Marshall appoints new SA transport minister

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has appointed Corey Wingard as Minister for Transport and Infrastructure.

The appointment follows the resignation of Stephan Knoll from the frontbench, due to an expenses scandal. Knoll, who represents the Barossa region electorate of Schubert, had claimed an accommodation allowance for country MPs who need to stay in Adelaide for parliamentary business before expenses were incurred. Knoll has agreed to repay expenses claimed.

In a statement, Knoll said that his resignation would allow the government to get on with responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Wingard, who takes on Knoll’s portfolio in addition to his sport, recreation, and racing portfolios, has been a member of the SA House of Assembly since 2014 and was previously the Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services.

The new cabinet will be sworn in on Wednesday morning and meet for the first time on Thursday.

South Australian Freight Council executive officer Evan Knapp welcomed the appointment of Wingard.

“SAFC looks forward to working with incoming Minister Corey Wingard MP on transport, logistics and infrastructure-related issues,” Knapp said.

“Critical for the new Minister’s attention will be urgently completing North South Corridor planning works, reducing the State’s road maintenance backlog, and populating Infrastructure Australia’s Infrastructure Project List (IPL) with more long-overdue South Australian projects.”

Rail, Tram and Bus Union SA/NT secretary Darren Phillips called for the new minister to abandon the government’s privatisation of transport services.

“Privatisation will see responsibility for keeping public transport safe during the pandemic outsourced to private contractors,” said Phillips.

“Given the diabolical economic implications of the pandemic crisis, with the state being plunged into recession, it is galling that the Marshall Government wants to put the jobs of South Australian transport workers at risk. The privatisation of the tram system saw the number of tram drivers cut by ten per cent.”

Ovingham

Ovingham level crossing to use road over rail bridge

The preferred design for the removal of the Ovingham level crossing in Adelaide’s inner north has been released.

Torrens Road will be elevated over the Gawler and freight railway lines in a $231 million works package. The western end of Churchill Road will also be raised to meet Torrens Road at the same elevation.

Tender for the project has been announced and a contract will be awarded later in 2020 with work to begin in 2021.

The design was chosen not only for its impact on traffic and constructability, but the minimal disruption to rail users and the freight line while the road is lifted above the track.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said the project will have improve safety and traffic flow.

“Not only will this bust congestion, but it will give the SA economy an essential boost and it will mean more local jobs,” he said.

South Australian Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government Stephan Knoll said the current design of the road causes delays.

“At the moment the boom gates at this level crossing are down for around 26 minutes during both peak periods which causes traffic delays and frustrates motorists.

“Once complete, this level crossing upgrade will ensure motorists never have to wait for a train to pass again here, making their ride to and from work or home safer and faster.”

The Ovingham project is expected to be complete by 2023.

Adelaide Metro app canned, third-party apps encouraged

Adelaide Metro will discontinue its metroMATE app and provide customer information through third-party apps.

The South Australian government is encouraging passengers to use three privately-developed apps instead, and the existing metroMATE app will be discontinued after early July.

Minister for Transport Stephan Knoll said that the new apps will give customers better information.

“By providing better, faster and more accurate information we are empowering public transport customers to make better decisions about their journeys, providing a better service.”

The new apps include real time data, alerts, and countdowns, as well as the ability to save trips and suggest new routes combining transport modes. All three are available on the Apple App Store, however only Moovit and Transit are available for Android mobile operating systems.

As part of the digital restructure, Adelaide Metro’s website will also be redesigned.

“The Adelaide Metro website is one of South Australia’s highest trafficked websites, averaging over 3 million users and 50 million-page views annually,” said Knoll.

“The new-look website will deliver a simplified home page which will require fewer clicks to find the information customers use the most.

“It will also be visually easier to navigate and will provide greater accessibility for people who have a disability, as well as the wider public.”

Knoll said the decision to move to third-party apps was due to the low ratings of metroMATE and its limited features.

The new apps are one part of the roadmap released by Adelaide Metro and the South Australian government to get commuters back on public transport after the coronavirus (COVID-19). Services were also increased on the Gawler line along with other measures.

SA releases roadmap for safe COVID-19 travel

The South Australian government has released a public transport roadmap to get passengers back on trains, trams, and buses safely.

The plan draws on the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee (AHPPC) Principles for COVID-19 Public Transport Operations.

“We have a strong plan to keep South Australians safe on public transport that has been developed based on the expert health advice,” said Minister for Transport Stephan Knoll.

The roadmap includes a trial of extensions to the morning and afternoon peak periods on the Gawler train line, further markings on platforms, updated signage and posters, and the accelerated introduction of an app which will provide real-time information.

In addition, Adelaide Metro will accelerate the conversion of the diesel train fleet to 2×2 seating, rather than 2×3, to allow for more aisle space. Hand sanitiser will also be on offer at Adelaide Railway Station.

“Currently patronage on public transport is down around 70 per cent and we will be rolling these additional measures out as our economy opens up and more people catch a train, tram or bus,” said Knoll.

The measures are in addition to initiatives implemented in March which included more frequent cleaning, no cash handling, staggered arrival of trains at Adelaide Railway Station, signage and announcement.

“We also echo the advice of health officials and encourage South Australians to take personal responsibility for their travel arrangements and their behaviour on public transport,” said Knoll.

“As the health officials have said, that could mean staggering your travel where possible, not traveling during peak periods unless it’s essential and avoiding public transport if you’re unwell.”

If successful, the extended peak services will be expanded from the Gawler line to other lines.

The government will also partner with the City of Adelaide to encourage cycle and walking where possible and staggering travel in the Adelaide CBD.

The divergent future of intermodal in Australia

While increasing freight volumes are putting pressure on infrastructure in some locations, elsewhere limited growth is leading to projects being deferred.

Intermodal terminals were described as the “essential building blocks” for overall rail- based supply chains, in a 2017 report by PwC, prepared for the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

In Australia, these foundational blocks are spread throughout the country. However, they are under varying amounts of stress. In the eastern states, capacity is becoming strained by increases in freight volume. In South Australia and Western Australia, there is considerable room to grow with the existing infrastructure.

These differences were highlighted in recent announcements by state governments, rail, and port operators.

In NSW, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is proceeding with works on the Botany Rail Duplication and Cabramatta Loop Projects to increase freight capacity at the congested Port Botany terminal.

In January, ARTC shortlisted three contractors for the two projects. For the Botany Rail Duplication project, CPB Contractors, Laing O’Rouke, and John Holland are shortlisted. For the Cabramatta Loop Project, ARTC has shortlisted Downer EDI, Fulton Hogan, and John Holland. The formal tender process will be undertaken in 2020 for both projects.

ARTC CEO and managing director, John Fullerton, noted that these projects will grow the potential of freight in Sydney.

“These major projects aim to improve rail capacity, flexibility and reliability for freight rail customers, encouraging more freight to shift from road to rail, and we are getting on with delivering these massive improvements.”

Both projects aim to increase rail capacity and service reliability to and from Port Botany, while increasing capacity across the Sydney freight network. According to NSW Ports’ 30-year Master Plan, 80 per cent of containers that arrive in Port Botany are delivered to sites closer than 40km away. Increasing freight rail frequency will allow for these containers to be moved to industrial and logistics sites in Western and South-Western Sydney.

“Improving freight performance at Port Botany is critical for the economic growth and prosperity of Sydney, NSW and Australia with the amount of container freight handled by the Port set to significantly increase by 77 per cent to 25.5 million tonnes by 2036,” said Fullerton.

“These two landmark projects will strike the balance between rail and road by duplicating the remaining single freight rail track section of the Botany Line between Mascot and Botany and constructing a new passing loop on the Southern Sydney Freight Line (SSFL) between Cabramatta Station and Warwick Farm Station to allow for freight trains up to 1300m in length.

“Once completed, the Cabramatta Loop Project will allow freight trains travelling in either direction along the Southern Sydney Freight Line to pass each other and provide additional rail freight capacity for the network.”

Work on the Sydney freight network will also increase rail’s share of freight, and alleviate congestion on the Sydney road network, highlighted Fullerton.

“Each freight train can take up to 54 trucks worth of freight off the road, tackling congestion and improving the everyday commute in Sydney.”

The Port of Melbourne is also looking at the potential to increase the volume of freight moved by rail from the Port to intermodal terminals in Melbourne’s north and west.

In late January, the Victorian government improved the Port operator’s plans to invest $125 million for the construction of a new on-dock rail.

The Port of Melbourne will introduce a $9.75 per 20-foot equivalent unit charge on imported containers and the funds raised from the charge will directly deliver new sidings and connections for the rail project. Improving rail access to the Port of Melbourne is a legislated condition of its lease, aiming towards a wider push to expand rail freight across Victoria.

The Victorian government said in a statement it is “also supporting the Port Rail Shuttle Network connecting freight hubs in Melbourne’s north and west to the port, new intermodal terminals planned at Truganina and Beveridge, new automated signalling for faster rail freight to GeelongPort and improvements in the regional rail freight network”.

“On-dock rail will make rail transport more competitive, cut the high cost of the ‘last mile’ and reduce truck congestion at the port gate – a big win for Victorian exporters delivering goods to the Port of Melbourne.”

Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the project will increase the competitiveness of Victorian industry.

“The Port of Melbourne is a vital part of our multi-billion dollar export sector and agriculture supply chain and on-dock rail will make its operations more efficient for Victorian exporters – removing congestion at the port gate.”

The project is set to be completed by 2023.

DIFFERENT ROUTES IN SA

In contrast to these announcements, the South Australian government has decided to pull back from a plan to move greater volumes of freight via a new network named GlobeLink. An election promise from the Marshall government, in late January, the government announced that the project would be terminated, as the business case did not stack up.

The proposed project would comprise a road and rail corridor behind the Adelaide Hills, which would connect the National Highway and the rail link from Victoria to Northern Adelaide. The project would have also included an intermodal export park and freight-only airport at Murray Bridge.

The SA government commissioned KPMG to produce a business case for the project, which found that rail freight in the corridor would decline.

Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government Stephan Knoll highlighted that investment in rail freight would not be of economic value for the state.

“Particularly, with respect to the rail component, the report highlights that limited and declining volumes see limited relative economic benefit for the state,” he said.

“Therefore, with rail volumes unlikely to increase sufficiently in the future, the benefits of a new rail corridor are very marginal.”

The KPMG report found that the benefit cost ratios for the initial rail corridor is 0.08 – a value of 1 is where a project would break even.

The South Australian Freight Council (SAFC) welcomed the decision, with SAFC executive officer, Evan Knapp, highlighting that alternative projects would be a better fit for the state.

“The Freight Industry is both pleased and relieved GlobeLink will no longer go ahead, and that instead other options will be explored – we look forward to consultation on the new approach in due course.”

The report also suggested the potential of a new intermodal terminal south east of Adelaide, however Knapp pointed out that the terminal could go ahead without government investment.

“We understand that there is a proponent looking at it now and there’s no reason why that cannot go ahead,” he said. “Cancelling GlobeLink in no way impacts on that element at all.”

Of more benefit to the freight rail sector and the wider community in South Australia, would be the removal of level crossings in the Adelaide metro area, said Knapp.

“Currently we’re happy with the freight rail line, we do believe there is room for some work on level crossing removals towards Adelaide, particularly the level crossing on Cross Road, as you can imagine a freight train going through that crossing at a very slow speed and given their lengths of well over a kilometre does take some time and causes dislocation of a major road in South Australia.”

Consortium for Adelaide tram network announced

Contracts for the operation of light rail services in Adelaide have been awarded to Torrens Connect.

Announced today, March 10, along with a suite of bus contracts, Torrens Connect will operate Adelaide’s tram network from July.

Torrens Connect is a joint venture between Torrens Transit, UGL Rail Services, and John Holland.

The contract for the North South network combines bus and tram services, and according to SeaLink Travel Group – owner of Torrens Transport – CEO, Clint Feuerherdt, the integration will allow for better services.

“Between high frequency services, and integrated bus and tram outcomes, we will open up new destinations on the public transport network for customers,” he said.

According to Feuerherdt, bringing the modes together will allow for innovation in service delivery.

“The new tender has allowed us to bring in our global best practice experience, matched with our local market knowledge and history, to truly create a tailored series of network improvements for Adelaide.”

Partnered in the contract is UGL Rail Services, which in addition to its work in heavy rail and metro services, has contributed to light rail in Hong Kong.

“This contract extends our light rail operations and maintenance capability alongside our Adelaide heavy rail presence. We look forward to providing a safe and quality operation for the people of Adelaide,” said UGL managing director, Jason Spears.

For partner John Holland, the contract is the first multimodal contract in the company’s history, highlighted CEO Joe Barr.

“From operating the country’s first metro train in Sydney, to Canberra’s new light rail, John Holland has a proven record of putting the customer at the centre of everything we do.”

As a result of this contract, John Holland will be one of only a few private organisations to operate trains, trams, and buses in Australia.

“The South Australian Public Transport Authority (SAPTA) has recognised our commitment to South Australians and we look forward to working with them over the coming years to deliver improvements across the network,” said John Holland’s executive general manager – rail, Steve Butcher.

The SA government and the successful contractors will deliver network improvements by the end of 2020. Consultation on the improvements will begin in April.

“In the coming weeks we will be releasing details about the bus service improvements that will benefit South Australians ahead of a consultation period we will undertake,” said SA Transport Minister, Stephan Knoll.

“Now the contracts have been signed, we can begin working with the providers to deliver the best possible bus and tram network for South Australians.”

IPA brands franchising of Adelaide metro a ‘smart decision’

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) has praised the South Australian Government’s decision to franchise train and tram services in Adelaide.

The policy-focused think tank has “consistently recommended” bus and train services be franchised, according to chief executive Adrian Dwyer.

“Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, Infrastructure Australia, and many others have consistently recommended that state and territory governments pursue the franchising of their bus and train services and its good to see that SA has listened,” he said.

South Australia is the only remaining state or territory in Australia to maintain a publicly-funded metro system. The state’s bus system was first privatised in the year 2000, and is set to be re-tendered under the incumbent Marshall Government. 

SA Minister for Transport Stephan Knoll stated that SA needed to “keep pace with the rest of the nation” in order to deliver a more customer-focussed public transport solution for Adelaide, which is subject to some of the lowest levels of patronage in Australia.

Dwyer stressed that the SA Government’s decision to franchise the metro was different to privatising it, and that it was unhelpful to conflate the two. 

“Customers don’t care about who operates their bus or tram, they care that it’s clean and on time,” he said. 

“Train and tram customers right around the country are already enjoying the benefits of having the best private providers operating their service and South Australian customers should too.”

Port Adelaide rail extension in doubt due to increased costs

A report into the South Australian Government’s proposed construction of the Port Dock railway line and station has found the project will cost around $40 million, $24 million greater than initially budgeted.

The budget was intended to cover a one-kilometre spur line from Adelaide’s central business district to a new station at Port Adelaide’s commercial centre, Baker Street.

Further development of the spur and station have now been paused pending further investigation by the Public Transports Projects (PTP) Alliance.

“The initial $16 million of funding was committed without a full technical site assessment and concept design,” a report from the Public Transports Projects (PTP) Alliance read.

“Progressing through these has identified potential opportunities to further improve public transport services and connectivity for Port Adelaide and more broadly, the north western suburbs.”

South Australian Transport Minister Stephan Knoll said that “a responsible state government” needed to assess whether the notable increase in the project’s budget would deliver the best solution for the people of Port Adelaide and its surrounding areas.

Deputy Labor leader for South Australia Susan Close took to Twitter to criticise the Liberal state government’s decision, pointing out a photo showing thousands of concrete sleepers already in place at Port Adelaide for the spur’s construction.

Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Mark Butler added that the Liberals were “attacking the Port by axing the Port Dock railway station [and] spur line”.

Knoll replied to Close’s tweet by stating that the sleepers were actually purchased for future maintenance and rail projects such as the Brighton and Torrens Road level crossings.

Trains haven’t run to Port Adelaide’s centre since 1981; the old station was demolished to make way for construction of the Port Adelaide Police Station and Magistrates’ Court.

Governments budget $402m for Adelaide road grade separations

The South Australian Liberal Government and Federal Government are joint funding a $402 million grade separation project at Torrens Road (Ovingham) and Brighton Road (Hove) in Adelaide.

The funding will be delivered as part of the 201920 state budget and includes $231 million to fix the rail crossing at Torrens Road and $171 million for the crossing at Brighton Road. The funding builds on the previously announced $305 million for intersection upgrades for a total of $707 million in congestion-related infrastructure spending for the city.

State Premier Steven Marshall said that the changes would allow South Australians to spend less time stuck in traffic and more time with their loved ones at home.

“The State Liberal Government is building congestion busting infrastructure to cut travel times for motorists and improve safety on our roads,” said South Australian Premier Steven Marshall.

“We are partnering with the Federal Liberal Government to deliver two grade separations and seven intersection upgrades in the upcoming state budget.”

The two projects are intended to remove the crossings along the busy Seaford and Gawler train lines in order to ease congestion and cut travel times, according to Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government Stephan Knoll.

“The Seaford and Gawler train lines are our most heavily patronised train lines and when the boom gates come day, it frustrates motorists on their way to work or home,” Knoll said.

“In fact, we know that during peak periods at the Brighton Road level crossing, the boom gates are down for about 20 per cent of the time – or about 25 minutes.”