Queensland’s newest train fleet deployed to the Sunshine Coast line

On Monday, March 2, Queensland’s newest trains, the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) fleet, were deployed to the Sunshine Coast line for the first time.

The NGR fleet has been deployed to Nambour on the Sunshine Coast to replace older train models to operate more than 40 existing weekly Sunshine Coast line services, Monday to Friday.

The final NGR train entered service for the Queensland Government in late January this year.

Manufactured by Bombardier, the NGR trains have travelled over eight million in service kilometres, and 150,000 passenger journeys, since December 2017.

Maintenance of the fleet is being carried out by Bombardier at Wulkuraka, near Ipswich, for 32 years, where testing and commissioning has been occurring.

The NGR trains are 147m long and weigh 260 tonnes and have a total passenger capacity of approximately 964 people, including 454 seated and 510 standing (depending on conditions).

Queensland Rail has also added an extra 32 weekly services to its South East Queensland (SEQ) timetable each week from March 2.

In addition, five services will extend on the SEQ timetable including extending an existing Caboolture service to start from Nambour at 5.38am weekdays, providing an additional morning peak train for customers between Nambour and Elimbah stations.

Queensland Rail said in a statement that the company has reviewed its operations across SEQ and have identified an opportunity to deliver these service improvements, within existing resources that are available.

“These changes will also reduce empty train running across the region by 1,460 kilometres per week, delivering extra services for our customers instead,” Queensland Rail said in a statement. 

“These improvements will deliver the largest number of weekly train services ever offered across SEQ and follows the introduction of 462 extra weekly services and 200,000 extra seats to our timetable in 2019.”

QLD Government still deciding on next route for Gold Coast Light Rail

The Queensland Government has confirmed the Department of Transport and Main Roads have not decided on a route for Stage 3B of the Gold Coast light rail that could potentially pass through Palm Beach.

The QLD Government’s current focus is Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A project which is listed as a priority project on the National Infrastructure Priority List.

A spokesperson from QLD Government ministerial office said the Gold Coast City Council are currently undertaking community consultation relating to the next stage of light rail that could potentially pass through Palm Beach to Coolangatta airport, known as Stage 3B of the project.

Land resumptions are currently not occurring in the proposed locations the spokesperson said.

“Some residents in Palm Beach believe a future decision to build light rail through their community would give council the impetus to support high rise buildings, like further north on the Gold Coast, however this decision won’t be made for some time,” he said.

“The next stage is to announce the construction contract in the first half of 2020 and start work at some stage this year.”

GoldlinQ, who currently operates the light rail, have started conducting the expressions of interest process and an industry briefing in December.

GoldlinQ Chairman John Witheriff said the competitive tender process for design and construction would start with interest being sought from leading national and international companies.

“A shortlist of selected contractors will be determined early this year with a detailed tender process to follow, allowing a construction partner to be appointed and major works to start in the second half of 2020,” Witheriff said.

$709 million in funding was locked in by the federal government in late November last year.

This follows the Morrison Government’s increased investment by $157 million, and the state government’s $351 million and council’s $92 million spend on the project.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the additional commitment brought the federal contribution to the project to $269 million.

Stage 3A will extend light rail 6.7 kilometres south from Broadbeach South to Burleigh Heads, with eight new light rail stops.

The Gold Coast City Council stated in a preliminary business case report that Stage 3A will bring $1.2 billion economic benefits to the region.

Mayor of the City of Gold Coast Tom Tate said he looked forward to Stage 3A now progressing toward construction – supporting approximately 760 jobs during construction.

“We hope to get shovels in the ground in the near future on this crucial project for residents and visitors to the Gold Coast alike, with construction likely to take about two years to complete once underway in 2020,” Tate said.

The Australian Government partnered with the Queensland Government and the City of Gold Coast to jointly fund and deliver Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the Gold Coast Light Rail project.

Construction of Stage 3A is likely to run until 2023.

Transport major contributor to QLD infrastructure spend

The Palaszczuk Government has released a state infrastructure report detailing $49.5 billion in infrastructure spending over the next four years, with around one-third dedicated to transport projects.

An update to the State Infrastructure Plan (SIP) for 2019 revealed that the Queensland Government’s underspend for the 201819 year was near zero, resulting in the state’s best performance in 10 years.

The update also stated that the government’s flagship Cross River Rail project will support an average of 1500 jobs each year during construction.

The government is working with a project consortium led by Pulse to help deliver the project.

Cross River Rail will deliver a 5.9-kilometre twin tunnel underground rail line with four new stations running from Dutton Park to Bowen Hills in Brisbane. Other major transport works include the delivery of three new Gold Coast train stations at Pimpama, Helensvale North and Worongary/Merrimac.

This investment is expected to contribute to various infrastructure plans, including “transformative transport and communications projects”. The Palaszczuk Government has been actively reducing its under-expenditure rates since 2015, according to Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick.

“Since 2015, around 207,000 new jobs have been created for Queenslanders, and this updated SIP highlights there are plenty more on the way,” Dick said.

“60 per cent of this year’s infrastructure budget is being invested outside Greater Brisbane, where it will support around 25,500 jobs.”

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.”

Mount Isa, Queensland. Photo: Creative Commons

Palaszczuk Govt reveals boosts for Mt Isa Line

The Queensland Government has announced that it will spend $500 million to boost mineral exports on the freight corridor from Mount Isa to Townsville.

The funding includes provisions for the construction of a new $48 million container terminal at the Port of Townsville to support North Queensland’s resources industry. The port is Australia’s largest export location for several commodities, including zinc, lead, copper and fertiliser.

The Queensland Government and Port of Townsville will contribute $30 million and $18 million towards construction of the terminal, respectively. The government also announced it will provide $80 million over a four-year period to reduce rail access charges on the line in a omve to encourage a freight shift from road to rail.

“Commercial operators pay access charges to Queensland Rail to use the Mount Isa line and industry has called on the Palaszczuk Government to make rail freight more competitive,” said Transport and Roads Minister Mark Bailey.

“We’ve listened and will provide Queensland Rail with $20 million each year starting from July 1 this year, to reduce rail access charges and will work with industry on implementation arrangements.”

This funding is in addition to the state government’s $380 million, five-year track maintenance plan in the 2018-19 state budget.

Queensland’s Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad said that the investment underlined the state government’s commitment to backing regional communities and jobs in the North West by improving reliability through improved transport infrastructure.

“Queensland’s North West Mineral Province contains about 75 per cent of the state’s base metal and minerals, including copper, lead, zinc, silver, gold and phosphate deposits,” she said.

“A number of mines are trucking minerals from the north west to the port, and the trains that are carrying minerals in shipping containers have to be unloaded at Stuart and then trucked 12 kilometres to the port.”

Freight rail major Aurizon also welcomed the investment, stating that the current rail access charges for the route from Mount Isa to Townsville are “substantially higher” than what trucks pay to use the equivalent highway.

“Rail freight really should do the heavy lifting for bulk goods and minerals because it is more efficient, safer and has a far smaller carbon footprint than road freight,” said Sarah Dixon, general manager of Aurizon’s Townsville-based Bulk East business.

“This should be the case on the Mount Isa line which is one of the nation’s most important export supply chains.”