Warrnambool Line upgrades

Warrnambool line track and signalling upgrades commence

Signalling and track infrastructure upgrades on the Warrnambool Line have begun.

The jointly funded, state and federal project aims to enable more services to run between Warrnambool and Geelong, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“It’s pleasing to see this vital project get underway, with signalling upgrades and a crossing loop at Boorcan to play a key part in boosting reliability of the line and allowing more services to be introduced,” McCormack said.

“The addition of the crossing loop will boost the number of services to the line, benefiting a growing number of regional travellers.”

The first works underway involve the installation of underground cabling to enable signalling upgrades along the line.

The construction of a 2.2km passing loop between Boorcan Road and Oswell Road in Boorcan will begin in the coming weeks.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said the entire program would be finished in late 2021.

“Thanks to these upgrades, passengers on the Warrnambool Line will benefit from a much-needed fifth weekday return service, providing extra travel options for people in Victoria’s South West,” Allan said.

Rail Projects Victoria awarded Downer the contract to carry out the works, in addition to its work on the Geelong line.

Other upgrades along the Warrnambool line have just completed, with the renovation of 12 level crossings now complete. Crossings had new boom gates, bells, lights, and better train detection technology fitted.

Federal Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said the work was completed while minimising the threat of any spread of COVID-19.

“More than 170 workers have been involved in the level crossing upgrades since works began in January, with V/Line crews working around 28,500 hours under modified conditions to reduce the spread of coronavirus.”

Patronage on the line has grown steadily over the past years, with patronage on the adjoining Geelong line growing significantly, by 131.5 per cent from 2014-15 to 2018-19.

State Member for Western Victoria Gayle Tierney said the improvements would benefit the region.

“With work on signalling and the crossing loop now underway residents can soon expect more frequent services and better reliability,” she said.

“This project is also providing jobs for people in the region, which is especially important during the coronavirus pandemic.”

First section of Inland Rail complete

The first section of Inland Rail, linking Parkes and Narromine in the NSW Central West, has been completed.

A ceremonial opening of the line was held today, September 15, at Peak Hill, where the first shipment of steel was delivered to begin the project in January 2018.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said that today marked a historic point in the project.

“Inland Rail is nation-building and today recognises a great milestone in this transformational infrastructure,” he said.

“Inland Rail is an investment in Australia – in our economy, in our regions and in the capacity of our future freight network.”

Industry welcomed the breakthrough on this stage of the project, which when complete will link Melbourne and Brisbane by rail in under 24 hours. Chair of the Freight on Rail Group Dean Dalla Valle said this would improve the competitiveness of rail.

“In the past, trucks would do the ‘first and last mile’ between rail terminals and ports, warehouses, distribution centres and manufacturing plants. Today on some key transport corridors – notably between Sydney and Melbourne – trucks are doing every mile,” he said.

“A typical 1,500-metre interstate freight train can haul up to 220 shipping containers – equivalent to approximately 180 B-double return truck trips.”

CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Caroline Wilkie said that with this section complete, the rest of the project should soon follow.

“The promise of Inland Rail has already generated significant activity in the Parkes region as the community readies itself for the opportunities better rail freight connections will bring,” she said.

“It is now critical that the project’s swift progress across the rest of the route is supported so even more communities and businesses can benefit in this way.”

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the 1,700km freight rail link would improve Australia’s entire freight network.

Long-haul rail is cheaper, safer and more reliable than road, that’s why the Australian Government is enhancing the national freight rail network through our investment in Inland Rail,” Cormann said.

“The shift from road to rail builds resilience in our freight network – not only will Inland Rail deliver a long-term freight solution for Australia to meet the needs of our growing population – it is also a critical investment supporting an efficient Australian economy.”

A focus for the Parkes to Narromine section has been the involvement of locals, with 760 contributing to the project and $110 million spent with local businesses. Work on the project included a rebuild of almost 100km of existing rail track and a new 5.3km connection between Inland Rail and the Broken Hill line.

Steel for the project came from South Australia, concrete sleepers were sourced from Mittagong and culverts came from Tamworth. The final ‘golden clip’ which McCormack hammered into place to signify the completion of the project was one of 365,000 sourced from a supplier in Blacktown, Sydney.

Construction is expected to commence on the Narrabri to North Star leg before the end of 2020 with a contractor to be confirmed soon.

The commemorative plaque marking the opening of the P2N section of Inland Rail. Credit: Amanda Lee.
Port Botany

Tender released for Port Botany Rail duplication

The design and construct tender for the Port Botany Rail duplication has been released to the three shortlisted contractors.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), which is leading the project, has released the documentation to CPB Contractors, Laing O’Rouke Construction Australia, and John Holland, who were shortlisted in January.

Once complete, the $400 million federally funded project will allow for more freight to be transported to and from Port Botany via rail, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“The Botany Rail Duplication will upgrade and duplicate the current single freight rail track between Mascot and Botany to increase the capacity of Sydney’s freight rail network while bolstering operational efficiency, flexibility and reliability for freight customers,” he said.

“This will create more than 400 jobs during construction and provide a welcome boost to all the hard-working local businesses who use the rail line to get their products to markets.”

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the project would enable a reduction in trucks travelling through local roads in Sydney.

Australia’s freight requirements are set to grow significantly over the coming decades. While this is great news for the industry and the Australian economy, it will place increasing pressure on our roads,” he said.

“I look forward to this transformative project getting underway so that Sydney, New South Wales and our national supply chain can reap the benefits.”

The Cabramatta Loop Project tender, which will allow freight trains to pass each other on the Southern Sydney Freight Line, will be released separately.

The Port Botany Rail duplication project was recently approved by the NSW government in its fast track process.

The project was also added to the Infrastructure Australia Infrastructure Priority List in August, 2020, recognising the need for greater freight rail capacity to and from Port Botany.

EIS released for North Star to Border section of Inland Rail

The NSW government has released the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the North Star to Border (NS2B) section of Inland Rail.

With the EIS now on public exhibition, locals along the alignment are invited to make submissions to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

The NSW component of the NS2B section will involve upgrading 25km of existing, non-operational track and the construction of 5km of new track.

There will also be civil works including the construction of bridges, viaducts and culverts, as well as improved level crossings, grade separations, and crossing loops.

Another 9km of the section runs through Queensland, and will be approved through a separate EIS process.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the 30km leg was essential in ensuring freight efficiencies.

“We know how important Inland Rail is to the nation — reshaping how freight is moved across the nation while generating more than 16,000 jobs and providing a $16 billion boost to the national economy when and where it is needed most,” McCormack said.

“To deliver Inland Rail and realise these important regional jobs and economic benefits we must ensure the project complies with strict state and commonwealth legislation – the years of work that have informed the NS2B EIS will not be complete until communities have their say.”

The NS2B section crosses the Macintyre River floodplain and community feedback has been involved in the project’s reference design.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said that the project would have immediate and ongoing benefits.

“Inland Rail’s fast and efficient freight service will support national productivity and deliver local benefits through construction and operation, which is why I welcome this opportunity for communities along the alignment to engage with the planning and design.”

Local member and Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government Mark Coulton said that the project, once it has progressed through planning approvals, would have a positive impact on the local economy.

“Inland Rail will support around 5,000 jobs during construction across NSW and could support hundreds more for northern NSW by its 10th year of operation.”

Submissions can be made online and the EIS will be displayed at communities near the alignment.

Victoria, Commonwealth fund freight connection between Dandenong and Port of Melbourne

A new freight rail connection in Dandenong South will remove 100,000 trucks of Melbourne’s roads a year.

The new rail line will connect the Salta Properties freight hub in Dandenong South with the Melbourne suburban rail network, allowing shuttle trains to run between the Port of Melbourne and Melbourne’s southeast.

The $28 million project is funded by the federal and state governments, with each contributing $18.3m and $9.7m respectively.

The project will be completed by the Level Crossing Removal Authority as part of the Cranbourne Line upgrade.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the connection would form part of a wider network of freight rail connecting the Port of Melbourne with intermodal facilities.

“The new spur line will connect the intermodal freight terminal at Dandenong South to the Cranbourne Line. As part of the Port Rail Shuttle Network it will help cut the number of trucks on inner Melbourne roads by up to 100,000 each year and support hundreds of jobs during construction and as part of the terminals ongoing operations.”

Victorian Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the project would make freight more competitive.

“We’re making rail freight a more attractive option for businesses, and this investment means containers can be transported by rail the entire way from the Port of Melbourne to Dandenong South,” she said.

“It will reduce congestion at the port gate and cut the high cost of the last mile that so often disadvantages containers moved by rail.”

The Port of Melbourne has recently made major investments to improve the capacity of rail to handle cargo. The port authority is investing $125m in on-dock rail, to enable freight to be taken directly from ship to rail and to intermodal terminals such as these.

The Victorian government has also invested in two other port rail shuttles, one to Altona and another to Somerton, with further funding to be announced.

Inland Rail grants support sustainable communities

Local communities along the Inland Rail route alignment have benefited from grants of between $1,000 and $4,000 to support community groups.

The grants are the fifth round of the Inland Rail Community Sponsorships and Donations program and are focused on the Riverina and Central West regions of NSW.

Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the grants were in addition to the benefits that have flowed from the construction of Inland Rail.

“We are already seeing the immediate benefits from Inland Rail, with more than 690 local jobs and businesses boosted by the $100 million in local contract commitments flowing from construction of the Parkes to Narromine section,” he said.

The grants are hoped to contribute to local and regional prosperity, well-being and sustainability through the support of events, projects, and activities.

The latest rounds of grants have been tailored to the conditions that are a result of COVID-19. Grants for events and activities must comply with current state restrictions, and applicants are encouraged to put forward projects that require funding for online or digital delivery or include work to be carried out by local businesses and with local suppliers.

While Inland Rail is expected to bring in benefits of up to $13.3bn to communities and regions along the alignment, the grants announced now are ensuring communities can be sustainable now to benefit in the future, said McCormack.

“Supporting the sustainability of these and other communities along the rail corridor is paramount and the Inland Rail sponsorships and donations program is yet another example of how communities can benefit from this unique project.”

Successful recipients include:

$4,000 to the Junee Basketball Association for the purchase of scoring benches at the local recreational centre.

$4,000 to the WIRED Lab Cootamundra to upgrade online infrastructure that will enable community members to participate online.

$4,000 to Silo FM 89.5 Inc. for the purchase of new broadcasting equipment for community radio.

$3,500 to Kurrajong Waratah for the purchase of a weatherproof shelter for the community gardens as part of the Hildasid Farm Project.

$2,837 to the Central West Astronomical Society for the purchase of a data projector and batteries.

$1,136 to Wirrinya Progress and Sports Association for the purchase of tennis court nets for children’s activities.

$1,100 to the Parkes Que Club to provide domestic violence bags for women and children.

Code commits states and territories to keep freight flowing

State, territory and federal infrastructure and transport ministers have released an enforceable code for the border control of freight movements; however, differences remain.

The code follows the previously released protocol and specifies the measures that states and territories will enforce to ensure freight can keep moving during COVID-19 while ensuring the virus does not spread.

The code aligns previously disparate measures that individual states and territories had adopted, particularly after the outbreak of a second wave of COVID-19 in Victoria, said Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz.

“Aligning state and territory measures through this Code will help reduce delays in the supply chain, ensuring our freight operators can keep moving safely and efficiently.”

Under the code, states and territories will not require freight workers, including rail crew, to self-isolate when travelling across a border, although workers are advised to keep contacts to a practical minimum.

Other common measures include the requirement for a valid border permit and record keeping by the driver and operator of a freight train of recent contacts.

Australian Logistics Council CEO Kirk Coningham said that the alignment of requirements across borders was welcome.

“The confirmation that workers will not need to go into quarantine or formal self-isolation in any jurisdiction is also especially important in minimising disruptions to freight movement. ALC also welcomes the Code’s commitment to the mutual recognition of COVIDSafe workplans between jurisdictions,” said Coningham.

Testing requirements remained an area of difference. While Queensland has mandated tests on a seven day rolling basis for those coming from hotspots, Victoria will not provide testing for asymptomatic freight workers. In WA, tests are mandated on a seven day rolling basis for those crossing the border and in NSW tests are encouraged. Upon arrival into a state, testing requirements also differ, with testing mandated within 24 hours in South Australia and within 48 hours after entering WA.

Conginham said that the federal government may be required to step in to assist testing in Victoria.

“With the extraordinary pressures on Victoria’s testing capacity at present, it may be appropriate for the Federal Government to provide the state with some additional support to help make this happen, in the interests of national supply chain efficiency,” he said.

“ALC remains deeply concerned that not providing testing for asymptomatic drivers in Victoria will make it extraordinarily difficult for freight workers to meet border requirements imposed by other states and could lead to supply chain disruptions.”

Chair of the Freight on Rail Group (FORG) Dean Dalla Valle also welcomed the protocol and code and the efforts of governments to enable freight to continue moving on rail.

“The only additional measure our sector would strongly recommend in the coming days and weeks is for extra resources to be thrown at more widespread and rapid COVID testing; albeit we appreciate testing regimes in states like Victoria have understandably been stretched to the limit,” he said.

“It was therefore very pleasing to see the new national protocol includes states and territories providing pop up testing facilities at rail freight terminals/depots where they can be accommodated.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the crisis had shown how Australia relied upon the efficient movement of freight.

“The work our freight operators do keeps our shelves stocked and our local economies running,” he said.

“Streamlining the process for crossing borders will make life easier for our freight operators.”

Dalla Valle said that government had to be brought up to speed on the requirements of rail freight.

“For instance, in any given day, numerous train crews and support staff must cross state borders in light vehicles to meet interstate services or return to home base after a shift,” said Dalla Valle.

“For example, a train crew based in Broken Hill will regularly cross in South Australia by car to relieve another crew on the Trans-Australian Railway, and vice-versa. Similarly train crews in south western NSW often cross into northern Victoria by car to meet bulk grain services on the Murray Basin Rail network.”

These realities have led train crews to keep themselves isolated and follow strict hygiene practices. This has enabled rail to continue to move freight across borders and minimise the spread of COVID-19.

Shiploader funding to improve Tasmanian freight rail network

The replacement of the Port of Burnie shiploader has taken the next step, with federal funding confirmed and tender documents to be released to market this month.

The new $40 million shiploader will enable more freight to be moved by rail, particularly bulk minerals, said TasRail CEO Steven Dietrich.

“It will be integrated into our Bulk Minerals Export Facility at the Burnie Port, which provides undercover storage for around 130,000 tonnes of ores and concentrates from West Coast mines. It will effectively double the tonnes able to be loaded per hour,’ he said.

“This is a proven and reliable ship loading system and, as part of a seamless integrated supply chain, it will add significant productivity and reliability to our operations and benefit the mining industry also.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the replacement of the 50-year-old shiploader was part of wider investments in freight rail in Tasmania.

“This project is part of the Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation program and will enable the service of more types of ships, increasing ability to load higher-capacity vessels while doubling the current bulk material loading capacity to approximately 2,000 tonnes per hour.”

Local member Gavin Pearce said that the efficiencies of a new shiploader would be felt down the line.

“This will boost production for miners, allow TasRail to handle more ore concentrates and there will be less queuing time,” he said.

“It will also mean cost savings on port charges, more mineral concentrates will pass through the port, and miners will boost their production and have certainty in the logistics chain.”

The upgrade to the Port of Burnie shiploader is part of the third tranche of upgrades to the Tasmanian freight network. Other projects include resleepering, track replacement, upgraded culverts, drainage and formation work, as well as improvements to level crossings. These projects are currently in the planning phase.

Tasmanian Shadow Minister for Infrastructure Shane Broad said that while Labor welcomed funding for the shiploader, it must not come at the expense of other safety upgrades. Labor argues that the $40m for the shiploader has come out of funding earmarked for upgrades to the rail network.

“The government needs to find the money elsewhere or risk network deterioration, derailments and accidents in the future,” said Broad.

Toowoomba

Toowoomba now home to project office for Inland Rail

The Toowoomba home of the Inland Rail project was officially opened today, July 30.

The new Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) project office increases the footprint of Inland Rail in the regional Queensland city and will provide an ongoing base as construction begins.

Local member John McVeigh opened the office, which can accommodate up to 40 people.

“The office will serve as a hub for ARTC’s community engagement for a number of sections of the project and will provide a basecamp for technical staff when in the field,” he said.

McVeigh said the office is one example of how Inland Rail will benefit local communities along the alignment, with the building constructed by a local company.

“More than 60 per cent of the Inland Rail investment will be made in Queensland and much of this will be in Toowoomba. As we fast become a northern freight and logistics hub – it’s fitting that ARTC increase their presence in town as they work to refine the design of Inland Rail.”

Inland Rail will pass by Toowoomba on the western and northern outskirts of the town, connecting the region to Brisbane at Acacia Ridge, and NSW and Victoria as well as the wider interstate freight network.

Discussions for an intermodal terminal between Pacific National and Wagner Corporation are underway  for the route at Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport, to enable freight to be transferred from the Inland Rail network to airborne freight and the local region.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said that the project would enable such connections between local and international markets.

“Regional Australia is a significant contributor to our economy and Inland Rail will facilitate our regions connecting to markets at home and abroad, providing a sustainable and long term benefit to these communities and Australia more broadly.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said that the location would provide an interface between the local community and project staff.

“No one understands regional towns better than the people who live and work there. Local knowledge and a connection to community improves the delivery of Government services and programs, such as Inland Rail.”

Re-railing projects improving freight productivity and commuter reliability

Two re-railing projects being carried out by the Australian Rail Track Corporation are almost complete, ensuring a smoother ride for passengers and a more reliable freight network.

A $40 million project to re-railing the line between Goulburn and Sydney through the Southern Highlands is almost complete, while a $252m re-railing of the line between Adelaide and Tarcoola almost finalised.

Both projects used Australian-made steel from Whyalla in the manufacturing of the rails.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the benefits of the project from Goulburn to Sydney would be welcomed by businesses and passengers.

“The ARTC’s re-railing project has made improvements along the Southern Highlands line, meaning commuters and freight will have more reliable, better-quality journeys,” he said.

“This will provide a welcome productivity boost for our national supply chain at a time when it’s needed more than ever, particularly for the Australian businesses using the rail line to get their products to markets.”

The $28m Stage 2 of the project will be going to tender in the coming weeks.

The line from Goulburn to Sydney is part of the national freight route linking Melbourne and Brisbane, via Sydney.

The section of rail from Adelaide to Tarcoola is also an important link, tying the eastern states to Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said that works on these national links were vital.

“Safe and efficient freight networks are critical to the national economy and to all Australians, particularly as our hard-working freight operators continue to deliver our Australian goods to consumers and international markets,” he said.

On the Adelaide to Tarcoola section, all that remains of the project is the replacement of the old timber sleepers with concrete ones, with a final contract for this element of the project expected to be awarded this month.

Once complete, heavier interstate freight trains will be able to operate faster over the section of track. Moving from 47-kilogram per metre rail to 60-kilogram per metre rail will allow for 25 tonne axle load limits.

In total, for the 600 kilometres of track 70,000 tonnes of steel was needed, requiring 38,000 welds at the Port Augusta depot and almost 10,000 welds in the field. 3.5 million rail clips were required, along with 1.75 million rail pads. 440km of line was tamped, including 60 turnouts.

According to federal member for Grey Rowan Ramsey, the scale of the project from Adelaide to Tarcoola allowed Whyalla steel manufacturer Liberty to boost local steel manufacturing.

“The investments in staff and skills on this project ensured Liberty was able to secure further contracts with the ARTC to deliver steel rail to the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail Program and the Goulburn to Sydney re-railing program.”