector will be essential in supporting our exporters’ efforts to get their goods into recovering markets. Governments and local communities must understand the importance of their task as part of Australia’s economic recovery, and provide every support possible to help our workforce achieve it.

Strategy

First long-term infrastructure strategy released in SA

Infrastructure SA has released the first long-term infrastructure strategy for South Australia, and targets freight movements as an area for improvement.

The 20-Year State Infrastructure Strategy covers all aspects of infrastructure, from education and health, to energy and digital connectivity, however, makes a number of recommendations for the state’s transport network.

SA’s freight network is particularly addressed as an area that needs improvement. The report notes that there are limited options when it comes to bulk minerals, and that roads supporting industry in the regions are in poor condition.

Although road is expected to continue to carry the majority of freight, investment in rail spurs is one area where the efficiencies of rail can be realised. In addition, with forecast growth near Adelaide Airport and congestion at ports, more efficient rail connections should be focused on, highlighted Australian Logistics Council CEO, Kirk Coningham.

“ALC welcomes the Strategy’s recognition of the need for improved landside road and rail connections for freight at SA’s ports and airports to address congestion. We continue to encourage the SA Government to pursue the standardisation of SA’s freight rail gauges to enhance network efficiency.”

For passenger transport, buses are expected to remain the dominant public transport mode, however trunk corridors for future growth are where further investment should occur, write Infrastructure SA.

While the Infrastructure Strategy did not identify key projects, Infrastructure SA also released the Capital Intentions Statement, which identifies works such as level crossing removals as needing investment.

In addition to individual projects, the Infrastructure Strategy recommends an integrated planning approach, which Coningham welcomed.

“ALC strongly endorses the Strategy’s call to break down silos in the planning system by moving toward a more integrated approach. As part of this, we call on the SA government to adopt ‘freight and logistics lands’ as a distinct land use category within South Australian planning instruments.”

ALC lobbies for freight to receive JobKeeper subsidy

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has called upon the federal government to extend the JobKeeper Payment scheme to freight and logistics businesses as they are businesses providing essential services.

In a letter to Treasurer Josh Frydenburg, CEO of the ALC Kirk Coningham wrote that while freight and logistics businesses, including freight rail operators, have been deemed an essential service, they have missed out on government support for businesses.

“ALC is concerned that the blunt application of a reduced turnover test at 30 per cent for small and medium businesses and 50 percent for larger businesses to qualify for the JobKeeper Payment fails to adequately account for [freight and logistics businesses],” wrote Coningham.

While rail businesses and organisations welcomed the announcement of stimulus in March, some were concerned that the threshold would limit their ability to access the scheme and ensure workers who may need to be stood down are continued to be paid.

Coningham outlined that the particular circumstances of the freight sector means that stimulus is required.

“The reality is that most businesses within Australia’s freight and logistics sector operate on tight margins that flow from high fixed costs associated with the purchase and maintenance of freight vehicles, equipment and infrastructure.”

Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has hit Australia, freight businesses in the rail sector have been called upon to ensure that essential goods such as groceries continue to get on the shelves of supermarkets around Australia. Rail has continued to play a role as borders have been closed and in some areas has seen up to a 15 per cent increase in services.

Coningham wrote to Frydenburg that if businesses such as these were allowed to fail there would be significant consequences.

“If major freight transport businesses are forced to close due to financial pressures arising from COVID-19, there will be a range of deleterious consequences for the entire supply chain, and the ability of Australian households to access essential goods in a timely fashion could well be threatened. Moreover, there would also be significant consequences for Australian exporters, who rely on freight and logistics service providers to take their goods to market.”

The ALC recommended that essential service providers be eligible for JobKeeper Payments automatically, that if a threshold is imposed it should be set at 15 per cent for businesses providing essential services, and ensure that the first two JobKeeper payments are done quickly.

Extra services running to transport household items

Linfox Logistics and Aurizon have upped their weekly intermodal services by 20 per cent, to meet the needs of households across Queensland and Australia.

Aurizon has added a number of northbound services from Brisbane, carrying finished products including food, groceries, and beverages in Linfox containers, with these carriages then filled with fresh produce on the return leg from Central and North Queensland.

The trains have been travelling between Brisbane and Cairns, Innisfail, Townsville, Bowen, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Emerald, Alpha, Barcaldine, Longreach, and Winton.

According to Linfox Logistics CEO Australia and New Zealand, Mark Mazurek, each extra rail services is equal to 80 B-double trucks.

“Collectively, we have mobilised a significant number of additional truck and train services to ensure essential items flow through to regional Queenslanders,” he said.

“Everything from groceries, to cleaning and personal care products, to fresh produce from Far North Queensland farms are delivered via these critical networks.”

In delivering these extra services, both Linfox and Aurizon have ensured that they meet and exceed health and safety measures. With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a focus on health and safety is more important than ever, said Aurizon group executive bulk, Clay McDonald.

“This applies not only in their everyday roles in the transport and logistics business but also in practicing safe distancing, enhanced cleaning procedures and high levels of workplace hygiene,” he said.

“Together, we are pleased that our supply chain is delivering such an important service to the community during a very testing time for customers and communities across Queensland.”

Linfox Logistics, which began in the road freight sector, has recently expanded its rail freight operations, purchasing Aurizon’s Queensland intermodal business a year ago. Linfox owns depots, rail wagons, and 4,500 specialised rail

Rail the backbone of reliable international freight

Although the coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused major disruptions to international supply chains, not all freight and logistics networks have been affected equally.

As countries around the globe have closed their borders to air freight, due to the restrictions on passenger flights which carry most airborne cargo, shipments via rail have continued unabated, including long haul routes from China to Europe. Additionally, seaborne freight has been first hit by shutdowns in China and now by lockdowns in the US and Europe, causing freight liners with large capacities to cut back services.

Into this situation has come rail freight, which within Europe has bypassed kilometres long lines of trucks stops at internal borders, and has picked up the slack left by ocean-going lines being reduced. In mid-March, DHL announced that while routes via air were uncertain and blank sailings (cancelled ship cargo services), rail freight continued as normal.

“All DHL Global Forwarding Rail services, including FCL and LCL service from China to Europe (Westbound) and Europe to China (Eastbound), continue normal operations,” the company announced on March 10.

More recently, Finnish logistics operator, Nurminen Logistics has announced the schedules of its Helsinki, Finland to Hefei, China service. Senior vice president sales, Mikko Järvinen, said that flexibility is key.

“Everyone has had to improvise with these disturbances in international logistics. One of the tools we have had for our customers has been the fast cargo train service,” he said.

With the demand for essential medical supplies more critical than ever, and with China manufacturing many of these goods, a reliable shipping option has needed to be found, and in this case, that has been rail.

According to Chinese media agency Xinhua, the first quarter of 2020 saw a 15 per cent increase in freight rail trips between China and Europe, and an 18 per cent increase in freight units. From March 21 until the beginning of April, China had sent 333,800 pieces of epidemic control supplies via rail to Italy, Spain and other European nations.

Within Europe, logistics operators were hit hard by border closures within the Schengen zone. Which in one case at the border between Germany and Poland led to a line of trucks stretching for 50 kilometres. In the Czech Republic, the border into Slovakia is clogged with 30 kilometres of trucks. Rail, however, is continuing across borders without any stops with Austrian operator Rail Cargo Group announcing on March 24 that all freight trains are running on schedule without any restrictions.

Furthermore, rail has also proven its flexibility. In one instance, an urgent shipment of pasta from Italy to Germany was hauled by rail at short notice. DB Schenker transported 400,000 packages of pasta, over 200 tonnes, for retailer Aldi.

“The current Coronavirus pandemic emphasises the importance of reliable supply chains. Logistics keeps the world running, as demonstrated by our solution for ALDI to transport pasta from Italy to Germany on short notice,” said Christian Drenthen, board member for land transport at DB Schenker.

QR enables extra freight movements

Over the past weekend, Queensland Rail has been taking extra steps to ensure that freight rail can continue to transport essential goods to Australia and export commodities to ports.

Over the weekend of April 4 and 5, six freight trains travelled in each direction between Brisbane, Townsville, and Cairns. The extra capacity on the network was enabled by Queensland Rail cancelling a scheduled maintenance closure and only completing essential maintenance on the South East Queensland network overnight.

Carrying household goods, groceries, manufacturing materials, and exports, the freight services are more in demand than ever for businesses, households, and exporters.

“Queensland Rail is working closely with its freight partners to ensure Queenslanders get the essential supplies they need, by keeping the network open to extra freight services wherever possible,” said Queensland Rail CEO, Nick Easy.

Although some long-distance and tourist-focused rail services in Queensland have been cancelled, the continuation of freight rail has been a priority for state and federal governments around Australia. Easy said that the network was open for greater freight movements, if required.

“Queensland Rail is continuing to liaise with its freight partners to discuss any necessary changes to future works to accommodate freight services, should they be required,” he said.

“Most lines across the Queensland Rail regional network can currently accommodate more freight movements alongside normal timetabled passenger services. Reducing long distance Travel and Tourism passenger services has naturally increased network capacity for freight operators should they require it.”

Freight and logistics councils streamline movement of goods

The freight industries in Western Australia and South Australia have each joined together to provide an efficient source of information for freight operators during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

In WA, the Freight and Logistics Council of WA (FLCWA), along has formed the WA Supply Chain Covid Response Group. The group brings together the FLCWA, Northern Territory Road Transport Association, and Western Roads Federation to ensure the safety of workers and the continuing supply of essential goods.

Leading the group will be Nicole Lockwood, chair of FLCWA, and the combined group will provide a single source of information to the WA and Northern Territory governments and agencies on behalf of the freight and logistics industries.

“We’re here to help any freight company who requires assistance in dealing with operational impacts due to Covid-19 and encourage them to get in contact with us,” said Lockwood.

Since its formation two weeks ago, the response group has been providing advice on the impact of border closures and supported the delivery of products such as hand sanitiser to the freight industry.

“Our key priority is the safety of all workforce involved to maintain the movement of food, medical supplies and general freight. I’d like to acknowledge the dedication from the front-line truck drivers, train drivers and Port workers in ensuring essential goods are kept flowing into Western Australia,” said Lockwood.

WA network operator Arc Infrastructure has been planning for the COVID-19 pandemic since February to ensure that operations continue. Those who can work from home are doing so, and while regional depots and head office remain open, face-to-face meetings are limited unless business critical.

Arc Infrastructure has also implemented new control centres in the metro area, increasing the number of available train controllers, decentralising work locations, and making sure that expertise and qualifications are evenly spread across the network.

In South Australia, Minister for Trade and Investment, David Ridgway, has formed the Export Recovery Taskforce to support South Australian freight businesses overcome the economic effects of COVID-19.

“South Australia has an immense task ahead of us, and the impacts of COVID-19 are being felt across all export sectors. We recognise the enormous economic and logistical issues challenging our industries, businesses and individuals right now as a result of the necessary restrictions on travel,” said Ridgway.

While international air freight has been restricted, ports and ship-borne freight remain operating. According to Evan Knapp, executive officer of the SA Freight Council, while the initial focus is on shipments via air, future discussions could incorporate impacts to goods shipped by rail, for example grain.

“Rail is still moving relatively well at this stage. Grain has been affected by the massive change in value of our currency which will have short term impacts, but in the longer term the currency depreciation will make Australian goods much more attractive in markets around the world.”

Knapp added that the SA Freight Council and others have reiterated to governments that rail workers and rail safety workers are essential workers and must be permitted to cross state borders to make urgent repairs to rail networks, when required.